Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 25, 2008

Re: Re: Re: Where We Stand

Senator Lindsey Graham disputes the Democrats’ “there was a deal” tale. At a press conference earlier in the day Rep. Paul Ryan said, “Despite what you have heard, there was never a majority of the House that would vote for the bill.”\

UPDATE: And there’s more evidence now that it was a day filled with mischief: “It was McCain who had urged Bush to call the White House meeting but Democrats made sure Obama had a prominent part. And much as they complained later of being blindsided, the whole event turned out to be something of an ambush on their part—aimed at McCain and House Republicans.”

Senator Lindsey Graham disputes the Democrats’ “there was a deal” tale. At a press conference earlier in the day Rep. Paul Ryan said, “Despite what you have heard, there was never a majority of the House that would vote for the bill.”\

UPDATE: And there’s more evidence now that it was a day filled with mischief: “It was McCain who had urged Bush to call the White House meeting but Democrats made sure Obama had a prominent part. And much as they complained later of being blindsided, the whole event turned out to be something of an ambush on their part—aimed at McCain and House Republicans.”

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Re Re: Where We Stand

The Democrats have begun a ludicrous game: try to blame John McCain for nixing a mythical deal that was eminently reachable before he forced Barack Obama back in town. Throw in some trash talk and you have a perfect display of shabbiness.

The tale does not mesh with any available facts from reports we are getting. First, there was no “deal” — hence the cries of help from Harry Reid and Hank Paulson on Wednesday for McCain to come to town. My own conversations with Senate offices bear this out: McCain’s entry helped push a deal among Senators, but House Republicans were never on board (and still aren’t). Second, unlike his mute counterpart, John McCain is taking an active role in the negotiations and a constructive one. Third, the House Democrats likely have the votes to pass a deal – they simply wanted cover from at least 100 House Republicans.

UPDATE: The McCain Camp tells its side of the story:

To address our current financial crisis, John McCain suspended his campaign and returned to Washington, D.C., today to help build a bipartisan consensus for a proposal that would protect the American taxpayer.

Despite today’s news reports, there never existed a “deal,” but merely a proposal offered by a small, select group of Members of Congress. As of right now, there exists only a series of principles, including greater oversight and measures to address CEO pay. However, these principles do not enjoy a consensus in Congress. At today’s cabinet meeting, John McCain did not attack any proposal or endorse any plan. John McCain simply urged that for any proposal to enjoy the confidence of the American people, stressing that all sides would have to cooperate and build a bipartisan consensus for a solution that protects taxpayers. However, the Democrats allowed Senator Obama to run their side of the meeting. That did not work as the meeting quickly devolved into a contentious shouting match that did not seek to craft a bipartisan solution. At this moment, the plan that has been put forth by the Administration does not enjoy the confidence of the American people as it will not protect that taxpayers and will sacrifice Main Street in favor of Wall Street. The bottom line is that as of tonight, there are not enough Republican or Democrat votes for the current plan. However, we are still optimistic that a bipartisan solution will be found. Republicans and Democrats want a deal that will protect the taxpayers.  Tomorrow, John McCain will return to Capitol Hill where he will work with all sides to build a bipartisan solution that protects taxpayers and keeps Americans in their homes.

The Democrats have begun a ludicrous game: try to blame John McCain for nixing a mythical deal that was eminently reachable before he forced Barack Obama back in town. Throw in some trash talk and you have a perfect display of shabbiness.

The tale does not mesh with any available facts from reports we are getting. First, there was no “deal” — hence the cries of help from Harry Reid and Hank Paulson on Wednesday for McCain to come to town. My own conversations with Senate offices bear this out: McCain’s entry helped push a deal among Senators, but House Republicans were never on board (and still aren’t). Second, unlike his mute counterpart, John McCain is taking an active role in the negotiations and a constructive one. Third, the House Democrats likely have the votes to pass a deal – they simply wanted cover from at least 100 House Republicans.

UPDATE: The McCain Camp tells its side of the story:

To address our current financial crisis, John McCain suspended his campaign and returned to Washington, D.C., today to help build a bipartisan consensus for a proposal that would protect the American taxpayer.

Despite today’s news reports, there never existed a “deal,” but merely a proposal offered by a small, select group of Members of Congress. As of right now, there exists only a series of principles, including greater oversight and measures to address CEO pay. However, these principles do not enjoy a consensus in Congress. At today’s cabinet meeting, John McCain did not attack any proposal or endorse any plan. John McCain simply urged that for any proposal to enjoy the confidence of the American people, stressing that all sides would have to cooperate and build a bipartisan consensus for a solution that protects taxpayers. However, the Democrats allowed Senator Obama to run their side of the meeting. That did not work as the meeting quickly devolved into a contentious shouting match that did not seek to craft a bipartisan solution. At this moment, the plan that has been put forth by the Administration does not enjoy the confidence of the American people as it will not protect that taxpayers and will sacrifice Main Street in favor of Wall Street. The bottom line is that as of tonight, there are not enough Republican or Democrat votes for the current plan. However, we are still optimistic that a bipartisan solution will be found. Republicans and Democrats want a deal that will protect the taxpayers.  Tomorrow, John McCain will return to Capitol Hill where he will work with all sides to build a bipartisan solution that protects taxpayers and keeps Americans in their homes.

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Re: Where We Stand

Jen, the situation is actually kind of basic. If a deal isn’t reached by Sunday night, and a bill isn’t signed into law by Sunday night, it is likely we will wake up Monday morning to a market meltdown overseas of a sort the world has never seen — and then we will just wait, mute, until the American markets open. Monday will be an interesting test case: We will see just how much poorer the investing class can get in just one day. And then,  a second day. And then, a week. As the whirlwind begins its reaping.

