Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 15, 2008

Commentary of the Day

CK MacLeod, on Peter Wehner:

As for the main topic, the exchange pointed to at THE CORNER was illuminating. In a published interview, renowned international expert and dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton Anne-Marie Slaughter, is asked a general question about the Bush Doctrine:

Interviewer: What are the central differences, and what are the elements of continuity, if any exist, between “the Bush Doctrine” and the “grand strategy of forging a world of liberty under law”?

Slaughter: Tell me what you mean by “The Bush Doctrine.”

The interviewer, Alan Johnson – who was actually interested in a useful answer not a gotcha – offered a tentative definition for purposes of discussion:

Let’s say a fairly aggressive strategy of promoting democracy, a willingness to use military force, and a refusal to be put off from using that force because you haven’t been able to put an international alliance in place. Plus the idea that the root cause of the threat is the stagnation – politically, economically and culturally – of an entire region, so the only serious response is to promote political change in that region.

With the topic thus clarified, the two proceeded to have an interesting exchange about the subject – something Charlie Gibson, like Joe Klein, was obviously neither interested in nor capable of.

I’ll take Palin or Slaughter’s appropriate intellectual modesty regarding the moving target known as the Bush Doctrine over the phony and pretentious certitudes of Klein and Gibson any day.

CK MacLeod, on Peter Wehner:

As for the main topic, the exchange pointed to at THE CORNER was illuminating. In a published interview, renowned international expert and dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton Anne-Marie Slaughter, is asked a general question about the Bush Doctrine:

Interviewer: What are the central differences, and what are the elements of continuity, if any exist, between “the Bush Doctrine” and the “grand strategy of forging a world of liberty under law”?

Slaughter: Tell me what you mean by “The Bush Doctrine.”

The interviewer, Alan Johnson – who was actually interested in a useful answer not a gotcha – offered a tentative definition for purposes of discussion:

Let’s say a fairly aggressive strategy of promoting democracy, a willingness to use military force, and a refusal to be put off from using that force because you haven’t been able to put an international alliance in place. Plus the idea that the root cause of the threat is the stagnation – politically, economically and culturally – of an entire region, so the only serious response is to promote political change in that region.

With the topic thus clarified, the two proceeded to have an interesting exchange about the subject – something Charlie Gibson, like Joe Klein, was obviously neither interested in nor capable of.

I’ll take Palin or Slaughter’s appropriate intellectual modesty regarding the moving target known as the Bush Doctrine over the phony and pretentious certitudes of Klein and Gibson any day.

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Never Enrage A Pundit Who Understands Economics

Megan McArdle socks it to Barack Obama for blaming the current financial crisis on the all-purpose whipping boy, George W. Bush. But she doesn’t stop there:

Indeed, I ask the Senator to name one significant thing that Bush has done to create this crisis that couldn’t also be laid at the feet of St. William of Little Rock.  If Democratic policy is so good at protecting the little guy from asset price bubbles, how come the stock market crashed in 2000?

This kind of foolish grandstanding is not the change we need.  It’s just more of the same.

Since quoting journalists is all the rage in ads now perhaps the McCain camp can borrow that one.

Megan McArdle socks it to Barack Obama for blaming the current financial crisis on the all-purpose whipping boy, George W. Bush. But she doesn’t stop there:

Indeed, I ask the Senator to name one significant thing that Bush has done to create this crisis that couldn’t also be laid at the feet of St. William of Little Rock.  If Democratic policy is so good at protecting the little guy from asset price bubbles, how come the stock market crashed in 2000?

This kind of foolish grandstanding is not the change we need.  It’s just more of the same.

Since quoting journalists is all the rage in ads now perhaps the McCain camp can borrow that one.

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The McCain Response

The McCain camp has released a detailed memo responding to the “McCain lied, Our Hopes Died” meme which is taking hold in the MSM/Left Blogger/Obama camp (hereinafter “Gang of Three”). In that memo, the McCain camp offers rebuttals on the issues of Obama’s tax increases and support for sex education for young children and on the relative records of McCain-Palin and Obama-Biden on earmarks.  Why this approach rather than a response ad or an indignant presser? Three things are at work.

First, the McCain camp doesn’t believe for a moment that the MSM will give “equal time” to its response. So better to hold their fire and simply put all their thoughts in a single document. It will get some coverage and the MSM will at least be obliged to respond that the McCain camp “Refuted the charge that they are dirty, rotten liars.” Something like that.

Second, the McCain camp is attempting to keep an eye on the ball. The voters in play are independents in swing states. These voters hate negative ads. The McCain camp is hoping, I suspect, that the public gets the idea about which camp is screaming at them and which is calming responding with charts and facts.

Finally, we have seven weeks to go. Just because the Obama camp is yelling at a fever pitch and throwing out everything from the age/cancer card to the “Bush Clone!” line in rapid fire doesn’t mean it is wise for the McCain camp to do so. If you are screaming fifty days out what is going to happen at ten days out? The public will be inured and tired of hearing you holler. At least that’s, I suspect, what the McCain camp is betting on.

For now McCain has several tasks: remain focused, continue to build the maverick label, make the economic crisis into an argument about leadership (where he has the advantage) and make sure next week’s debate (yeah, next week) is a success. The rest is noise.

The McCain camp has released a detailed memo responding to the “McCain lied, Our Hopes Died” meme which is taking hold in the MSM/Left Blogger/Obama camp (hereinafter “Gang of Three”). In that memo, the McCain camp offers rebuttals on the issues of Obama’s tax increases and support for sex education for young children and on the relative records of McCain-Palin and Obama-Biden on earmarks.  Why this approach rather than a response ad or an indignant presser? Three things are at work.

First, the McCain camp doesn’t believe for a moment that the MSM will give “equal time” to its response. So better to hold their fire and simply put all their thoughts in a single document. It will get some coverage and the MSM will at least be obliged to respond that the McCain camp “Refuted the charge that they are dirty, rotten liars.” Something like that.

Second, the McCain camp is attempting to keep an eye on the ball. The voters in play are independents in swing states. These voters hate negative ads. The McCain camp is hoping, I suspect, that the public gets the idea about which camp is screaming at them and which is calming responding with charts and facts.

Finally, we have seven weeks to go. Just because the Obama camp is yelling at a fever pitch and throwing out everything from the age/cancer card to the “Bush Clone!” line in rapid fire doesn’t mean it is wise for the McCain camp to do so. If you are screaming fifty days out what is going to happen at ten days out? The public will be inured and tired of hearing you holler. At least that’s, I suspect, what the McCain camp is betting on.

For now McCain has several tasks: remain focused, continue to build the maverick label, make the economic crisis into an argument about leadership (where he has the advantage) and make sure next week’s debate (yeah, next week) is a success. The rest is noise.

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Libel Tourism and American Freedom of Speech

Adam Cohen, a member of the New York Times’ editorial board, has written a persuasive column against the practice of “libel tourism,” a kind of forum-shopping in which plaintiffs sue for libel in a jurisdiction that heavily favors them.  He heralds the case of Rachel Ehrenfeld, the American author of Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed and How to Stop It, a book that accuses a Saudi billionaire, Khalid bin Mahfouz, of funding terrorism.  Even though her book was never published in Great Britain, bin Mahfouz sued her there for libel there since the country’s libel laws tend to protect harms to personal reputation more than free speech.  (He was able to obtain jurisdiction over her simply because 23 copies of the book were bought in the country online.)   Rather than putting up what was likely to be a losing fight against a plaintiff with effectively unlimited financial resources, she chose not to defend herself, and bin Mafouz received a default judgment against her.

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because the September issue of COMMENTARY was ahead of the curve with Andrew C. McCarthy’s “Can Libel Tourism Be Stopped?,” an article that skillfully criticizes the Ehrenfeld case and libel tourism in far greater detail.  In particular, McCarthy, unlike Cohen, notes that bin Mafouz has successfully pulled this speech-chilling tactic on a number of occasions.

