Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 17, 2008

Give Him Points For Honesty

Harry Reid, who I’m loath to credit for anything, at least had the nerve to say what everyone knows to be the case about the current financial crisis:

No one knows what to do. We are in new territory here. This is a different game. We’re not here playing soccer, basketball or football, this is a new game and we’re going to have to figure out how to do it.

Granted, he sounds clueless. And granted, he doesn’t inspire leadership. But isn’t that the truth? And, yes, it seems to be an argument for John McCain’s 9-11-style commission idea. Time to put everyone in a room and figure out the next steps. And in the meantime, they can publicize which lawmakers with oversight authority took buckets of money from the entities they were supposed to regulate. Which, I suppose, is why so many in Congress oppose this idea.

Harry Reid, who I’m loath to credit for anything, at least had the nerve to say what everyone knows to be the case about the current financial crisis:

No one knows what to do. We are in new territory here. This is a different game. We’re not here playing soccer, basketball or football, this is a new game and we’re going to have to figure out how to do it.

Granted, he sounds clueless. And granted, he doesn’t inspire leadership. But isn’t that the truth? And, yes, it seems to be an argument for John McCain’s 9-11-style commission idea. Time to put everyone in a room and figure out the next steps. And in the meantime, they can publicize which lawmakers with oversight authority took buckets of money from the entities they were supposed to regulate. Which, I suppose, is why so many in Congress oppose this idea.

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Re: The Sovereignty of Our Enemies

Abe, I wanted to add to your post. Yesterday, newly elected Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari met with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London in order to enlist support against American cross-border raids into his country. In July, President Bush reportedly ordered U.S. forces to step up the incursions into Pakistan to prevent the Taliban and al-Qaeda from using that country’s tribal areas as a base from which to launch attacks into neighboring Afghanistan. The United States can claim some success in keeping the militants off balance with raids and missile strikes, but they have predictably inflamed Pakistani public opinion.

That’s why Pakistan’s military said that it might attack U.S. forces operating inside the country. “Pakistani troops on the spot will retaliate for any actions across the border,” said Islamabad’s chief military spokesman last Friday. Since then, there have been reports, denied by the Pentagon, that on Monday Pakistani troops fired on two American helicopters that had crossed into Pakistani airspace.

“Britain has always had a better understanding of the sub-continent than any other country,” President Zardari said yesterday after meeting with Brown. “So if they take our point of view and put it across to the world I think it will be better.” What would really be better is Islamabad taking control of its border areas and killing the militants. At present, Islamabad is letting them run free, and, for this reason and others, they are clearly prevailing against Kabul. As reported in the New York Times on Sunday, a Western diplomat said that Afghanistan is in its worst condition since 2001.

There is the complicating issue of civilian deaths on both sides of the border. Today, Defense Secretary Gates, speaking in Kabul, offered his “sincere condolences and personal regrets for the recent loss of innocent life.” The United States must do more to minimize these casualties, but there would be far fewer of them if we stop the Taliban from using Pakistan as a sanctuary.

And this leads us back to President Zardari. While he was in London talking with Brown, Admiral Mike Mullen was in Islamabad providing assurances that the United States would respect Pakistan’s sovereignty. That promise, however, is a mistake. As you correctly note, Abe, Zardari’s government “is only half in the fight” and is not taking us seriously. Nonetheless, it has an obligation to prevent the Taliban from turning its territory into a staging area for attacks on a neighbor. If he can’t do that, we have an obligation to pursue the militants wherever they may lead us. So the attacks into Pakistan must continue for now. No one wants to fight Pakistanis. But we also cannot lose Afghanistan.

Abe, I wanted to add to your post. Yesterday, newly elected Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari met with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London in order to enlist support against American cross-border raids into his country. In July, President Bush reportedly ordered U.S. forces to step up the incursions into Pakistan to prevent the Taliban and al-Qaeda from using that country’s tribal areas as a base from which to launch attacks into neighboring Afghanistan. The United States can claim some success in keeping the militants off balance with raids and missile strikes, but they have predictably inflamed Pakistani public opinion.

That’s why Pakistan’s military said that it might attack U.S. forces operating inside the country. “Pakistani troops on the spot will retaliate for any actions across the border,” said Islamabad’s chief military spokesman last Friday. Since then, there have been reports, denied by the Pentagon, that on Monday Pakistani troops fired on two American helicopters that had crossed into Pakistani airspace.

“Britain has always had a better understanding of the sub-continent than any other country,” President Zardari said yesterday after meeting with Brown. “So if they take our point of view and put it across to the world I think it will be better.” What would really be better is Islamabad taking control of its border areas and killing the militants. At present, Islamabad is letting them run free, and, for this reason and others, they are clearly prevailing against Kabul. As reported in the New York Times on Sunday, a Western diplomat said that Afghanistan is in its worst condition since 2001.

There is the complicating issue of civilian deaths on both sides of the border. Today, Defense Secretary Gates, speaking in Kabul, offered his “sincere condolences and personal regrets for the recent loss of innocent life.” The United States must do more to minimize these casualties, but there would be far fewer of them if we stop the Taliban from using Pakistan as a sanctuary.

And this leads us back to President Zardari. While he was in London talking with Brown, Admiral Mike Mullen was in Islamabad providing assurances that the United States would respect Pakistan’s sovereignty. That promise, however, is a mistake. As you correctly note, Abe, Zardari’s government “is only half in the fight” and is not taking us seriously. Nonetheless, it has an obligation to prevent the Taliban from turning its territory into a staging area for attacks on a neighbor. If he can’t do that, we have an obligation to pursue the militants wherever they may lead us. So the attacks into Pakistan must continue for now. No one wants to fight Pakistanis. But we also cannot lose Afghanistan.

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Who’s The Most Negative?

Hard data shows what many intuitively know: Barack Obama runs many more negative ads than John McCain. The MSM can hop up and down all they like, writing slogans (“sleaziest”; “new low”) for Obama–which themselves get converted into ads–accusing McCain of going negative. But facts are stubborn things: even aside from the qualitative difference (attacking McCain’s “honor” seems more egregious than saying Obama will raise taxes), the quantity speaks for itself.

All that said, in an extremely close race it is easy to see why campaigns go negative. For starters, we know negative ads work. Also, neither of these guys is saying anything terribly impressive or specific. Unless you have pearls of wisdom to share it is easier to point out the other candidate’s inanities. And the gaffes are sometimes too tempting to ignore.

