Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 22, 2008

Now He’s Done It

At just the moment that the McCain camp is ramping up the attacks on Barack Obama as a Chicago-pol with nefarious friends and excoriating the media for a double standard, up steps Joe Biden to the plate. Biden was asked by Katie Couric about the now-infamous ad attacking John McCain’s computer skills. The conversation went as follows:

Biden: “I thought that was terrible, by the way.”
 
Couric: “Why’d you do it then?”
 
Biden: “I didn’t know we did it, and if I’d had anything to do with it, we would have never done it. I don’t think Barack … you know, I just think that was …”
 
Couric: “Did Barack Obama approve that ad? He said he did, right?”
 
Biden: “I don’t think anything was intentional about that. They were trying to make another point.”

Not surprising the McCain team pounced, releasing this statement:

“While the New York Times and other media outlets were silent in the face of Barack Obama’s shameless and dishonorable attack on John McCain, even Obama’s own running mate has now condemned the ad as ‘terrible,’ admitting he never would have approved it. Barack Obama has brought the sleazy gutter politics of Chicago to our national stage, exposing his call for a ‘new politics’ as a lie and embarrassing even his own running-mate with the low road campaign he’s running.” 

Does any of this matter? At some level it could. If Obama comes to be viewed as one more mean-spirited politician –whose tactics even his VP doesn’t tolerate — that’s a potential problem for the Agent of Change. And that in turn may depress enthusiasm among his idealistic, young supporters.

That said, the McCain team in this case can hardly complain that the MSM weren’t doing their job. Couric illicited the answer and others reported upon it. And maybe that was the point of the Steve Schmidt rant on Monday — at least get these issues raised before the voters. Between Katie Couric and Joe Biden that happened in a big way.

UPDATE: The Obama camp tries to walk it back – not even trusting Biden to say it himself. Good luck with that.
 

At just the moment that the McCain camp is ramping up the attacks on Barack Obama as a Chicago-pol with nefarious friends and excoriating the media for a double standard, up steps Joe Biden to the plate. Biden was asked by Katie Couric about the now-infamous ad attacking John McCain’s computer skills. The conversation went as follows:

Biden: “I thought that was terrible, by the way.”
 
Couric: “Why’d you do it then?”
 
Biden: “I didn’t know we did it, and if I’d had anything to do with it, we would have never done it. I don’t think Barack … you know, I just think that was …”
 
Couric: “Did Barack Obama approve that ad? He said he did, right?”
 
Biden: “I don’t think anything was intentional about that. They were trying to make another point.”

Not surprising the McCain team pounced, releasing this statement:

“While the New York Times and other media outlets were silent in the face of Barack Obama’s shameless and dishonorable attack on John McCain, even Obama’s own running mate has now condemned the ad as ‘terrible,’ admitting he never would have approved it. Barack Obama has brought the sleazy gutter politics of Chicago to our national stage, exposing his call for a ‘new politics’ as a lie and embarrassing even his own running-mate with the low road campaign he’s running.” 

Does any of this matter? At some level it could. If Obama comes to be viewed as one more mean-spirited politician –whose tactics even his VP doesn’t tolerate — that’s a potential problem for the Agent of Change. And that in turn may depress enthusiasm among his idealistic, young supporters.

That said, the McCain team in this case can hardly complain that the MSM weren’t doing their job. Couric illicited the answer and others reported upon it. And maybe that was the point of the Steve Schmidt rant on Monday — at least get these issues raised before the voters. Between Katie Couric and Joe Biden that happened in a big way.

UPDATE: The Obama camp tries to walk it back – not even trusting Biden to say it himself. Good luck with that.
 

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McCain’s Challenge

Substantively, this has been the worst week of John McCain’s campaign — and I mean since its beginning, in early 2007. With a perfect argument to make on his own behalf — that he saw the problems with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and called them out in 2005 while others were still angling for their largesse, and that therefore he possesses the experience and demonstrated the kind of leadership and insight that are required for the presidency  — he instead flailed about.  Calling for the firing of Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Chris Cox? Right there, in that act, we got a glimpse of why senators so often make bad presidential candidates. From time immemorial, senators haughtily acts as though the dismissal of executive branch officials is a form of policymaking when it is almost always the opposite — an act of scapegoating.

As SEC chairman, Cox only possesses the regulatory authority granted to him by acts of Congress, i.e., by senators like McCain. Cox did not and does not possess the regulatory authority to halt the creation of the poorly collateralized securities that nearly brought Wall Street down last week. But the naming and pursuit of villains was McCain’s gut instinct last week, as he seemed to attempt to don Teddy Roosevelt’s mantle as the crusader against “malefactors of great wealth.”

After a decent speech on the matter on Friday, McCain seemed to regain his footing a bit. But on Sunday night he took a gobstopping turn back into the intellectual muck. Speaking on “60 Minutes,” he seemed to suggest that he would like to consider Andrew Cuomo, the attorney general of New York, to succeed Cox.

Andrew Cuomo is a highly problematic public official. His tenure as Housing Secretary under Bill Clinton was marked by exactly the kind of queasy-making Washington behavior against which McCain rails — especially the use of investigative instruments at his disposal in an attempt to destroy the career of his own department’s inspector general when she wouldn’t spin reports about criminal behavior inside the agency in a way he liked. And that isn’t even to speak to his role in the expansion of the mortgage market that is at the heart of this crisis.

The first presidential debate takes place on Friday night. It’s supposed to be about foreign policy, but it’s likely that at least a third of it will deal with the financial crisis. If McCain doesn’t get his head on straight and start talking like a serious-minded person with a sophisticated sense of the stakes, he will blow the debate and lose the election. Just like that.

Substantively, this has been the worst week of John McCain’s campaign — and I mean since its beginning, in early 2007. With a perfect argument to make on his own behalf — that he saw the problems with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and called them out in 2005 while others were still angling for their largesse, and that therefore he possesses the experience and demonstrated the kind of leadership and insight that are required for the presidency  — he instead flailed about.  Calling for the firing of Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Chris Cox? Right there, in that act, we got a glimpse of why senators so often make bad presidential candidates. From time immemorial, senators haughtily acts as though the dismissal of executive branch officials is a form of policymaking when it is almost always the opposite — an act of scapegoating.

As SEC chairman, Cox only possesses the regulatory authority granted to him by acts of Congress, i.e., by senators like McCain. Cox did not and does not possess the regulatory authority to halt the creation of the poorly collateralized securities that nearly brought Wall Street down last week. But the naming and pursuit of villains was McCain’s gut instinct last week, as he seemed to attempt to don Teddy Roosevelt’s mantle as the crusader against “malefactors of great wealth.”

After a decent speech on the matter on Friday, McCain seemed to regain his footing a bit. But on Sunday night he took a gobstopping turn back into the intellectual muck. Speaking on “60 Minutes,” he seemed to suggest that he would like to consider Andrew Cuomo, the attorney general of New York, to succeed Cox.

Andrew Cuomo is a highly problematic public official. His tenure as Housing Secretary under Bill Clinton was marked by exactly the kind of queasy-making Washington behavior against which McCain rails — especially the use of investigative instruments at his disposal in an attempt to destroy the career of his own department’s inspector general when she wouldn’t spin reports about criminal behavior inside the agency in a way he liked. And that isn’t even to speak to his role in the expansion of the mortgage market that is at the heart of this crisis.

The first presidential debate takes place on Friday night. It’s supposed to be about foreign policy, but it’s likely that at least a third of it will deal with the financial crisis. If McCain doesn’t get his head on straight and start talking like a serious-minded person with a sophisticated sense of the stakes, he will blow the debate and lose the election. Just like that.

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One-State, Two-State . . .

“If the presidential campaign is any indication, promoting a Middle East peace won’t crack the top 10 on the next administration’s list of priorities,” writes Jackson Diehl today. He goes on to offer the next administration an approach to Middle East peacemaking: namely,

one that focuses on building a foundation for peace from the ground up, rather than pushing fickle and fragile leaders to dictate a settlement from above. The timeline for success would be measured in years, not months. The goal would not be a document that Livni and Abbas could sign but the construction of a healthy and vibrant Palestinian civil society — that is, independent media, courts, political parties and nongovernmental organizations that could stand behind a settlement with Israel.

As the WSJ article by Mahmoud Abbas should demonstrate, the differences between the parties on core issues related to a future peace agreement are still significant. This makes Diehl’s solution (and he is hardly the first one, or the only one, to support such an approach) even more desirable–but not necessarily politically viable.

In a new study by the Israeli Reut Institute, the authors warn of the growing tendency of Palestinian moderates to lose faith in the “two-state solution.” And the Reut analysis doesn’t subscribe to the thesis that Palestinian one-state-solution-talk is a way for Palestinians to put pressure on Israel:

The fact that many of these statements are part of a turbulent internal Palestinian discourse indicates that they reflect genuine Palestinian misgivings rather than an attempt to extract more concessions in negotiations.

As I have written in the past, I don’t think Israel should panic because of such realities. If the two-state solution is no longer desirable, a one-state-solution is not the only other option. And anyway, the question for now is not the conceptual debate of Palestinian intellectuals, but rather the very practical meeting between Bush and Abbas this coming Thursday. At this meeting, the two most profound topics will have to do more with the next administration’s ability to continue with the course Diehl advocates than with issues related to the failed Annapolis two-track process.

Two questions:

Is Abbas staying or going? Dennis Ross, former peace envoy and current advisor to Barack Obama, has already advised the Bush administration to turn their attention to this issue. His thesis is simple: the administration can’t achieve much, but it can help the next administration achieve more by lining up “Arab support for Abbas staying in office.”

