Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 8, 2008

Ouch

None of the Palin-mania would have ensued if Barack Obama had chosen Hillary Clinton. Ed Rollins rubs it in:

He just couldn’t do it and maybe thought he didn’t need to do it. He was wrong. That choice would have meant that McCain probably wouldn’t have picked Palin. And if McCain had picked anybody else from his shortlist, the Republican convention would have been boring, and the party’s base would not have been motivated. The one thing we know for sure — the selection of Biden did the least to enhance any ticket since George H.W. Bush picked Dan Quayle back in 1988. This is turning out to be another election the Democrats were convinced they couldn’t lose. So far, the selection of Palin has been a game-changer and has energized my party like no one since Ronald Reagan did four decades ago.

But Rollins is equally right to conclude neither candidate has closed the deal and the economy looms large. That said, can we agree that the party which chose to put a woman on the ticket, gin up its base and rip the headlines from the other side has a leg up?

None of the Palin-mania would have ensued if Barack Obama had chosen Hillary Clinton. Ed Rollins rubs it in:

He just couldn’t do it and maybe thought he didn’t need to do it. He was wrong. That choice would have meant that McCain probably wouldn’t have picked Palin. And if McCain had picked anybody else from his shortlist, the Republican convention would have been boring, and the party’s base would not have been motivated. The one thing we know for sure — the selection of Biden did the least to enhance any ticket since George H.W. Bush picked Dan Quayle back in 1988. This is turning out to be another election the Democrats were convinced they couldn’t lose. So far, the selection of Palin has been a game-changer and has energized my party like no one since Ronald Reagan did four decades ago.

But Rollins is equally right to conclude neither candidate has closed the deal and the economy looms large. That said, can we agree that the party which chose to put a woman on the ticket, gin up its base and rip the headlines from the other side has a leg up?

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Re: The Meaning of the Bounce

John, it’s not just the Gallup tracking poll that is so dramatic; the RealClearPolitics.com poll average now shows John McCain up by over three points. It is worth considering how Barack Obama missed, as you point out, a golden opportunity in Denver to reach out to swing voters and seize a commanding lead. Why the angry, liberal screed?

This is the best I can come up with:

 1) The Obama camp is convinced they can pull a “Karl  Rove” and win on turnout of their base — college kids, elites,etc. (this was before Sarah Palin juiced the GOP base). The speech was red meat for them — an effort to bolster their turnout and excitement that flagged under the “Celebrity” ad and flip-flop criticisms during the summer.

2) The Democrats are obsessed with Swift Boating and think they lose because they don’t hit back hard enough and beat those mean Republicans at their own game. So Demver was the pre-emptive, paranoid attack on McCain. In the process Obama lost the independent voters.

McCain made no such error and of course found the one person who could excite his base and reach disaffected Hillary voters. On such decisions elections turn.

John, it’s not just the Gallup tracking poll that is so dramatic; the RealClearPolitics.com poll average now shows John McCain up by over three points. It is worth considering how Barack Obama missed, as you point out, a golden opportunity in Denver to reach out to swing voters and seize a commanding lead. Why the angry, liberal screed?

This is the best I can come up with:

 1) The Obama camp is convinced they can pull a “Karl  Rove” and win on turnout of their base — college kids, elites,etc. (this was before Sarah Palin juiced the GOP base). The speech was red meat for them — an effort to bolster their turnout and excitement that flagged under the “Celebrity” ad and flip-flop criticisms during the summer.

2) The Democrats are obsessed with Swift Boating and think they lose because they don’t hit back hard enough and beat those mean Republicans at their own game. So Demver was the pre-emptive, paranoid attack on McCain. In the process Obama lost the independent voters.

McCain made no such error and of course found the one person who could excite his base and reach disaffected Hillary voters. On such decisions elections turn.

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The Meaning of the Bounce

Gallup is now out with the results of its daily tracking poll. It shows McCain with a 5-point lead, 49-44. Tracking polls average three consecutive days, which means this one is the first to feature only the days following the convention.

This means the McCain bounce moved the polls 13 points in his favor. That is second only to Bill Clinton’s 16-point jump in 1992.  Obama’s bounce was 6 points. And according to Gallup, McCain only took the lead in the tracking poll on Friday, the day after the convention. Obama moved up a single point in the tracking poll in the days following his speech. So what does this tell us?

Two very important things, I think. One is that the McCain speech was, despite the attacks heaped on it, an unqualified success in exactly the way the McCain campaign would have wanted it — it shifted undecided voters in his direction at the right moment, after his own party found itself unified by the electrifying pick and performance of Sarah Palin.

The other is that the Obama speech, despite the praise lavished upon it, was a failure.

McCain delivered a non-partisan speech, extraordinarily positive in tone and ruefully self-reflective about the Republican party’s mistakes. Obama delivered a highly partisan attack on McCain and Republicans full of praise for the Democratic party’s rich history of glories and wonders — a complete reversal of the theme that made him a phenomenon and a startling alteration in tone for him.

Obama did not need to do it. He chose to do it. And he left the field open for McCain to go positive, upbeat, and with a far more broad message. With these results in mind, there is reason to believe the Obama convention speech may go down as one of the most glaring unforced errors in recent political history.

Gallup is now out with the results of its daily tracking poll. It shows McCain with a 5-point lead, 49-44. Tracking polls average three consecutive days, which means this one is the first to feature only the days following the convention.

This means the McCain bounce moved the polls 13 points in his favor. That is second only to Bill Clinton’s 16-point jump in 1992.  Obama’s bounce was 6 points. And according to Gallup, McCain only took the lead in the tracking poll on Friday, the day after the convention. Obama moved up a single point in the tracking poll in the days following his speech. So what does this tell us?

Two very important things, I think. One is that the McCain speech was, despite the attacks heaped on it, an unqualified success in exactly the way the McCain campaign would have wanted it — it shifted undecided voters in his direction at the right moment, after his own party found itself unified by the electrifying pick and performance of Sarah Palin.

The other is that the Obama speech, despite the praise lavished upon it, was a failure.

McCain delivered a non-partisan speech, extraordinarily positive in tone and ruefully self-reflective about the Republican party’s mistakes. Obama delivered a highly partisan attack on McCain and Republicans full of praise for the Democratic party’s rich history of glories and wonders — a complete reversal of the theme that made him a phenomenon and a startling alteration in tone for him.

Obama did not need to do it. He chose to do it. And he left the field open for McCain to go positive, upbeat, and with a far more broad message. With these results in mind, there is reason to believe the Obama convention speech may go down as one of the most glaring unforced errors in recent political history.

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The “Muslim Faith” Gaffe

Barack Obama’s slip-up, in which he referred to “my Muslim faith,” is interesting for a few reasons. Obama’s critics residing in various anti-Muslim fever swamps are harping on it as evidence of Obama being a closet Muslim–he’s not and that’s not what’s interesting.

Obama’s slip of the tongue demonstrates three things. First, he’s getting rattled. While Obama is a bit gaffe-prone, his gaffes are usually political misinterpretation or naïve reactions to world events. (In truth, his gaffes are usually more serious than this, and perhaps not really gaffes at all, but genuine errors in judgment.) That the master of mellifluous oratory would get tripped up on a word shows that he’s off his game.

Second, the context in which Obama made the statement reveals a desperate and unsuccessful attempt to label the GOP as malicious slanderers. From the Washington Times:

The exchange came after Mr. Obama said that Republicans are attempting to scare voters by suggesting he is not Christian, which McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said was “cynical.”

Asked about it on ABC, Mr. Obama said, “These guys love to throw a rock and hide their hand.”