It’s nice to see Cohen defending American free speech in its conflict with British law, but is he heading toward a possible inconsistency here?  In past columns, Cohen has praised the activist jurisprudence of Justice Steven Breyer, including his willingness to look to foreign opinion when interpreting the U.S. Constitution:

When [Breyer] switched sides on the juvenile death penalty, he wrote a thoughtful opinion noting both that the American people had turned against it and that “the overwhelming weight of international opinion” opposed it.

But although America was an exception when it came to the juvenile death penalty, it is also an exception when it comes to freedom of speech, especially when it comes to offensive and “hate” speech.  Would Cohen support the Supreme Court’s relying on “the overwhelming weight of international opinion” when interpreting the First Amendment?

After all, when bemoaning libel tourism, Cohen is happy to appeal to the judgment of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which, he notes, “criticized [British libel law] last month for discouraging discussion of important matters of public interest.”  Yet in March, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution against religious defamation, singling out “attempts to identify Islam with terrorism, violence and human rights violations.”  Likewise, in both 2006 and 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolutions to combat religious defamation, again with a focus on protecting Muslims from verbal attacks.  Now, perhaps one can dismiss these sorts of resolutions as being unrepresentative of “international opinion,” but that is beside the point.  Representative or not, they do not shed any light on American rights and freedoms—something Cohen seems to recognize, at least when it gets him the result he likes.

Libel tourism is wrong, but so is the world-tour theory of constitutional interpretation.

Adam Cohen, a member of the New York Times’ editorial board, has written a persuasive column against the practice of “libel tourism,” a kind of forum-shopping in which plaintiffs sue for libel in a jurisdiction that heavily favors them.  He heralds the case of Rachel Ehrenfeld, the American author of Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed and How to Stop It, a book that accuses a Saudi billionaire, Khalid bin Mahfouz, of funding terrorism.  Even though her book was never published in Great Britain, bin Mahfouz sued her there for libel there since the country’s libel laws tend to protect harms to personal reputation more than free speech.  (He was able to obtain jurisdiction over her simply because 23 copies of the book were bought in the country online.)   Rather than putting up what was likely to be a losing fight against a plaintiff with effectively unlimited financial resources, she chose not to defend herself, and bin Mafouz received a default judgment against her.

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because the September issue of COMMENTARY was ahead of the curve with Andrew C. McCarthy’s “Can Libel Tourism Be Stopped?,” an article that skillfully criticizes the Ehrenfeld case and libel tourism in far greater detail.  In particular, McCarthy, unlike Cohen, notes that bin Mafouz has successfully pulled this speech-chilling tactic on a number of occasions.

It’s nice to see Cohen defending American free speech in its conflict with British law, but is he heading toward a possible inconsistency here?  In past columns, Cohen has praised the activist jurisprudence of Justice Steven Breyer, including his willingness to look to foreign opinion when interpreting the U.S. Constitution:

When [Breyer] switched sides on the juvenile death penalty, he wrote a thoughtful opinion noting both that the American people had turned against it and that “the overwhelming weight of international opinion” opposed it.

But although America was an exception when it came to the juvenile death penalty, it is also an exception when it comes to freedom of speech, especially when it comes to offensive and “hate” speech.  Would Cohen support the Supreme Court’s relying on “the overwhelming weight of international opinion” when interpreting the First Amendment?

After all, when bemoaning libel tourism, Cohen is happy to appeal to the judgment of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which, he notes, “criticized [British libel law] last month for discouraging discussion of important matters of public interest.”  Yet in March, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution against religious defamation, singling out “attempts to identify Islam with terrorism, violence and human rights violations.”  Likewise, in both 2006 and 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolutions to combat religious defamation, again with a focus on protecting Muslims from verbal attacks.  Now, perhaps one can dismiss these sorts of resolutions as being unrepresentative of “international opinion,” but that is beside the point.  Representative or not, they do not shed any light on American rights and freedoms—something Cohen seems to recognize, at least when it gets him the result he likes.

Libel tourism is wrong, but so is the world-tour theory of constitutional interpretation.

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Blowback in Russia

Russia has a problem. Moscow’s recognition of Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia a few weeks ago has already encouraged some of its own disgruntled minorities to push harder for independence from the Russian Federation. Russia’s semi-autonomous republics of Ingushetia and Tatarstan have both ratcheted up their demands to secede.

Radical Islamists in Ingushetia, just across the Caucasus mountains from Georgia, have waged a low-level insurgency against the Russian government for some time now, though it has yet to reach the level of violent anti-Russian ferocity waged earlier by their cousins in neighboring Chechnya. A new group calling itself the People’s Parliament of Ingushetia has just surfaced after Russia’s adventure in Georgia with the stated aim of secession. More moderate opposition leaders also recently joined the cause of the radicals. Rebellious Ingush are not only emboldened by Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, they’re enraged by the assassination a few weeks ago of prominent anti-Kremlin journalist Magomed Yevloyev.

Meanwhile, an umbrella organization of various nationalist groups known as the All-Tatar Civic Center in Tatarstan, announced that they likewise want out. They also cite the Abkhazia and South Ossetia precedents. “Russia has lost the moral right not to recognize us,” said Rashit Akhmetov, editor of the Zvezda Povolzhya newspaper in Tatarstan’s capital.

The odds that Tatarstan will actually become a successful independent country at any time are remote. A large minority of its people, around 40 percent, are ethnic Russians. A serious secessionist movement in that part of Russia could get ugly, and fast. If the republic ever were to become independent, it would be surrounded by Russia and could easily be strangled by Moscow. It’s a long shot at best for these people, but that doesn’t mean Tatarstan can’t become a serious problem for Russia in the medium term, especially if other constituent parts of the federation resist at the same time. Tatarstan and Ingushetia are only two republics of many that could undermine Moscow from the inside.

Former President Vladimir Putin cynically used Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia earlier this year as an excuse for Russia’s invasion and dismemberment of Georgia, but the Tatars and Ingush are more plausibly citing Russia’s very own precedents in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Kosovo and Serbia are far from Ingushetia and even farther from Tatarstan. What happens in the Balkans seems to stay in the Balkans, as far as they are concerned. What happens in Russia, though, can hardly be considered remote for disaffected minorities in subjugated republics that remain inside Russia’s own borders.

The Soviet Union was really an empire squared. Moscow lost pieces of its outer empire in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the South Caucasus, but many more pieces of the rump empire, or federation, might yet break off or at least severely bleed Russia internally. Chechnya has already famously done so, and the possibility of neighboring Ingushetia likewise exploding has been apparent even to casual observers. And a majority in Tatarstan actually voted to secede as far back as 1992.

Vladimir Putin and current President Dmitri Medvedev should have seen this coming when they changed the rules governing borders in the former Soviet Union. The message from the Ingush and Tatars to Moscow couldn’t be simpler: If they get to secede from Georgia, we get to secede from Russia. Your move.

Russia has a problem. Moscow’s recognition of Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia a few weeks ago has already encouraged some of its own disgruntled minorities to push harder for independence from the Russian Federation. Russia’s semi-autonomous republics of Ingushetia and Tatarstan have both ratcheted up their demands to secede.

Radical Islamists in Ingushetia, just across the Caucasus mountains from Georgia, have waged a low-level insurgency against the Russian government for some time now, though it has yet to reach the level of violent anti-Russian ferocity waged earlier by their cousins in neighboring Chechnya. A new group calling itself the People’s Parliament of Ingushetia has just surfaced after Russia’s adventure in Georgia with the stated aim of secession. More moderate opposition leaders also recently joined the cause of the radicals. Rebellious Ingush are not only emboldened by Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, they’re enraged by the assassination a few weeks ago of prominent anti-Kremlin journalist Magomed Yevloyev.

Meanwhile, an umbrella organization of various nationalist groups known as the All-Tatar Civic Center in Tatarstan, announced that they likewise want out. They also cite the Abkhazia and South Ossetia precedents. “Russia has lost the moral right not to recognize us,” said Rashit Akhmetov, editor of the Zvezda Povolzhya newspaper in Tatarstan’s capital.