What to do with Hamas? A couple of days ago, the head of Palestinian Authority forces in the West Bank, Gen. Dhiab al-Ali, threatened that “If Gaza remains mutinous, the Palestinian Authority will have no choice but to use force against it.” At the moment, it is a hollow threat, but both Fatah and Hamas would like to find ways to reunify the two Palestinian territories. What the U.S. encourages the PA to do–or to avoid–as it ponders its options vis-à-vis Hamas might determine the future of the peace process, the PA, and, yes, even the two-state-solution.

“If the presidential campaign is any indication, promoting a Middle East peace won’t crack the top 10 on the next administration’s list of priorities,” writes Jackson Diehl today. He goes on to offer the next administration an approach to Middle East peacemaking: namely,

one that focuses on building a foundation for peace from the ground up, rather than pushing fickle and fragile leaders to dictate a settlement from above. The timeline for success would be measured in years, not months. The goal would not be a document that Livni and Abbas could sign but the construction of a healthy and vibrant Palestinian civil society — that is, independent media, courts, political parties and nongovernmental organizations that could stand behind a settlement with Israel.

As the WSJ article by Mahmoud Abbas should demonstrate, the differences between the parties on core issues related to a future peace agreement are still significant. This makes Diehl’s solution (and he is hardly the first one, or the only one, to support such an approach) even more desirable–but not necessarily politically viable.

In a new study by the Israeli Reut Institute, the authors warn of the growing tendency of Palestinian moderates to lose faith in the “two-state solution.” And the Reut analysis doesn’t subscribe to the thesis that Palestinian one-state-solution-talk is a way for Palestinians to put pressure on Israel:

The fact that many of these statements are part of a turbulent internal Palestinian discourse indicates that they reflect genuine Palestinian misgivings rather than an attempt to extract more concessions in negotiations.

As I have written in the past, I don’t think Israel should panic because of such realities. If the two-state solution is no longer desirable, a one-state-solution is not the only other option. And anyway, the question for now is not the conceptual debate of Palestinian intellectuals, but rather the very practical meeting between Bush and Abbas this coming Thursday. At this meeting, the two most profound topics will have to do more with the next administration’s ability to continue with the course Diehl advocates than with issues related to the failed Annapolis two-track process.

Two questions:

Is Abbas staying or going? Dennis Ross, former peace envoy and current advisor to Barack Obama, has already advised the Bush administration to turn their attention to this issue. His thesis is simple: the administration can’t achieve much, but it can help the next administration achieve more by lining up “Arab support for Abbas staying in office.”

What to do with Hamas? A couple of days ago, the head of Palestinian Authority forces in the West Bank, Gen. Dhiab al-Ali, threatened that “If Gaza remains mutinous, the Palestinian Authority will have no choice but to use force against it.” At the moment, it is a hollow threat, but both Fatah and Hamas would like to find ways to reunify the two Palestinian territories. What the U.S. encourages the PA to do–or to avoid–as it ponders its options vis-à-vis Hamas might determine the future of the peace process, the PA, and, yes, even the two-state-solution.

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Re: Obama’s Ambivalence

Abe, I wanted to add some thoughts to your earlier post. The potential explanations for Obama’s lack of oomph are numerous. He doesn’t have great expertise so it takes him awhile to get up to speed on big issues. He is naturally cautious. He is excessively “calm” and doesn’t feel like he needs to rush. Take your pick. Perhaps aware of this dig–or because he’s been goaded into attack mode by his base–he has combined this reticence on substance with a rather nasty negative campaign against his opponent. Both his over-the-top ads and his speeches are now filled with every manner of slur on McCain–who, according to Obama, hates immigrants, loves lobbyists, lies about everything, etc.

It is an odd combination for Obama: very little substance ( when was the last time he tried to explain his healthcare plan or education reform?) and lots of aggressive campaigning. You might even conclude that the latter is meant to conceal the former. It is about as far from what was advertised ( Agent of Change, New Politics, the end of personal attacks) as you can get.

But it is a formula that may fit Obama well. He doesn’t excel in detailed policy discussion, he’s been robbed of (or embarrassed to continue) his high-minded messiah-like nonsense, and his general election audience isn’t likely to be receptive to his liberal policy message. So don’t expect anything to change soon. We are going to see, I would expect, much more of the same every day until November 4.

Abe, I wanted to add some thoughts to your earlier post. The potential explanations for Obama’s lack of oomph are numerous. He doesn’t have great expertise so it takes him awhile to get up to speed on big issues. He is naturally cautious. He is excessively “calm” and doesn’t feel like he needs to rush. Take your pick. Perhaps aware of this dig–or because he’s been goaded into attack mode by his base–he has combined this reticence on substance with a rather nasty negative campaign against his opponent. Both his over-the-top ads and his speeches are now filled with every manner of slur on McCain–who, according to Obama, hates immigrants, loves lobbyists, lies about everything, etc.

It is an odd combination for Obama: very little substance ( when was the last time he tried to explain his healthcare plan or education reform?) and lots of aggressive campaigning. You might even conclude that the latter is meant to conceal the former. It is about as far from what was advertised ( Agent of Change, New Politics, the end of personal attacks) as you can get.

But it is a formula that may fit Obama well. He doesn’t excel in detailed policy discussion, he’s been robbed of (or embarrassed to continue) his high-minded messiah-like nonsense, and his general election audience isn’t likely to be receptive to his liberal policy message. So don’t expect anything to change soon. We are going to see, I would expect, much more of the same every day until November 4.

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Speaking in (Useful) Tongues

According to this report, the armed forces are not moving fast enough to mobilize speakers of strategically-important languages to help prevail on numerous battlefields of the War on Terror: “Figures from the department indicate that only 1.2 percent of the military receives a bonus paid to those who can speak languages judged to be of critical importance for the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as other areas of strategic concern.”

Although the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey has increased its class sizes since 9/11, it is still not pumping out nearly enough graduates to meet the demand. That is forcing the Army and Marine Corps, in particular, to resort to second-best expedients:

Because not enough soldiers speak foreign languages, the military has had to rely on more than 10,000 civilian contract linguists, many local Afghans and Iraqis of widely differing abilities. Captain [Eric] Nelson [a company commander in Iraq] said that his 120-man infantry company had 11 Iraqi interpreters, but that only nine were capable of doing the work

The solution is simple: Recruit more foreigners into the armed forces. That will require waiving the current requirement that all recruits must be citizens or greencard holders–something that can be done with a stroke of the Secretary of Defense’s pen. The foreign-born soldiers we get as a result are likely to prove a valuable strategic asset, bringing with them the kind of linguistic and cultural skills that are almost impossible to teach. And, like many previous generations of immigrants, they are also likely to make very good American citizens.

According to this report, the armed forces are not moving fast enough to mobilize speakers of strategically-important languages to help prevail on numerous battlefields of the War on Terror: “Figures from the department indicate that only 1.2 percent of the military receives a bonus paid to those who can speak languages judged to be of critical importance for the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as other areas of strategic concern.”

Although the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey has increased its class sizes since 9/11, it is still not pumping out nearly enough graduates to meet the demand. That is forcing the Army and Marine Corps, in particular, to resort to second-best expedients:

Because not enough soldiers speak foreign languages, the military has had to rely on more than 10,000 civilian contract linguists, many local Afghans and Iraqis of widely differing abilities. Captain [Eric] Nelson [a company commander in Iraq] said that his 120-man infantry company had 11 Iraqi interpreters, but that only nine were capable of doing the work

The solution is simple: Recruit more foreigners into the armed forces. That will require waiving the current requirement that all recruits must be citizens or greencard holders–something that can be done with a stroke of the Secretary of Defense’s pen. The foreign-born soldiers we get as a result are likely to prove a valuable strategic asset, bringing with them the kind of linguistic and cultural skills that are almost impossible to teach. And, like many previous generations of immigrants, they are also likely to make very good American citizens.

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Commentary of the Day

paul zisserson, on Jennifer Rubin:

Lest anyone out there(particularly who are new to the site) consider me an Obama supporter, I’ll state as clearly as I can: Obama with a Democratic Congress sends shudders throughout my political self. Enough said. But you folks must stop whistling past the graveyard here. Anger does not win elections. In my opinion, McCain is on the precipice. He has to be relevant and attacking the media is not relevance, particularly as the Dow continues to fall and Washington continues to debate and argue over a bailout. And please do not put your hopes on this Friday’s debate on foreign policy. If he’s wise on Friday, he should relate almost every question to economics!

paul zisserson, on Jennifer Rubin:

Lest anyone out there(particularly who are new to the site) consider me an Obama supporter, I’ll state as clearly as I can: Obama with a Democratic Congress sends shudders throughout my political self. Enough said. But you folks must stop whistling past the graveyard here. Anger does not win elections. In my opinion, McCain is on the precipice. He has to be relevant and attacking the media is not relevance, particularly as the Dow continues to fall and Washington continues to debate and argue over a bailout. And please do not put your hopes on this Friday’s debate on foreign policy. If he’s wise on Friday, he should relate almost every question to economics!

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Sam Harris Writes in Tongues

Leading atheist Sam Harris has written a takedown of Sarah Palin for Newsweek that serves as a final confirmation: The Left intelligentsia is as embarrassingly undone by Palin as the Daily Kos crowd. Harris writes:

If anyone could make Christian theocracy smell like apple pie, Sarah Palin could.