“The McCain campaign has never suggested you have Muslim connections,” said Mr. Stephanopoulos, who repeatedly interrupted Mr. Obama during the interview.

“I don’t think that when you look at what is being promulgated on Fox News, let’s say, and Republican commentators who are closely allied to these folks,” Mr Obama responded, and Mr. Stephanopoulos interrupted: “But John McCain said that’s wrong.”

Mr. Obama noted that when Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin “was forced” to talk about her pregnant 17-year-old daughter, he issued a forceful statement to reporters that the line of inquiry was “off limits.” But he said the McCain campaign tried to tie him to “liberal blogs that support Obama” and are “attacking Governor Palin.”

“Let’s not play games,” he said. “What I was suggesting — you’re absolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith. And you’re absolutely right that that has not come.”

You gotta give him credit for trying, but wow did that effort fall flat! Of course, the only people who peddled the lie that Obama is a Muslim are fringy bloggers and email activists, whereas the smears against Sarah Palin are printed on the front page of the nation’s leading newspapers.

Last, Obama’s campaign is starting to create its own bad luck. Really bad luck. It’s an unfair and ugly fact that Obama’s accidental reference to himself as a Muslim will live on as a damaging sound bite. But there’s a certain momentum for catastrophe–a self-fullfilling Murphy’s law–that begins to characterize a campaign in trouble. A few months into the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton’s campaign barely managed to get out of the disaster zone. Both Obama’s VP pick and the Democratic Convention failed to do a thing for Obama, while Sarah Palin and the Republican National Convention breathed new life into McCain’s campaign. The latest USA Today/Gallup poll of likely voters has McCain leading Obama by ten points. With that kind of pressure, this is likely not the last nervous slip-up we’ll see from Barack Obama.

Barack Obama’s slip-up, in which he referred to “my Muslim faith,” is interesting for a few reasons. Obama’s critics residing in various anti-Muslim fever swamps are harping on it as evidence of Obama being a closet Muslim–he’s not and that’s not what’s interesting.

Obama’s slip of the tongue demonstrates three things. First, he’s getting rattled. While Obama is a bit gaffe-prone, his gaffes are usually political misinterpretation or naïve reactions to world events. (In truth, his gaffes are usually more serious than this, and perhaps not really gaffes at all, but genuine errors in judgment.) That the master of mellifluous oratory would get tripped up on a word shows that he’s off his game.

Second, the context in which Obama made the statement reveals a desperate and unsuccessful attempt to label the GOP as malicious slanderers. From the Washington Times:

The exchange came after Mr. Obama said that Republicans are attempting to scare voters by suggesting he is not Christian, which McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said was “cynical.”

Asked about it on ABC, Mr. Obama said, “These guys love to throw a rock and hide their hand.”

“The McCain campaign has never suggested you have Muslim connections,” said Mr. Stephanopoulos, who repeatedly interrupted Mr. Obama during the interview.

“I don’t think that when you look at what is being promulgated on Fox News, let’s say, and Republican commentators who are closely allied to these folks,” Mr Obama responded, and Mr. Stephanopoulos interrupted: “But John McCain said that’s wrong.”

Mr. Obama noted that when Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin “was forced” to talk about her pregnant 17-year-old daughter, he issued a forceful statement to reporters that the line of inquiry was “off limits.” But he said the McCain campaign tried to tie him to “liberal blogs that support Obama” and are “attacking Governor Palin.”

“Let’s not play games,” he said. “What I was suggesting — you’re absolutely right that John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith. And you’re absolutely right that that has not come.”

You gotta give him credit for trying, but wow did that effort fall flat! Of course, the only people who peddled the lie that Obama is a Muslim are fringy bloggers and email activists, whereas the smears against Sarah Palin are printed on the front page of the nation’s leading newspapers.

Last, Obama’s campaign is starting to create its own bad luck. Really bad luck. It’s an unfair and ugly fact that Obama’s accidental reference to himself as a Muslim will live on as a damaging sound bite. But there’s a certain momentum for catastrophe–a self-fullfilling Murphy’s law–that begins to characterize a campaign in trouble. A few months into the Democratic primary, Hillary Clinton’s campaign barely managed to get out of the disaster zone. Both Obama’s VP pick and the Democratic Convention failed to do a thing for Obama, while Sarah Palin and the Republican National Convention breathed new life into McCain’s campaign. The latest USA Today/Gallup poll of likely voters has McCain leading Obama by ten points. With that kind of pressure, this is likely not the last nervous slip-up we’ll see from Barack Obama.

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Woodward on the Surge

Since it hasn’t been available until today, I have not yet read Bob Woodward’s new book, The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008. But his articles in the Washington Post and and his 60 Minutes interview do invite commentary.

The most important point to make, I think, is that the book underscores what an extraordinary decision President Bush made in deciding on the so-called surge. As Woodward’s book recounts, and my own experience in the White House underscores, in settling on a surge of five brigades to Baghdad and 4,000 Marines to Anbar Province, the President bucked the views of most members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (including the Army Chief of Staff, Peter Schoomaker, and Chief of Naval Operations, Michael Mullen), General George W. Casey, Jr., then the commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq, John P. Abizaid, the commander of U.S. Central Command, military analysts, the entire Democratic Party, much of the Republican Party, most of the foreign policy establishment, the Iraq Study Group, and many within his own Administration.

The prevailing view was that of General Casey, whom Woodward quotes as telling the President in June 2006, “To win, we have to draw down.” General Casey was exactly wrong, as was the much-heralded Baker-Hamilton Report, which in its 96 pages dismissed the idea of a surge in a single paragraph. (The ISG did recommend a short-term surge, but it argued, “Sustained increases in U.S. troop levels would not solve the fundamental cause of violence in Iraq, which is the absence of national reconciliation… past experience indicates that the violence would simply rekindle as soon as U.S. forces are moved to another area… America’s military capacity is stretched thin: we do not have the troops or equipment to make a substantial, sustained increase in our troop presence.” The ISG also recommended a drawdown of all U.S. combat forces by early 2008.)

Read the rest of the COMMENTARY web exclusive here.

Since it hasn’t been available until today, I have not yet read Bob Woodward’s new book, The War Within: A Secret White House History 2006-2008. But his articles in the Washington Post and and his 60 Minutes interview do invite commentary.

The most important point to make, I think, is that the book underscores what an extraordinary decision President Bush made in deciding on the so-called surge. As Woodward’s book recounts, and my own experience in the White House underscores, in settling on a surge of five brigades to Baghdad and 4,000 Marines to Anbar Province, the President bucked the views of most members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (including the Army Chief of Staff, Peter Schoomaker, and Chief of Naval Operations, Michael Mullen), General George W. Casey, Jr., then the commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq, John P. Abizaid, the commander of U.S. Central Command, military analysts, the entire Democratic Party, much of the Republican Party, most of the foreign policy establishment, the Iraq Study Group, and many within his own Administration.

The prevailing view was that of General Casey, whom Woodward quotes as telling the President in June 2006, “To win, we have to draw down.” General Casey was exactly wrong, as was the much-heralded Baker-Hamilton Report, which in its 96 pages dismissed the idea of a surge in a single paragraph. (The ISG did recommend a short-term surge, but it argued, “Sustained increases in U.S. troop levels would not solve the fundamental cause of violence in Iraq, which is the absence of national reconciliation… past experience indicates that the violence would simply rekindle as soon as U.S. forces are moved to another area… America’s military capacity is stretched thin: we do not have the troops or equipment to make a substantial, sustained increase in our troop presence.” The ISG also recommended a drawdown of all U.S. combat forces by early 2008.)