Jen, the situation is actually kind of basic. If a deal isn’t reached by Sunday night, and a bill isn’t signed into law by Sunday night, it is likely we will wake up Monday morning to a market meltdown overseas of a sort the world has never seen — and then we will just wait, mute, until the American markets open. Monday will be an interesting test case: We will see just how much poorer the investing class can get in just one day. And then,  a second day. And then, a week. As the whirlwind begins its reaping.

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Where We Stand

Barack Obama seems to have conceded the point that there is more important business to be had in Washington — but only overnight and until the debate tomorrow night. Bizarre really, this insistence on a debate while the Congress plays Russian roulette with the American economy. As for the House Republicans, I am sure movement conservatives appreciate “pitching” pristine conservative ideas. And they should accept the consequences — economically and politically — if there is no deal. With memories of the Clinton-Gingrich budget debacle dancing in their heads, conservative pundits should be wary of what they wish for.

Barack Obama seems to have conceded the point that there is more important business to be had in Washington — but only overnight and until the debate tomorrow night. Bizarre really, this insistence on a debate while the Congress plays Russian roulette with the American economy. As for the House Republicans, I am sure movement conservatives appreciate “pitching” pristine conservative ideas. And they should accept the consequences — economically and politically — if there is no deal. With memories of the Clinton-Gingrich budget debacle dancing in their heads, conservative pundits should be wary of what they wish for.

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Commentary of the Day

JBJB, on Jennifer Rubin:

In the end, it was only the heat and focus of a presidential campaign that got the appropriate committees to act. I have no doubt that the dems were happy to fuddle this along for another week as they thought it was helping Obama. McCain certainly short circuited the game plan, and did himself a big favor in the process. Next step will be to point out that is was Dodd and Frank who created this mess, while McCain and Bush of all people tried to fix it in 2003 and 2005.

JBJB, on Jennifer Rubin:

In the end, it was only the heat and focus of a presidential campaign that got the appropriate committees to act. I have no doubt that the dems were happy to fuddle this along for another week as they thought it was helping Obama. McCain certainly short circuited the game plan, and did himself a big favor in the process. Next step will be to point out that is was Dodd and Frank who created this mess, while McCain and Bush of all people tried to fix it in 2003 and 2005.

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Why Do We Have To Do This?

Among the smartest comments today, from Megan McArdle:

My basic reasoning is this: given just how badly the Great Depression sucked, I’m willing to gamble on stopping it, even if that gamble fails, even if it is not necessary (a question that, if we actually go through with it, will be much argued and never answered). I’m not willing to gamble for the bankers; the worst thing that will happen to them is that they retire on a pittance, or take a boring job somewhere. I’m worried about the 40 million or so people who might end up out of work, and with nowhere to go. I’m willing to do quite a bit to stop that from happening, even let the bankers off scott free. I don’t think it’s actually necessary to do that, but if I have to choose between helping the 40 million, or expressing my moral outrage–well, there’s always skywriting.

And at some level I think even Congressmen and Senators understand this. There is no upside for anyone who prevented a deal if economic chaos ensues. Will House Republicans extract some “cover”? Maybe. But this is one deal that’s too big to fail.

Among the smartest comments today, from Megan McArdle:

My basic reasoning is this: given just how badly the Great Depression sucked, I’m willing to gamble on stopping it, even if that gamble fails, even if it is not necessary (a question that, if we actually go through with it, will be much argued and never answered). I’m not willing to gamble for the bankers; the worst thing that will happen to them is that they retire on a pittance, or take a boring job somewhere. I’m worried about the 40 million or so people who might end up out of work, and with nowhere to go. I’m willing to do quite a bit to stop that from happening, even let the bankers off scott free. I don’t think it’s actually necessary to do that, but if I have to choose between helping the 40 million, or expressing my moral outrage–well, there’s always skywriting.

And at some level I think even Congressmen and Senators understand this. There is no upside for anyone who prevented a deal if economic chaos ensues. Will House Republicans extract some “cover”? Maybe. But this is one deal that’s too big to fail.

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More Political Progress in Iraq

Given our (understandable) preoccupation with the credit crisis in this country, people might overlook events in other countries. I have in mind the fact that after months of negotiations, Iraq’s parliament passed an important election law yesterday. According to the New York Times,

the bill’s passage represents a significant achievement for a country that has more often resorted to violence than political negotiation in resolving its differences.

The law still needs to be approved by the three-member presidential panel led by President Jalal Talabani, and because of the controversy over who will gain control of the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk, that matter was given to a committee for further study (the report is due in March 2009).

The passage of the election law is just the latest development in a year of political progress in Iraq. And the fact that Iraqis were wise enough to bracket out the matter of Kirkuk and deal with it later is a sign of impressive political maturity.

It now seems like a distant memory, but it’s worth recalling that leading Democrats–including its presidential nominee, Barack Obama–opposed the surge long after it was clear we were making security gains. The grounds for their opposition, you’ll recall, was that Iraqis weren’t making political progress. Except that this year they have, on several fronts, including devolving political power to the local level, the distribution of resources, amnesty, and other things.

This no-political-progress argument was as foolish as the one made by leading Democrats in April, during the Congressional testimony of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, when they insisted that Prime Minister Maliki’s offensive in Basra was a terrible loss for him and a big win for Muqtada al-Sadr (it turned out to be the opposite).

It’s worth noting, too, that liberal pundits like E.J. Dionne also look very bad in light of events. Dionne, for example, wrote this on April 11th:

The administration and its supporters talk incessantly about winning but offer no strategy for victory, no definition of what it would look like, no concrete steps to get us there, and no real sense of where “there” is.

We have a much better sense of where “there” is now, don’t we?