Read through a few more paragraphs of Harris and it’s not the smell of apple pie you’ll notice:

The point to be lamented is not that Sarah Palin comes from outside Washington, or that she has glimpsed so little of the earth’s surface (she didn’t have a passport until last year), or that she’s never met a foreign head of state. The point is that she comes to us, seeking the second most important job in the world, without any intellectual training relevant to the challenges and responsibilities that await her. There is nothing to suggest that she even sees a role for careful analysis or a deep understanding of world events when it comes to deciding the fate of a nation. In her interview with Gibson, Palin managed to turn a joke about seeing Russia from her window into a straight-faced claim that Alaska’s geographical proximity to Russia gave her some essential foreign-policy experience. Palin may be a perfectly wonderful person, a loving mother and a great American success story-but she is a beauty queen/sports reporter who stumbled into small-town politics, and who is now on the verge of stumbling into, or upon, world history.

I guess she just stumbled into a governorship and kept tripping her pretty way through reform until she became the most popular governor in the country. (If that’s the case, in her shoes, I would be a religious zealot.) As for her foreign policy line about Alaska’s proximity to Russia, it’s certainly no more embarrassing than Barack Obama’s “straight-faced claim” that he’s prepared to deal with world leaders because he took a teenage trip to Pakistan. And what’s he running for, again? Oh yeah–President.

Here’s Harris at his least credible:

Every detail that has emerged about Palin’s life in Alaska suggests that she is as devout and literal-minded in her Christian dogmatism as any man or woman in the land. Given her long affiliation with the Assemblies of God church, Palin very likely believes that Biblical prophecy is an infallible guide to future events and that we are living in the “end times.” Which is to say she very likely thinks that human history will soon unravel in a foreordained cataclysm of war and bad weather. Undoubtedly Palin believes that this will be a good thing-as all true Christians will be lifted bodily into the sky to make merry with Jesus, while all nonbelievers, Jews, Methodists and other rabble will be punished for eternity in a lake of fire. Like many Pentecostals, Palin may even imagine that she and her fellow parishioners enjoy the power of prophecy themselves.

Slow down there, Mr. Evidence-Based Rational Argumentation. To what are you referring when you say “Every detail that has emerged about Palin’s life in Alaska”? Hunting? Fishing? Fecundity? A staunch pro-drilling stance? What makes clear Sarah Palin’s apocalyptic mindset–a love of hockey?

Unfortunately for the reader, Harris never tells us. But he does return to Palin’s church with a line that I’d have thought most Obama-fans would avoid: “You can learn something about a person by the company she keeps.” Harris goes on:

In the churches where Palin has worshiped for decades, parishioners enjoy “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” “miraculous healings” and “the gift of tongues.” Invariably, they offer astonishingly irrational accounts of this behavior and of its significance for the entire cosmos. Palin’s spiritual colleagues describe themselves as part of “the final generation,” engaged in “spiritual warfare” to purge the earth of “demonic strongholds.”

That is undoubtedly true. And it is also undoubtedly true that there are church members who do not speak in tongues, claim miraculous healings, or hunker down for the End Times. In fact, if the über-reasonable Harris had taken a second to do some research, he would have found that a Pew poll done two years ago concluded “that the classic Pentecostal belief that speaking in tongues was the real evidence of the second baptism of the Holy Spirit is, at least in practice, not widely accepted around the world.” (Harris, it seems, takes this archaic perception of Pentecostals on, er, faith). Considering the armies of journalists dispatched to Alaska in the wake of the Palin pick, it’s impossible to imagine that Palin does not belong to the less colorful number of congregants. Surely, if she claimed to speak in tongues (or if a friend’s neighbor’s housekeeper claimed that she claimed to speak in tongues), it would have been on the front page of the New York Times.

At one point, Harris writes:

Ask yourself: how has “elitism” become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated.

And talent and training haven’t a thing to do with elitism. It’s specific attitudes toward those who don’t share your own beliefs that make for snobbery. It’s the talented person’s disdain for the untalented and the trained person’s disgust towards the layperson. It’s the atheist’s cartoonish mockery of faith that confirms an impenetrable haughtiness, and–not incidentally–makes for a chaotically unserious article.

Leading atheist Sam Harris has written a takedown of Sarah Palin for Newsweek that serves as a final confirmation: The Left intelligentsia is as embarrassingly undone by Palin as the Daily Kos crowd. Harris writes:

If anyone could make Christian theocracy smell like apple pie, Sarah Palin could.

Read through a few more paragraphs of Harris and it’s not the smell of apple pie you’ll notice:

The point to be lamented is not that Sarah Palin comes from outside Washington, or that she has glimpsed so little of the earth’s surface (she didn’t have a passport until last year), or that she’s never met a foreign head of state. The point is that she comes to us, seeking the second most important job in the world, without any intellectual training relevant to the challenges and responsibilities that await her. There is nothing to suggest that she even sees a role for careful analysis or a deep understanding of world events when it comes to deciding the fate of a nation. In her interview with Gibson, Palin managed to turn a joke about seeing Russia from her window into a straight-faced claim that Alaska’s geographical proximity to Russia gave her some essential foreign-policy experience. Palin may be a perfectly wonderful person, a loving mother and a great American success story-but she is a beauty queen/sports reporter who stumbled into small-town politics, and who is now on the verge of stumbling into, or upon, world history.

I guess she just stumbled into a governorship and kept tripping her pretty way through reform until she became the most popular governor in the country. (If that’s the case, in her shoes, I would be a religious zealot.) As for her foreign policy line about Alaska’s proximity to Russia, it’s certainly no more embarrassing than Barack Obama’s “straight-faced claim” that he’s prepared to deal with world leaders because he took a teenage trip to Pakistan. And what’s he running for, again? Oh yeah–President.

Here’s Harris at his least credible:

Every detail that has emerged about Palin’s life in Alaska suggests that she is as devout and literal-minded in her Christian dogmatism as any man or woman in the land. Given her long affiliation with the Assemblies of God church, Palin very likely believes that Biblical prophecy is an infallible guide to future events and that we are living in the “end times.” Which is to say she very likely thinks that human history will soon unravel in a foreordained cataclysm of war and bad weather. Undoubtedly Palin believes that this will be a good thing-as all true Christians will be lifted bodily into the sky to make merry with Jesus, while all nonbelievers, Jews, Methodists and other rabble will be punished for eternity in a lake of fire. Like many Pentecostals, Palin may even imagine that she and her fellow parishioners enjoy the power of prophecy themselves.

Slow down there, Mr. Evidence-Based Rational Argumentation. To what are you referring when you say “Every detail that has emerged about Palin’s life in Alaska”? Hunting? Fishing? Fecundity? A staunch pro-drilling stance? What makes clear Sarah Palin’s apocalyptic mindset–a love of hockey?

Unfortunately for the reader, Harris never tells us. But he does return to Palin’s church with a line that I’d have thought most Obama-fans would avoid: “You can learn something about a person by the company she keeps.” Harris goes on:

In the churches where Palin has worshiped for decades, parishioners enjoy “baptism in the Holy Spirit,” “miraculous healings” and “the gift of tongues.” Invariably, they offer astonishingly irrational accounts of this behavior and of its significance for the entire cosmos. Palin’s spiritual colleagues describe themselves as part of “the final generation,” engaged in “spiritual warfare” to purge the earth of “demonic strongholds.”

That is undoubtedly true. And it is also undoubtedly true that there are church members who do not speak in tongues, claim miraculous healings, or hunker down for the End Times. In fact, if the über-reasonable Harris had taken a second to do some research, he would have found that a Pew poll done two years ago concluded “that the classic Pentecostal belief that speaking in tongues was the real evidence of the second baptism of the Holy Spirit is, at least in practice, not widely accepted around the world.” (Harris, it seems, takes this archaic perception of Pentecostals on, er, faith). Considering the armies of journalists dispatched to Alaska in the wake of the Palin pick, it’s impossible to imagine that Palin does not belong to the less colorful number of congregants. Surely, if she claimed to speak in tongues (or if a friend’s neighbor’s housekeeper claimed that she claimed to speak in tongues), it would have been on the front page of the New York Times.

At one point, Harris writes:

Ask yourself: how has “elitism” become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated.

And talent and training haven’t a thing to do with elitism. It’s specific attitudes toward those who don’t share your own beliefs that make for snobbery. It’s the talented person’s disdain for the untalented and the trained person’s disgust towards the layperson. It’s the atheist’s cartoonish mockery of faith that confirms an impenetrable haughtiness, and–not incidentally–makes for a chaotically unserious article.

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Hope in Pakistan?

It may seem macabre to find any silver lining in the clouds that lour over in Pakistan these days. These include not only the bombing of the Marriott in Islamabad, which killed some 60 people, but now the news that Afghanistan’s consul general in Peshawar has been kidnapped and his driver killed. In response to the evident lack of security even in the supposedly safe areas of Pakistan, British Airways has suspended all flights to that country. The Pakistani rupi has fallen more than 20% against the dollar this year, and the danger grows of clashes between U.S. and Pakistani troops.

It is obviously bad news that Islamic militants are able to strike in the heart of Pakistan’s capital. But it is perhaps mildly encouraging that they feel compelled to do so. Note that, until the Marriott bombing, there had been precious few terrorist attacks outside of Pakistan’s tribal areas this year after a surge of atrocities last year. The apparent cause for the decline of terrorism was a series of deals struck between Pakistan’s government and the militants which allowed them to operate virtually unfettered in the tribal areas and to carry out their jihad in Afghanistan so long as they left Pakistan’s urban areas alone.