The odds that Tatarstan will actually become a successful independent country at any time are remote. A large minority of its people, around 40 percent, are ethnic Russians. A serious secessionist movement in that part of Russia could get ugly, and fast. If the republic ever were to become independent, it would be surrounded by Russia and could easily be strangled by Moscow. It’s a long shot at best for these people, but that doesn’t mean Tatarstan can’t become a serious problem for Russia in the medium term, especially if other constituent parts of the federation resist at the same time. Tatarstan and Ingushetia are only two republics of many that could undermine Moscow from the inside.

Former President Vladimir Putin cynically used Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia earlier this year as an excuse for Russia’s invasion and dismemberment of Georgia, but the Tatars and Ingush are more plausibly citing Russia’s very own precedents in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Kosovo and Serbia are far from Ingushetia and even farther from Tatarstan. What happens in the Balkans seems to stay in the Balkans, as far as they are concerned. What happens in Russia, though, can hardly be considered remote for disaffected minorities in subjugated republics that remain inside Russia’s own borders.

The Soviet Union was really an empire squared. Moscow lost pieces of its outer empire in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and the South Caucasus, but many more pieces of the rump empire, or federation, might yet break off or at least severely bleed Russia internally. Chechnya has already famously done so, and the possibility of neighboring Ingushetia likewise exploding has been apparent even to casual observers. And a majority in Tatarstan actually voted to secede as far back as 1992.

Vladimir Putin and current President Dmitri Medvedev should have seen this coming when they changed the rules governing borders in the former Soviet Union. The message from the Ingush and Tatars to Moscow couldn’t be simpler: If they get to secede from Georgia, we get to secede from Russia. Your move.

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Straight From the Sources’ Mouths

To hear Obama supporters tell it, the media has been so delinquent in its duty to scrutinize the McCain campaign of late that the whole election should probably be protested in advance. Funny, then, that Barack Obama has managed to create his new attack ad entirely out of quotes from press sources recently slamming McCain. Over a picture of the Republican nominee, we see quotes from Time, the Chicago Sun Times, the Washington Post, CBS News, and the New Republic attesting to the “truly vile” nature of McCain’s campaign. The ad is merely a 30-second slide show of recognizable media logos and hyperbolic castigations. As further evidence of how uninspired the Obama campaign has become, we hear and see at the end of the clip, apropos of nothing, that McCain “voted with Bush 90 percent of the time.”

Note that nothing in the ad explains to the viewer what there is about McCain’s bid for president that constitutes “a disgraceful, dishonorable campaign”; we are just told that it is such. The media is so thoroughly in the tank for Obama that he’s now able to hide exclusively behind their work, as his own attempts to take down McCain have fallen flat.

To hear Obama supporters tell it, the media has been so delinquent in its duty to scrutinize the McCain campaign of late that the whole election should probably be protested in advance. Funny, then, that Barack Obama has managed to create his new attack ad entirely out of quotes from press sources recently slamming McCain. Over a picture of the Republican nominee, we see quotes from Time, the Chicago Sun Times, the Washington Post, CBS News, and the New Republic attesting to the “truly vile” nature of McCain’s campaign. The ad is merely a 30-second slide show of recognizable media logos and hyperbolic castigations. As further evidence of how uninspired the Obama campaign has become, we hear and see at the end of the clip, apropos of nothing, that McCain “voted with Bush 90 percent of the time.”

Note that nothing in the ad explains to the viewer what there is about McCain’s bid for president that constitutes “a disgraceful, dishonorable campaign”; we are just told that it is such. The media is so thoroughly in the tank for Obama that he’s now able to hide exclusively behind their work, as his own attempts to take down McCain have fallen flat.

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Why Aren’t Obama’s Ads Better?

Barack Obama’s ads tend to fall into two categories: puffy, slick pieces like those aired during the Olympics and boilerplate negative ads (e.g. McCain hugging Bush; an ominous voice intoning about vile negativity on the other side). Even during the primary it was Hillary Clinton who grabbed the attention with the “3 a.m.” ad. So why aren’t Obama’s ads better?

One explanation is that they carry the burden of a self-important and pompous campaign. All the messianic iconography didn’t get there by accident. And the ads carry that same message: We are very, very important and those who doubt are scurrilous. With the exception of the now utterly discredited “he can’t use a computer” ad, there is nothing amusing or ingratiating about the ads. No whimsy and no laughs.

The other explanation is that the ad guys and gals always get blamed for someone else’s problem: a poor message. It is hard to pin down exactly what Obama’s message really is now. Is the “Change Agent” really what they are selling — via Joe Biden? Or are they selling a purely negative message of “Not Bush”? Indeed, the last batch of Obama ads are all attack pieces, done with a heavy hand and with a very old fashioned sensibility. They scream “Negative Hit Job!”

Perhaps the explanation is much more mundane. It may be that the ad team for Obama just isn’t technically good and clever as the opposition. But for a guy with a supposedly cutting-edge appeal, Obama’s ads simply aren’t very good. It’s one of the many ironies in a race filled with them.

Barack Obama’s ads tend to fall into two categories: puffy, slick pieces like those aired during the Olympics and boilerplate negative ads (e.g. McCain hugging Bush; an ominous voice intoning about vile negativity on the other side). Even during the primary it was Hillary Clinton who grabbed the attention with the “3 a.m.” ad. So why aren’t Obama’s ads better?

One explanation is that they carry the burden of a self-important and pompous campaign. All the messianic iconography didn’t get there by accident. And the ads carry that same message: We are very, very important and those who doubt are scurrilous. With the exception of the now utterly discredited “he can’t use a computer” ad, there is nothing amusing or ingratiating about the ads. No whimsy and no laughs.

The other explanation is that the ad guys and gals always get blamed for someone else’s problem: a poor message. It is hard to pin down exactly what Obama’s message really is now. Is the “Change Agent” really what they are selling — via Joe Biden? Or are they selling a purely negative message of “Not Bush”? Indeed, the last batch of Obama ads are all attack pieces, done with a heavy hand and with a very old fashioned sensibility. They scream “Negative Hit Job!”

Perhaps the explanation is much more mundane. It may be that the ad team for Obama just isn’t technically good and clever as the opposition. But for a guy with a supposedly cutting-edge appeal, Obama’s ads simply aren’t very good. It’s one of the many ironies in a race filled with them.

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The Post-Bush World

In his column for Newsweek–some of which I don’t agree with–Fareed Zakaria writes this (which I do agree with):

We live in remarkably peaceful times. A University of Maryland study shows that deaths from wars of all kinds have been dropping dramatically for 20 years and are lower now than at any point in the last half century. A study from Simon Fraser University finds that casualties from terrorism have been steadily declining since 9/11. It is increasingly clear–look at their voting from Indonesia to Iraq to Pakistan–that very few Muslims anywhere support Islamic fundamentalists. More countries than ever before now embrace capitalism and democracy.

Now I wouldn’t for a moment ascribe all the credit for this to the Bush presidency; some of these trends began before he got into office, and others have happened apart from his efforts. On the other hand, President Bush had clearly accelerated some of these good trends.

Mr. Zakaria’s summary badly undercuts those who have argued that President Bush left the world in a manifestly worse situation. In fact, the opposite seems to be true; in many respects, the progress we’ve seen during this decade has been heartening and, when it comes to the fall-off in support for jihadists and in the number of casualties caused by terrorism, remarkable.

When the Iraq war was going badly, it acted as an eclipse of the sun, making it impossible for many people to see either the impressive national security achievements of the Bush Administration or the progress being made on various fronts. The surge’s success is putting an end to the eclipse, and we are seeing more and more signs of a favorable reassessment of the Bush presidency. That will only increase with the passage of time, especially if we eventually succeed in Iraq (we are certainly on the right path now).

What matters to the history books is whether a President gets many–not all, but many–of the most important issues of his time right. President Bush has, in my estimation; and that explains why, when it comes to history’s judgment, he’s very comfortable with how things will shake out.