In a nutshell, the negative message from Obama is “Bush=mess=McCain.” The McCain negative is “Obama’s a non-doer/non-leader who will raise your taxes and sink us further.” Obama’s negative pitch is shorter. We’ll have to see which works better.

Hard data shows what many intuitively know: Barack Obama runs many more negative ads than John McCain. The MSM can hop up and down all they like, writing slogans (“sleaziest”; “new low”) for Obama–which themselves get converted into ads–accusing McCain of going negative. But facts are stubborn things: even aside from the qualitative difference (attacking McCain’s “honor” seems more egregious than saying Obama will raise taxes), the quantity speaks for itself.

All that said, in an extremely close race it is easy to see why campaigns go negative. For starters, we know negative ads work. Also, neither of these guys is saying anything terribly impressive or specific. Unless you have pearls of wisdom to share it is easier to point out the other candidate’s inanities. And the gaffes are sometimes too tempting to ignore.

In a nutshell, the negative message from Obama is “Bush=mess=McCain.” The McCain negative is “Obama’s a non-doer/non-leader who will raise your taxes and sink us further.” Obama’s negative pitch is shorter. We’ll have to see which works better.

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Did Russia Act First?

Georgia has rolled out a powerful new weapon in the info-war it has been waging with Russia ever since Russian troops invaded its soil. In the words of the New York Times: “Georgia has released intercepted telephone calls purporting to show that part of a Russian armored regiment crossed into the separatist enclave of South Ossetia nearly a full day before Georgia’s attack on the capital, Tskhinvali, late on Aug. 7.” Those calls occurred among Ossetian border guards, and they would seem to buttress Georgia’s assertion that it was not the aggressor in this conflict.

Many questions remain, and the tidbits quoted in the Times are hardly conclusive evidence of who fired the first shots, but they do serve to establish an important point: that, because of these intercepts, Georgian officials genuinely were convinced on August 7th that Russian troops were already invading their country, and they had to respond. Perhaps that impression was mistaken, but it certainly seems that the Georgians acted in good faith. Were that we could say the same for the Russians who are piling one lie on top of another, accusing Georgia of every sin under the sun, to include unsubstantiated charges of genocide.

Georgia has rolled out a powerful new weapon in the info-war it has been waging with Russia ever since Russian troops invaded its soil. In the words of the New York Times: “Georgia has released intercepted telephone calls purporting to show that part of a Russian armored regiment crossed into the separatist enclave of South Ossetia nearly a full day before Georgia’s attack on the capital, Tskhinvali, late on Aug. 7.” Those calls occurred among Ossetian border guards, and they would seem to buttress Georgia’s assertion that it was not the aggressor in this conflict.

Many questions remain, and the tidbits quoted in the Times are hardly conclusive evidence of who fired the first shots, but they do serve to establish an important point: that, because of these intercepts, Georgian officials genuinely were convinced on August 7th that Russian troops were already invading their country, and they had to respond. Perhaps that impression was mistaken, but it certainly seems that the Georgians acted in good faith. Were that we could say the same for the Russians who are piling one lie on top of another, accusing Georgia of every sin under the sun, to include unsubstantiated charges of genocide.

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Petraeus on the Move

Yesterday General David Petraeus handed over the flag of his command, known as the Multi-National Force in Iraq, to General Raymond Odierno. The ceremony, held at the U.S. military headquarters at Camp Victory on the western outskirts of Baghdad, was moving and memorable. Graced by the presence of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, it marked the completion of one of the most remarkable military tenures in American history. As Secretary Gates said, “He’s played a historic role . . . General Petraeus is clearly the hero of the hour.”

When General Petraeus took command in Iraq in February 2007, it was in a death spiral, teetering on the brink of a full-scale civil war. Petraeus faced the toughest situation he had encountered in more than three decades of military service, a situation that many analysts thought was hopeless.

In 19 months, General Petraeus achieved the closest thing to a battlefield miracle you are likely to witness in your lifetime. He certainly didn’t do this alone; we have fielded as fine a fighting force as the world has ever seen, and he has had many able men at his side, including General Odierno. But General Petraeus is the individual who led the effort, who rallied our side, who pushed back against those in the chain of command who opposed his efforts, and who successfully implemented the new counterinsurgency strategy. The U.S. military took on the role of “builders and diplomats, as well as guardians and warriors,” according to Petraeus.

Read the rest of the COMMENTARY web exclusive here.

Yesterday General David Petraeus handed over the flag of his command, known as the Multi-National Force in Iraq, to General Raymond Odierno. The ceremony, held at the U.S. military headquarters at Camp Victory on the western outskirts of Baghdad, was moving and memorable. Graced by the presence of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, it marked the completion of one of the most remarkable military tenures in American history. As Secretary Gates said, “He’s played a historic role . . . General Petraeus is clearly the hero of the hour.”

When General Petraeus took command in Iraq in February 2007, it was in a death spiral, teetering on the brink of a full-scale civil war. Petraeus faced the toughest situation he had encountered in more than three decades of military service, a situation that many analysts thought was hopeless.

In 19 months, General Petraeus achieved the closest thing to a battlefield miracle you are likely to witness in your lifetime. He certainly didn’t do this alone; we have fielded as fine a fighting force as the world has ever seen, and he has had many able men at his side, including General Odierno. But General Petraeus is the individual who led the effort, who rallied our side, who pushed back against those in the chain of command who opposed his efforts, and who successfully implemented the new counterinsurgency strategy. The U.S. military took on the role of “builders and diplomats, as well as guardians and warriors,” according to Petraeus.

Read the rest of the COMMENTARY web exclusive here.

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Why Do They Do It?

Mickey Kaus asks and answers a question many political observers are mulling over:

Can the $9 million raised tonight by Obama at that Beverly Hills Barbra Streisand celebrity fundraiser possibly win him as many votes as the bad publicity from the fundraiser is losing him? I don’t think so.

And certainly the McCain team is having fun with the “reviews” of “Obama Goes To Hollywood”–a grab bag of embarrassing stories of the “rich and famous” celebrating on the deck of the Titanic. . . er. . . at Greystone Mansion while the economy sputters and the Obama team tries to convince voters he’s on their side. As the Los Angeles Times notes:

It was clear why Barack Obama’s campaign barred television crews from a Beverly Hills mansion at twilight Tuesday as the Democratic presidential nominee mingled with movie stars on a giant terrace overlooking Los Angeles.

But what’s not clear is why the Obama camp does such things. They must know it only cements the image that they are out-of-touch elitists, right? A few explanations are in order.