Read the rest of the COMMENTARY web exclusive here.

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Could It Be?

Marc Ambinder picks up on the newest defensive bit of emotional self-help for Democrats: “Really, really the VP doesn’t count.” We saw Joe Biden tried that out over the weekend and now Howard Wolfson takes it for a spin. (Hmm, had Barack Obama chosen Hillary Clinton as the VP I think he’d have a different view but let’s not be too hung up on intellectual consistency.) Ambinder observes about the “VP doesn’t matter” mantra:

So Democrats hope! Usually, voters do. But there’s no fundamental reason why, in every instance, they will. The attention lavished on Gov. Palin is unprecedented; perhaps her pull on voters will be, too.

And of course it’s not even true by rather recent historical standards that VP’s don’t matter. Didn’t LBJ help deliver Texas in 1960? VP’s certainly help the top of the ticket and there’s no denying that the more interesting or successful a VP candidate is the more likely she is to help.

And pardon the whiplash, but wasn’t the media telling us just days ago that Palin’s selection was proof-positive that McCain was reckless and a horrid judge of character and talent? It might be that voters think better of McCain because of the Palin pick and credit him with executive prowess for selecting her.

Now, a measure of restraint is warranted. Should Palin bomb in the debate and commit a horrid gaffe in an interview (e.g. declare there are 57 states, or imply FDR met with Hitler, or . . . . OK, you get the point) the media will be back to declaring the VP a vital component of voter decision-making. But for now, all we can do is stand back and watch.

Marc Ambinder picks up on the newest defensive bit of emotional self-help for Democrats: “Really, really the VP doesn’t count.” We saw Joe Biden tried that out over the weekend and now Howard Wolfson takes it for a spin. (Hmm, had Barack Obama chosen Hillary Clinton as the VP I think he’d have a different view but let’s not be too hung up on intellectual consistency.) Ambinder observes about the “VP doesn’t matter” mantra:

So Democrats hope! Usually, voters do. But there’s no fundamental reason why, in every instance, they will. The attention lavished on Gov. Palin is unprecedented; perhaps her pull on voters will be, too.

And of course it’s not even true by rather recent historical standards that VP’s don’t matter. Didn’t LBJ help deliver Texas in 1960? VP’s certainly help the top of the ticket and there’s no denying that the more interesting or successful a VP candidate is the more likely she is to help.

And pardon the whiplash, but wasn’t the media telling us just days ago that Palin’s selection was proof-positive that McCain was reckless and a horrid judge of character and talent? It might be that voters think better of McCain because of the Palin pick and credit him with executive prowess for selecting her.

Now, a measure of restraint is warranted. Should Palin bomb in the debate and commit a horrid gaffe in an interview (e.g. declare there are 57 states, or imply FDR met with Hitler, or . . . . OK, you get the point) the media will be back to declaring the VP a vital component of voter decision-making. But for now, all we can do is stand back and watch.

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Don’t Wait for Russia

Following Russia’s invasion of Georgia, Russia hinted that the West should consider a muted response in light of the fact that “we need Russia to deal with Iran.” This may be a good way to rationalize European unwillingness to come up with a dignified response to Russia’s imperialism–see Timothy Garton Ash in last week’s Guardian for a flight from liberal interventionism–and a call to seek a new détente.

But does this make sense? Russia was never fully on board when it came to Iran–before and after Georgia. Confirmation of the fact that those who wait for Russia on the Iranian dossier will wait forever–if any confirmation was further needed–came yesterday, when Russian sources announced that Russia may increase nuclear assistance to Iran–including training scientists.

We were never fans of Russia, nor did we particularly value the Russian “contribution”on Iran, given that they have been more of a hindrance than a support in the great chess game played ad nauseam in the UN Security Council. Maybe it’s time to stop playing nice in the hope the Russians will be nice as well. The West can take steps against Iran that will hurt Tehran and its prospects for nuclear progress regardless of whether Russia is on board. It is time to ponder such measures and signal the Russians that though a Permanent Member of the Security Council, their contribution to keeping the peace in the world is wanting.

Following Russia’s invasion of Georgia, Russia hinted that the West should consider a muted response in light of the fact that “we need Russia to deal with Iran.” This may be a good way to rationalize European unwillingness to come up with a dignified response to Russia’s imperialism–see Timothy Garton Ash in last week’s Guardian for a flight from liberal interventionism–and a call to seek a new détente.

But does this make sense? Russia was never fully on board when it came to Iran–before and after Georgia. Confirmation of the fact that those who wait for Russia on the Iranian dossier will wait forever–if any confirmation was further needed–came yesterday, when Russian sources announced that Russia may increase nuclear assistance to Iran–including training scientists.

We were never fans of Russia, nor did we particularly value the Russian “contribution”on Iran, given that they have been more of a hindrance than a support in the great chess game played ad nauseam in the UN Security Council. Maybe it’s time to stop playing nice in the hope the Russians will be nice as well. The West can take steps against Iran that will hurt Tehran and its prospects for nuclear progress regardless of whether Russia is on board. It is time to ponder such measures and signal the Russians that though a Permanent Member of the Security Council, their contribution to keeping the peace in the world is wanting.

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McCain in the Lead

For the first time, the RCP average of polls has McCain ahead of Obama, a lead that will likely grow in the coming days as McCain’s bounce fully registers. Surely what will soon follow are news analyses asking, “What went wrong for Obama?” And just as certainly, the answers to that question will not include the media itself.

For the first time, the RCP average of polls has McCain ahead of Obama, a lead that will likely grow in the coming days as McCain’s bounce fully registers. Surely what will soon follow are news analyses asking, “What went wrong for Obama?” And just as certainly, the answers to that question will not include the media itself.

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Forever in Gaza

Given the Olmert government’s proclivity to capitulate to the demands of its enemies, it is surprising to see Israel holding the line on Hamas, sort of. The border crossings with Gaza remain closed and Israel and Egypt are unified on their unwillingness to open them so long as Hamas refuses to consider releasing Gilad Shalit.

The cease-fire has been a textbook example of how negotiations with terrorists work: Hamas has minimally upheld one part of its agreement (almost eliminating rocket fire) but is flagrantly violating the others (weapons smuggling and terror training), all while demanding an ever-increasing number of prisoners from Israel and requiring the fulfillment of every one of its demands before lifting a finger to discharge its obligations. Barry Rubin illustrates the problem cleverly:

When win-win (WW) and zero-sum (ZS) come together the negotiating process is something like the following:

* ZS: We demand 100 percent!
* WW: We’ll give you 50 percent!
* ZS: 100!
* WW: 75!
* ZS: Perhaps if you offer me 100 I will make a deal.
* WW: Wow, what a window of opportunity! How about 90?
* ZS: 100
* WW: 95, and that’s my last offer!
* ZS: 110!

Playing perfectly to type, Hamas has just upped its prisoner-release demand from 1,000 to 1,500 people. The original number was 450. Hamas has every incentive keep the negotiations going in perpetuity: its control over Gaza is not threatened by any domestic rivals, so there is no internal political pressure; its control over Gaza, so long as it holds Shalit, apparently will not be threatened by Israel, creating another layer of regime security; and Israel’s dedication to negotiation allows Hamas to manipulate and keep on the defensive a superior power through the issuance of ever-changing demands.

I hope I am wrong, but it is almost unimaginable that Shalit will be released through talks with Hamas. The only thing that stands even a chance of freeing him is if Israel causes Hamas credibly to fear for the survival of its rule. And the problem with that strategy is that Israel is facing an Iranian challenge far more grave than Gaza.