The truth is that the Iraq war was unquestionably getting better by the second half of 2007, and that progress accelerated throughout all of 2008. Yet leading Democrats frantically denied what was unfolding before their eyes — in this instance, America was winning in a war it was once losing. And while the credit crisis issue will clearly dominate tomorrow’s debate (assuming it goes forward), the topic of the debate is still foreign policy. And John McCain should continue to point out that on the single most important issue Senator Obama has voted on in his career in the Senate–the surge–Obama was manifestly wrong; and to this day, Mr. Obama continues to maintain that his vote against the surge was correct.

If Senator Obama had had his way and we had followed his counsel, Iraq would be lost instead of on the mend, and America would have been defeated in a war of enormous significance. This fact, more than any other, demonstrates that Barack Obama lacks the judgment to be commander-in-chief. I fully expect Senator McCain to forcefully make this point on Friday night.

Given our (understandable) preoccupation with the credit crisis in this country, people might overlook events in other countries. I have in mind the fact that after months of negotiations, Iraq’s parliament passed an important election law yesterday. According to the New York Times,

the bill’s passage represents a significant achievement for a country that has more often resorted to violence than political negotiation in resolving its differences.

The law still needs to be approved by the three-member presidential panel led by President Jalal Talabani, and because of the controversy over who will gain control of the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk, that matter was given to a committee for further study (the report is due in March 2009).

The passage of the election law is just the latest development in a year of political progress in Iraq. And the fact that Iraqis were wise enough to bracket out the matter of Kirkuk and deal with it later is a sign of impressive political maturity.

It now seems like a distant memory, but it’s worth recalling that leading Democrats–including its presidential nominee, Barack Obama–opposed the surge long after it was clear we were making security gains. The grounds for their opposition, you’ll recall, was that Iraqis weren’t making political progress. Except that this year they have, on several fronts, including devolving political power to the local level, the distribution of resources, amnesty, and other things.

This no-political-progress argument was as foolish as the one made by leading Democrats in April, during the Congressional testimony of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, when they insisted that Prime Minister Maliki’s offensive in Basra was a terrible loss for him and a big win for Muqtada al-Sadr (it turned out to be the opposite).

It’s worth noting, too, that liberal pundits like E.J. Dionne also look very bad in light of events. Dionne, for example, wrote this on April 11th:

The administration and its supporters talk incessantly about winning but offer no strategy for victory, no definition of what it would look like, no concrete steps to get us there, and no real sense of where “there” is.

We have a much better sense of where “there” is now, don’t we?

The truth is that the Iraq war was unquestionably getting better by the second half of 2007, and that progress accelerated throughout all of 2008. Yet leading Democrats frantically denied what was unfolding before their eyes — in this instance, America was winning in a war it was once losing. And while the credit crisis issue will clearly dominate tomorrow’s debate (assuming it goes forward), the topic of the debate is still foreign policy. And John McCain should continue to point out that on the single most important issue Senator Obama has voted on in his career in the Senate–the surge–Obama was manifestly wrong; and to this day, Mr. Obama continues to maintain that his vote against the surge was correct.

If Senator Obama had had his way and we had followed his counsel, Iraq would be lost instead of on the mend, and America would have been defeated in a war of enormous significance. This fact, more than any other, demonstrates that Barack Obama lacks the judgment to be commander-in-chief. I fully expect Senator McCain to forcefully make this point on Friday night.

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Re: Re: Gimmicks Work

John, I think it’s also important to distinguish between substantive and stylistic gimmicks. This financial crisis isn’t a gimmick. It is real and the notion that the campaigns would merrily hum along seems frankly bizarre. If it takes someone invoking a “magic” word like “suspend” — or staging a photo-op – to grab people by the lapels and get real, then that’s a gimmick worth employing.

And, finally, I find it odd that pundits who adored the rock videos, the chants, the salutes, the cardboard columns, and the rest of Obama-mania now think we should dispense with “gimmicks.” At least McCain’s gimmick is in support of some real-world objective other than  electing a candidate.

John, I think it’s also important to distinguish between substantive and stylistic gimmicks. This financial crisis isn’t a gimmick. It is real and the notion that the campaigns would merrily hum along seems frankly bizarre. If it takes someone invoking a “magic” word like “suspend” — or staging a photo-op – to grab people by the lapels and get real, then that’s a gimmick worth employing.

And, finally, I find it odd that pundits who adored the rock videos, the chants, the salutes, the cardboard columns, and the rest of Obama-mania now think we should dispense with “gimmicks.” At least McCain’s gimmick is in support of some real-world objective other than  electing a candidate.

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Re: Obama, McCain, and Jews

Shmuel, to put those interesting AJC poll numbers in perspective–57 percent for Senator Obama, 30 percent for Senator McCain among likely Jewish voters–it’s striking to look at another set of numbers from the same poll. Of those polled, 17 percent consider themselves Republicans, 56 percent are self-described Democrats, and 25 percent are Independents. And my guess, clearly not scientific, is that those Independents have primarily voted for Democratic candidates in the past. So, I believe it’s most salient that the number of people intending to vote for McCain is almost twice as high as the number of self-described Republicans. Jews are wary of Obama (considering their historical propensity to align themselves with Democratic presidential candidates). Though it seems, too, Jews are wary of being called a Republican.

Shmuel, to put those interesting AJC poll numbers in perspective–57 percent for Senator Obama, 30 percent for Senator McCain among likely Jewish voters–it’s striking to look at another set of numbers from the same poll. Of those polled, 17 percent consider themselves Republicans, 56 percent are self-described Democrats, and 25 percent are Independents. And my guess, clearly not scientific, is that those Independents have primarily voted for Democratic candidates in the past. So, I believe it’s most salient that the number of people intending to vote for McCain is almost twice as high as the number of self-described Republicans. Jews are wary of Obama (considering their historical propensity to align themselves with Democratic presidential candidates). Though it seems, too, Jews are wary of being called a Republican.