First, this night of excess was obviously planned well before the economic turbulence of this week so it seems a lot worse than it might have otherwise been. (Hmmm, but McCain cancelled a night of the Convention for Hurricane Gustav — should Obama have done the same here?)

Second, having reneged on his public financing pledge, Obama simply needs the money. And–to gloss Willie Sutton on banks– Hollywood is  where the money is.

Finally, the Obama team and their Hollywood enablers really do not get how ridiculous they all appear. The rest of America is dimwitted and starstruck in their eyes. They imagine that their overindulgence won’t register. It is from that same sense of cultural isolation and cluelessness that you get the mean-spirited attacks on Sarah Palin, Bittergate, and the dozens of other slights and petty insults about small-town America which are regularly doled out by Democrats.

Does it all matter? Unclear. It is revealing? Absolutely.

Mickey Kaus asks and answers a question many political observers are mulling over:

Can the $9 million raised tonight by Obama at that Beverly Hills Barbra Streisand celebrity fundraiser possibly win him as many votes as the bad publicity from the fundraiser is losing him? I don’t think so.

And certainly the McCain team is having fun with the “reviews” of “Obama Goes To Hollywood”–a grab bag of embarrassing stories of the “rich and famous” celebrating on the deck of the Titanic. . . er. . . at Greystone Mansion while the economy sputters and the Obama team tries to convince voters he’s on their side. As the Los Angeles Times notes:

It was clear why Barack Obama’s campaign barred television crews from a Beverly Hills mansion at twilight Tuesday as the Democratic presidential nominee mingled with movie stars on a giant terrace overlooking Los Angeles.

But what’s not clear is why the Obama camp does such things. They must know it only cements the image that they are out-of-touch elitists, right? A few explanations are in order.

First, this night of excess was obviously planned well before the economic turbulence of this week so it seems a lot worse than it might have otherwise been. (Hmmm, but McCain cancelled a night of the Convention for Hurricane Gustav — should Obama have done the same here?)

Second, having reneged on his public financing pledge, Obama simply needs the money. And–to gloss Willie Sutton on banks– Hollywood is  where the money is.

Finally, the Obama team and their Hollywood enablers really do not get how ridiculous they all appear. The rest of America is dimwitted and starstruck in their eyes. They imagine that their overindulgence won’t register. It is from that same sense of cultural isolation and cluelessness that you get the mean-spirited attacks on Sarah Palin, Bittergate, and the dozens of other slights and petty insults about small-town America which are regularly doled out by Democrats.

Does it all matter? Unclear. It is revealing? Absolutely.

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The Sovereignty of Our Enemies

Washington seems to be pursuing the same schizophrenic tack with Pakistan that’s served us so poorly over the past seven years.

Yesterday, Admiral Mike Mullen flew in to Islamabad and reassured top Pakistani military brass and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani that the U.S. will respect Pakistan’s sovereignty.

It’s unclear how sovereignty is being defined, as it was just reported that a U.S. drone missile attack hit targets in the village of Baghar, in the Pakistani tribal region of South Waziristan.

With Pervez Musharraf out of the scene, and with the coalition suffering serious setbacks in Afghanistan the reasons for sending mixed messages to Islamabad are less compelling than ever. If Pakistan’s new civilian government is only half in the fight against domestic terrorists, then the U.S.’s commitment is only at fifty percent as long as we heed the status quo. Pakistani military spokesmen brag about their intention to fire on American troops while Robert Gates tells reporters in Kabul that he’s encouraged by Pakistan’s increasing cooperation. Islamabad is not taking the U.S. seriously.

3700 additional U.S. troops will arrive in Afghanistan early next year. General McKiernan has requested 10,000 more and said he expects to get them. The “with us or against us” approach has taken a hit in the public eye over the past few years, but not as bad a hit as we’re taking in Afghanistan these days. There’s no question these troops are needed. But it’s madness to send more brave Americans over to a war in which we refuse to define the enemy. It’s line-in-the-sand time.

Washington seems to be pursuing the same schizophrenic tack with Pakistan that’s served us so poorly over the past seven years.

Yesterday, Admiral Mike Mullen flew in to Islamabad and reassured top Pakistani military brass and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani that the U.S. will respect Pakistan’s sovereignty.

It’s unclear how sovereignty is being defined, as it was just reported that a U.S. drone missile attack hit targets in the village of Baghar, in the Pakistani tribal region of South Waziristan.

With Pervez Musharraf out of the scene, and with the coalition suffering serious setbacks in Afghanistan the reasons for sending mixed messages to Islamabad are less compelling than ever. If Pakistan’s new civilian government is only half in the fight against domestic terrorists, then the U.S.’s commitment is only at fifty percent as long as we heed the status quo. Pakistani military spokesmen brag about their intention to fire on American troops while Robert Gates tells reporters in Kabul that he’s encouraged by Pakistan’s increasing cooperation. Islamabad is not taking the U.S. seriously.

3700 additional U.S. troops will arrive in Afghanistan early next year. General McKiernan has requested 10,000 more and said he expects to get them. The “with us or against us” approach has taken a hit in the public eye over the past few years, but not as bad a hit as we’re taking in Afghanistan these days. There’s no question these troops are needed. But it’s madness to send more brave Americans over to a war in which we refuse to define the enemy. It’s line-in-the-sand time.

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Attack in Sana’a

This morning, terrorists attacked the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen, engaging in a fifteen-minute gun battle with Yemeni security guards and detonating a car bomb at the embassy’s gate. Ten innocents, including four bystanders, were killed in the attack. Thankfully, the embassy staff was unharmed.

This attack serves as a chilling reminder of the immense threat that failed states pose to international security. Yemen, which I visited in January 2007, is such a state. Beyond the capital, the regime’s security control is extremely tenuous, and a variety of armed groups battle for power in its absence. In this vein, to the north of Sana’a and in pockets throughout the country, intertribal warfare over disputed lands is common, and the government rarely intervenes. (In perhaps the most surreal moment of my travels in the region, I remember my tour guide–over drinks at a hotel bar–telling me about the bazooka he keeps for “defensive purposes,” and the casualties that his family has suffered during these battles.)

Meanwhile, militant groups kidnap foreigners with relative frequency, using the hostages to humiliate an extremely unpopular, authoritarian regime. The situation is so bad that tourists need to obtain official permits twenty-four hours ahead of time if they wish to travel on roads away from Sana’a, so that the government can verify whether certain roads will be patrolled with official checkpoints. Most alarmingly, for roads that run through the eastern Hadramawt desert, the government can provide few assurances, and foreigners need to hire a Bedouin escort for security purposes.