Given the Olmert government’s proclivity to capitulate to the demands of its enemies, it is surprising to see Israel holding the line on Hamas, sort of. The border crossings with Gaza remain closed and Israel and Egypt are unified on their unwillingness to open them so long as Hamas refuses to consider releasing Gilad Shalit.

The cease-fire has been a textbook example of how negotiations with terrorists work: Hamas has minimally upheld one part of its agreement (almost eliminating rocket fire) but is flagrantly violating the others (weapons smuggling and terror training), all while demanding an ever-increasing number of prisoners from Israel and requiring the fulfillment of every one of its demands before lifting a finger to discharge its obligations. Barry Rubin illustrates the problem cleverly:

When win-win (WW) and zero-sum (ZS) come together the negotiating process is something like the following:

* ZS: We demand 100 percent!
* WW: We’ll give you 50 percent!
* ZS: 100!
* WW: 75!
* ZS: Perhaps if you offer me 100 I will make a deal.
* WW: Wow, what a window of opportunity! How about 90?
* ZS: 100
* WW: 95, and that’s my last offer!
* ZS: 110!

Playing perfectly to type, Hamas has just upped its prisoner-release demand from 1,000 to 1,500 people. The original number was 450. Hamas has every incentive keep the negotiations going in perpetuity: its control over Gaza is not threatened by any domestic rivals, so there is no internal political pressure; its control over Gaza, so long as it holds Shalit, apparently will not be threatened by Israel, creating another layer of regime security; and Israel’s dedication to negotiation allows Hamas to manipulate and keep on the defensive a superior power through the issuance of ever-changing demands.

I hope I am wrong, but it is almost unimaginable that Shalit will be released through talks with Hamas. The only thing that stands even a chance of freeing him is if Israel causes Hamas credibly to fear for the survival of its rule. And the problem with that strategy is that Israel is facing an Iranian challenge far more grave than Gaza.

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Bookshelf

One good movie-star book deserves another, so having enjoyed Robert Nott’s “The Films of Randolph Scott,” I decided to read his first book, “He Ran All the Way: The Life of John Garfield” (Limelight, 354 pp., $27.50). It’s no less readable, albeit in a very different way, just as Garfield was a very different kind of actor from Scott. Whereas “The Films of Randolph Scott” was an annotated filmography, “He Ran All the Way” is a conventional biography, one whose subject, unlike Scott, led an exceedingly interesting and ultimately sad life.

Nowadays John Garfield is remembered, if at all, for having made three good films, “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” “Body and Soul” and “Force of Evil,” and for having been blacklisted. In his day, though, he was-for a time-a genuine star, and one whose background was the stuff cover stories are made of. A Russian-Jewish immigrant slum kid from Brooklyn, Garfield was as close to uneducated as it’s possible for an actor to be, yet he somehow managed to muscle his way into the Group Theatre, the left-wing stage collective that gave Clifford Odets his start, and played secondary roles in three of Odets’ best-remembered plays, “Waiting for Lefty,” “Awake and Sing!” and “Golden Boy.” But Garfield was never at home in the Group Theatre, perhaps because he was the opposite of an intellectual, a purely instinctive performer who knew next to nothing about the classics, and when Hollywood came calling, he came running.

Garfield made his first film in 1938, worked his way up the rungs of celebrity, and hit the big time in 1946, co-starring with Lana Turner in the film version of James M. Cain’s “The Postman Always Rings Twice.” The times were right for Garfield, whose rough-edged big-city presence was well suited to the cynical postwar crime dramas that French critics dubbed film noir, and for a few years he was at the top of the heap. At that point, though, his hard-left past caught up with him. A semi-unfriendly 1951 appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee (he declared himself opposed to Communism but refused to name names and skated over the edge of perjury) put an end to Garfield’s screen career, and he died of a heart attack the following year.

Like the film-noir chump he plays in “Postman,” Garfield let a dame lead him by the nose into the political crossfire. He appears never to have been a card-carrying Communist, and his politics, Nott writes, were as unthoughtful as his acting: “Julie [Garfield's lifelong nickname] never quite penetrated the Hollywood liberal community’s depths. Often he would fall asleep at parties when political discussions came up.” But Robbe, his wife, was deeply involved in the Communist Party, and it seems more than likely that she was largely responsible for his own involvement in the front groups that would later bring him to the attention of HUAC.

Nott is admirably frank about all this, and though he portrays Garfield, reasonably enough, as a victim of the blacklist, he also makes it clear that Garfield’s film career was already in trouble by the time his Communist connections started making headlines. He had always been more a character actor than a full-fledged star, and when his rough, youthful glamour started to fade, he inevitably became less attractive to producers and directors. Film noir was his metier, but its popularity was as short-lived as his own vogue as a hero-loser.

In the end, Garfield was as much as anything else a victim of his own limitations. Humphrey Bogart, like Garfield, started out as a stage actor turned tough-guy second banana, but had the intelligence to sculpt a more complex screen persona for himself, the iron determination to seek out interesting roles-and the good luck to be offered the career-clinching parts in “High Sierra” and “The Maltese Falcon” that turned him into one of the iconic figures of the studio system. John Garfield, for all his natural gifts, had none of these things. He was, like so many other screen stars, a handsome, hollow tree, marvelous to look at but incapable of standing up to the high winds of life.

One good movie-star book deserves another, so having enjoyed Robert Nott’s “The Films of Randolph Scott,” I decided to read his first book, “He Ran All the Way: The Life of John Garfield” (Limelight, 354 pp., $27.50). It’s no less readable, albeit in a very different way, just as Garfield was a very different kind of actor from Scott. Whereas “The Films of Randolph Scott” was an annotated filmography, “He Ran All the Way” is a conventional biography, one whose subject, unlike Scott, led an exceedingly interesting and ultimately sad life.

Nowadays John Garfield is remembered, if at all, for having made three good films, “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” “Body and Soul” and “Force of Evil,” and for having been blacklisted. In his day, though, he was-for a time-a genuine star, and one whose background was the stuff cover stories are made of. A Russian-Jewish immigrant slum kid from Brooklyn, Garfield was as close to uneducated as it’s possible for an actor to be, yet he somehow managed to muscle his way into the Group Theatre, the left-wing stage collective that gave Clifford Odets his start, and played secondary roles in three of Odets’ best-remembered plays, “Waiting for Lefty,” “Awake and Sing!” and “Golden Boy.” But Garfield was never at home in the Group Theatre, perhaps because he was the opposite of an intellectual, a purely instinctive performer who knew next to nothing about the classics, and when Hollywood came calling, he came running.

Garfield made his first film in 1938, worked his way up the rungs of celebrity, and hit the big time in 1946, co-starring with Lana Turner in the film version of James M. Cain’s “The Postman Always Rings Twice.” The times were right for Garfield, whose rough-edged big-city presence was well suited to the cynical postwar crime dramas that French critics dubbed film noir, and for a few years he was at the top of the heap. At that point, though, his hard-left past caught up with him. A semi-unfriendly 1951 appearance before the House Un-American Activities Committee (he declared himself opposed to Communism but refused to name names and skated over the edge of perjury) put an end to Garfield’s screen career, and he died of a heart attack the following year.

Like the film-noir chump he plays in “Postman,” Garfield let a dame lead him by the nose into the political crossfire. He appears never to have been a card-carrying Communist, and his politics, Nott writes, were as unthoughtful as his acting: “Julie [Garfield's lifelong nickname] never quite penetrated the Hollywood liberal community’s depths. Often he would fall asleep at parties when political discussions came up.” But Robbe, his wife, was deeply involved in the Communist Party, and it seems more than likely that she was largely responsible for his own involvement in the front groups that would later bring him to the attention of HUAC.