In his column for Newsweek–some of which I don’t agree with–Fareed Zakaria writes this (which I do agree with):

We live in remarkably peaceful times. A University of Maryland study shows that deaths from wars of all kinds have been dropping dramatically for 20 years and are lower now than at any point in the last half century. A study from Simon Fraser University finds that casualties from terrorism have been steadily declining since 9/11. It is increasingly clear–look at their voting from Indonesia to Iraq to Pakistan–that very few Muslims anywhere support Islamic fundamentalists. More countries than ever before now embrace capitalism and democracy.

Now I wouldn’t for a moment ascribe all the credit for this to the Bush presidency; some of these trends began before he got into office, and others have happened apart from his efforts. On the other hand, President Bush had clearly accelerated some of these good trends.

Mr. Zakaria’s summary badly undercuts those who have argued that President Bush left the world in a manifestly worse situation. In fact, the opposite seems to be true; in many respects, the progress we’ve seen during this decade has been heartening and, when it comes to the fall-off in support for jihadists and in the number of casualties caused by terrorism, remarkable.

When the Iraq war was going badly, it acted as an eclipse of the sun, making it impossible for many people to see either the impressive national security achievements of the Bush Administration or the progress being made on various fronts. The surge’s success is putting an end to the eclipse, and we are seeing more and more signs of a favorable reassessment of the Bush presidency. That will only increase with the passage of time, especially if we eventually succeed in Iraq (we are certainly on the right path now).

What matters to the history books is whether a President gets many–not all, but many–of the most important issues of his time right. President Bush has, in my estimation; and that explains why, when it comes to history’s judgment, he’s very comfortable with how things will shake out.

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Bush Fails to Defend Another Democracy

Today, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported that the Bush administration has refused to sell advanced versions of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 fighter to Taiwan. The news of the denial was expected.

We are refusing to help an endangered democracy? On July 16, Admiral Timothy Keating, chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, confirmed rumors of a freeze of major arms sales to the island republic. The State Department immediately denied the existence of the freeze and affirmed American support for Taiwan. Yet the announcement of the refusal to sell the planes confirms that the Bush administration has in fact abandoned Taiwan. “The State Department has evidently decided that Taiwan’s future security is much better entrusted to China than to the United States,” says the Heritage Foundation’s John Tkacik.

There are some in Washington who would like to see China absorb Taiwan so as to remove an irritant in relations with Beijing. As Admiral Dennis Blair said in 1999, Taiwan is “the turd in the punchbowl.” Yet such a view is both morally repugnant and strategically misguided. There are many reasons why this is so, but the most important is that it is highly unlikely that the U.S. can maintain stable relations with a rising autocratic power that is determined to push America aside.

It is also unlikely that President Bush wants to see Beijing subjugate 23 million Taiwanese, but no other person has done more in recent years to make this happen. Since 2003, when he sat in the Oval Office with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and criticized Taiwan, the President has treated a communist dictatorship as a responsible member of the international community and a new democracy as a rogue state. That was a low point for American diplomacy and a moment of personal shame for Mr. Bush.

When I was in Beijing in June and July, everyone was talking about how Chinese foreign policymakers were distressed because they were beginning to realize that Bush was leaving the White House in January and they couldn’t believe how accommodating he had been. In their view, it was almost as if Bush were their president rather than ours. Now, with the failure to sell the F-16s to Taiwan, Dubya has given the Chinese one more reason to believe this.

For half a decade communists in China have owned our President, and it is up to the American people to take their leader back. We can do that now by demanding that he sells every plane, tank, and gun the Taiwanese want. We have an obligation to help democracies defend themselves, and last month, when Russian tanks rolled into Georgia, we learned what happens when we do not stand with our own kind.

Today, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported that the Bush administration has refused to sell advanced versions of Lockheed Martin’s F-16 fighter to Taiwan. The news of the denial was expected.

We are refusing to help an endangered democracy? On July 16, Admiral Timothy Keating, chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, confirmed rumors of a freeze of major arms sales to the island republic. The State Department immediately denied the existence of the freeze and affirmed American support for Taiwan. Yet the announcement of the refusal to sell the planes confirms that the Bush administration has in fact abandoned Taiwan. “The State Department has evidently decided that Taiwan’s future security is much better entrusted to China than to the United States,” says the Heritage Foundation’s John Tkacik.

There are some in Washington who would like to see China absorb Taiwan so as to remove an irritant in relations with Beijing. As Admiral Dennis Blair said in 1999, Taiwan is “the turd in the punchbowl.” Yet such a view is both morally repugnant and strategically misguided. There are many reasons why this is so, but the most important is that it is highly unlikely that the U.S. can maintain stable relations with a rising autocratic power that is determined to push America aside.

It is also unlikely that President Bush wants to see Beijing subjugate 23 million Taiwanese, but no other person has done more in recent years to make this happen. Since 2003, when he sat in the Oval Office with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and criticized Taiwan, the President has treated a communist dictatorship as a responsible member of the international community and a new democracy as a rogue state. That was a low point for American diplomacy and a moment of personal shame for Mr. Bush.

When I was in Beijing in June and July, everyone was talking about how Chinese foreign policymakers were distressed because they were beginning to realize that Bush was leaving the White House in January and they couldn’t believe how accommodating he had been. In their view, it was almost as if Bush were their president rather than ours. Now, with the failure to sell the F-16s to Taiwan, Dubya has given the Chinese one more reason to believe this.

For half a decade communists in China have owned our President, and it is up to the American people to take their leader back. We can do that now by demanding that he sells every plane, tank, and gun the Taiwanese want. We have an obligation to help democracies defend themselves, and last month, when Russian tanks rolled into Georgia, we learned what happens when we do not stand with our own kind.

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Obama’s Pakistan Tough Talk

At Slate, Christopher Hitchens closes a piece on the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan as follows:

American liberals can’t quite face the fact that if their man does win in November, and if he has meant a single serious word he’s ever said, it means more war, and more bitter and protracted war at that–not less.

Hitchens is presumably referring to the implications of Barack Obama’s claim of a year ago: “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.” At the time, Obama caught a lot of flak for trying to sound tough, but in truth he was both right and wrong. The U.S. should have been tougher on Musharraf than we were, but as a critic of Obama’s policy put it, “The last thing you want to do is telegraph to the folks in Pakistan plans that threaten their sovereignty.”

Hmm, that’s a good point. Who was that critic? Oh yeah! Joe Biden, who also said Obama’s threat demonstrates his inexperience. While it’s not particularly valuable to use the words of former primary rivals against each other once they’ve paired up, there is compelling reason to do so in this case: Obama has come around to Biden’s side of the matter. He is co-sponsoring a bill with Biden and Richard Lugar to triple non-military aid to Afghanistan. To be fair, Obama talks about sending more troops, supplies, and weaponry to the “Afghan border region,” and he continues to repeat his vow to take out high-level targets in Pakistan.

But is there anything in these pledges to suggest he’d do more than the U.S. is already doing in terms of unilateral action inside Pakistan? We’ve been using special ops forces in Pakistan since July. How is Obama going to ratchet up the U.S. offense after sponsoring a bill that was rolled out by Joe Biden with this condemnation of military action: “[I]n Pakistan and also Afghanistan, anything that fuels the sense of an American crusade against Islam puts moderates on the defensive and empowers extremists. It is hard to think of a more self-defeating policy”?

The truth is: Pakistan is going to be a sticky, ugly challenge for the next president–whoever he is. Hitchens’s point needs to be amended. If either John McCain or Barack Obama are elected “it means more war, and more bitter and protracted war at that-not less.” With that in mind, it’s important to consider where Obama has been consistently strong-headed: in his refusal to countenance an American victory in Iraq.

At Slate, Christopher Hitchens closes a piece on the conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan as follows:

American liberals can’t quite face the fact that if their man does win in November, and if he has meant a single serious word he’s ever said, it means more war, and more bitter and protracted war at that–not less.