Even in the major cities, the regime – fearing for its own stability – has been loathe to crack down on militant activity. In this vein, the Al-Nur Honey Press Shop, which the U.S. Treasury designated as a global terrorist organization for funneling money to al-Qaeda in 2001, was still operating in downtown Sana’a during my visit last year. Moreover, in the aftermath of a series of attacks in Sana’a in recent years, the Yemeni government attempted a “reeducation program” for captured terrorists – declining severe punishment in pursuit of an untenable modus vivendi.

Sadly, there are no good options for U.S. policy in Yemen. There is, however, an important lesson to be learned: that where possible, the U.S. must act to avoid the emergence of failed states that will serve as breeding grounds for all sorts of militant activity, including terrorist attacks on U.S. interests. Regardless of one’s views on the Iraq war, this has always been the best reason for supporting a continued U.S. presence in Iraq – preventing Iraq from becoming another Yemen.

When Barack Obama and John McCain comment on this morning’s tragic attack, it will be critical to see whether they have drawn similar lessons.

This morning, terrorists attacked the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen, engaging in a fifteen-minute gun battle with Yemeni security guards and detonating a car bomb at the embassy’s gate. Ten innocents, including four bystanders, were killed in the attack. Thankfully, the embassy staff was unharmed.

This attack serves as a chilling reminder of the immense threat that failed states pose to international security. Yemen, which I visited in January 2007, is such a state. Beyond the capital, the regime’s security control is extremely tenuous, and a variety of armed groups battle for power in its absence. In this vein, to the north of Sana’a and in pockets throughout the country, intertribal warfare over disputed lands is common, and the government rarely intervenes. (In perhaps the most surreal moment of my travels in the region, I remember my tour guide–over drinks at a hotel bar–telling me about the bazooka he keeps for “defensive purposes,” and the casualties that his family has suffered during these battles.)

Meanwhile, militant groups kidnap foreigners with relative frequency, using the hostages to humiliate an extremely unpopular, authoritarian regime. The situation is so bad that tourists need to obtain official permits twenty-four hours ahead of time if they wish to travel on roads away from Sana’a, so that the government can verify whether certain roads will be patrolled with official checkpoints. Most alarmingly, for roads that run through the eastern Hadramawt desert, the government can provide few assurances, and foreigners need to hire a Bedouin escort for security purposes.

Even in the major cities, the regime – fearing for its own stability – has been loathe to crack down on militant activity. In this vein, the Al-Nur Honey Press Shop, which the U.S. Treasury designated as a global terrorist organization for funneling money to al-Qaeda in 2001, was still operating in downtown Sana’a during my visit last year. Moreover, in the aftermath of a series of attacks in Sana’a in recent years, the Yemeni government attempted a “reeducation program” for captured terrorists – declining severe punishment in pursuit of an untenable modus vivendi.

Sadly, there are no good options for U.S. policy in Yemen. There is, however, an important lesson to be learned: that where possible, the U.S. must act to avoid the emergence of failed states that will serve as breeding grounds for all sorts of militant activity, including terrorist attacks on U.S. interests. Regardless of one’s views on the Iraq war, this has always been the best reason for supporting a continued U.S. presence in Iraq – preventing Iraq from becoming another Yemen.

When Barack Obama and John McCain comment on this morning’s tragic attack, it will be critical to see whether they have drawn similar lessons.

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What Did He Say?

Amir Taheri is doubling down on his allegation that Barack Obama implored Iraqi officials to delay finalization of agreement for U.S. troop withdrawal and their continued presence in Iraq until after the U.S. election. He cites as evidence the Iraqi Foreign Minister’s remarks and Obama’s own words. Taheri brushes away the Obama camp’s distinction between the related but distinct Status of Forces andStrategic Framework Agreements and homes in on Obama’s own words:

Here is how NBC reported Obama’s position on June 16, after his conversation in the US with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari: “Obama also told Zebari, he said, that Congress should be involved in any negotiations regarding a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq. He suggested it may be better to wait until the next administration to negotiate such an agreement.”

In other words, Obama wanted a delay on the Status of Forces Agreement, not on the Strategic Framework Agreement – as his rebuttal now claims.

The NBC report continues: “Asked by NBC’s Lee Cowan if a timetable for the Status of Forces Agreement was discussed, Obama said, ‘Well he, the foreign minister, had presented a letter requesting an extension of the UN resolution until the end of this year. So that’ s a six-month extension.'”

. . .

Obama also told NBC: “The foreign minister agreed that the next administration should not be bound by an agreement that’s currently made, but I think the only way to assure that is to make sure that there is strong bipartisan support, that Congress is involved, that the American people know the outlines of this agreement.

“And my concern is that if the Bush administration negotiates, as it currently has, and given that we’re entering into the heat of political season, that we’re probably better off not trying to complete a hard-and-fast agreement before the next administration takes office, but I think obviously these conversations have to continue.

“As I said, my No. 1 priority is making sure that we don’t have a situation in which US troops on the ground are somehow vulnerable to, are made more vulnerable, because there is a lack of a clear mandate.”

Taheri then refers to the Iraqi Foreign Minister’s comments on the issue:

In a long interview with the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, [Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar] Zebari says: “Obama asked me why, in view of the closeness of a change of administration, we were hurrying the signing of this special agreement, and why we did not wait until the coming of the new administation next year and agree on some issues and matters.”

Again, note that Zebari mentions a single set of agreements, encompassing both SFA and SOFA.

Zebari continues: “I told Obama that, as an Iraqi, I believe that even if there is a Democratic administration in the White House it had better continue the present policy instead of wasting a lot of time thinking what to do.”

In other words, Obama was trying to derail current US policy, while Zebari was urging him not to “waste time.”

Zebari then says: “I pointed out to him [Obama] that the agreement being negotiated [with the US] was not to be necessarily binding on the future administration unless it wanted to cooperate with the people of Iraq instead of [causing] crises and problems from its very start.”

To be frank, I don’t know what to make of all this. (Others suspect Taheri’s account is accurate, but lack firsthand knowledge of the relevant events.) But several things are clear. Obama should be compelled to provide some basic facts: who was present, what record of the meeting exists and what precisely was he communicating to the Iraqis. If we had an independent, truly adversarial press (that is one not adversarial just towards one candidate), they would be screaming for this plus access to those present at the meeting. Can you imagine if John McCain were accused of asking a foreign government to accelerate or retard progress on a matter of national security because of the upcoming election?

That may or may not be what happened here. But it is time to start asking hard questions.