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Obama, McCain, and Jews

Following my exchange with John a couple of days ago, I thought this poll might help clear up the mystery regarding the true feelings of Jewish voters: 57% for Obama, 30% for McCain. Not very good for the Democratic candidate, but as good for McCain as he’d like it to be.

The survey by the American Jewish Committee is “the first national poll of Jewish voters since the Democratic and Republican conventions”:

Differences between Orthodox and non-Orthodox are pronounced in the support given the presidential candidates.

Thus, Obama has the support of 13 percent of Orthodox Jews, as against 59 percent of Conservative Jews, 62 percent of Reform Jews, and 61 percent of the “Just Jewish.”

Conversely, McCain draws 78 percent of Orthodox Jews, as against 26 percent of Conservative Jews, 27 percent of Reform Jews, and 26 percent of the “Just Jewish.”

Jewish women (60 percent) are more likely than Jewish men (54 percent) to support Obama. Conversely, Jewish men (35 percent) are more likely than Jewish women (25 percent) to support McCain.

Following my exchange with John a couple of days ago, I thought this poll might help clear up the mystery regarding the true feelings of Jewish voters: 57% for Obama, 30% for McCain. Not very good for the Democratic candidate, but as good for McCain as he’d like it to be.

The survey by the American Jewish Committee is “the first national poll of Jewish voters since the Democratic and Republican conventions”:

Differences between Orthodox and non-Orthodox are pronounced in the support given the presidential candidates.

Thus, Obama has the support of 13 percent of Orthodox Jews, as against 59 percent of Conservative Jews, 62 percent of Reform Jews, and 61 percent of the “Just Jewish.”

Conversely, McCain draws 78 percent of Orthodox Jews, as against 26 percent of Conservative Jews, 27 percent of Reform Jews, and 26 percent of the “Just Jewish.”

Jewish women (60 percent) are more likely than Jewish men (54 percent) to support Obama. Conversely, Jewish men (35 percent) are more likely than Jewish women (25 percent) to support McCain.

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The Toxicity of Hope

Today, George W. Bush told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, “I appreciate your determination and your desire to have a Palestinian state . . . I share that desire with you. It’s not easy. . . As you know, I’ve got four more months left in office and I’m hopeful that the vision that you and I have worked on can come to pass.”

It turns out, when it comes to hope, Barack Obama’s got nothing on our president. In fact, if Obama wants to continue to run against George Bush, the first thing he needs to do is excise all mention of hope from his rhetoric. A quick survey of recent U.S. foreign policy shows an administration fairly addicted to the stuff. After Russia invaded Georgia:

Bush welcomed as “a hopeful step” news that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had signed a French-brokered ceasefire deal already backed by Georgia, but pressed Moscow to make good on its pledges.

After North Korea suspended the disablement of its nuclear facilities:

“We have not given up hopes that we may some time in the reasonable near future get a response from the North Korea on the verification regime,” [Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte] said at a luncheon of Hong Kong’s American Chamber of Commerce.

And today, after it was learned that U.S. helicopters were fired on (perhaps with flare guns) by the Pakistani military:

[Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice and [Pakistani President Asif Ali] Zardari began their meeting with a brief discussion of Zardari’s late wife, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated last year.

Rice said Bhutto had been an “inspiration” to many people, including herself, and expressed hope that Pakistan would continue on the path to full restoration of democracy.

[...]

There’s a lot that still can be done, but this is a new day for Pakistan. It’s new day because of the democratically elected government that sadly comes because of the tragic assassination of your wife

Hope is important, for sure. The U.S. can’t very well address every challenge in a state of utter despair and expect to triumph. But what’s notable in all these cases is the employment of hope to the exclusion of any other foreign policy tool. What gives Bush hope that Palestinian statehood will be achieved in the next four months when every question every about security, borders, and political progress remains deadlocked? And when there is no inducement for Palestinian change on the horizon? What is there to be hopeful about in North Korea? This is a country that has announced its indifference to carrots and sticks, and played the U.S. for fools through two decades now. In Pakistan, there could be some reason for future hope if the Bush administration applies necessary pressures on the new government to crackdown on terrorists inside the country’s borders. But so far, Islamabad thinks cracking down on terror means firing on American aircraft.

The U.S.’s propensity to hope in the absence of encouraging signs is, in small doses, a blessing to the American people. But the hope overdose of our current foreign policy elite is a blessing to our enemies and their enablers. Today, Mahmoud Abbas said it best: “Hope remains. We cannot live without hope.”

Today, George W. Bush told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, “I appreciate your determination and your desire to have a Palestinian state . . . I share that desire with you. It’s not easy. . . As you know, I’ve got four more months left in office and I’m hopeful that the vision that you and I have worked on can come to pass.”

It turns out, when it comes to hope, Barack Obama’s got nothing on our president. In fact, if Obama wants to continue to run against George Bush, the first thing he needs to do is excise all mention of hope from his rhetoric. A quick survey of recent U.S. foreign policy shows an administration fairly addicted to the stuff. After Russia invaded Georgia:

Bush welcomed as “a hopeful step” news that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had signed a French-brokered ceasefire deal already backed by Georgia, but pressed Moscow to make good on its pledges.

After North Korea suspended the disablement of its nuclear facilities:

“We have not given up hopes that we may some time in the reasonable near future get a response from the North Korea on the verification regime,” [Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte] said at a luncheon of Hong Kong’s American Chamber of Commerce.

And today, after it was learned that U.S. helicopters were fired on (perhaps with flare guns) by the Pakistani military:

[Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice and [Pakistani President Asif Ali] Zardari began their meeting with a brief discussion of Zardari’s late wife, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated last year.