Hitchens is presumably referring to the implications of Barack Obama’s claim of a year ago: “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.” At the time, Obama caught a lot of flak for trying to sound tough, but in truth he was both right and wrong. The U.S. should have been tougher on Musharraf than we were, but as a critic of Obama’s policy put it, “The last thing you want to do is telegraph to the folks in Pakistan plans that threaten their sovereignty.”

Hmm, that’s a good point. Who was that critic? Oh yeah! Joe Biden, who also said Obama’s threat demonstrates his inexperience. While it’s not particularly valuable to use the words of former primary rivals against each other once they’ve paired up, there is compelling reason to do so in this case: Obama has come around to Biden’s side of the matter. He is co-sponsoring a bill with Biden and Richard Lugar to triple non-military aid to Afghanistan. To be fair, Obama talks about sending more troops, supplies, and weaponry to the “Afghan border region,” and he continues to repeat his vow to take out high-level targets in Pakistan.

But is there anything in these pledges to suggest he’d do more than the U.S. is already doing in terms of unilateral action inside Pakistan? We’ve been using special ops forces in Pakistan since July. How is Obama going to ratchet up the U.S. offense after sponsoring a bill that was rolled out by Joe Biden with this condemnation of military action: “[I]n Pakistan and also Afghanistan, anything that fuels the sense of an American crusade against Islam puts moderates on the defensive and empowers extremists. It is hard to think of a more self-defeating policy”?

The truth is: Pakistan is going to be a sticky, ugly challenge for the next president–whoever he is. Hitchens’s point needs to be amended. If either John McCain or Barack Obama are elected “it means more war, and more bitter and protracted war at that-not less.” With that in mind, it’s important to consider where Obama has been consistently strong-headed: in his refusal to countenance an American victory in Iraq.

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Is Virginia Going Blue?

There’s a lot of talk these days about my home state of Virginia. Right now the polls show a virtual dead heat. The McCain-Palin ticket turned out between 23,000 and 15,000 people (depending on your favorite estimate) on a weekday in Northern Virginia’s Fairfax County (where I reside), which is trending Democratic. The Obama camp has had high hopes here, but I remain skeptical how doable the state is for him.

In 2006 George Allen ran a horrid Senate race (with the burden of the Washington Post’s 100 “macaca” stories) and lost the state by 7,000 votes, largely by getting creamed in Fairfax County by 65,000 votes. The question remains whether John McCain can do better. I suspect he can, based on a few factors.

First, when last we checked McCain was running strongly in outer suburban counties in Northern Virginia (e.g. Loudoun). Second, judging from the turnout last week and the flurry of signs and McCain-Palin bumper stickers now evident in Fairfax, he may do considerably better here than Allen did in 2006. Third, McCain enjoys the benefit of Virginia’s very large veteran/military population which will heavily favor him. Finally, rural voters and Evangelicals who were lukewarm to McCain in the primary now have every incentive to turn out, if only to express their enthusiasm for the bottom of the ticket.

On the other hand, Obama will turn out African Americans in large numbers in the Richmond area, and there are some 210,000 newly registered voters in the state, which may mean significant numbers of new Obama supporters.

On balance, unless the dynamic shifts to a runaway national victory for Obama, I just don’t see Virginia slipping into the Blue column. The GOP stumbled into one of the few candidates that could hold this Purple state in a close election.

There’s a lot of talk these days about my home state of Virginia. Right now the polls show a virtual dead heat. The McCain-Palin ticket turned out between 23,000 and 15,000 people (depending on your favorite estimate) on a weekday in Northern Virginia’s Fairfax County (where I reside), which is trending Democratic. The Obama camp has had high hopes here, but I remain skeptical how doable the state is for him.

In 2006 George Allen ran a horrid Senate race (with the burden of the Washington Post’s 100 “macaca” stories) and lost the state by 7,000 votes, largely by getting creamed in Fairfax County by 65,000 votes. The question remains whether John McCain can do better. I suspect he can, based on a few factors.

First, when last we checked McCain was running strongly in outer suburban counties in Northern Virginia (e.g. Loudoun). Second, judging from the turnout last week and the flurry of signs and McCain-Palin bumper stickers now evident in Fairfax, he may do considerably better here than Allen did in 2006. Third, McCain enjoys the benefit of Virginia’s very large veteran/military population which will heavily favor him. Finally, rural voters and Evangelicals who were lukewarm to McCain in the primary now have every incentive to turn out, if only to express their enthusiasm for the bottom of the ticket.

On the other hand, Obama will turn out African Americans in large numbers in the Richmond area, and there are some 210,000 newly registered voters in the state, which may mean significant numbers of new Obama supporters.

On balance, unless the dynamic shifts to a runaway national victory for Obama, I just don’t see Virginia slipping into the Blue column. The GOP stumbled into one of the few candidates that could hold this Purple state in a close election.

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What Orthodoxy Would He Challenge?

Many observers have diagnosed Barack Obama’s dilemma:

The more Palin is attacked, the higher her currency rises. Call it the Hillary effect, especially among older, independent women. The Obama campaign is rolling out Joe Biden today to accuse Republicans of going into the gutter. They’re getting sucked right into the partisan wars that Republicans are so adept at. Gone is Obama’s post-partisan image that undergirded his astonishing rise.

Obama needs a Sister Souljah moment to distinguish himself to independent and weak Republican voters who are agreeing with GOP claims that Obama is a classic liberal Democrat, and sliding right into the familiar ground of the culture wars. Obama has a golden opportunity with the U.S. financial system falling apart at the seams.

But what’s the cure? It is hard to think of a major Democratic orthodoxy that Obama would be willing to challenge. Reject hiking taxes on the rich? He’d be George Bush’s clone. Renounce protectionism and push for ratification of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement? Big Labor would have a fit. Announce a respected Republican as a future Treasury Secretary? Unlikely, given that the base had a meltdown with the introduction of Jason Furman into his group of advisors.

So independence is great in principle. It’s just not clear that Obama has it in him to put it into practice.

Many observers have diagnosed Barack Obama’s dilemma:

The more Palin is attacked, the higher her currency rises. Call it the Hillary effect, especially among older, independent women. The Obama campaign is rolling out Joe Biden today to accuse Republicans of going into the gutter. They’re getting sucked right into the partisan wars that Republicans are so adept at. Gone is Obama’s post-partisan image that undergirded his astonishing rise.

Obama needs a Sister Souljah moment to distinguish himself to independent and weak Republican voters who are agreeing with GOP claims that Obama is a classic liberal Democrat, and sliding right into the familiar ground of the culture wars. Obama has a golden opportunity with the U.S. financial system falling apart at the seams.

But what’s the cure? It is hard to think of a major Democratic orthodoxy that Obama would be willing to challenge. Reject hiking taxes on the rich? He’d be George Bush’s clone. Renounce protectionism and push for ratification of the Colombia Free Trade Agreement? Big Labor would have a fit. Announce a respected Republican as a future Treasury Secretary? Unlikely, given that the base had a meltdown with the introduction of Jason Furman into his group of advisors.

So independence is great in principle. It’s just not clear that Obama has it in him to put it into practice.

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What Matters

Much time has been spent, and rightfully so, in discussing Governor Sarah Palin’s remarks on national security. Does she understand enough and is she capable of taking over if the unimaginable occurs? But that legitimate line of inquiry should be put in context. We, after all, are electing a President. So perhaps our primary concern should be with the men who are vying for that job.

And that should, I think, send us back to what we know about the judgment, positions and records of the two top candidates. Clark Judge, former speechwriter to Ronald Reagan, contends that Barack Obama’s utterances and record should give us pause:

It is hard to pick the low point. There have been so many — from advocating abrogation of NAFTA to proposing unconditional direct talks between US president Obama and Iranian president Ahmadinejad to announcing in a televised debate that he would start pulling US troops out of Iraq within sixty days of taking office to his running mate telling Israeli generals that they would have to learn to live with a nuclear Iran. It is quite a list.