Those deals led to a surge of violence in Afghanistan, and the new government of Pakistan led by President Asif Ali Zardari seems to recognize that this state of affairs is no longer tenable. The Pakistani army has launched a fresh offensive against militants in Bajaur agency while the U.S. has stepped up its cross-border attacks on Pakistani-based militants. All of that is increasing the pressure on the extremists, and helps to explain why they are lashing out in Islamabad.

It is far too soon to know how things will work out. It is quite possible, even probable, that Islamabad’s zeal for anti-terror operations will fade once more and the militants will emerge on top again. But it is just possible that latest atrocities will convince Pakistan’s people that fighting the terrorist is in their own best interest—not America’s. Indeed, Pakistan’s ministers have been striking a hawkish tone since the Marriott bombing:

“Either we have to fight the Taliban or surrender the country to them,” Rehman Malik, the interior minister, said in the wake of the attack. “If you don’t want your coming generations to be brought up under fire and arms, then you have to fight them unless they surrender.”

If it desires to do so, the popularly elected government will have a legitimacy to pursue the fight that was lacking for Pervez Musharraf’s military dictatorship in its waning days. The trick will be convincing the army (and especially its Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which is compromised by years of deals with the Taliban) to turn on their sometime allies.

It may seem macabre to find any silver lining in the clouds that lour over in Pakistan these days. These include not only the bombing of the Marriott in Islamabad, which killed some 60 people, but now the news that Afghanistan’s consul general in Peshawar has been kidnapped and his driver killed. In response to the evident lack of security even in the supposedly safe areas of Pakistan, British Airways has suspended all flights to that country. The Pakistani rupi has fallen more than 20% against the dollar this year, and the danger grows of clashes between U.S. and Pakistani troops.

It is obviously bad news that Islamic militants are able to strike in the heart of Pakistan’s capital. But it is perhaps mildly encouraging that they feel compelled to do so. Note that, until the Marriott bombing, there had been precious few terrorist attacks outside of Pakistan’s tribal areas this year after a surge of atrocities last year. The apparent cause for the decline of terrorism was a series of deals struck between Pakistan’s government and the militants which allowed them to operate virtually unfettered in the tribal areas and to carry out their jihad in Afghanistan so long as they left Pakistan’s urban areas alone.

Those deals led to a surge of violence in Afghanistan, and the new government of Pakistan led by President Asif Ali Zardari seems to recognize that this state of affairs is no longer tenable. The Pakistani army has launched a fresh offensive against militants in Bajaur agency while the U.S. has stepped up its cross-border attacks on Pakistani-based militants. All of that is increasing the pressure on the extremists, and helps to explain why they are lashing out in Islamabad.

It is far too soon to know how things will work out. It is quite possible, even probable, that Islamabad’s zeal for anti-terror operations will fade once more and the militants will emerge on top again. But it is just possible that latest atrocities will convince Pakistan’s people that fighting the terrorist is in their own best interest—not America’s. Indeed, Pakistan’s ministers have been striking a hawkish tone since the Marriott bombing:

“Either we have to fight the Taliban or surrender the country to them,” Rehman Malik, the interior minister, said in the wake of the attack. “If you don’t want your coming generations to be brought up under fire and arms, then you have to fight them unless they surrender.”

If it desires to do so, the popularly elected government will have a legitimacy to pursue the fight that was lacking for Pervez Musharraf’s military dictatorship in its waning days. The trick will be convincing the army (and especially its Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which is compromised by years of deals with the Taliban) to turn on their sometime allies.

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That Silly Guy

Bill Clinton is up to his old tricks again, this time on The View. ABC News reports:

“The American people, for good and sufficient reasons, admire him,” Clinton said of McCain. “He’s given something in life the rest of us can’t match.”

And Clinton also said Hillary Clinton never wanted that whole VP thing. Hillary wasn’t passed over? Or Bill knows that we know she was and is trying to demonstrate what a good sport she is? It’s numbing after a while. What we do know is that he is not about to say anything bad about John McCain and isn’t above reminding Obama that the “rest of us can’t match” McCain’s life. Take that, Change Agent!

Bill Clinton is up to his old tricks again, this time on The View. ABC News reports:

“The American people, for good and sufficient reasons, admire him,” Clinton said of McCain. “He’s given something in life the rest of us can’t match.”

And Clinton also said Hillary Clinton never wanted that whole VP thing. Hillary wasn’t passed over? Or Bill knows that we know she was and is trying to demonstrate what a good sport she is? It’s numbing after a while. What we do know is that he is not about to say anything bad about John McCain and isn’t above reminding Obama that the “rest of us can’t match” McCain’s life. Take that, Change Agent!

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Six Months to the Bomb

Today, Mohamed ElBaradei, in unusually blunt terms, warned that Tehran might be hiding elements of a covert nuclear weapons program. “Iran needs to give the agency substantive information,” the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency told his governing board. At the same time, David Albright, a nuclear weapons analyst, said Iran had made substantial improvements in its centrifuges, which enrich uranium. These complicated devices “now appear to be running at approximately 85 percent of the stated target capacity, a significant increase over previous rates.” Based on this, he has concluded that the mullahs might be just six months from being able to build a bomb.

Albright’s conclusion means the time for generalities has passed. Unfortunately, we are still hearing them. As Shmuel Rosner pointed out, today Richard Holbrooke, James Woolsey, Dennis Ross, and Mark Wallace said that the United States should adopt policies that “will compel Iran’s leaders to change their behavior and come to understand that they have more to lose than to gain by going nuclear.” And how will we accomplish this? They have formed a group and will announce programs “in the months ahead.” In the months ahead, however, Iran will already have all the technology it needs to build a nuclear device and will not listen to anyone. In fact, the Iranians are not listening to anyone now.

By now it’s clear the United Nations will not impose meaningful measures. We can blame Russia and China, but the Bush administration has never made either of them pay any price for obstructionism and it is not about to start doing so. European initiatives to open talks have been totally ineffective. At this point, the negotiations urged by five former secretaries of state will start much too late if at all.

The international community, at this late moment, has only one option short of the use of force: the declaration of a total blockade of Iran. If it cannot impose and enforce that–and it cannot while Dubya fails to show any leadership on the world’s most critical problem–then we have only two choices left.

“We must try to prevent situations where we have only two bleak choices: confrontation or capitulation, 1914 or 1938,” said Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Friday. Yet that is exactly where we are at this time.

If we cannot summon the will to blockade Iran, we either have to use force or acquiesce to a nuclear Iran. It is that simple.

Today, Mohamed ElBaradei, in unusually blunt terms, warned that Tehran might be hiding elements of a covert nuclear weapons program. “Iran needs to give the agency substantive information,” the chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency told his governing board. At the same time, David Albright, a nuclear weapons analyst, said Iran had made substantial improvements in its centrifuges, which enrich uranium. These complicated devices “now appear to be running at approximately 85 percent of the stated target capacity, a significant increase over previous rates.” Based on this, he has concluded that the mullahs might be just six months from being able to build a bomb.

Albright’s conclusion means the time for generalities has passed. Unfortunately, we are still hearing them. As Shmuel Rosner pointed out, today Richard Holbrooke, James Woolsey, Dennis Ross, and Mark Wallace said that the United States should adopt policies that “will compel Iran’s leaders to change their behavior and come to understand that they have more to lose than to gain by going nuclear.” And how will we accomplish this? They have formed a group and will announce programs “in the months ahead.” In the months ahead, however, Iran will already have all the technology it needs to build a nuclear device and will not listen to anyone. In fact, the Iranians are not listening to anyone now.

By now it’s clear the United Nations will not impose meaningful measures. We can blame Russia and China, but the Bush administration has never made either of them pay any price for obstructionism and it is not about to start doing so. European initiatives to open talks have been totally ineffective. At this point, the negotiations urged by five former secretaries of state will start much too late if at all.

The international community, at this late moment, has only one option short of the use of force: the declaration of a total blockade of Iran. If it cannot impose and enforce that–and it cannot while Dubya fails to show any leadership on the world’s most critical problem–then we have only two choices left.

“We must try to prevent situations where we have only two bleak choices: confrontation or capitulation, 1914 or 1938,” said Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Friday. Yet that is exactly where we are at this time.

If we cannot summon the will to blockade Iran, we either have to use force or acquiesce to a nuclear Iran. It is that simple.

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Amanpour’s Fantasy Scenario

A couple of days ago, CNN aired a roundtable discussion with the five living former Secretaries of State–Kissinger, Baker, Christopher, Albright, and Powell–in order to take stock of their views on a range of foreign policy issues. The headline-making moment was the consensus of all five that the U.S. must open high-level talks with Iran over its nuclear program. It seems that CNN intended just such an outcome, as evidenced by the clever hypothetical employed by Christiane Amanpour in introducing the subject:

AMANPOUR: Let’s say, in the few weeks after the inauguration of the next president, a message comes from Iran that the Iranians are ready to do a deal, all conditions on the table. Is the advice to the next American president to once again put conditions to expect Iran to cry uncle or to engage? Secretary Albright?

ALBRIGHT: I believe we need to engage with Iran. I think the whole point is you try to engage and deal with countries that you have problems with…

AMANPOUR: So what do you advise the president when he gets this message across his desk or it comes to the State Department that the Iranians are seeking feelers?

ALBRIGHT: You begin to look at what level to talk at.

[snip]

POWELL: …So I agree with Madeleine, and I suspect my other colleagues, that we should start to talk to them. Don’t wait for, you know, a letter coming from them. Start discussions. We were talking to them up through the middle of 2003.