Rice said Bhutto had been an “inspiration” to many people, including herself, and expressed hope that Pakistan would continue on the path to full restoration of democracy.

[...]

There’s a lot that still can be done, but this is a new day for Pakistan. It’s new day because of the democratically elected government that sadly comes because of the tragic assassination of your wife

Hope is important, for sure. The U.S. can’t very well address every challenge in a state of utter despair and expect to triumph. But what’s notable in all these cases is the employment of hope to the exclusion of any other foreign policy tool. What gives Bush hope that Palestinian statehood will be achieved in the next four months when every question every about security, borders, and political progress remains deadlocked? And when there is no inducement for Palestinian change on the horizon? What is there to be hopeful about in North Korea? This is a country that has announced its indifference to carrots and sticks, and played the U.S. for fools through two decades now. In Pakistan, there could be some reason for future hope if the Bush administration applies necessary pressures on the new government to crackdown on terrorists inside the country’s borders. But so far, Islamabad thinks cracking down on terror means firing on American aircraft.

The U.S.’s propensity to hope in the absence of encouraging signs is, in small doses, a blessing to the American people. But the hope overdose of our current foreign policy elite is a blessing to our enemies and their enablers. Today, Mahmoud Abbas said it best: “Hope remains. We cannot live without hope.”

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Re: Gimmicks Work

Jen, the Gallup tracking poll has the race tied today; yesterday Obama was up by three points. Every day’s track is an average of the polling on each of the three previous days — meaning that this tied track offers an average of the polling on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, while the 3-point Obama track was an average of Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. The swing in McCain’s direction means one of two things.

1) Gallup’s track since the beginning of the week has been moving in McCain’s direction, and once numbers from the weekend dropped out of the track entirely, it moved into a tie.

If this is true, then it really is absurd to think McCain announced his campaign-suspension out of panic yesterday. The campaign, almost certainly, knows what the tracking poll numbers are from day to day.

2) The decision to suspend the campaign yesterday was hugely popular, and led to a huge McCain advantage last night, something like 6 points.

No matter which scenario you choose, McCain’s action yesterday was received favorably. UPDATE: As a few commenters point out, the Gallup press release indicates McCain did not have a surge in support last night. So the track has been moving toward McCain this week.

Jen, the Gallup tracking poll has the race tied today; yesterday Obama was up by three points. Every day’s track is an average of the polling on each of the three previous days — meaning that this tied track offers an average of the polling on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, while the 3-point Obama track was an average of Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. The swing in McCain’s direction means one of two things.

1) Gallup’s track since the beginning of the week has been moving in McCain’s direction, and once numbers from the weekend dropped out of the track entirely, it moved into a tie.

If this is true, then it really is absurd to think McCain announced his campaign-suspension out of panic yesterday. The campaign, almost certainly, knows what the tracking poll numbers are from day to day.

2) The decision to suspend the campaign yesterday was hugely popular, and led to a huge McCain advantage last night, something like 6 points.

No matter which scenario you choose, McCain’s action yesterday was received favorably. UPDATE: As a few commenters point out, the Gallup press release indicates McCain did not have a surge in support last night. So the track has been moving toward McCain this week.

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Not So Fast

The deal is not quite done. Why do the House Republicans have “leverage“? Because Nancy Pelosi lacks the political courage to make a deal without “cover.” So before pundits rant and rave about a deal already done and John McCain’s irrelevancy, it might be good to get some facts. Oh, those.

The deal is not quite done. Why do the House Republicans have “leverage“? Because Nancy Pelosi lacks the political courage to make a deal without “cover.” So before pundits rant and rave about a deal already done and John McCain’s irrelevancy, it might be good to get some facts. Oh, those.

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Obama and the CIA

Mother Jones‘s Laura Rozen has a very useful piece on intelligence professionals now working for Barack Obama. The good news: they “describe a candidate who they believe is open-minded and intellectually inclined to absorb information.” And this group of people (former National Security Council official Rand Beers, Former CIA deputy director John McLaughlin, former senior CIA official John Brennan, former senior CIA operations officers Art Brown and Jack DeVine, retired Ltn. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, retired Ltn. Gen. and former head of the Defense Human Intelligence Service Donald Kerrick, among others) is “urging him to rethink the architecture of the intelligence community to grapple with both current and emerging threats.”

This piece is an attempt at explaining why these defense and intelligence professionals chose the novice Obama over a decorated veteran with a lot to show for as far as foreign policy is concerned. At the heart of it is this quote from Brennan, not mentioning McCain by name, but giving his reasons for backing Obama:

“If you look at the world in black and white, you miss a lot of the subtleties out there. ‘Either with us or against’-the world is not divided into good and evil a lot of time. Despite America’s military might, a lot of these problems do not lend themselves to kinetic solutions”-i.e. the use of force. And world dynamics are likely to get more complicated and nuanced, not less, by 2025.

I think that this tendency to talk a lot about “complications” and “nuances” is a deadly disease in intelligence professionals. It is usually a cover with which to hide the lack of commodities they were hired to provide: clear answers to tactical and strategic questions. We don’t need intelligence services in order to know that the world is complicated. Of course it is: but intelligence services are created to sift through those complications and give the president the tools with which to make decisions. This is something–and here Obama’s advisers are right–that the CIA has failed, more or less from its inception, to do. Reform is the right way to go. The only question is this: why would they think Obama is the guy to reform the intelligence community?

I think I have the answer for that, courtesy of Laura Rozen. But first, I’d like to say that I have no reason to suspect Obama doesn’t understand the urgent need for reform, or that he isn’t going to try and do it. I believe he’s approaching this issue in good faith. But read (or reread) Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes and be amazed at the number of presidents–from the 1950′s to Bush today–who have tried and failed to achieve this goal.