Nott is admirably frank about all this, and though he portrays Garfield, reasonably enough, as a victim of the blacklist, he also makes it clear that Garfield’s film career was already in trouble by the time his Communist connections started making headlines. He had always been more a character actor than a full-fledged star, and when his rough, youthful glamour started to fade, he inevitably became less attractive to producers and directors. Film noir was his metier, but its popularity was as short-lived as his own vogue as a hero-loser.

In the end, Garfield was as much as anything else a victim of his own limitations. Humphrey Bogart, like Garfield, started out as a stage actor turned tough-guy second banana, but had the intelligence to sculpt a more complex screen persona for himself, the iron determination to seek out interesting roles-and the good luck to be offered the career-clinching parts in “High Sierra” and “The Maltese Falcon” that turned him into one of the iconic figures of the studio system. John Garfield, for all his natural gifts, had none of these things. He was, like so many other screen stars, a handsome, hollow tree, marvelous to look at but incapable of standing up to the high winds of life.

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Sarkozy in Damascus

While most of media outlets were busy judging Israel’s, Syria’s and the U.S.’s motives and interests in the recent meeting between Bashar Assad and Nicolas Sarkozy in Damascus, some also dedicated space to analyzing the role of Sarkozy:

The Jerusalem Post was skeptical about the meeting, but not about the Frenchman:

Could it be that Assad is once again dangling the possibility of peace with Israel as a way to renew contacts with Washington and Paris and end his international isolation?

Haaretz was more enthusiastic about the meeting, and was right to comment that it has no reason to be angry or unhappy with Sarkozy:

[T]his time Israel cannot be angry with the French. After all, it did an about-face as well when it began an indirect dialogue with Syria, which is meant to turn into direct talks at a later stage. In this Israel diverged from the normal framework, under which its relations with the countries in the region are coordinated with the United States.

But this doesn’t mean that Sarkozy was doing the right thing. As Emile Hokayem of the Henry Stimson Center points out:

Many will welcome Sarkozy’s visit to Damascus, but there are indeed legitimate questions about the timing and manner of his opening to Syria, which had been shunned for the past three years for its interference in Lebanese affairs. His warm embrace of Assad displayed a curious mix of cynicism and naivety that has not been a characteristic of French diplomacy until now.

Michael Young, at Lebanon’s Daily Star, makes a similar point, even more blatantly:

Sarkozy has proven to be the most destructive of opportunists here. After having negotiated a mediocre agreement in Georgia that allowed Russia to pursue its military actions there under the guise of defensive measures, yesterday in Damascus the French president waded into the Shebaa Farms imbroglio, with the same ostentation and shallowness. Sarkozy’s true purpose was plain on Tuesday when he declared that peace in the Middle East “went through France and Syria,” and that his aim was to see Syria “regaining its place in the concert of nations.”

The Lebanese might be those losing more than others by this untimely diplomatic intervention. But hey, who cares about them?

While most of media outlets were busy judging Israel’s, Syria’s and the U.S.’s motives and interests in the recent meeting between Bashar Assad and Nicolas Sarkozy in Damascus, some also dedicated space to analyzing the role of Sarkozy:

The Jerusalem Post was skeptical about the meeting, but not about the Frenchman:

Could it be that Assad is once again dangling the possibility of peace with Israel as a way to renew contacts with Washington and Paris and end his international isolation?

Haaretz was more enthusiastic about the meeting, and was right to comment that it has no reason to be angry or unhappy with Sarkozy:

[T]his time Israel cannot be angry with the French. After all, it did an about-face as well when it began an indirect dialogue with Syria, which is meant to turn into direct talks at a later stage. In this Israel diverged from the normal framework, under which its relations with the countries in the region are coordinated with the United States.

But this doesn’t mean that Sarkozy was doing the right thing. As Emile Hokayem of the Henry Stimson Center points out:

Many will welcome Sarkozy’s visit to Damascus, but there are indeed legitimate questions about the timing and manner of his opening to Syria, which had been shunned for the past three years for its interference in Lebanese affairs. His warm embrace of Assad displayed a curious mix of cynicism and naivety that has not been a characteristic of French diplomacy until now.

Michael Young, at Lebanon’s Daily Star, makes a similar point, even more blatantly:

Sarkozy has proven to be the most destructive of opportunists here. After having negotiated a mediocre agreement in Georgia that allowed Russia to pursue its military actions there under the guise of defensive measures, yesterday in Damascus the French president waded into the Shebaa Farms imbroglio, with the same ostentation and shallowness. Sarkozy’s true purpose was plain on Tuesday when he declared that peace in the Middle East “went through France and Syria,” and that his aim was to see Syria “regaining its place in the concert of nations.”

The Lebanese might be those losing more than others by this untimely diplomatic intervention. But hey, who cares about them?

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Battle For Theme

The latest McCain-Palin ad is, I think, the most successful yet in making the case that the Republicans are the ones you have actually fought for “change”–if that is defined as battling entrenched interests and their own party. In this regard, Barack Obama has his hands full because, when push comes to shove, there isn’t any tangible record of Obama having done so. Whenever pressed by a tough reporter, Obama and his surrogates have been unable to come up with a decent answer. Not their fault; there isn’t any good answer. (And if any of the mainstream reporters ever looked carefully at Obama’s Chicago record they would find, as David Freddoso remarked to me recently, that this is “counter-factual” with respect to Obama’s pre-U.S. Senate record.)

In this regard Obama may have erred in making “change” about Washington culture. What he really means is “no more George W. Bush.” That is an ideological, not a process-based, type of change. He wants a different tax, regulatory, national security, trade and healthcare policy. So why not have made that, rather than the amorphous “Agent of Change” hooey, the center of his pitch?

There are two reasons I think. First, it would have made plain how liberal a course Obama wants to pursue. It gets dicey when he begins to spell out the specifics. Second, it would have made him seem rather ordinary, just another pol with a laundry list of “to-do’s.” So instead his developed a frothy message that ultimately didn’t persuade anyone, was stepped on by the candidate himself (e.g. in reversing himself on campaign finance) and ultimately stolen by the opposition.

I suspect that as a result we’ll hear less and less about process and more and more about Obama’s domestic agenda, provided he can come up with a way of presenting it which doesn’t sound like his Denver speech, which was a roadmap to an enormously expanded federal government and a national security policy excessively reliant on crippled international institutions and “soft power.” Come to think of it, I understand why he went the process route — he just didn’t bank on facing McCain-Palin.

The latest McCain-Palin ad is, I think, the most successful yet in making the case that the Republicans are the ones you have actually fought for “change”–if that is defined as battling entrenched interests and their own party. In this regard, Barack Obama has his hands full because, when push comes to shove, there isn’t any tangible record of Obama having done so. Whenever pressed by a tough reporter, Obama and his surrogates have been unable to come up with a decent answer. Not their fault; there isn’t any good answer. (And if any of the mainstream reporters ever looked carefully at Obama’s Chicago record they would find, as David Freddoso remarked to me recently, that this is “counter-factual” with respect to Obama’s pre-U.S. Senate record.)

In this regard Obama may have erred in making “change” about Washington culture. What he really means is “no more George W. Bush.” That is an ideological, not a process-based, type of change. He wants a different tax, regulatory, national security, trade and healthcare policy. So why not have made that, rather than the amorphous “Agent of Change” hooey, the center of his pitch?