Amir Taheri is doubling down on his allegation that Barack Obama implored Iraqi officials to delay finalization of agreement for U.S. troop withdrawal and their continued presence in Iraq until after the U.S. election. He cites as evidence the Iraqi Foreign Minister’s remarks and Obama’s own words. Taheri brushes away the Obama camp’s distinction between the related but distinct Status of Forces andStrategic Framework Agreements and homes in on Obama’s own words:

Here is how NBC reported Obama’s position on June 16, after his conversation in the US with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari: “Obama also told Zebari, he said, that Congress should be involved in any negotiations regarding a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq. He suggested it may be better to wait until the next administration to negotiate such an agreement.”

In other words, Obama wanted a delay on the Status of Forces Agreement, not on the Strategic Framework Agreement – as his rebuttal now claims.

The NBC report continues: “Asked by NBC’s Lee Cowan if a timetable for the Status of Forces Agreement was discussed, Obama said, ‘Well he, the foreign minister, had presented a letter requesting an extension of the UN resolution until the end of this year. So that’ s a six-month extension.'”

. . .

Obama also told NBC: “The foreign minister agreed that the next administration should not be bound by an agreement that’s currently made, but I think the only way to assure that is to make sure that there is strong bipartisan support, that Congress is involved, that the American people know the outlines of this agreement.

“And my concern is that if the Bush administration negotiates, as it currently has, and given that we’re entering into the heat of political season, that we’re probably better off not trying to complete a hard-and-fast agreement before the next administration takes office, but I think obviously these conversations have to continue.

“As I said, my No. 1 priority is making sure that we don’t have a situation in which US troops on the ground are somehow vulnerable to, are made more vulnerable, because there is a lack of a clear mandate.”

Taheri then refers to the Iraqi Foreign Minister’s comments on the issue:

In a long interview with the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, [Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar] Zebari says: “Obama asked me why, in view of the closeness of a change of administration, we were hurrying the signing of this special agreement, and why we did not wait until the coming of the new administation next year and agree on some issues and matters.”

Again, note that Zebari mentions a single set of agreements, encompassing both SFA and SOFA.

Zebari continues: “I told Obama that, as an Iraqi, I believe that even if there is a Democratic administration in the White House it had better continue the present policy instead of wasting a lot of time thinking what to do.”

In other words, Obama was trying to derail current US policy, while Zebari was urging him not to “waste time.”

Zebari then says: “I pointed out to him [Obama] that the agreement being negotiated [with the US] was not to be necessarily binding on the future administration unless it wanted to cooperate with the people of Iraq instead of [causing] crises and problems from its very start.”

To be frank, I don’t know what to make of all this. (Others suspect Taheri’s account is accurate, but lack firsthand knowledge of the relevant events.) But several things are clear. Obama should be compelled to provide some basic facts: who was present, what record of the meeting exists and what precisely was he communicating to the Iraqis. If we had an independent, truly adversarial press (that is one not adversarial just towards one candidate), they would be screaming for this plus access to those present at the meeting. Can you imagine if John McCain were accused of asking a foreign government to accelerate or retard progress on a matter of national security because of the upcoming election?

That may or may not be what happened here. But it is time to start asking hard questions.

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Re: Re: Confused By Hillary

David and Shmuel, I think this potentially does become problematic–but for Barack Obama. Hillary, much to her dismay, isn’t the one on the ballot. She has, however, given the McCain team an opening which they have seized. Their statement reads:

Governor Palin believes that the danger of a nuclear Iran is greater than party or politics. She hopes that all parties can rally together in opposition to this grave threat.

The opportunity to “rise above politics” and demonstrate their much-criticized VP nominee’s devotion to preventing a nuclear Iran is one not to be missed. A small gift from Hillary–intentional or not?

David and Shmuel, I think this potentially does become problematic–but for Barack Obama. Hillary, much to her dismay, isn’t the one on the ballot. She has, however, given the McCain team an opening which they have seized. Their statement reads:

Governor Palin believes that the danger of a nuclear Iran is greater than party or politics. She hopes that all parties can rally together in opposition to this grave threat.

The opportunity to “rise above politics” and demonstrate their much-criticized VP nominee’s devotion to preventing a nuclear Iran is one not to be missed. A small gift from Hillary–intentional or not?

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What’s The Message?

John McCain has a new ad out that gives some hints about his approach to the financial crisis, or rather to the campaign about the financial crisis (there is a difference). First, he’s countering Obama’s “you’re all losers” tactic. In Obama’s world, everyone is getting knocked down and is chained to that proverbial kitchen table with no healthcare and no clue how manage their lives. In McCain’s world, workers/voters are essentially capable people who are operating in an uncertain world.

Second, McCain’s begun to focus on what Obama is actually planning to do — raise taxes. This comes at a time when a plan to raise taxes — on anyone — is becoming increasingly implausible. The New York Post, for example, explains a new study detailing just what impact Obama’s tax plans, even the scaled down ones he is still planning, will have in New York:

The study, from the conservative-oriented Manhattan Institute, examined the impact in 2009-2010 of Obama’s proposals. The Democratic candidate wants to repeal President Bush’s reduction in the top two tax brackets, while also imposing higher capital-gains and dividend taxes on those earning more than $250,000 a year. . . Both the state and city face massive looming budget deficits because of the ongoing Wall Street meltdown, the related subprime mortgage crisis and the national economic slowdown. E.J. McMahon, the report’s author, said research has shown that high-income taxpayers usually react to federal tax hikes by earning less and sheltering income, resulting in a sharp drop off in tax revenues. Still other wealthy taxpayers may simply pack up and leave New York, the report says. The report estimates that changes in taxpayer behavior caused by Obama’s tax increases would reduce state personal-income tax revenues by between $800 million and $1.1 billion over two years, while the city’s potential revenue loses would be between $144 million and $285 million. The report noted that Republican presidential hopeful John McCain’s tax plan would retain Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy while providing an additional $675 million in tax reductions to low- and middle-income New York families.

And finally, McCain is trying to make this an issue of leadership. Obama, he claims will “talk,” while McCain argues, “I’ll reform Wall Street and fix Washington. I’ve taken on tougher guys than this before.”

Will all this work? Perhaps. But McCain will have to convince voters, probably in the debates, when the audience is at its largest that not only is he not Bush’s “clone”–who will continue whatever “disastraous policies”everyone is attributing to him (but not to the Democratic Congress charged with oversight)–but that he is a more competent, get-it-done leader. Ultimately, he will need to make the case that Obama is a talker and he’s a doer. But the public already suspects that is the case.