I went back to read one of Rozen’s earlier articles, explaining why CIA veterans are scared of McCain:

“McCain would be an absolute disaster,” says a second recently retired senior US intelligence operations officer. “He is prejudiced against the CIA. The day after the 2004 election when Bush won, McCain came on TV and gave an interview in which he said something to the effect of, ‘The CIA tried to sabotage this election. They’ve made their bed and now they have to lay in it.’ I used to like McCain, but he is inconsistent.” Columnist Robert Novak quoted McCain in November 2004 as saying, “With CIA leaks intended to harm the re-election campaign of the president of the United States, it is not only dysfunctional but a rogue organization.”

So some former CIA former officials say they want reform. Yet they are scared of the candidate who thinks their organization is a disaster. Huh? Isn’t it logical to suspect that the candidate less pleased with the CIA will also be the one that might be more aggressive in his pursuit of reform?

Rozen also reported on the way the McCain-apprehensive intelligence people think:

McCain is influenced by a circle of hardline Republican legislators and congressional staff as well as disgruntled former Agency officials “who all had these long-standing grudges against people in the Agency,” the former senior intelligence officer said. “They think the CIA is a hotbed of liberals. Right-wing, nutty paranoia stuff. They all love the military and hate the CIA. Because the CIA tells them stuff they don’t want to hear.”

Or–just maybe–it is because the military does its job, while the CIA keeps coming back with banal, unusable stories of a “nuanced” world?

Mother Jones‘s Laura Rozen has a very useful piece on intelligence professionals now working for Barack Obama. The good news: they “describe a candidate who they believe is open-minded and intellectually inclined to absorb information.” And this group of people (former National Security Council official Rand Beers, Former CIA deputy director John McLaughlin, former senior CIA official John Brennan, former senior CIA operations officers Art Brown and Jack DeVine, retired Ltn. Gen. Claudia Kennedy, retired Ltn. Gen. and former head of the Defense Human Intelligence Service Donald Kerrick, among others) is “urging him to rethink the architecture of the intelligence community to grapple with both current and emerging threats.”

This piece is an attempt at explaining why these defense and intelligence professionals chose the novice Obama over a decorated veteran with a lot to show for as far as foreign policy is concerned. At the heart of it is this quote from Brennan, not mentioning McCain by name, but giving his reasons for backing Obama:

“If you look at the world in black and white, you miss a lot of the subtleties out there. ‘Either with us or against’-the world is not divided into good and evil a lot of time. Despite America’s military might, a lot of these problems do not lend themselves to kinetic solutions”-i.e. the use of force. And world dynamics are likely to get more complicated and nuanced, not less, by 2025.

I think that this tendency to talk a lot about “complications” and “nuances” is a deadly disease in intelligence professionals. It is usually a cover with which to hide the lack of commodities they were hired to provide: clear answers to tactical and strategic questions. We don’t need intelligence services in order to know that the world is complicated. Of course it is: but intelligence services are created to sift through those complications and give the president the tools with which to make decisions. This is something–and here Obama’s advisers are right–that the CIA has failed, more or less from its inception, to do. Reform is the right way to go. The only question is this: why would they think Obama is the guy to reform the intelligence community?

I think I have the answer for that, courtesy of Laura Rozen. But first, I’d like to say that I have no reason to suspect Obama doesn’t understand the urgent need for reform, or that he isn’t going to try and do it. I believe he’s approaching this issue in good faith. But read (or reread) Tim Weiner’s Legacy of Ashes and be amazed at the number of presidents–from the 1950′s to Bush today–who have tried and failed to achieve this goal.

I went back to read one of Rozen’s earlier articles, explaining why CIA veterans are scared of McCain:

“McCain would be an absolute disaster,” says a second recently retired senior US intelligence operations officer. “He is prejudiced against the CIA. The day after the 2004 election when Bush won, McCain came on TV and gave an interview in which he said something to the effect of, ‘The CIA tried to sabotage this election. They’ve made their bed and now they have to lay in it.’ I used to like McCain, but he is inconsistent.” Columnist Robert Novak quoted McCain in November 2004 as saying, “With CIA leaks intended to harm the re-election campaign of the president of the United States, it is not only dysfunctional but a rogue organization.”

So some former CIA former officials say they want reform. Yet they are scared of the candidate who thinks their organization is a disaster. Huh? Isn’t it logical to suspect that the candidate less pleased with the CIA will also be the one that might be more aggressive in his pursuit of reform?

Rozen also reported on the way the McCain-apprehensive intelligence people think:

McCain is influenced by a circle of hardline Republican legislators and congressional staff as well as disgruntled former Agency officials “who all had these long-standing grudges against people in the Agency,” the former senior intelligence officer said. “They think the CIA is a hotbed of liberals. Right-wing, nutty paranoia stuff. They all love the military and hate the CIA. Because the CIA tells them stuff they don’t want to hear.”

Or–just maybe–it is because the military does its job, while the CIA keeps coming back with banal, unusable stories of a “nuanced” world?

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Gimmicks Work

The threat of the presidential meeting with the two candidates was what it took to spur a deal on the bailout. If that’s all it took, why didn’t Barack Obama push for it? It seems that one of the candidates understood the need for political grand gestures. And Congress in turn understood which candidate’s pressure was key.

A conservative non-fan of McCain put it this way:

Maybe we’ll be calling him McBrilliant by week’s end if there is a slightly more conservative bailout plan than originally hatched that arguably would not have happened without him, if he walks into the debate and proves to be the only adult in the room, and has had Bill Clinton spending most of the week campaigning for him.

Call him infuriating, exhausting, and impulsive. But not dull and certainly not passive.