AMANPOUR: So take the initiative?

POWELL: Yes. Why shouldn’t we? …

BAKER: We did. In our administration, way back in ’91.

POWELL: We were talking to them through 2003 at a low level. And then it was stopped. And so find a way — and don’t make it, “Let’s get together and talk just about nuclear weapons or just about this or just about that.” Start a dialogue at a low level and let it grow over time.

Kissinger later added:

Well, I am in favor of negotiating with Iran. And one utility of negotiation is to put before Iran our vision of a Middle East, of a stable Middle East, and our notion on nuclear proliferation at a high enough level so that they have to study it. And, therefore, I actually have preferred doing it at the secretary of state level…

SESNO: Put at a very high level right out of the box?

KISSINGER: Initially, yes. And I always believed that the best way to begin a negotiation is to tell the other side exactly what you have in mind and what you are — what the outcome is that you’re trying to achieve so that they have something that they can react to. … So if we go into a negotiation, we ought to have a clear understanding of what is it we’re trying to prevent. What is it going to do if we can’t achieve what we’re talking about? But I do not believe that we can make conditions for the opening of negotiations.

It would seem that reports of a convergence of opinion on how to handle Iran have been greatly exaggerated: Albright favors negotiations of any kind (this is about as newsworthy as a revelation that Bill Clinton is heterosexual); Powell wants to start negotiations at a low level and at a slow pace, and see if they evolve; and Kissinger advocates immediate high-level talks for the specific purpose of issuing clear warnings to the regime (or as he delicately put it, informing the Iranians “what the outcome is that [we're] trying to achieve”).

But there is a further complication to the smooth pursuit of talking with Iran, articulated by–of all people–James Baker:

Can I just say one — one more thing? When I was in office, we had a standing policy with the Iranians. We were ready to talk to them, provided it would be done at an official level, at the level of the secretary of state, and they did — they wouldn’t — they didn’t have enough domestic political support for that.

Having vilified us as the Great Satan for so long, they couldn’t get the domestic political support necessary to meet with us. So it wasn’t the case of our — we hadn’t been isolating Iran from that standpoint. We offered to meet with them at the level of secretary of state.

The ugly truth comes out. A far more realistic hypothetical from Amanpour would have been to ask what the assembled would recommend should diplomatic overtures to Iran be rejected, as has been the standard experience not just of the United States, but of the EU-3 (2002-2006), the UN Security Council (2006-present), and the latest gambit, the P5+1+Burns. (You know your diplomatic offensive is becoming less and less plausible the more it looks like an algebra equation.) But Amanpour can always be counted on to steer public debate away from certain inconvenient truths.

A couple of days ago, CNN aired a roundtable discussion with the five living former Secretaries of State–Kissinger, Baker, Christopher, Albright, and Powell–in order to take stock of their views on a range of foreign policy issues. The headline-making moment was the consensus of all five that the U.S. must open high-level talks with Iran over its nuclear program. It seems that CNN intended just such an outcome, as evidenced by the clever hypothetical employed by Christiane Amanpour in introducing the subject:

AMANPOUR: Let’s say, in the few weeks after the inauguration of the next president, a message comes from Iran that the Iranians are ready to do a deal, all conditions on the table. Is the advice to the next American president to once again put conditions to expect Iran to cry uncle or to engage? Secretary Albright?

ALBRIGHT: I believe we need to engage with Iran. I think the whole point is you try to engage and deal with countries that you have problems with…

AMANPOUR: So what do you advise the president when he gets this message across his desk or it comes to the State Department that the Iranians are seeking feelers?

ALBRIGHT: You begin to look at what level to talk at.

[snip]

POWELL: …So I agree with Madeleine, and I suspect my other colleagues, that we should start to talk to them. Don’t wait for, you know, a letter coming from them. Start discussions. We were talking to them up through the middle of 2003.

AMANPOUR: So take the initiative?

POWELL: Yes. Why shouldn’t we? …

BAKER: We did. In our administration, way back in ’91.

POWELL: We were talking to them through 2003 at a low level. And then it was stopped. And so find a way — and don’t make it, “Let’s get together and talk just about nuclear weapons or just about this or just about that.” Start a dialogue at a low level and let it grow over time.

Kissinger later added:

Well, I am in favor of negotiating with Iran. And one utility of negotiation is to put before Iran our vision of a Middle East, of a stable Middle East, and our notion on nuclear proliferation at a high enough level so that they have to study it. And, therefore, I actually have preferred doing it at the secretary of state level…

SESNO: Put at a very high level right out of the box?

KISSINGER: Initially, yes. And I always believed that the best way to begin a negotiation is to tell the other side exactly what you have in mind and what you are — what the outcome is that you’re trying to achieve so that they have something that they can react to. … So if we go into a negotiation, we ought to have a clear understanding of what is it we’re trying to prevent. What is it going to do if we can’t achieve what we’re talking about? But I do not believe that we can make conditions for the opening of negotiations.

It would seem that reports of a convergence of opinion on how to handle Iran have been greatly exaggerated: Albright favors negotiations of any kind (this is about as newsworthy as a revelation that Bill Clinton is heterosexual); Powell wants to start negotiations at a low level and at a slow pace, and see if they evolve; and Kissinger advocates immediate high-level talks for the specific purpose of issuing clear warnings to the regime (or as he delicately put it, informing the Iranians “what the outcome is that [we're] trying to achieve”).

But there is a further complication to the smooth pursuit of talking with Iran, articulated by–of all people–James Baker:

Can I just say one — one more thing? When I was in office, we had a standing policy with the Iranians. We were ready to talk to them, provided it would be done at an official level, at the level of the secretary of state, and they did — they wouldn’t — they didn’t have enough domestic political support for that.

Having vilified us as the Great Satan for so long, they couldn’t get the domestic political support necessary to meet with us. So it wasn’t the case of our — we hadn’t been isolating Iran from that standpoint. We offered to meet with them at the level of secretary of state.

The ugly truth comes out. A far more realistic hypothetical from Amanpour would have been to ask what the assembled would recommend should diplomatic overtures to Iran be rejected, as has been the standard experience not just of the United States, but of the EU-3 (2002-2006), the UN Security Council (2006-present), and the latest gambit, the P5+1+Burns. (You know your diplomatic offensive is becoming less and less plausible the more it looks like an algebra equation.) But Amanpour can always be counted on to steer public debate away from certain inconvenient truths.

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Russia’s Military Spending

The Wall Street Journal reports on the sharp boost in Russian military spending, which is due to rise by over 25% to more than $50 billion next year. That may appear insignificant compared with U.S. defense spending(more than $500 billion), but it is significant indeed when matched against our major allies such as the United Kingdom and France, each of which spend roughly $50 billion. It is especially significant when you consider that Russian belligerence toward the West is growing as fast as its military spending–and when you take note of the fact that European defense spending has been flat for years. As I argued in this op-ed, the states of Eastern Europe, in particular, need to increase their military expenditures rapidly so as to deter Russian aggression. The latest news makes that case all the more pressing.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the sharp boost in Russian military spending, which is due to rise by over 25% to more than $50 billion next year. That may appear insignificant compared with U.S. defense spending(more than $500 billion), but it is significant indeed when matched against our major allies such as the United Kingdom and France, each of which spend roughly $50 billion. It is especially significant when you consider that Russian belligerence toward the West is growing as fast as its military spending–and when you take note of the fact that European defense spending has been flat for years. As I argued in this op-ed, the states of Eastern Europe, in particular, need to increase their military expenditures rapidly so as to deter Russian aggression. The latest news makes that case all the more pressing.

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“150% in the tank”

Earlier today Steve Schmidt and Rick Davis held a media call. The main purpose, as aptly summarized here, was to call out the mainstream media and in particular the New York Times which Schmidt labeled “150% in the tank for the Democratic candidate” and excoriated as “not by any standard a journalistic organization.” But the attack was really broader than just that, as they dared the media to investigate and report on Bill Ayers, Tony Rezko, and Joe Biden’s lobbyist son. One can wonder if it is wise, or if it will help–but they do of course have a point about the imbalance in reporting.

The effort was clear to either cajole the media into fairer reporting or to discredit the media coverage. On a related note, Hugh Hewitt asked about the “viral attacks” on Sarah Palin, which the Right blogosphere is suggesting came from an ad firm linked to David Axelrod. The McCain advisors used as a launching point to condemn the “fierce campaign of intimidation” which they claim the Obama team is waging on Stanley Kurtz and other journalists who are probing Obama’s past.

I did, after much of the fireworks were over, ask two questions. On whether the McCain camp held the Obama team responsible for the decision to disinvite Sarah Palin to the Iran rally, Schmidt said that he hopes they “would not stoop so low” as to politicize the issue of Iranian acquistion of nuclear weapons. He termed the cancellation “unfortunate” without assigning direct blame.

I also asked if McCain’s objections to the Paulson plan (i.e. the plan needs more accountability, transparency, oversight, controls on executive compensation) were any different from those expressed by Barack Obama. They skirted a direct response as to what Obama had said, but came back to the leadership issue which they termed “abdication” by Obama — e.g. 130 “present” votes in the Illinois state sentate, no hearings on the Senate subcommittee which Obama chaired on Afghanistan, etc. They also hammered their argument that last week McCain had come up with a “specific plan” for a Mortgage and Financial Institutions Trust while Obama had only conferred ” with a couple for Federal reserve members.”