There are two reasons I think. First, it would have made plain how liberal a course Obama wants to pursue. It gets dicey when he begins to spell out the specifics. Second, it would have made him seem rather ordinary, just another pol with a laundry list of “to-do’s.” So instead his developed a frothy message that ultimately didn’t persuade anyone, was stepped on by the candidate himself (e.g. in reversing himself on campaign finance) and ultimately stolen by the opposition.

I suspect that as a result we’ll hear less and less about process and more and more about Obama’s domestic agenda, provided he can come up with a way of presenting it which doesn’t sound like his Denver speech, which was a roadmap to an enormously expanded federal government and a national security policy excessively reliant on crippled international institutions and “soft power.” Come to think of it, I understand why he went the process route — he just didn’t bank on facing McCain-Palin.

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“Another Iraqi Casualty of War: Their Waistlines”

If you thought the casualties of war had been extolled upon in every imaginable way by the media, here’s a new perspective from the Los Angeles Times: “Another Iraqi casualty of war: Their waistlines:”

In a land where just staying alive is a challenge, Haider Kareem Said’s problem might seem trivial. He’s overweight.

But that isn’t a mere annoyance or something Said can fix with diet and exercise — he’s 5-foot-4 and weighs 495 pounds. So last month, Said had a band surgically strapped around his stomach, an operation relatively new to Iraq that is proving to be a godsend for people facing an unusual consequence of the war: obesity.

“People are unemployed. They’re sitting at home. Sometimes they’re depressed and that makes them eat more. Obviously, the security has had a direct influence on the activities of people,” he said, his belly pressing against the fabric of his white dishdasha. “I’ve been on a diet for the past two years. I’ve only eaten one meal a day, but I didn’t lose anything because I don’t move a lot.”

Now that the violence has decreased, he hopes to shed the roughly 65 pounds he’s gained.

A plasma TV was on one wall of the long, narrow living room. At the opposite end was another television. They are symbols of the Saids’ comfortable middle-class life, and of the unhealthy habits adopted by many Iraqis during the war.

The fall of Saddam Hussein didn’t just usher in chaos and violence — it also introduced satellite television to Iraqis. Suddenly, with scores of channels to watch, even people who weren’t forced to stay inside often did.

Ironically, TV may have saved Said.

Oy, Iraqi reconstruction has just begun!

The article’s pessimism is reminiscent of a McClatchy article of last October: “As violence falls in Iraq, cemetery workers feel the pinch.”

If you thought the casualties of war had been extolled upon in every imaginable way by the media, here’s a new perspective from the Los Angeles Times: “Another Iraqi casualty of war: Their waistlines:”

In a land where just staying alive is a challenge, Haider Kareem Said’s problem might seem trivial. He’s overweight.

But that isn’t a mere annoyance or something Said can fix with diet and exercise — he’s 5-foot-4 and weighs 495 pounds. So last month, Said had a band surgically strapped around his stomach, an operation relatively new to Iraq that is proving to be a godsend for people facing an unusual consequence of the war: obesity.

“People are unemployed. They’re sitting at home. Sometimes they’re depressed and that makes them eat more. Obviously, the security has had a direct influence on the activities of people,” he said, his belly pressing against the fabric of his white dishdasha. “I’ve been on a diet for the past two years. I’ve only eaten one meal a day, but I didn’t lose anything because I don’t move a lot.”

Now that the violence has decreased, he hopes to shed the roughly 65 pounds he’s gained.

A plasma TV was on one wall of the long, narrow living room. At the opposite end was another television. They are symbols of the Saids’ comfortable middle-class life, and of the unhealthy habits adopted by many Iraqis during the war.

The fall of Saddam Hussein didn’t just usher in chaos and violence — it also introduced satellite television to Iraqis. Suddenly, with scores of channels to watch, even people who weren’t forced to stay inside often did.

Ironically, TV may have saved Said.

Oy, Iraqi reconstruction has just begun!

The article’s pessimism is reminiscent of a McClatchy article of last October: “As violence falls in Iraq, cemetery workers feel the pinch.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Palin bounce. It’s not just in tracking polls.(Notice the ten point lead among likely voters.) Democrats, sometimes panic is a rational response.

A “Wasilla Wal-Mart” mom? Harrumph, say the punditocracy. A lot of voters say “Cool!”

The NY Post is smitten. Forget the politics, they know a thing or two about selling papers.

You think the Democrats wish that both tickets’ VPs would just disappear? Not soon enough.

Barack Obama says he “thought” about joining the military. Yikes, even if true (I know, I don’t totally buy it either, since he wrote two books and campaigned for two years without mentioning it, but bear with me) why set himself up for “Obama thought about it, McCain did it”?

One of them needs a food taster. Maybe both.

One of the dimmer pieces of analysis about the Palin selection suggests that “the McCain campaign’s continued courting of the more traditional base spells trouble for any efforts to expand his appeal to independent voters and less conservative Evangelicals.” No, that’s the brilliance of the Palin pick — she is the one person who allows McCain to do both. (And in all the speculation about whether Palin even helps among Evangelicals, especially younger ones, there is one thing missing: any polling or reaction from actual Evangelicals. There were plenty of them at the Convention so one wonders why not a single one is quoted in the article.)

Barack Obama’s revised answer on abortion is as bad as his original one, just longer.  And really, even Biden can give a straight answer. Why not the top of his ticket?

Of all the lame arguments in a campaign with more than its share, the one repeated by David Axelrod on Sunday that McCain didn’t know how successful the surge would be ranks pretty high.  They really want to argue that McCain was even more right than he imagined? That would make Barack Obama’s assessment even worse than anyone imagined. This is political malpractice.

Sure to induce hives in the Left blogosphere: an Israeli flag in Governor Palim’s office. The Buchanan-supporting, Independce Party-belonging,  and child-neglecting smears didn’t work. Maybe “dual loyalist” is next up.

Speaking of Axelrod: ouch.

Jake Tapper puts the pieces of the puzzle together — Obama’s appallingly weak responses on O’Reilly and the new poll numbers on national security. There really is a reason why the voters don’t trust the Democrats.

From Joe Biden’s hometown paper: “To some, Joe Biden’s image makeover as a blue-collar warrior is slightly at odds with the blueblood company he keeps in the corporate state.” Do we think this man was properly vetted?

When Obama pleads that he doesn’t want to get into a “a résumé contest” with Palin, you know which will lose.

Sarah is no longer the star of the Palin family. You have to love the stage directions she gives to her older sister.

Andrea Mitchell joins Sally Quinn in jumping off the MSM trainwreck.

The surest sign Palin is a mega-problem for the Democrats? This from Joe Biden: “Vice presidents are useful, but we’re not, we’re not determinative.” He better hope so.

Huh? The Beagle Blogger is mad that Steve Schmidt isn’t answering his questions? There is indeed “malpractice” going on but it is not attributable to the guy on the surging campaign.

Oprah gets flak for refusing to have Palin on the show. But why in the world would Palin want to go on? It seems 40 million people and counting are seeing her unfiltered.

The Palin bounce. It’s not just in tracking polls.(Notice the ten point lead among likely voters.) Democrats, sometimes panic is a rational response.

A “Wasilla Wal-Mart” mom? Harrumph, say the punditocracy. A lot of voters say “Cool!”

The NY Post is smitten. Forget the politics, they know a thing or two about selling papers.

You think the Democrats wish that both tickets’ VPs would just disappear? Not soon enough.

Barack Obama says he “thought” about joining the military. Yikes, even if true (I know, I don’t totally buy it either, since he wrote two books and campaigned for two years without mentioning it, but bear with me) why set himself up for “Obama thought about it, McCain did it”?