The threat of the presidential meeting with the two candidates was what it took to spur a deal on the bailout. If that’s all it took, why didn’t Barack Obama push for it? It seems that one of the candidates understood the need for political grand gestures. And Congress in turn understood which candidate’s pressure was key.

A conservative non-fan of McCain put it this way:

Maybe we’ll be calling him McBrilliant by week’s end if there is a slightly more conservative bailout plan than originally hatched that arguably would not have happened without him, if he walks into the debate and proves to be the only adult in the room, and has had Bill Clinton spending most of the week campaigning for him.

Call him infuriating, exhausting, and impulsive. But not dull and certainly not passive.

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Another Preposterous Angle

Why, skeptics of the McCain-campaign-suspension gambit say, would McCain act as though it matters what he does in the formulation of the bailout deal? He doesn’t sit on any of the relevant Senate committees, he doesn’t care about the issue, he’ll only gum up the works….

This line became so popular yesterday afternoon that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, called on McCain not to come back to Washington only one day after he specifically asked Joe Lieberman to ask McCain to come back.

This is preposterous. John McCain is no longer just a Senator. He is, effectively, the co-leader of the Republican Party, along with the president. How can anyone say, with a straight face in the midst of a crisis, that it would actually be better for everyone concerned if he were off in Debate Camp?

Why, skeptics of the McCain-campaign-suspension gambit say, would McCain act as though it matters what he does in the formulation of the bailout deal? He doesn’t sit on any of the relevant Senate committees, he doesn’t care about the issue, he’ll only gum up the works….

This line became so popular yesterday afternoon that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, called on McCain not to come back to Washington only one day after he specifically asked Joe Lieberman to ask McCain to come back.

This is preposterous. John McCain is no longer just a Senator. He is, effectively, the co-leader of the Republican Party, along with the president. How can anyone say, with a straight face in the midst of a crisis, that it would actually be better for everyone concerned if he were off in Debate Camp?

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Future News from Space

Today, China launched its Shenzhou-7 spacecraft at 9:10 in the evening, Beijing time. Also today, the official Xinhua News Agency released and then withdrew a story, dated this coming Saturday, that purports to say what happened after the craft’s 30th orbit. Of course, Shenzhou-7 will not have orbited the planet 30 times until this weekend. The article is full of details, plus quotes from the “taikonauts,” China’s name for its heroic workers in space.

As they say in communist societies, the future is always certain.

Today, China launched its Shenzhou-7 spacecraft at 9:10 in the evening, Beijing time. Also today, the official Xinhua News Agency released and then withdrew a story, dated this coming Saturday, that purports to say what happened after the craft’s 30th orbit. Of course, Shenzhou-7 will not have orbited the planet 30 times until this weekend. The article is full of details, plus quotes from the “taikonauts,” China’s name for its heroic workers in space.

As they say in communist societies, the future is always certain.

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The Record Has Been Corrected

Kudos to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency for correcting the errors that marred its account of the debate I engaged in over the weekend at a conference sponsored by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. I detailed those errors in an earlier posting. The corrected account, which may be found here, concedes, in essence, that I did not say, as the original article claimed, that a “McCain administration would discourage Israeli-Syrian peace talks and refrain from actively engaging in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.” To quote the correction: “In fact, while Max Boot did voice skepticism about whether the [Israeli-Syrian] talks would succeed, he says he was only speaking out against U.S. engagement with Syria.”

It would have been even more accurate and complete if the JTA article had noted that, after I said that negotiating an Israeli-Palestinian accord could not be the top priority for the next administration given all the other crises we face, Richard Danzig, an adviser to Barack Obama, said, “I think we see this rather similarly.”

If you have some free time on your hands, you can watch the entire debate here.

I will await the corrections from the various lefty bloggers who piled onto the original, inaccurate account. (Joe Klein, for instance, wrote in high dudgeon: “Israel is a democracy. We have no business strong-arming this ally. Israel’s duly elected government–and, from my own conversations, it’s military and foreign policy establishment–all see great potential advantages in talking to the Syrians.”) I suspect it will be a long wait.

Kudos to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency for correcting the errors that marred its account of the debate I engaged in over the weekend at a conference sponsored by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. I detailed those errors in an earlier posting. The corrected account, which may be found here, concedes, in essence, that I did not say, as the original article claimed, that a “McCain administration would discourage Israeli-Syrian peace talks and refrain from actively engaging in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.” To quote the correction: “In fact, while Max Boot did voice skepticism about whether the [Israeli-Syrian] talks would succeed, he says he was only speaking out against U.S. engagement with Syria.”

It would have been even more accurate and complete if the JTA article had noted that, after I said that negotiating an Israeli-Palestinian accord could not be the top priority for the next administration given all the other crises we face, Richard Danzig, an adviser to Barack Obama, said, “I think we see this rather similarly.”

If you have some free time on your hands, you can watch the entire debate here.

I will await the corrections from the various lefty bloggers who piled onto the original, inaccurate account. (Joe Klein, for instance, wrote in high dudgeon: “Israel is a democracy. We have no business strong-arming this ally. Israel’s duly elected government–and, from my own conversations, it’s military and foreign policy establishment–all see great potential advantages in talking to the Syrians.”) I suspect it will be a long wait.

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Isn’t This News?

The Chicago Sun-Times which really has done a commendable job of reporting on Barack Obama’s past in their city (a past studiously ignored by national media uninterested in any investigative story on The One) has a new story:

A $100,000 state grant for a botanic garden in Englewood that then-state Sen. Barack Obama awarded in 2001 to a group headed by a onetime campaign volunteer is now under investigation by the Illinois attorney general amid new questions, prompted by Chicago Sun-Times reports, about whether the money might have been misspent.