Bottom Line: Wow. There is a lot of downright antagonism there toward the MSM. Moreover, there is an obvious plan now afoot: spend the next 43 days “educating” the public about Barack Obama and making this about leadership. Will it work? Perhaps, but it may be the only realistic counteroffensive McCain has available in a hostile media environment and a collapsing economy.

Earlier today Steve Schmidt and Rick Davis held a media call. The main purpose, as aptly summarized here, was to call out the mainstream media and in particular the New York Times which Schmidt labeled “150% in the tank for the Democratic candidate” and excoriated as “not by any standard a journalistic organization.” But the attack was really broader than just that, as they dared the media to investigate and report on Bill Ayers, Tony Rezko, and Joe Biden’s lobbyist son. One can wonder if it is wise, or if it will help–but they do of course have a point about the imbalance in reporting.

The effort was clear to either cajole the media into fairer reporting or to discredit the media coverage. On a related note, Hugh Hewitt asked about the “viral attacks” on Sarah Palin, which the Right blogosphere is suggesting came from an ad firm linked to David Axelrod. The McCain advisors used as a launching point to condemn the “fierce campaign of intimidation” which they claim the Obama team is waging on Stanley Kurtz and other journalists who are probing Obama’s past.

I did, after much of the fireworks were over, ask two questions. On whether the McCain camp held the Obama team responsible for the decision to disinvite Sarah Palin to the Iran rally, Schmidt said that he hopes they “would not stoop so low” as to politicize the issue of Iranian acquistion of nuclear weapons. He termed the cancellation “unfortunate” without assigning direct blame.

I also asked if McCain’s objections to the Paulson plan (i.e. the plan needs more accountability, transparency, oversight, controls on executive compensation) were any different from those expressed by Barack Obama. They skirted a direct response as to what Obama had said, but came back to the leadership issue which they termed “abdication” by Obama — e.g. 130 “present” votes in the Illinois state sentate, no hearings on the Senate subcommittee which Obama chaired on Afghanistan, etc. They also hammered their argument that last week McCain had come up with a “specific plan” for a Mortgage and Financial Institutions Trust while Obama had only conferred ” with a couple for Federal reserve members.”

Bottom Line: Wow. There is a lot of downright antagonism there toward the MSM. Moreover, there is an obvious plan now afoot: spend the next 43 days “educating” the public about Barack Obama and making this about leadership. Will it work? Perhaps, but it may be the only realistic counteroffensive McCain has available in a hostile media environment and a collapsing economy.

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Obama’s Ambivalent Base

Christopher Hitchens has compiled a little list of issues on which Barack Obama has weighed in with some version of ambivalence or evasion:

Look at the record, and at Obama’s replies to essential and pressing questions. The surge in Iraq? I’ll answer that only if you insist. The credit crunch? Please may I be photographed with Bill Clinton’s economic team? Georgia? After you, please, Sen. McCain. A vice-presidential nominee? What about a guy who, despite his various qualities, is picked because he has almost no enemies among Democratic interest groups?

Nice job, but it’s only a start! Let’s expand:

Does present-day Zionism have justice on its side? Let me tell you about my sixth grade camp counselor. How do you intend to apply pressure on Iran? By tightening the screws or employing a similarly useless cliché . When does life begin? Sorry, above my pay grade. NAFTA? Are you asking me or my advisor? Troop withdrawal? Immediately! Or whenever . . .

Forget the fact that Obama has no paper trail. There’s scarcely a record of his convictions–period. It could be that this, in some way, resonates with an electorate that itself has been sitting on the fence on crucial issues for years. They want to stop supporting dictators, but avoid the messy work of building democracies. They want to win in Iraq, but they want to end the war. They want smaller government, but everyone should have healthcare. They want to save Darfur, but wait for the UN. They want to drill offshore, but scold about it being a temporary fix. They want loans they can’t pay back, but want to punish the lenders. Obama lets his supporters indulge their passions without ever having to act upon them. Choose Obama and you never have to choose again. That’s a very appealing (and very dangerous) delusion.

Christopher Hitchens has compiled a little list of issues on which Barack Obama has weighed in with some version of ambivalence or evasion:

Look at the record, and at Obama’s replies to essential and pressing questions. The surge in Iraq? I’ll answer that only if you insist. The credit crunch? Please may I be photographed with Bill Clinton’s economic team? Georgia? After you, please, Sen. McCain. A vice-presidential nominee? What about a guy who, despite his various qualities, is picked because he has almost no enemies among Democratic interest groups?

Nice job, but it’s only a start! Let’s expand:

Does present-day Zionism have justice on its side? Let me tell you about my sixth grade camp counselor. How do you intend to apply pressure on Iran? By tightening the screws or employing a similarly useless cliché . When does life begin? Sorry, above my pay grade. NAFTA? Are you asking me or my advisor? Troop withdrawal? Immediately! Or whenever . . .

Forget the fact that Obama has no paper trail. There’s scarcely a record of his convictions–period. It could be that this, in some way, resonates with an electorate that itself has been sitting on the fence on crucial issues for years. They want to stop supporting dictators, but avoid the messy work of building democracies. They want to win in Iraq, but they want to end the war. They want smaller government, but everyone should have healthcare. They want to save Darfur, but wait for the UN. They want to drill offshore, but scold about it being a temporary fix. They want loans they can’t pay back, but want to punish the lenders. Obama lets his supporters indulge their passions without ever having to act upon them. Choose Obama and you never have to choose again. That’s a very appealing (and very dangerous) delusion.

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Maybe Not the Forever War

Yesterday the New York Times‘ Dexter Filkins wrote a moving and riveting piece on Iraq. In returning to a street that runs over the Tigris River toward the Green Zone, Filkins visited two kebab places, a wine shop, and a pizzeria. Two years ago, according to Filkins, “Karada Mariam was like the whole of the city: shuttered, shattered, broken and dead.” In recounting what he found in returning to Baghdad, Filkins reports this:

These days, the same park is filled with people: families with children, women in jeans, women walking alone. Even the nighttime, when Iraqis used to cower inside their homes, no longer scares them. I can hear their laughter wafting from the park. At sundown the other day, I had to weave my way through perhaps 2,000 people. It was an astonishing, beautiful scene – impossible, incomprehensible, only months ago.

When I left Baghdad two years ago, the nation’s social fabric seemed too shredded to ever come together again. The very worst had lost its power to shock. To return now is to be jarred in the oddest way possible: by the normal, by the pleasant, even by hope.

Filkins argues that there are plenty of reasons why the peace we now see may only amount to a cease-fire, fragile and reversible. Those concerns are warranted. Iraq remains broken and shattered in many respects. But the power of his piece lies in its comparison of Iraq today to what it was in 2006, and seeing how dramatically Filkins’s own assumptions have shifted:

When I left Iraq in the summer of 2006, after living three and a half years here following the collapse of Saddam Hussein‘s regime, I believed that evil had triumphed, and that it would be many years before it might be stopped. Iraq, filled with so many people living so close together, nurturing dark and unknowable grievances, seemed destined for a ghastly unraveling.

And now, in the late summer of 2008, comes the calm. Violence has dropped by as much as 90 percent. A handful of the five million Iraqis who fled their homes – one-sixth of all Iraqis – are beginning to return. The mornings, once punctuated by the sounds of exploding bombs, are still. Is it possible that the rage, the thirst for revenge, the sectarian furies, have begun to fade? That Iraqis have been exhausted and frightened by what they have seen?

Filkins also provides this extraordinary anecdote about Ramadi:

The other day I rode in a helicopter to Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, the Wyoming-size slice of desert west of Baghdad. Two years ago, 30 marines and soldiers were dying there every month. In 2005, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia declared Anbar the seat of its “caliphate.” Since then, violence in Anbar has plummeted. Al Qaeda has been decimated. I was coming in for a ceremony, unimaginable until recently, to mark the handover of responsibility for security to the Iraqi Army and police.

Standing in the middle of the downtown, I found myself disoriented. I had been here before – I was certain – but still I couldn’t recognize the place. Two summers ago, when I’d last been in Ramadi, the downtown lay in ruins. Only one building stood then, the Anbar provincial government center, and the Americans were holding onto it at all cost. For hundreds of yards in every direction, everything was destroyed; streets, buildings, cars, even the rubble had been ground to dust. Ramadi looked like Dresden, or Grozny, or some other obliterated city. Insurgents attacked every day.

And then, suddenly, I realized it: I was standing in front of the government center itself. It was sporting a fresh concrete facade, which had been painted off-white with brownish trim. Over the entrance hung a giant official seal of Anbar Province. The road where I stood had been recently paved; it was black and smooth. The rubble had been cleared away. American marines were walking about, without helmets or flak jackets or even guns.

In the crowd, I saw a face I recognized. It was Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security advisor. It had been a long time since I’d seen him. Mr. Rubaie is a warm, garrulous man, a neurologist who spent years in London before returning to Iraq. But he is also a Shiite, and a member of Iraq’s Shiite-led government, which, in 2005 and 2006, was accused of carrying out widespread atrocities against Iraq’s Sunnis. Anbar Province is almost entirely Sunni.

As Mr. Rubaie made his way through the crowd, I noticed he was holding hands with another Iraqi man, a traditional Arab gesture of friendship and trust. It was Brig. Gen. Murdi Moshhen al-Dulaimi, the Iraqi Army officer taking control of the province – a Sunni. The sun was blinding, but Mr. Rubaie was wearing sunglasses, and finally he spotted me.

“What on earth are you doing here?” he asked over the crowd.

I might have asked him the same thing.

Every war involves a national security dimension, which has been covered intelligently by many analysts. But every war also involves poignant human dimensions, tales of grief and hope. Dexter Filkins’s report from Iraq concentrates on the latter, and how life has returned to a nation that was close to death.