But my top pick for low moment came in just the past couple of weeks. In an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, Senator Obama said of our troop surge in Iraq that no one could have imagined how successful it would be. The mainstream media glided over the confession, but it is worth noting that early advocate John McCain as well as the much maligned George W. Bush and the brilliant David Petraeus all were able to imagine the surge’s success. By her support for the surge, Governor Palin was, too.

There are other contenders for Obama’s low point as well — the undivided Jerusalem switcheroo, the similar flip-flop on the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, and his initial reaction to the invasion of Georgia. But the issue here is not “experience” per se, but what judgment he demonstrated when confronted with national security issues and crises. Obama has no more experience on Arab-Israeli negotiations than Palin or any other Governor, but he expressed a view and has an outlook on these and other issues which should be a legitimate consideration for voters.

Yes, Obama has cast votes (or avoided them, as in the case of Kyl-Lieberman). But it’s not the “experience” of casting the vote but what it tells us about his temperament and his judgment which is noteworthy. Indeed, that was his argument throughout the primary–his superior judgment on the original decision to launch the Iraq war. Perhaps we should finally take him at his word and assess him and his counterpart on that basis.

Much time has been spent, and rightfully so, in discussing Governor Sarah Palin’s remarks on national security. Does she understand enough and is she capable of taking over if the unimaginable occurs? But that legitimate line of inquiry should be put in context. We, after all, are electing a President. So perhaps our primary concern should be with the men who are vying for that job.

And that should, I think, send us back to what we know about the judgment, positions and records of the two top candidates. Clark Judge, former speechwriter to Ronald Reagan, contends that Barack Obama’s utterances and record should give us pause:

It is hard to pick the low point. There have been so many — from advocating abrogation of NAFTA to proposing unconditional direct talks between US president Obama and Iranian president Ahmadinejad to announcing in a televised debate that he would start pulling US troops out of Iraq within sixty days of taking office to his running mate telling Israeli generals that they would have to learn to live with a nuclear Iran. It is quite a list.

But my top pick for low moment came in just the past couple of weeks. In an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, Senator Obama said of our troop surge in Iraq that no one could have imagined how successful it would be. The mainstream media glided over the confession, but it is worth noting that early advocate John McCain as well as the much maligned George W. Bush and the brilliant David Petraeus all were able to imagine the surge’s success. By her support for the surge, Governor Palin was, too.

There are other contenders for Obama’s low point as well — the undivided Jerusalem switcheroo, the similar flip-flop on the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, and his initial reaction to the invasion of Georgia. But the issue here is not “experience” per se, but what judgment he demonstrated when confronted with national security issues and crises. Obama has no more experience on Arab-Israeli negotiations than Palin or any other Governor, but he expressed a view and has an outlook on these and other issues which should be a legitimate consideration for voters.

Yes, Obama has cast votes (or avoided them, as in the case of Kyl-Lieberman). But it’s not the “experience” of casting the vote but what it tells us about his temperament and his judgment which is noteworthy. Indeed, that was his argument throughout the primary–his superior judgment on the original decision to launch the Iraq war. Perhaps we should finally take him at his word and assess him and his counterpart on that basis.

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The Klein Doctrine

In his recent Swampland blog, Joe Klein criticizes Charles Krauthammer and former NSC staffer Peter Feaver, among others, for arguing that there is more than one definition of the Bush Doctrine. According to Klein:

There is a right-wing smokescreen emerging in an attempt to camouflage Sarah Palin’s utter unfamiliarity with the Bush Doctrine. The new line, assayed by Charles Krauthammer and Peter Feaver among others, is that there were many Bush Doctrines. That is untrue.

There was only one Bush Doctrine. It was enunciated in this speech, delivered by the President, at the West Point graduation in 2002. It was a conscious effort to step beyond the Cold War doctrine of containment and announce a new strategic posture appropriate for the War on Terrorism. Here’s the relevant section, the bold-face highlights are mine:

For much of the last century, America’s defense relied on the Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment. In some cases, those strategies still apply. But new threats also require new thinking. Deterrence — the promise of massive retaliation against nations — means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend. Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies.

We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then systemically break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long. (Applause.)

Homeland defense and missile defense are part of stronger security, and they’re essential priorities for America. Yet the war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge. (Applause.) In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act. (Applause.)

Our security will require the best intelligence, to reveal threats hidden in caves and growing in laboratories. Our security will require modernizing domestic agencies such as the FBI, so they’re prepared to act, and act quickly, against danger. Our security will require transforming the military you will lead — a military that must be ready to strike at a moment’s notice in any dark corner of the world. And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives. (Applause.)

That is the Bush Doctrine. Sarah Palin had no idea that it even existed. Any attempts to divert attention from her ignorance should be rejected for what they are–disinformation.

That silly and unfair claim by Klein makes this March 21, 2005 column worth noting. In it, Klein writes this:

One can only imagine the Republican wrath and utter ridicule-the Rush Limbaugh fulminations-if, say, John Kerry had proposed a similar policy: Let’s pin our Middle East hopes on the statesmanship of Hizballah and Hamas. But that is where the democratic idealism of the Bush Doctrine has led us. If the President turns out to be right-and let’s hope he is-a century’s worth of woolly-headed liberal dreamers will be vindicated. And he will surely deserve that woolliest of all peace prizes, the Nobel. [emphasis added]

Now aren’t those words unfortunate for Joe? After all, here he is in 2005 using the Bush Doctrine in the context of championing liberty in the Arab Middle East, not in the context of preemption. So Krauthammer (who explains this whole issue with typical precision and intelligence here) and Feaver were clearly right, and Klein was clearly wrong.

 

Being wrong–and having his own past words completely undermine his claims–is becoming habitual for Klein. You think by now he’d be more careful, more gracious, and less arrogant in his critiques of others, especially others who are so manifestly more impressive than he is. But you would be wrong.

Joe Klein is the gift that keeps on giving.

In his recent Swampland blog, Joe Klein criticizes Charles Krauthammer and former NSC staffer Peter Feaver, among others, for arguing that there is more than one definition of the Bush Doctrine. According to Klein:

There is a right-wing smokescreen emerging in an attempt to camouflage Sarah Palin’s utter unfamiliarity with the Bush Doctrine. The new line, assayed by Charles Krauthammer and Peter Feaver among others, is that there were many Bush Doctrines. That is untrue.

There was only one Bush Doctrine. It was enunciated in this speech, delivered by the President, at the West Point graduation in 2002. It was a conscious effort to step beyond the Cold War doctrine of containment and announce a new strategic posture appropriate for the War on Terrorism. Here’s the relevant section, the bold-face highlights are mine:

For much of the last century, America’s defense relied on the Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment. In some cases, those strategies still apply. But new threats also require new thinking. Deterrence — the promise of massive retaliation against nations — means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend. Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies.

We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then systemically break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long. (Applause.)

Homeland defense and missile defense are part of stronger security, and they’re essential priorities for America. Yet the war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge. (Applause.) In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act. (Applause.)

Our security will require the best intelligence, to reveal threats hidden in caves and growing in laboratories. Our security will require modernizing domestic agencies such as the FBI, so they’re prepared to act, and act quickly, against danger. Our security will require transforming the military you will lead — a military that must be ready to strike at a moment’s notice in any dark corner of the world. And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives. (Applause.)

That is the Bush Doctrine. Sarah Palin had no idea that it even existed. Any attempts to divert attention from her ignorance should be rejected for what they are–disinformation.

That silly and unfair claim by Klein makes this March 21, 2005 column worth noting. In it, Klein writes this:

One can only imagine the Republican wrath and utter ridicule-the Rush Limbaugh fulminations-if, say, John Kerry had proposed a similar policy: Let’s pin our Middle East hopes on the statesmanship of Hizballah and Hamas. But that is where the democratic idealism of the Bush Doctrine has led us. If the President turns out to be right-and let’s hope he is-a century’s worth of woolly-headed liberal dreamers will be vindicated. And he will surely deserve that woolliest of all peace prizes, the Nobel. [emphasis added]

Now aren’t those words unfortunate for Joe? After all, here he is in 2005 using the Bush Doctrine in the context of championing liberty in the Arab Middle East, not in the context of preemption. So Krauthammer (who explains this whole issue with typical precision and intelligence here) and Feaver were clearly right, and Klein was clearly wrong.