One of them needs a food taster. Maybe both.

One of the dimmer pieces of analysis about the Palin selection suggests that “the McCain campaign’s continued courting of the more traditional base spells trouble for any efforts to expand his appeal to independent voters and less conservative Evangelicals.” No, that’s the brilliance of the Palin pick — she is the one person who allows McCain to do both. (And in all the speculation about whether Palin even helps among Evangelicals, especially younger ones, there is one thing missing: any polling or reaction from actual Evangelicals. There were plenty of them at the Convention so one wonders why not a single one is quoted in the article.)

Barack Obama’s revised answer on abortion is as bad as his original one, just longer.  And really, even Biden can give a straight answer. Why not the top of his ticket?

Of all the lame arguments in a campaign with more than its share, the one repeated by David Axelrod on Sunday that McCain didn’t know how successful the surge would be ranks pretty high.  They really want to argue that McCain was even more right than he imagined? That would make Barack Obama’s assessment even worse than anyone imagined. This is political malpractice.

Sure to induce hives in the Left blogosphere: an Israeli flag in Governor Palim’s office. The Buchanan-supporting, Independce Party-belonging,  and child-neglecting smears didn’t work. Maybe “dual loyalist” is next up.

Speaking of Axelrod: ouch.

Jake Tapper puts the pieces of the puzzle together — Obama’s appallingly weak responses on O’Reilly and the new poll numbers on national security. There really is a reason why the voters don’t trust the Democrats.

From Joe Biden’s hometown paper: “To some, Joe Biden’s image makeover as a blue-collar warrior is slightly at odds with the blueblood company he keeps in the corporate state.” Do we think this man was properly vetted?

When Obama pleads that he doesn’t want to get into a “a résumé contest” with Palin, you know which will lose.

Sarah is no longer the star of the Palin family. You have to love the stage directions she gives to her older sister.

Andrea Mitchell joins Sally Quinn in jumping off the MSM trainwreck.

The surest sign Palin is a mega-problem for the Democrats? This from Joe Biden: “Vice presidents are useful, but we’re not, we’re not determinative.” He better hope so.

Huh? The Beagle Blogger is mad that Steve Schmidt isn’t answering his questions? There is indeed “malpractice” going on but it is not attributable to the guy on the surging campaign.

Oprah gets flak for refusing to have Palin on the show. But why in the world would Palin want to go on? It seems 40 million people and counting are seeing her unfiltered.

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Rocket Science

David Kay, former U.N. inspector, hits the nail on the head: “it looks as if Iran is 80 percent of the way to a functioning nuclear weapon.”

In a detailed, quite somber article, Kay says he believes that:

Iran is pushing toward a nuclear-weapons capability as rapidly as it can. But if Tehran were to believe that American — not Israeli — military action is imminent, it might slow work on the elements of its program that it thinks the world can observe. Yet such temporizing would only be tactical. Its strategic goal is to acquire nuclear weapons to counter what it views as a real U.S. threat.

But since Kay does not believe in actions that will only “slow” Tehran’s work, he does not see the benefit of keeping an American military threat alive. What he is essentially suggesting is to accept as fact that Tehran, rather than the U.S., will have the upper hand in this debate. The Iranians will achieve their “strategic goal”–one that the US has failed to prevent them from reaching–and the world will move from prevention to the crafting of the day after:

Two concerns seem to be most absent from discussion of Iran’s “nuclear future,” whatever it is: First, what policies would limit any advantage, political or military, that Iran might gain from such weapons? Second, how do we begin to craft, with all the states of the region — including Israel and Iran — political, economic and security arrangements that recognize their varied interests and concerns and their often very different perspectives on what these are? In the end, we need to decide how we can perform damage control and create arrangements that take into account states’ varied interests.

Kay’s main assumption–the one that makes his whole argument highly questionable–it that “figuring this (namely, how to craft these “political, economic and security arrangements”) is not rocket science.” Not that he tells us how exactly this deal with all regional powers will materialize. He just assumes that it’s possible, even fairly easy. Thus, he is willing to give up on the “threat” that “might slow” Iran’s work for the hope that a deal can be reached. His motive is quite straightforward: he does not believe that Iran can be effectively stopped. But this is an argument that is self-fulfilling: if you do not believe that Iran can be stopped, you’ll not threaten its leaders. If you do not use threats, the chances for you to stop Iran dwindle.

To sum up–and this is really not “rocket science:” The only way to deter Iran from future use of its newly acquired nuclear power will be the threat of force. But this threat seems now as if it will not be very credible in the eyes of the Iranians, because they’ve already proven that it is a hollow threat. They were warned not to develop nuclear weapons–and are now on the verge of prevailing. Why would they believe next time that the threat is serious?

David Kay, former U.N. inspector, hits the nail on the head: “it looks as if Iran is 80 percent of the way to a functioning nuclear weapon.”

In a detailed, quite somber article, Kay says he believes that:

Iran is pushing toward a nuclear-weapons capability as rapidly as it can. But if Tehran were to believe that American — not Israeli — military action is imminent, it might slow work on the elements of its program that it thinks the world can observe. Yet such temporizing would only be tactical. Its strategic goal is to acquire nuclear weapons to counter what it views as a real U.S. threat.

But since Kay does not believe in actions that will only “slow” Tehran’s work, he does not see the benefit of keeping an American military threat alive. What he is essentially suggesting is to accept as fact that Tehran, rather than the U.S., will have the upper hand in this debate. The Iranians will achieve their “strategic goal”–one that the US has failed to prevent them from reaching–and the world will move from prevention to the crafting of the day after:

Two concerns seem to be most absent from discussion of Iran’s “nuclear future,” whatever it is: First, what policies would limit any advantage, political or military, that Iran might gain from such weapons? Second, how do we begin to craft, with all the states of the region — including Israel and Iran — political, economic and security arrangements that recognize their varied interests and concerns and their often very different perspectives on what these are? In the end, we need to decide how we can perform damage control and create arrangements that take into account states’ varied interests.

Kay’s main assumption–the one that makes his whole argument highly questionable–it that “figuring this (namely, how to craft these “political, economic and security arrangements”) is not rocket science.” Not that he tells us how exactly this deal with all regional powers will materialize. He just assumes that it’s possible, even fairly easy. Thus, he is willing to give up on the “threat” that “might slow” Iran’s work for the hope that a deal can be reached. His motive is quite straightforward: he does not believe that Iran can be effectively stopped. But this is an argument that is self-fulfilling: if you do not believe that Iran can be stopped, you’ll not threaten its leaders. If you do not use threats, the chances for you to stop Iran dwindle.

To sum up–and this is really not “rocket science:” The only way to deter Iran from future use of its newly acquired nuclear power will be the threat of force. But this threat seems now as if it will not be very credible in the eyes of the Iranians, because they’ve already proven that it is a hollow threat. They were warned not to develop nuclear weapons–and are now on the verge of prevailing. Why would they believe next time that the threat is serious?

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Re: Fair is Fair

One difference, John, between the sharp take from Carr and the equally dense one by Gibbs is that the former actually seemed to talk to this odd, exotic breed of voter known as the Social Conservative. Perhaps he was at the convention, where you couldn’t take a step without bumping into one of them.

There were mass meetings, in fact, where one could find a pack of 1000 grazing amongst their finger foods of choice. These folks were not shy and afforded every opportunity to allow you to ask them some questions. They even offered to take an interested observer to their leaders. And if that wasn’t sufficient, one could have have roamed “radio row” where booth after booth of talk show hosts heard from collectively thousands of callers from this tribe of voter, the Social Conservative, whose views one could readily assess.