John McCain has a new ad out that gives some hints about his approach to the financial crisis, or rather to the campaign about the financial crisis (there is a difference). First, he’s countering Obama’s “you’re all losers” tactic. In Obama’s world, everyone is getting knocked down and is chained to that proverbial kitchen table with no healthcare and no clue how manage their lives. In McCain’s world, workers/voters are essentially capable people who are operating in an uncertain world.

Second, McCain’s begun to focus on what Obama is actually planning to do — raise taxes. This comes at a time when a plan to raise taxes — on anyone — is becoming increasingly implausible. The New York Post, for example, explains a new study detailing just what impact Obama’s tax plans, even the scaled down ones he is still planning, will have in New York:

The study, from the conservative-oriented Manhattan Institute, examined the impact in 2009-2010 of Obama’s proposals. The Democratic candidate wants to repeal President Bush’s reduction in the top two tax brackets, while also imposing higher capital-gains and dividend taxes on those earning more than $250,000 a year. . . Both the state and city face massive looming budget deficits because of the ongoing Wall Street meltdown, the related subprime mortgage crisis and the national economic slowdown. E.J. McMahon, the report’s author, said research has shown that high-income taxpayers usually react to federal tax hikes by earning less and sheltering income, resulting in a sharp drop off in tax revenues. Still other wealthy taxpayers may simply pack up and leave New York, the report says. The report estimates that changes in taxpayer behavior caused by Obama’s tax increases would reduce state personal-income tax revenues by between $800 million and $1.1 billion over two years, while the city’s potential revenue loses would be between $144 million and $285 million. The report noted that Republican presidential hopeful John McCain’s tax plan would retain Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy while providing an additional $675 million in tax reductions to low- and middle-income New York families.

And finally, McCain is trying to make this an issue of leadership. Obama, he claims will “talk,” while McCain argues, “I’ll reform Wall Street and fix Washington. I’ve taken on tougher guys than this before.”

Will all this work? Perhaps. But McCain will have to convince voters, probably in the debates, when the audience is at its largest that not only is he not Bush’s “clone”–who will continue whatever “disastraous policies”everyone is attributing to him (but not to the Democratic Congress charged with oversight)–but that he is a more competent, get-it-done leader. Ultimately, he will need to make the case that Obama is a talker and he’s a doer. But the public already suspects that is the case.

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A Melting Theory

On June 27, the Independent reported that “for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year.”

On July 17, Al Gore hit the snooze bar on the apocalypse and said, “there is now a 75 percent chance that within five years the entire ice cap will completely disappear during the summer months.”

Today, the San Francisco Chronicle reports: “The consensus of most sea-ice scientists is that the Arctic could be free of ice in the summer between 2030 and 2040.”

But global warming skeptics shouldn’t get too excited. Isn’t it obvious we’re merely starting to see the effects of Barack Obama’s planet-healing powers? Remember: his sorcery kicked in on June 3, when he announced, “we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

Jobs and meds scheduled to arrive by year’s end.

On June 27, the Independent reported that “for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year.”

On July 17, Al Gore hit the snooze bar on the apocalypse and said, “there is now a 75 percent chance that within five years the entire ice cap will completely disappear during the summer months.”

Today, the San Francisco Chronicle reports: “The consensus of most sea-ice scientists is that the Arctic could be free of ice in the summer between 2030 and 2040.”

But global warming skeptics shouldn’t get too excited. Isn’t it obvious we’re merely starting to see the effects of Barack Obama’s planet-healing powers? Remember: his sorcery kicked in on June 3, when he announced, “we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”

Jobs and meds scheduled to arrive by year’s end.

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Re: Confused by Hillary

David, I have some tentative answers for you (and some questions of my own). There are three explanations, I think, for Clinton’s cancellation–and all of them paint Clinton as rather juvenile. They fall under the rubrics of temper, sensitivity, and, of course, partisanship.

Temper: she was irritated by the fact that she was not informed that Palin was also coming. The reaction of her spokesperson seems to express such anger–and by the way, I do think that’s a reasonable annoyance, but of the kind worthy of a shouting match, not a cancellation. Conclusion: personal pride is more significant to Clinton than the threat of Iran.

Sensitivity: Clinton just can’t stand the idea that she’s no longer the biggest star of every event she might be attending. This will become more problematic when the memory of her candidacy fades away and the new people in power get most of the attention (she will only be saved by an Obama electoral defeat). Conclusion: Clinton’s celebrity status is more important than the threat of Iran.

Partisanship: Clinton thinks Palin is so terrible, such a disaster for the country, that she will not even appear with her on the same stage, no matter what the cause might be. Conclusion: snobbishly shunning Palin is more important for Clinton than stopping Iran.

A few more points on this:

1. The battle against nuclear Iran is supposedly bipartisan. The parties might differ in tone and policy, but they both agree that calling for the elimination of Israel is not something to be taken lightly.

2. Just a week ago, Obama and McCain had no problem appearing on one stage (in NY, in 9/11) when the cause seemed to justify it.

3. Palin is a VP candidate, whether Clinton likes it or not. The organizers of such rally can’t be expected not to invite her, and not to be happy if she accepts the invitation.

4. This will not go down well with the more hawkish Jewish voters.

5. I suspect it will also be problematic with some women voters (where’s the sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits all gone?).

And now the questions:

1. Will Obama pick up the tab and send Joe Biden to the rally?

2. Can he do that without making Clinton even angrier?

David, I have some tentative answers for you (and some questions of my own). There are three explanations, I think, for Clinton’s cancellation–and all of them paint Clinton as rather juvenile. They fall under the rubrics of temper, sensitivity, and, of course, partisanship.

Temper: she was irritated by the fact that she was not informed that Palin was also coming. The reaction of her spokesperson seems to express such anger–and by the way, I do think that’s a reasonable annoyance, but of the kind worthy of a shouting match, not a cancellation. Conclusion: personal pride is more significant to Clinton than the threat of Iran.

Sensitivity: Clinton just can’t stand the idea that she’s no longer the biggest star of every event she might be attending. This will become more problematic when the memory of her candidacy fades away and the new people in power get most of the attention (she will only be saved by an Obama electoral defeat). Conclusion: Clinton’s celebrity status is more important than the threat of Iran.

Partisanship: Clinton thinks Palin is so terrible, such a disaster for the country, that she will not even appear with her on the same stage, no matter what the cause might be. Conclusion: snobbishly shunning Palin is more important for Clinton than stopping Iran.