We can’t know what will eventually happen in Iraq-that remains an unfolding drama. But we are able to assess the last two years and the tremendous, almost unimaginable, progress we have seen. Things went wrong for far too long in Iraq, and the Iraqi people above all paid a terrible price for this. But because of the surge and all that has flowed from the surge, lives have been saved, and a war of liberation-and Iraq itself-may well have been redeemed. It’s fair to take some sober satisfaction, and even joy, in that.

Yesterday the New York Times‘ Dexter Filkins wrote a moving and riveting piece on Iraq. In returning to a street that runs over the Tigris River toward the Green Zone, Filkins visited two kebab places, a wine shop, and a pizzeria. Two years ago, according to Filkins, “Karada Mariam was like the whole of the city: shuttered, shattered, broken and dead.” In recounting what he found in returning to Baghdad, Filkins reports this:

These days, the same park is filled with people: families with children, women in jeans, women walking alone. Even the nighttime, when Iraqis used to cower inside their homes, no longer scares them. I can hear their laughter wafting from the park. At sundown the other day, I had to weave my way through perhaps 2,000 people. It was an astonishing, beautiful scene – impossible, incomprehensible, only months ago.

When I left Baghdad two years ago, the nation’s social fabric seemed too shredded to ever come together again. The very worst had lost its power to shock. To return now is to be jarred in the oddest way possible: by the normal, by the pleasant, even by hope.

Filkins argues that there are plenty of reasons why the peace we now see may only amount to a cease-fire, fragile and reversible. Those concerns are warranted. Iraq remains broken and shattered in many respects. But the power of his piece lies in its comparison of Iraq today to what it was in 2006, and seeing how dramatically Filkins’s own assumptions have shifted:

When I left Iraq in the summer of 2006, after living three and a half years here following the collapse of Saddam Hussein‘s regime, I believed that evil had triumphed, and that it would be many years before it might be stopped. Iraq, filled with so many people living so close together, nurturing dark and unknowable grievances, seemed destined for a ghastly unraveling.

And now, in the late summer of 2008, comes the calm. Violence has dropped by as much as 90 percent. A handful of the five million Iraqis who fled their homes – one-sixth of all Iraqis – are beginning to return. The mornings, once punctuated by the sounds of exploding bombs, are still. Is it possible that the rage, the thirst for revenge, the sectarian furies, have begun to fade? That Iraqis have been exhausted and frightened by what they have seen?

Filkins also provides this extraordinary anecdote about Ramadi:

The other day I rode in a helicopter to Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, the Wyoming-size slice of desert west of Baghdad. Two years ago, 30 marines and soldiers were dying there every month. In 2005, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia declared Anbar the seat of its “caliphate.” Since then, violence in Anbar has plummeted. Al Qaeda has been decimated. I was coming in for a ceremony, unimaginable until recently, to mark the handover of responsibility for security to the Iraqi Army and police.

Standing in the middle of the downtown, I found myself disoriented. I had been here before – I was certain – but still I couldn’t recognize the place. Two summers ago, when I’d last been in Ramadi, the downtown lay in ruins. Only one building stood then, the Anbar provincial government center, and the Americans were holding onto it at all cost. For hundreds of yards in every direction, everything was destroyed; streets, buildings, cars, even the rubble had been ground to dust. Ramadi looked like Dresden, or Grozny, or some other obliterated city. Insurgents attacked every day.

And then, suddenly, I realized it: I was standing in front of the government center itself. It was sporting a fresh concrete facade, which had been painted off-white with brownish trim. Over the entrance hung a giant official seal of Anbar Province. The road where I stood had been recently paved; it was black and smooth. The rubble had been cleared away. American marines were walking about, without helmets or flak jackets or even guns.

In the crowd, I saw a face I recognized. It was Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security advisor. It had been a long time since I’d seen him. Mr. Rubaie is a warm, garrulous man, a neurologist who spent years in London before returning to Iraq. But he is also a Shiite, and a member of Iraq’s Shiite-led government, which, in 2005 and 2006, was accused of carrying out widespread atrocities against Iraq’s Sunnis. Anbar Province is almost entirely Sunni.

As Mr. Rubaie made his way through the crowd, I noticed he was holding hands with another Iraqi man, a traditional Arab gesture of friendship and trust. It was Brig. Gen. Murdi Moshhen al-Dulaimi, the Iraqi Army officer taking control of the province – a Sunni. The sun was blinding, but Mr. Rubaie was wearing sunglasses, and finally he spotted me.

“What on earth are you doing here?” he asked over the crowd.

I might have asked him the same thing.

Every war involves a national security dimension, which has been covered intelligently by many analysts. But every war also involves poignant human dimensions, tales of grief and hope. Dexter Filkins’s report from Iraq concentrates on the latter, and how life has returned to a nation that was close to death.

We can’t know what will eventually happen in Iraq-that remains an unfolding drama. But we are able to assess the last two years and the tremendous, almost unimaginable, progress we have seen. Things went wrong for far too long in Iraq, and the Iraqi people above all paid a terrible price for this. But because of the surge and all that has flowed from the surge, lives have been saved, and a war of liberation-and Iraq itself-may well have been redeemed. It’s fair to take some sober satisfaction, and even joy, in that.

Read Less

Elie Wiesel Is Undecided between Obama and McCain

As far as I can tell, this hasn’t received any mention in the States, but Elie Wiesel recently told the European Jewish Press that he is currently undecided as to whether he will vote for McCain or Obama.  Wiesel said he will wait to see how they perform in the upcoming TV debates:

I need to know better the two candidates in order to judge them and make [up] my mind. . . . It’s quite too early. The two candidates appear good for their public, their adherents, their fans. But the American electors base their votes on the debates, where there is no cheat[ing]. With three presidential and one vice-presidential debates, it’s rather difficult to cheat.

As far as I can tell, this hasn’t received any mention in the States, but Elie Wiesel recently told the European Jewish Press that he is currently undecided as to whether he will vote for McCain or Obama.  Wiesel said he will wait to see how they perform in the upcoming TV debates:

I need to know better the two candidates in order to judge them and make [up] my mind. . . . It’s quite too early. The two candidates appear good for their public, their adherents, their fans. But the American electors base their votes on the debates, where there is no cheat[ing]. With three presidential and one vice-presidential debates, it’s rather difficult to cheat.

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The Latest Nonstory

Here’s the inflammatory CNN headline: “Palin’s town charged women for rape exams.”

Here’s the relevant portion of the article–eight paragraphs in:

Interviews and a review of records turned up no evidence that Palin knew that rape victims were being charged in her town.

Why are we charged for CNN?

Here’s the inflammatory CNN headline: “Palin’s town charged women for rape exams.”

Here’s the relevant portion of the article–eight paragraphs in:

Interviews and a review of records turned up no evidence that Palin knew that rape victims were being charged in her town.

Why are we charged for CNN?

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What Do We Do Now?

I share the concern of many people that we should pause before plunging into an unmonitored, ill-defined $700 billion venture with the federal government buying (at what price? by what mechanism?) bad debt. I’m not at all confident that the people–Congress–who gorged at the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae troughs are any better equipped than Hank Paulson to come up with procedures that might provide some reasonable oversight. And I’m not as sanguine as some that a delay of a few days or a week won’t make that much of a difference. But I do think that you can have concerns about the plan without opposing it outright.

Clearly we’re into William Goldman (“No one knows anything”) territory. Aside from the reminder that the really hard stuff is never made easier by “experience” ( i.e. if it’s hard there is not comparable experience that can easily be applied), I do think we have learned some hard lessons from another context–the war on terror–that might keep us out of trouble.

First, the more people who buy in, the less carping later. Nancy Pelosi wants to take some responsibility for delaying implementation and add some bells and whistles (e.g. greater oversight) to the legislation? My attitude: let her (within reason). But no, she shouldn’t use this as an excuse to lard up the bill with more spending for her favorite constituencies. And whatever dithering Congress does should have a short deadline. (I suspect that she realizes that if she drags this out too long or bollixes up a reasonable deal she risks severely diminishing, if not losing, her majority.)

Second, transparency does matter. Everyone — especially the public — should know exactly who is doing what and how. Barring some compelling reason, we should lay it all out. It will wind up on the front page of the New York Times anyway, so better to put the deliberations, the implementation and all the ground rules out for public consumption.

Third, the solution is not “to go to the mall.” In other words, everyone has to suffer. I’ll throw my lot in with the populist suggestion (which John McCain seems to have adopted) that CEO’s whose companies get bailed out can’t continue to take down enormous compensation packages. Not every overextended homeowner should get a break on a mortgage to which he willingly obligated himself. And those Congressmen who took campaign donations from Freddie and Fannie should give the money back to the Treasury–every last dime.

Some of this isn’t very fiscally conservative and some purists may object to the whole notion of the federal government’s massive intervention into the economy. I plead guilty to being less than ideologically pristine. But many of the failures here were ones of political judgment and lack of accountability. At least that part we can improve upon.

I share the concern of many people that we should pause before plunging into an unmonitored, ill-defined $700 billion venture with the federal government buying (at what price? by what mechanism?) bad debt. I’m not at all confident that the people–Congress–who gorged at the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae troughs are any better equipped than Hank Paulson to come up with procedures that might provide some reasonable oversight. And I’m not as sanguine as some that a delay of a few days or a week won’t make that much of a difference. But I do think that you can have concerns about the plan without opposing it outright.