Wait. The Agent of Change as a state senator seven years ago earmarked money that was never used for any public purpose — and wound up in the pocket of the wife of the head of the community group, the latter who was a campaign volunteer? Yup. And there seems to be a bit of fast and loose with the documents that corroborate this:

The Sun-Times learned about Karen Smith’s involvement in the project through an Aug. 12 Freedom of Information Act response from a lawyer for Blagojevich’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The department, according to the lawyer, had discovered 52 pages of additional documents ommitted from an initial response in May to a Sun-Times Freedom of Information Act request about the grant.

At some point you wonder what it will take for the national MSM to become interested. It’s not like earmarks, public corruption, and favoritism aren’t issues in the presidential race.

The Chicago Sun-Times which really has done a commendable job of reporting on Barack Obama’s past in their city (a past studiously ignored by national media uninterested in any investigative story on The One) has a new story:

A $100,000 state grant for a botanic garden in Englewood that then-state Sen. Barack Obama awarded in 2001 to a group headed by a onetime campaign volunteer is now under investigation by the Illinois attorney general amid new questions, prompted by Chicago Sun-Times reports, about whether the money might have been misspent.

Wait. The Agent of Change as a state senator seven years ago earmarked money that was never used for any public purpose — and wound up in the pocket of the wife of the head of the community group, the latter who was a campaign volunteer? Yup. And there seems to be a bit of fast and loose with the documents that corroborate this:

The Sun-Times learned about Karen Smith’s involvement in the project through an Aug. 12 Freedom of Information Act response from a lawyer for Blagojevich’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The department, according to the lawyer, had discovered 52 pages of additional documents ommitted from an initial response in May to a Sun-Times Freedom of Information Act request about the grant.

At some point you wonder what it will take for the national MSM to become interested. It’s not like earmarks, public corruption, and favoritism aren’t issues in the presidential race.

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Because They’re Jihadists

In the Spectator, Stephen Schwartz and Irfan Al-Alawi make a crucial point about the recent violence in Pakistan:

The shift of the global Islamist terror front from Iraq to Afghanistan has less to do with opposition to the Western presence supporting Hamid Karzai than is commonly supposed. The intent of the fundamentalists (claiming to act in the interest of extreme Sunnism) is to radicalise the whole of Pakistan or, failing that, to effect a third partition of the subcontinent. Following the split between Pakistan and India in 1947, and the secession of Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) in 1971, the Pakistani Taleban, as the radicals are increasingly known, will settle for nothing short of full control of the NWFP.

This is not only important in framing the issue for Americans who are queasy about U.S. forces engaging in yet another bloody tangle with suicidal Islamists. It’s also something the current Pakistani government needs to accept and act upon.

Think of this as the latest installment in the rolling debate on the motives of militant Islamists. At the outbreak of the Second Intifada, the argument from nationalism was regularly employed to explain Palestinian suicide attacks on Israel. In some circles it still is, but there seems to be a larger acceptance of Islamism itself as the motivating factor behind the violence. When the Sunni insurgency took off in Iraq, explanations tended to be of the “how would you feel if someone just came into your country and started killing?”-type. It took the actions of non-radical Sunnis who fought back extremists to begin to change the perception in Western minds. Even so, we still read weekly op-eds arguing that the American occupation has served as the catalyst for jihad in Iraq.

Such arguments, attributing rational motives to irrational actors, are irresistible to the anti-war Left, in whose eyes American intervention is always imperial in design and always a provocation of understandable “blowback.” There’s clearly another such argument shaping up in regard to the Pakistan conflict. This argument has not yet reached America with any force, but it will. And the fact that the Pakistani leadership itself is scapegoating American military action inside Pakistan will hasten its arrival. Instead of attempting to placate extremists by denouncing American incursions into the tribal region, President Zardari should be mounting a direct attack against those who wish to turn his country into a static hellhole for reasons of faith.

In the Spectator, Stephen Schwartz and Irfan Al-Alawi make a crucial point about the recent violence in Pakistan:

The shift of the global Islamist terror front from Iraq to Afghanistan has less to do with opposition to the Western presence supporting Hamid Karzai than is commonly supposed. The intent of the fundamentalists (claiming to act in the interest of extreme Sunnism) is to radicalise the whole of Pakistan or, failing that, to effect a third partition of the subcontinent. Following the split between Pakistan and India in 1947, and the secession of Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) in 1971, the Pakistani Taleban, as the radicals are increasingly known, will settle for nothing short of full control of the NWFP.

This is not only important in framing the issue for Americans who are queasy about U.S. forces engaging in yet another bloody tangle with suicidal Islamists. It’s also something the current Pakistani government needs to accept and act upon.

Think of this as the latest installment in the rolling debate on the motives of militant Islamists. At the outbreak of the Second Intifada, the argument from nationalism was regularly employed to explain Palestinian suicide attacks on Israel. In some circles it still is, but there seems to be a larger acceptance of Islamism itself as the motivating factor behind the violence. When the Sunni insurgency took off in Iraq, explanations tended to be of the “how would you feel if someone just came into your country and started killing?”-type. It took the actions of non-radical Sunnis who fought back extremists to begin to change the perception in Western minds. Even so, we still read weekly op-eds arguing that the American occupation has served as the catalyst for jihad in Iraq.

Such arguments, attributing rational motives to irrational actors, are irresistible to the anti-war Left, in whose eyes American intervention is always imperial in design and always a provocation of understandable “blowback.” There’s clearly another such argument shaping up in regard to the Pakistan conflict. This argument has not yet reached America with any force, but it will. And the fact that the Pakistani leadership itself is scapegoating American military action inside Pakistan will hasten its arrival. Instead of attempting to placate extremists by denouncing American incursions into the tribal region, President Zardari should be mounting a direct attack against those who wish to turn his country into a static hellhole for reasons of faith.

Read Less




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