A few more points on this:

1. The battle against nuclear Iran is supposedly bipartisan. The parties might differ in tone and policy, but they both agree that calling for the elimination of Israel is not something to be taken lightly.

2. Just a week ago, Obama and McCain had no problem appearing on one stage (in NY, in 9/11) when the cause seemed to justify it.

3. Palin is a VP candidate, whether Clinton likes it or not. The organizers of such rally can’t be expected not to invite her, and not to be happy if she accepts the invitation.

4. This will not go down well with the more hawkish Jewish voters.

5. I suspect it will also be problematic with some women voters (where’s the sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits all gone?).

And now the questions:

1. Will Obama pick up the tab and send Joe Biden to the rally?

2. Can he do that without making Clinton even angrier?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

So much for free speech and civility in the Obama regime.

Michael Gerson’s right about one thing: step-by-step Barack Obama lost the high ground and any claim to intellectual independence from doctrinaire liberalism.

Like the joke that “Franco is still dead,” the Rosenbergs are still guilty.

A Donna Brazille classic on what it means if John McCain wins: “If he doesn’t, then Obama didn’t lose. The country just wasn’t ready.” We are not worthy, it seems.

If the McCain camp were really clever they’d drop copies of the latest Maureen Dowd column from airplanes in every small town and rural area in the country so voters can read for themselves the dripping condescension and outright contempt with which they are regarded by the MSM — the very group which writes ad copy for Obama.

It may be true that “you can’t blame the mess on either political party — at least not if you want to remain honest.” But that shouldn’t be a problem in an election year.

Whoa: Hillary Clinton cancels an event protesting Ahmadinejad’s New York visit because Sarah Palin will be there. So Palin now gets the stage to herself. Sounds like someone outfoxed the Democrats on this one.

Is Ohio moving into McCain-Palin column? Florida sure is.

The Los Angeles Times asks: “Bad timing for Barack Obama to hobnob with celebrities?” Ya think?

I really don’t think Barack Obama is giving up on Virginia, although I do suspect Pennsylvania is becoming urgent. Needless to say, if Obama loses in Pennsylvania it’s over.

The money trail from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to Barack Obama gets some attention.

The serial resume padder strikes again. Which McCain highlights — along with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac donations and James Johnson! Yowser.

And striking again is Joe Biden – the gaffe machine who keeps on giving.

The Wall Street Journal takes a whack at Barney Frank: “Mr. Frank wasn’t acting like a principled liberal. He was protecting corporate giants while hiding their risks from taxpayers until the middle class got stuck with the bill.”

Michael Barone confirms the state polling trend toward McCain.

The good news for McCain: a $100,000 Hillary Clinton fundraiser and DNC Platform Committeewoman is going to endorse him. The bad news: her last name is “de Rothschild.” ( I and others ribbed her for her recent piece on “elitism.”) Still, it’s hard to argue that there won’t be some Hillary supporters who will cross over to McCain.

Wife, mother, secret agent” — the world’s electoral politics sound like rejected movie scripts.

So much for free speech and civility in the Obama regime.

Michael Gerson’s right about one thing: step-by-step Barack Obama lost the high ground and any claim to intellectual independence from doctrinaire liberalism.

Like the joke that “Franco is still dead,” the Rosenbergs are still guilty.

A Donna Brazille classic on what it means if John McCain wins: “If he doesn’t, then Obama didn’t lose. The country just wasn’t ready.” We are not worthy, it seems.

If the McCain camp were really clever they’d drop copies of the latest Maureen Dowd column from airplanes in every small town and rural area in the country so voters can read for themselves the dripping condescension and outright contempt with which they are regarded by the MSM — the very group which writes ad copy for Obama.

It may be true that “you can’t blame the mess on either political party — at least not if you want to remain honest.” But that shouldn’t be a problem in an election year.

Whoa: Hillary Clinton cancels an event protesting Ahmadinejad’s New York visit because Sarah Palin will be there. So Palin now gets the stage to herself. Sounds like someone outfoxed the Democrats on this one.

Is Ohio moving into McCain-Palin column? Florida sure is.

The Los Angeles Times asks: “Bad timing for Barack Obama to hobnob with celebrities?” Ya think?

I really don’t think Barack Obama is giving up on Virginia, although I do suspect Pennsylvania is becoming urgent. Needless to say, if Obama loses in Pennsylvania it’s over.

The money trail from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to Barack Obama gets some attention.

The serial resume padder strikes again. Which McCain highlights — along with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac donations and James Johnson! Yowser.

And striking again is Joe Biden – the gaffe machine who keeps on giving.

The Wall Street Journal takes a whack at Barney Frank: “Mr. Frank wasn’t acting like a principled liberal. He was protecting corporate giants while hiding their risks from taxpayers until the middle class got stuck with the bill.”

Michael Barone confirms the state polling trend toward McCain.

The good news for McCain: a $100,000 Hillary Clinton fundraiser and DNC Platform Committeewoman is going to endorse him. The bad news: her last name is “de Rothschild.” ( I and others ribbed her for her recent piece on “elitism.”) Still, it’s hard to argue that there won’t be some Hillary supporters who will cross over to McCain.

Wife, mother, secret agent” — the world’s electoral politics sound like rejected movie scripts.

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What About Tone ?

Much of crisis management, any executive or PR consultant will tell you, has nothing to do with substance, but with tone, demeanor, body language, and a projected air of candor and confidence. Who seems like he can sit down and figure this out? Who doesn’t seem rattled? Who’s the grown-up? Those are the questions the public is mulling over as we lurch from crisis to crisis and failing company to failing company this week.

Let’s face it: in a week in which we went from injecting “moral hazard” ( i.e. the need for business to assess and be held accountable for risk) into the system (no Lehman Brothers bailout) to deciding AIG was “too big to fail,” there is no operating ideology at work. Maybe that is too much to ask, or even unwise, when you are struggling to keep the economy from collapsing.

But it’s not just the government which lacks an overarching plan here.  If there is a gameplan, let alone a single specific proposal, from either presidential candidate that isn’t entirely self-evident (e.g. refashion our regulatory system) I haven’t seen it. So if voters were hoping to find “substance” in this crisis, they may be disappointed.

Still, there is something to be said for temperament. On that score it was unfortunate for Barack Obama that this week’s events came just as he was being pressured to “hit back” and whittle down John McCain’s post-Convention bump. So what we saw from Obama were the harshest rhetoric and the nastiest ads of the campaign season. The question is: does this sit well with voters who are jittery and trying to assess who operates best in a crisis?  Does the natural aversion which independents have to angry, partisan politics increase when there is a real crisis which requires calm and thoughtfulness?