 

Being wrong–and having his own past words completely undermine his claims–is becoming habitual for Klein. You think by now he’d be more careful, more gracious, and less arrogant in his critiques of others, especially others who are so manifestly more impressive than he is. But you would be wrong.

Joe Klein is the gift that keeps on giving.

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Democrats and Blue Collars

The first two paragraphs from a story in the Boston Globe:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the nation’s highest-ranking female politician, said Saturday that GOP presidential candidate John McCain exercised “poor judgment” by selecting Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Pelosi told reporters she missed Palin’s television interview Thursday because she was attending a bocce tournament in Hartford.

But “she heard that the Alaska governor’s responses to ABC News reporter Charlie Gibson demonstrated “poor judgment[.]”

The first two paragraphs from a story in the Boston Globe:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the nation’s highest-ranking female politician, said Saturday that GOP presidential candidate John McCain exercised “poor judgment” by selecting Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Pelosi told reporters she missed Palin’s television interview Thursday because she was attending a bocce tournament in Hartford.

But “she heard that the Alaska governor’s responses to ABC News reporter Charlie Gibson demonstrated “poor judgment[.]”

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Re: Iraq’s Bravest

Max, Alusi’s sufferings bring up another point: the canard that we went to war in Iraq on Israel’s behalf, to make it safer, a canard spread by major media commentators like Joe Klein and Andrew Sullivan.

In light of Alusi’s treatment, we dual-loyalists who support the war in Iraq might want to consider closing up shop. It’s rather striking that we don’t. In fact, if safety-for-Israel had been the primary goal of the War in Iraq, neoconservatives would have bailed out at least by 2005, when the newly drawn-up Iraq Constitution specifically denied citizenship to Israeli nationals. Yet, for the past three years, the same sinister cabalists–Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Bill Kristol and many names associated with this magazine–have continued to support both the war and the rebuilding of Iraq. Is this Jewish masochism?

Hardly. A victory in Iraq is vital, first and foremost, to American interests. Whether or not that country softens its shameful stance on Israel, a reasonably democratic and stable state in the heart of the Muslim world constitutes a lasting blow to our jihadist enemies. And it goes without saying that a victory in Iraq is critical to Iraqis like Mithal al Alusi–men and women who have endured jail time and the slaughter of family members in the hopes of seeing a free and democratic country in Mesopotamia. Any suspicion of “dual loyalties” should be cast upon those who don’t see the importance of American victory.

Max, Alusi’s sufferings bring up another point: the canard that we went to war in Iraq on Israel’s behalf, to make it safer, a canard spread by major media commentators like Joe Klein and Andrew Sullivan.

In light of Alusi’s treatment, we dual-loyalists who support the war in Iraq might want to consider closing up shop. It’s rather striking that we don’t. In fact, if safety-for-Israel had been the primary goal of the War in Iraq, neoconservatives would have bailed out at least by 2005, when the newly drawn-up Iraq Constitution specifically denied citizenship to Israeli nationals. Yet, for the past three years, the same sinister cabalists–Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Bill Kristol and many names associated with this magazine–have continued to support both the war and the rebuilding of Iraq. Is this Jewish masochism?

Hardly. A victory in Iraq is vital, first and foremost, to American interests. Whether or not that country softens its shameful stance on Israel, a reasonably democratic and stable state in the heart of the Muslim world constitutes a lasting blow to our jihadist enemies. And it goes without saying that a victory in Iraq is critical to Iraqis like Mithal al Alusi–men and women who have endured jail time and the slaughter of family members in the hopes of seeing a free and democratic country in Mesopotamia. Any suspicion of “dual loyalties” should be cast upon those who don’t see the importance of American victory.

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He’s Back

It has been nearly seven years since Aryeh Deri plummeted out of the firmament of Israeli political demigods. For over a decade, the young, energetic, charismatic and phenomenally gifted leader of the Shas political party led what looked like a Black Revolution in Israeli politics, making it fashionable to be ultra-Orthodox, politically moderate, and Sephardic, raising his party to as many as 17 seats in the 1999 elections, and fixing it into the position of perpetual kingmaker ever since.

And then he was convicted of bribery charges, serving three years in prison and carrying the scarlet letter of “moral turpitude” which barred him from politics for seven years.

But now he’s back. Technically he’s got until next summer to cool off, but instead he’s announcing his intention to run, or at least to try to run, for mayor of Jerusalem as a stepping stone, a la Olmert, to national leadership.

The parallels to Olmert go beyond the holy city, however. Deri and Olmert are now in an epic struggle over who will be remembered as the most corrupt politician in Israeli history. Both the Shas party created by Deri and Jerusalem City Hall as styled by Olmert suffer from reports, odors, and my own personal witnessing of deep, dark corruption, kickbacks and cronyism and the whole bit. And Olmert has a good chance of going to jail just as Deri did.

In this week’s Jerusalem Post, former editor-in-chief Jeff Barak offers an argument for why he should not be allowed to run. Over at Ynet, Hanoch Daum offers a rebuttal, taking the side that Deri has been given a bum rap, and should be allowed to run.

If Israeli politics were dull, I would consider favoring Deri’s return just for the massive entertainment value he provides. (In his public defense back then, he sent out tens of thousands of copies of a video tape called “Ani Maashim”–the title a translation of Emile Zola’s defense of Alfred Dreyfus, “J’Accuse.” Here’s what I wrote about it back then.) But whatever you say about Israel’s current generation of leaders, boredom has yet to fall on the news cycle in the Jewish State. Him we really don’t need.

It has been nearly seven years since Aryeh Deri plummeted out of the firmament of Israeli political demigods. For over a decade, the young, energetic, charismatic and phenomenally gifted leader of the Shas political party led what looked like a Black Revolution in Israeli politics, making it fashionable to be ultra-Orthodox, politically moderate, and Sephardic, raising his party to as many as 17 seats in the 1999 elections, and fixing it into the position of perpetual kingmaker ever since.

And then he was convicted of bribery charges, serving three years in prison and carrying the scarlet letter of “moral turpitude” which barred him from politics for seven years.

But now he’s back. Technically he’s got until next summer to cool off, but instead he’s announcing his intention to run, or at least to try to run, for mayor of Jerusalem as a stepping stone, a la Olmert, to national leadership.

The parallels to Olmert go beyond the holy city, however. Deri and Olmert are now in an epic struggle over who will be remembered as the most corrupt politician in Israeli history. Both the Shas party created by Deri and Jerusalem City Hall as styled by Olmert suffer from reports, odors, and my own personal witnessing of deep, dark corruption, kickbacks and cronyism and the whole bit. And Olmert has a good chance of going to jail just as Deri did.

In this week’s Jerusalem Post, former editor-in-chief Jeff Barak offers an argument for why he should not be allowed to run. Over at Ynet, Hanoch Daum offers a rebuttal, taking the side that Deri has been given a bum rap, and should be allowed to run.

If Israeli politics were dull, I would consider favoring Deri’s return just for the massive entertainment value he provides. (In his public defense back then, he sent out tens of thousands of copies of a video tape called “Ani Maashim”–the title a translation of Emile Zola’s defense of Alfred Dreyfus, “J’Accuse.” Here’s what I wrote about it back then.) But whatever you say about Israel’s current generation of leaders, boredom has yet to fall on the news cycle in the Jewish State. Him we really don’t need.

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Iraq’s Bravest

The bravest man in Iraq is at it again. Mithal Alusi, a secular and liberal Sunni, has already risked the wrath of Iraqi extremists for visiting the Herzliya Conference in Israel to discuss regional security issues. After he first attended in 2004, he was stripped of his job as director of the de-Baathification Commission. Then he was attacked by gunmen who claimed to be from the Baath Party and a Sunni terrorist group. He survived but his two sons were killed. He told the Los Angeles Times, “They were stupid to think that by killing my sons, they would make me soft.”