In short, Carr reported and Gibbs pontificated. The latter is fine, I suppose, provided you have some familiarity with your subject matter. When you don’t, you come away appearing clueless. Which come to think of it, is what Carr concludes is true of many of his colleagues.

One difference, John, between the sharp take from Carr and the equally dense one by Gibbs is that the former actually seemed to talk to this odd, exotic breed of voter known as the Social Conservative. Perhaps he was at the convention, where you couldn’t take a step without bumping into one of them.

There were mass meetings, in fact, where one could find a pack of 1000 grazing amongst their finger foods of choice. These folks were not shy and afforded every opportunity to allow you to ask them some questions. They even offered to take an interested observer to their leaders. And if that wasn’t sufficient, one could have have roamed “radio row” where booth after booth of talk show hosts heard from collectively thousands of callers from this tribe of voter, the Social Conservative, whose views one could readily assess.

In short, Carr reported and Gibbs pontificated. The latter is fine, I suppose, provided you have some familiarity with your subject matter. When you don’t, you come away appearing clueless. Which come to think of it, is what Carr concludes is true of many of his colleagues.

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No One Else Could Have Done It

The Fox News Sunday Roundtable included this from Mara Liasson on the selection of Sarah Palin:

Yeah, I think she’s made a huge difference. I can’t think of a single other one of those finalists on that short list that could have given a speech like that. I mean, she is an incredible talent. As a matter of fact, some of the ones on the short list which the Obama campaign keeps on pushing, the Lieberman and Ridges, would have caused a revolt at the convention. But I think that she has made a huge difference. I think she cannot only energize the base, but she gives him a chance to talk to some of those voters in Appalachia, in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, all those voters who are very leery of Barack Obama. And I think that in terms of what happens over time, I don’t think she’s going to fade. I think the big question is does she implode or not. Is there something else that we don’t know? What happens to all these inquiries about “troopergate,” et cetera? But I think so far she’s exploded on the scene. She’s done a great job for John McCain, even at the cost of bearing the criticism of picking someone who isn’t ready to take over on day one.

After sitting through the snooze-inducing speeches of some of those other VP contenders and watching the rapturous welcome from the GOP base for Palin, I must agree. I think it is indisputable at this point that Palin was the only pick who could have had this impact. And certainly it is hard to think of anyone who could have juiced up the base while simultaneously appealing to blue-collar swing voters.

That is not to say that the Obama camp didn’t substantially assist the Republicans. As Bill Kristol noted:

When Palin was announced, the Obama campaign put out a snotty statement, a dismissive statement. “John McCain today has taken a former mayor of a town of 9,000 with no foreign policy experience and made her — put her a heartbeat from the presidency.” What did David Axelrod, who’s not a — who’s a very smart man, say to you today when you asked about Governor Palin? “We’re not running against Governor Palin.” What does that — that tells you everything. They’re scared to run against Governor Palin. He would not take her on, and they realize they made a horrible mistake going after her and letting Obama get in a fight with Palin, which, of course, makes them — who has more experience, the Democratic presidential candidate or the Republican vice presidential candidate?

And as smart as Steve Schmidt may be, I also find it hard to believe that he fully anticipated the atrocious MSM behavior which provided the drama and the huge audience for Palin. In that regard, the McCain camp was simply lucky. But however they arrived at the current state of the affairs, the race is very different than it was a week ago.

None of this means that Palin is home free or that the McCain-Palin ticket has permanently reshaped the race. There is way too much time and too many key events (including the debates) still left to go. What it does mean is that the McCain camp has proven to be more adept at reading and anticipating voter opinion than either the Obama camp or the MSM. That’s not a bad place to be less than two months before Election Day.

The Fox News Sunday Roundtable included this from Mara Liasson on the selection of Sarah Palin:

Yeah, I think she’s made a huge difference. I can’t think of a single other one of those finalists on that short list that could have given a speech like that. I mean, she is an incredible talent. As a matter of fact, some of the ones on the short list which the Obama campaign keeps on pushing, the Lieberman and Ridges, would have caused a revolt at the convention. But I think that she has made a huge difference. I think she cannot only energize the base, but she gives him a chance to talk to some of those voters in Appalachia, in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, all those voters who are very leery of Barack Obama. And I think that in terms of what happens over time, I don’t think she’s going to fade. I think the big question is does she implode or not. Is there something else that we don’t know? What happens to all these inquiries about “troopergate,” et cetera? But I think so far she’s exploded on the scene. She’s done a great job for John McCain, even at the cost of bearing the criticism of picking someone who isn’t ready to take over on day one.

After sitting through the snooze-inducing speeches of some of those other VP contenders and watching the rapturous welcome from the GOP base for Palin, I must agree. I think it is indisputable at this point that Palin was the only pick who could have had this impact. And certainly it is hard to think of anyone who could have juiced up the base while simultaneously appealing to blue-collar swing voters.

That is not to say that the Obama camp didn’t substantially assist the Republicans. As Bill Kristol noted:

When Palin was announced, the Obama campaign put out a snotty statement, a dismissive statement. “John McCain today has taken a former mayor of a town of 9,000 with no foreign policy experience and made her — put her a heartbeat from the presidency.” What did David Axelrod, who’s not a — who’s a very smart man, say to you today when you asked about Governor Palin? “We’re not running against Governor Palin.” What does that — that tells you everything. They’re scared to run against Governor Palin. He would not take her on, and they realize they made a horrible mistake going after her and letting Obama get in a fight with Palin, which, of course, makes them — who has more experience, the Democratic presidential candidate or the Republican vice presidential candidate?

And as smart as Steve Schmidt may be, I also find it hard to believe that he fully anticipated the atrocious MSM behavior which provided the drama and the huge audience for Palin. In that regard, the McCain camp was simply lucky. But however they arrived at the current state of the affairs, the race is very different than it was a week ago.

None of this means that Palin is home free or that the McCain-Palin ticket has permanently reshaped the race. There is way too much time and too many key events (including the debates) still left to go. What it does mean is that the McCain camp has proven to be more adept at reading and anticipating voter opinion than either the Obama camp or the MSM. That’s not a bad place to be less than two months before Election Day.

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This Should Be Interesting

Fresh off his removal as MSNBC’s election anchor and fresh off his removal from the lead in the presidential race, Keith Olbermann and Barack Obama respectively will commiserate tonight on Olbermann’s show “Countdown.”

Fresh off his removal as MSNBC’s election anchor and fresh off his removal from the lead in the presidential race, Keith Olbermann and Barack Obama respectively will commiserate tonight on Olbermann’s show “Countdown.”

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First Newspaper Endorsement of the Year…

…at least beyond the implicit:

My old colleagues at the New York Post offer their strong case for John McCain. This may not seem surprising, but the Post enthusiastically endorsed Obama in the Democratic primary in New York and there’s been a lot of talk about Rupert Murdoch, the Post’s proprietor, moving to the Left.

Apparently not.

…at least beyond the implicit:

My old colleagues at the New York Post offer their strong case for John McCain. This may not seem surprising, but the Post enthusiastically endorsed Obama in the Democratic primary in New York and there’s been a lot of talk about Rupert Murdoch, the Post’s proprietor, moving to the Left.

Apparently not.

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“Political Cliche of 2008″ Watch

New York Times homepage today: “New Hampshire’s senate race is emblematic of others in the country, focusing on kitchen-table issues.” More on this here.

New York Times homepage today: “New Hampshire’s senate race is emblematic of others in the country, focusing on kitchen-table issues.” More on this here.

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