We’ll see in the days and weeks ahead. But both candidates would do well to think of something constructive to add to the debate. And barring that, they might both want to consider whether now is the best time for a blistering round of negativity.

Much of crisis management, any executive or PR consultant will tell you, has nothing to do with substance, but with tone, demeanor, body language, and a projected air of candor and confidence. Who seems like he can sit down and figure this out? Who doesn’t seem rattled? Who’s the grown-up? Those are the questions the public is mulling over as we lurch from crisis to crisis and failing company to failing company this week.

Let’s face it: in a week in which we went from injecting “moral hazard” ( i.e. the need for business to assess and be held accountable for risk) into the system (no Lehman Brothers bailout) to deciding AIG was “too big to fail,” there is no operating ideology at work. Maybe that is too much to ask, or even unwise, when you are struggling to keep the economy from collapsing.

But it’s not just the government which lacks an overarching plan here.  If there is a gameplan, let alone a single specific proposal, from either presidential candidate that isn’t entirely self-evident (e.g. refashion our regulatory system) I haven’t seen it. So if voters were hoping to find “substance” in this crisis, they may be disappointed.

Still, there is something to be said for temperament. On that score it was unfortunate for Barack Obama that this week’s events came just as he was being pressured to “hit back” and whittle down John McCain’s post-Convention bump. So what we saw from Obama were the harshest rhetoric and the nastiest ads of the campaign season. The question is: does this sit well with voters who are jittery and trying to assess who operates best in a crisis?  Does the natural aversion which independents have to angry, partisan politics increase when there is a real crisis which requires calm and thoughtfulness?

We’ll see in the days and weeks ahead. But both candidates would do well to think of something constructive to add to the debate. And barring that, they might both want to consider whether now is the best time for a blistering round of negativity.

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Confused by Hillary

Sarah Palin’s “attendance was news to us, and this was never billed to us as a partisan political event. Senator Clinton will therefore not be attending.” This from Hillary Clinton’s spokesman Philippe Reines, as to why the New York senator suddenly cancelled her participation in an anti-Ahmadinejad rally planned in New York next week. According to reports, Clinton canceled after learning that Palin was invited to speak there as well.

Reines’ phrasing is a little weird. Given the fact that the majority of American Jews support the Democrats, and especially Hillary Clinton, over the McCain-Palin ticket, and given that the sponsoring organizations are central to the Jewish establishment–including the United Jewish Communities and the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations –it is hard to imagine anything more “partisan” than a rally at which Clinton speaks but Palin does not, as was the original plan. Sounds like the organizers, if anything, were trying to balance the roster a bit by inviting Palin.

The result of her cancellation will, one imagines, be a much more partisan event–in favor of the Republican ticket. Am I missing something?

Sarah Palin’s “attendance was news to us, and this was never billed to us as a partisan political event. Senator Clinton will therefore not be attending.” This from Hillary Clinton’s spokesman Philippe Reines, as to why the New York senator suddenly cancelled her participation in an anti-Ahmadinejad rally planned in New York next week. According to reports, Clinton canceled after learning that Palin was invited to speak there as well.

Reines’ phrasing is a little weird. Given the fact that the majority of American Jews support the Democrats, and especially Hillary Clinton, over the McCain-Palin ticket, and given that the sponsoring organizations are central to the Jewish establishment–including the United Jewish Communities and the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations –it is hard to imagine anything more “partisan” than a rally at which Clinton speaks but Palin does not, as was the original plan. Sounds like the organizers, if anything, were trying to balance the roster a bit by inviting Palin.

The result of her cancellation will, one imagines, be a much more partisan event–in favor of the Republican ticket. Am I missing something?

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Are We Missing The Point?

Last year the issue of Barack Obama’s support for “age appropriate” sex education came up. Interestingly, he wasn’t using the “stop sexual predators” defense he is now to defend his vote in favor of extending AIDS education to K-6 graders. But I wonder if all of this bickering back and forth over the ads and the legislation misses the point.

Bluntly put, this is a horrid topic for Obama. The Republican base is already fired up to defend Sarah Palin and to try to prevent Obama, whom they regard as an abortion rights absolutist, from reaching the White House. The culture war is up and running. And at the core of that culture war are parental concerns about child-rearing and culture. Whenever an issue like this comes up the Left and their media cohorts get a reminder: this is a socially conservative country.

That explains the venom from the Obama camp. By hollering very loudly, they tried both to fend off inquiry and transform this into a question of McCain’s character and integrity. But just as in the Born Alive Infants controversy, the conversation on this one will eventually come around to the facts and the substance of the two candidates’ views. And most voters will ask a basic question: who thinks as I do about these things?

Conservatives usually win these fights. At the very least, these issues make life miserable for liberals trying to win votes outside of major urban centers. If you have any doubt, ask the Obama camp about the Pennsylvannia, West Virginia, and Kentucky primaries. So the bottom line: this isn’t about ads, it’s about culture. That’s bad news for a candidate who was hoping Bittergate and the animosity of those gun toting, Bible-clutching voters were things of the past.

Last year the issue of Barack Obama’s support for “age appropriate” sex education came up. Interestingly, he wasn’t using the “stop sexual predators” defense he is now to defend his vote in favor of extending AIDS education to K-6 graders. But I wonder if all of this bickering back and forth over the ads and the legislation misses the point.

Bluntly put, this is a horrid topic for Obama. The Republican base is already fired up to defend Sarah Palin and to try to prevent Obama, whom they regard as an abortion rights absolutist, from reaching the White House. The culture war is up and running. And at the core of that culture war are parental concerns about child-rearing and culture. Whenever an issue like this comes up the Left and their media cohorts get a reminder: this is a socially conservative country.

That explains the venom from the Obama camp. By hollering very loudly, they tried both to fend off inquiry and transform this into a question of McCain’s character and integrity. But just as in the Born Alive Infants controversy, the conversation on this one will eventually come around to the facts and the substance of the two candidates’ views. And most voters will ask a basic question: who thinks as I do about these things?

Conservatives usually win these fights. At the very least, these issues make life miserable for liberals trying to win votes outside of major urban centers. If you have any doubt, ask the Obama camp about the Pennsylvannia, West Virginia, and Kentucky primaries. So the bottom line: this isn’t about ads, it’s about culture. That’s bad news for a candidate who was hoping Bittergate and the animosity of those gun toting, Bible-clutching voters were things of the past.

Read Less




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