Now he has attended another Herzliya conference and he is publicly unrepentant even after Iraq’s parliament voted to take away his security detail and his parliamentary immunity, leaving him open to prosecution for treason since Iraq is still technically at war with Israel.

As might be expected Alusi is not going soft. You can read his reply here. Among the highlights: He calls on Iraq to work with Israel to counter the threat from Iran’s nuclear program because, as he says, “Iraqis and Israelis are the two nations that will suffer the most from a radical Iranian leadership that can threaten us with nuclear weapons.” He accuses his accusers in parliament as follows: “Half of them are working for the Iranians or the terrorists, and the other half is distracted by money.” He adds, “Nouri al-Maliki is a close friend; he is a patriot and good hearted man, but he is helpless. He is surrounded by rings of Iranian spies and corrupt bureaucrats. He is managed by them, rather than the other way round. Iraq needs new management.”

It is hard not to be a little awed by extreme courage like this. Some may say that Alusi is being foolish and counter-productive, and there is perhaps an element of truth to that charge, but every nation needs a few people like him who are willing to risk everything in the name of a higher cause without the slightest regard for self-preservation. In this case, his cause is our cause: He wants Iraq to be a Western liberal state that would be closely allied with the United States against Sunni and Shiite extremists. Although he may be a lonely voice in Iraq, he is hardly alone, as seen from the fact that he did manage to win a parliamentary seat as the only representative of the Democratic Party of the Iraqi Nation which he leads. It is imperative that the U.S. government do what it can to help and protect him.

The bravest man in Iraq is at it again. Mithal Alusi, a secular and liberal Sunni, has already risked the wrath of Iraqi extremists for visiting the Herzliya Conference in Israel to discuss regional security issues. After he first attended in 2004, he was stripped of his job as director of the de-Baathification Commission. Then he was attacked by gunmen who claimed to be from the Baath Party and a Sunni terrorist group. He survived but his two sons were killed. He told the Los Angeles Times, “They were stupid to think that by killing my sons, they would make me soft.”

Now he has attended another Herzliya conference and he is publicly unrepentant even after Iraq’s parliament voted to take away his security detail and his parliamentary immunity, leaving him open to prosecution for treason since Iraq is still technically at war with Israel.

As might be expected Alusi is not going soft. You can read his reply here. Among the highlights: He calls on Iraq to work with Israel to counter the threat from Iran’s nuclear program because, as he says, “Iraqis and Israelis are the two nations that will suffer the most from a radical Iranian leadership that can threaten us with nuclear weapons.” He accuses his accusers in parliament as follows: “Half of them are working for the Iranians or the terrorists, and the other half is distracted by money.” He adds, “Nouri al-Maliki is a close friend; he is a patriot and good hearted man, but he is helpless. He is surrounded by rings of Iranian spies and corrupt bureaucrats. He is managed by them, rather than the other way round. Iraq needs new management.”

It is hard not to be a little awed by extreme courage like this. Some may say that Alusi is being foolish and counter-productive, and there is perhaps an element of truth to that charge, but every nation needs a few people like him who are willing to risk everything in the name of a higher cause without the slightest regard for self-preservation. In this case, his cause is our cause: He wants Iraq to be a Western liberal state that would be closely allied with the United States against Sunni and Shiite extremists. Although he may be a lonely voice in Iraq, he is hardly alone, as seen from the fact that he did manage to win a parliamentary seat as the only representative of the Democratic Party of the Iraqi Nation which he leads. It is imperative that the U.S. government do what it can to help and protect him.

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Re: Meet the Beatles

Jamie, the pressure on McCartney is even worse than you thought. He’s not merely deflecting the whines of professional boycotters; Sir Paul has the jihadists on his case now:

SIR Paul McCartney has been threatened that he will be the target of suicide bombers unless he abandons plans to play his first concert in Israel.

 

Self-styled preacher of hate Omar Bakri claimed the former Beatle’s decision to take part in the Jewish state’s 60th anniversary celebrations had made him an enemy of all Muslims.

Sources said Sir Paul was shocked but refused to be intimidated.

I know Madonna has been gyrating on crucifixes for three decades, provoking a church whose elders are not known for their bomb-throwing. And Rage Against the Machine may think cursing out George W. Bush in between songs is an act of rebellion. But if you ask me, McCartney’s willingness to laugh off a guy who calls for beheadings so that he can perform “I Saw Her Standing There” makes the “cute Beatle” the baddest man rock n’ roll has ever seen.

Jamie, the pressure on McCartney is even worse than you thought. He’s not merely deflecting the whines of professional boycotters; Sir Paul has the jihadists on his case now:

SIR Paul McCartney has been threatened that he will be the target of suicide bombers unless he abandons plans to play his first concert in Israel.

 

Self-styled preacher of hate Omar Bakri claimed the former Beatle’s decision to take part in the Jewish state’s 60th anniversary celebrations had made him an enemy of all Muslims.

Sources said Sir Paul was shocked but refused to be intimidated.

I know Madonna has been gyrating on crucifixes for three decades, provoking a church whose elders are not known for their bomb-throwing. And Rage Against the Machine may think cursing out George W. Bush in between songs is an act of rebellion. But if you ask me, McCartney’s willingness to laugh off a guy who calls for beheadings so that he can perform “I Saw Her Standing There” makes the “cute Beatle” the baddest man rock n’ roll has ever seen.

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Palin on Wall Street

In Colorado, Sarah Palin, who is now traveling solo, began with some new material on the brewing crisis on Wall Street. The remarks were typical of what John McCain has said in the past: Washington has failed to regulate, executives haven’t managed risk and, as a result, the taxpayers are put at economic risk. She decried the Washington establishment which was “asleep at the switch” and added, “[o]ur regulatory system is outdated and it needs a complete overhaul.” She went on to echo the McCain team statement realeased earlier in the day that it is wise to cut off the federal spigot of bailout monies and not put the taxpayers on the hook for Lehman’s losses. And she threw in a bit of populist red meat–decrying golden parachutes and such–which the very Republican crowd gobbled up.

It is a vintage “reform” message which is easily adapted to the current crisis. While Palin offered no specifics (it was a raucous campaign rally, after all) she is clearly expanding her message and learning to amplify the theme of the day. (John McCain had a similar speech in Florida.)

Looked at in the bigger picture, there is nothing in either Palin’s remarks or McCain’s statement or speech that sounds partisan or defensive of Big Business — or Big anything, for that matter. This is the natural extension of McCain’s convention address, the least partisan speech be given by a presidential nominee in recent memory. Now with the base safely in tow McCain-Palin’s message is directly aimed at the Independent voters who will determine this, as they do most, presidential elections.

In Colorado, Sarah Palin, who is now traveling solo, began with some new material on the brewing crisis on Wall Street. The remarks were typical of what John McCain has said in the past: Washington has failed to regulate, executives haven’t managed risk and, as a result, the taxpayers are put at economic risk. She decried the Washington establishment which was “asleep at the switch” and added, “[o]ur regulatory system is outdated and it needs a complete overhaul.” She went on to echo the McCain team statement realeased earlier in the day that it is wise to cut off the federal spigot of bailout monies and not put the taxpayers on the hook for Lehman’s losses. And she threw in a bit of populist red meat–decrying golden parachutes and such–which the very Republican crowd gobbled up.

It is a vintage “reform” message which is easily adapted to the current crisis. While Palin offered no specifics (it was a raucous campaign rally, after all) she is clearly expanding her message and learning to amplify the theme of the day. (John McCain had a similar speech in Florida.)

Looked at in the bigger picture, there is nothing in either Palin’s remarks or McCain’s statement or speech that sounds partisan or defensive of Big Business — or Big anything, for that matter. This is the natural extension of McCain’s convention address, the least partisan speech be given by a presidential nominee in recent memory. Now with the base safely in tow McCain-Palin’s message is directly aimed at the Independent voters who will determine this, as they do most, presidential elections.

Read Less




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