Clearly we’re into William Goldman (“No one knows anything”) territory. Aside from the reminder that the really hard stuff is never made easier by “experience” ( i.e. if it’s hard there is not comparable experience that can easily be applied), I do think we have learned some hard lessons from another context–the war on terror–that might keep us out of trouble.

First, the more people who buy in, the less carping later. Nancy Pelosi wants to take some responsibility for delaying implementation and add some bells and whistles (e.g. greater oversight) to the legislation? My attitude: let her (within reason). But no, she shouldn’t use this as an excuse to lard up the bill with more spending for her favorite constituencies. And whatever dithering Congress does should have a short deadline. (I suspect that she realizes that if she drags this out too long or bollixes up a reasonable deal she risks severely diminishing, if not losing, her majority.)

Second, transparency does matter. Everyone — especially the public — should know exactly who is doing what and how. Barring some compelling reason, we should lay it all out. It will wind up on the front page of the New York Times anyway, so better to put the deliberations, the implementation and all the ground rules out for public consumption.

Third, the solution is not “to go to the mall.” In other words, everyone has to suffer. I’ll throw my lot in with the populist suggestion (which John McCain seems to have adopted) that CEO’s whose companies get bailed out can’t continue to take down enormous compensation packages. Not every overextended homeowner should get a break on a mortgage to which he willingly obligated himself. And those Congressmen who took campaign donations from Freddie and Fannie should give the money back to the Treasury–every last dime.

Some of this isn’t very fiscally conservative and some purists may object to the whole notion of the federal government’s massive intervention into the economy. I plead guilty to being less than ideologically pristine. But many of the failures here were ones of political judgment and lack of accountability. At least that part we can improve upon.

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The Best Short Piece On The Bailout…

…comes today from Francis Cianfrocca, a New York businessman who posts at redstate.com under the name “blackhedd.” Quick take:

The biggest and most important questions regard the valuation at which the mortgage-backed securities will be purchased from the participating banks and Wall St. firms.

How many pennies on the dollar? And who will make that determination?

Banks and Wall Street firms are suffering because they own large amounts of mortgage-backed securities and related derivatives that are now worth less than they paid for them. The losses mean that they can’t go forward from here and fund new investments in productive business activity.

Ideally, you’d want to sell off your bad assets and either continue life with a smaller balance sheet, or else raise additional equity capital to start growing again. Neither option is available as things stand.

The point of the [bailout] is to provide a bid for the bad mortgage-based assets that, in Paulson’s words, are “clogging the balance sheets” of many financial institutions. He wants to provide a market so that financial firms can sell these assets and get on with life.

The price at which they will be sold is all-important. Get it too low, and you’ll put a lot of firms out of business, because they will be forced to realize capital losses they can’t recover from.

Get it too high, and you’ll be doing two extremely bad things: you’ll be rewarding banks and Wall Street for making bad decisions; and you’ll expose the taxpayers to losses and inflation.

So the key question for Paulson and Bernanke is: who will be determining the valuation? You want above all to make sure that this job is done right, which means getting the best available people from the private sector to do it. How will they be compensated, and what are their incentives?

Already Barney Frank is saying that the people who do the valuation must not be allowed to make a lot of money. How do you get really top people on that basis? Given the dire implications of getting this wrong, it’s charitable to say that Mr. Frank is being shortsighted and probably a little vindictive.

The really deep problem I have, however, is this: what if the true, correct valuation of distressed mortgage-backed assets is actually very, very low? Like, say, five or ten cents on the dollar?

This outcome, if it happens, would be reflective of the fact that the housing industry significantly overbuilt, in response to the price bubble that burst in 2006. And that’s a misallocation of resources that simply can’t be willed away by bailouts, taxpayer handouts to Democratic constituencies, or fairy dust.

If that indeed is where we are, then the [bailout] will solve the near-term liquidity crisis, but not the longer-term credit crisis. And the US may be facing a long, possibly multiyear period of very slow economic growth.

…comes today from Francis Cianfrocca, a New York businessman who posts at redstate.com under the name “blackhedd.” Quick take:

The biggest and most important questions regard the valuation at which the mortgage-backed securities will be purchased from the participating banks and Wall St. firms.

How many pennies on the dollar? And who will make that determination?

Banks and Wall Street firms are suffering because they own large amounts of mortgage-backed securities and related derivatives that are now worth less than they paid for them. The losses mean that they can’t go forward from here and fund new investments in productive business activity.

Ideally, you’d want to sell off your bad assets and either continue life with a smaller balance sheet, or else raise additional equity capital to start growing again. Neither option is available as things stand.

The point of the [bailout] is to provide a bid for the bad mortgage-based assets that, in Paulson’s words, are “clogging the balance sheets” of many financial institutions. He wants to provide a market so that financial firms can sell these assets and get on with life.

The price at which they will be sold is all-important. Get it too low, and you’ll put a lot of firms out of business, because they will be forced to realize capital losses they can’t recover from.

Get it too high, and you’ll be doing two extremely bad things: you’ll be rewarding banks and Wall Street for making bad decisions; and you’ll expose the taxpayers to losses and inflation.

So the key question for Paulson and Bernanke is: who will be determining the valuation? You want above all to make sure that this job is done right, which means getting the best available people from the private sector to do it. How will they be compensated, and what are their incentives?

Already Barney Frank is saying that the people who do the valuation must not be allowed to make a lot of money. How do you get really top people on that basis? Given the dire implications of getting this wrong, it’s charitable to say that Mr. Frank is being shortsighted and probably a little vindictive.

The really deep problem I have, however, is this: what if the true, correct valuation of distressed mortgage-backed assets is actually very, very low? Like, say, five or ten cents on the dollar?

This outcome, if it happens, would be reflective of the fact that the housing industry significantly overbuilt, in response to the price bubble that burst in 2006. And that’s a misallocation of resources that simply can’t be willed away by bailouts, taxpayer handouts to Democratic constituencies, or fairy dust.

If that indeed is where we are, then the [bailout] will solve the near-term liquidity crisis, but not the longer-term credit crisis. And the US may be facing a long, possibly multiyear period of very slow economic growth.

Read Less

The Modest Mahdist

If a foreign regime harbors terrorists, the United States will view that regime as a terrorist entity. But if you’ve done time as a terrorist yourself and harbored other terrorists, you’ll be treated like a visiting academic. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, currently overseeing military operations against American troops, is now enjoying his third Autumn in New York. To put this in perspective, remember that Cat Stevens couldn’t get into the U.S. for a few years because he changed his name to Yusuf Islam. Is it any wonder Iran fails to take American power seriously?

When Ahmadinejad was in New York last year, he spoke at Columbia University where the university’s president called him names and where he himself said crazy things like there are no homosexuals in Iran. Americans were supposed to be happy about the way things worked out, as Ahmadinejad was revealed as a loony leader hanging onto reality by a slender thread. But the only result of that trip was that Ahmadinejad learned about the Western concept of message discipline. This is from the indispensable MEMRI website:

Iranian sources told the Saudi daily Al-Watan that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statements will be less harsh during his expected visit to the U.S. than they have been in the past.

Parliamentary National Security Committee chairman Alaa Al-Din Boroujerdi even said that Iran was capable of maintaining parliamentary relations with the U.S. Congress.

No doubt, some members of the U.S. Congress agree. Nancy Pelosi, in particular, has credited the success of America’s troop surge to the “goodwill of the Iranians” and said she sees “an opening” for common ground in Ahmdinejad’s recent statements about the U.S. Plainly, the Iranian president is gunning for a relationship with Pelosi and the more ridiculous members of her party. After he addresses the UN General Assembly tomorrow with his toned-down message of peace and diplomacy, look for a statement from Pelosi about a new chapter in U.S.-Iran relations. There are those who claim Ahmadinejad’s chronic brazenness is the result of his not understanding the West. But he understands the West perfectly.

If a foreign regime harbors terrorists, the United States will view that regime as a terrorist entity. But if you’ve done time as a terrorist yourself and harbored other terrorists, you’ll be treated like a visiting academic. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, currently overseeing military operations against American troops, is now enjoying his third Autumn in New York. To put this in perspective, remember that Cat Stevens couldn’t get into the U.S. for a few years because he changed his name to Yusuf Islam. Is it any wonder Iran fails to take American power seriously?

When Ahmadinejad was in New York last year, he spoke at Columbia University where the university’s president called him names and where he himself said crazy things like there are no homosexuals in Iran. Americans were supposed to be happy about the way things worked out, as Ahmadinejad was revealed as a loony leader hanging onto reality by a slender thread. But the only result of that trip was that Ahmadinejad learned about the Western concept of message discipline. This is from the indispensable MEMRI website:

Iranian sources told the Saudi daily Al-Watan that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statements will be less harsh during his expected visit to the U.S. than they have been in the past.

Parliamentary National Security Committee chairman Alaa Al-Din Boroujerdi even said that Iran was capable of maintaining parliamentary relations with the U.S. Congress.

No doubt, some members of the U.S. Congress agree. Nancy Pelosi, in particular, has credited the success of America’s troop surge to the “goodwill of the Iranians” and said she sees “an opening” for common ground in Ahmdinejad’s recent statements about the U.S. Plainly, the Iranian president is gunning for a relationship with Pelosi and the more ridiculous members of her party. After he addresses the UN General Assembly tomorrow with his toned-down message of peace and diplomacy, look for a statement from Pelosi about a new chapter in U.S.-Iran relations. There are those who claim Ahmadinejad’s chronic brazenness is the result of his not understanding the West. But he understands the West perfectly.

Read Less




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