Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 3, 2008

Re: On A Roll

Sarah Palin has been studying up on Supreme Court cases and gave a fairly detailed answer today. I’m not sure the “I was annoyed” excuse for her prior poor performances flies. But at least she has shown she can improve — very quickly.

Sarah Palin has been studying up on Supreme Court cases and gave a fairly detailed answer today. I’m not sure the “I was annoyed” excuse for her prior poor performances flies. But at least she has shown she can improve — very quickly.

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She’s Not the One Who Needs to Study

During last night’s vice-presidential debate, the candidates were asked about their views on the Bush administration’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and whether they support a two-state solution:

Of course, there were no expectations that Sarah Palin’s gubernatorial experiences would give her any particular insights for answering this question.  In turn, she relied on her talking points:

A two-state solution is the solution. And Secretary Rice, having recently met with leaders on one side or the other there, also, still in these waning days of the Bush administration, trying to forge that peace, and that needs to be done, and that will be top of an agenda item, also, under a McCain-Palin administration.

Israel is our strongest and best ally in the Middle East. We have got to assure them that we will never allow a second Holocaust, despite, again, warnings from Iran and any other country that would seek to destroy Israel, that that is what they would like to see.

We will support Israel. A two-state solution, building our embassy, also, in Jerusalem, those things that we look forward to being able to accomplish, with this peace-seeking nation, and they have a track record of being able to forge these peace agreements.

They succeeded with Jordan. They succeeded with Egypt. I’m sure that we’re going to see more success there, also.

It’s got to be a commitment of the United States of America, though. And I can promise you, in a McCain-Palin administration, that commitment is there to work with our friends in Israel.

There’s a good deal to criticize here.  Performance-wise, Palin’s answer rambled out of control, shifting from the two-state solution to Iran to historic Arab-Israeli compromises, and back to the two-state solution (I think).  And policy-wise, it seems unlikely that any administration would move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

But at least Palin didn’t make any factual errors.  Rather, she left that to her supposedly “expert” critics.  First, as Michael Totten noted, Joe Biden surprised everyone by announcing that “we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon.”  (Whether Biden meant Syria – and whether he was invoking the Lebowskian “royal we” – remains unclear.)  Then, later that evening, Chris Matthews chimed in with this gem:

MATTHEWS: When she talks about recognizing Jerusalem as the exclusive capital of Israel, does she know that-and she put it together in a couple sentences. And I really question if she knows what she’s talking about.  She talked very persuasively about Israel having put together a very good treaty with Jordan, the kingdom of Jordan … and, of course, the Egyptian country as well.

BUCHANAN: Egypt.

MATTHEWS: … Egypt, the republic-United Arab Republic, and she put it all together. And then she said, move the capital.  Doesn’t she know that, if you move the capital, by the United States’ standards, and move our embassy down there, that that breaks apart both those treaties? Does she really know what she’s talking about, Pat?

It’s pretty clear that Matthews – despite his handful of trips to Israel – is the one who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  For starters, the United Arab Republic hasn’t existed for nearly half a century.  (Does Matthews also still speak of the Trucial States?)  Moreover, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem would have no consequence for Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt or Jordan – that is, so long as the U.S. embassy isn’t built on the Muslim holy sites, in which Jordan maintains a “special role.”

If used correctly, these gaffes could help Palin as much as they discredit Biden and the MSM.  After all, compared to the politicians and pundits who have supposedly been watching the Arab-Israeli conflict for years, Palin has been outstanding in getting her facts straight.  This shows that she is a quick study – a good thing to be when facing a veteran senator with decades of errors in facts and judgment to his name.

During last night’s vice-presidential debate, the candidates were asked about their views on the Bush administration’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and whether they support a two-state solution:

Of course, there were no expectations that Sarah Palin’s gubernatorial experiences would give her any particular insights for answering this question.  In turn, she relied on her talking points:

A two-state solution is the solution. And Secretary Rice, having recently met with leaders on one side or the other there, also, still in these waning days of the Bush administration, trying to forge that peace, and that needs to be done, and that will be top of an agenda item, also, under a McCain-Palin administration.

Israel is our strongest and best ally in the Middle East. We have got to assure them that we will never allow a second Holocaust, despite, again, warnings from Iran and any other country that would seek to destroy Israel, that that is what they would like to see.

We will support Israel. A two-state solution, building our embassy, also, in Jerusalem, those things that we look forward to being able to accomplish, with this peace-seeking nation, and they have a track record of being able to forge these peace agreements.

They succeeded with Jordan. They succeeded with Egypt. I’m sure that we’re going to see more success there, also.

It’s got to be a commitment of the United States of America, though. And I can promise you, in a McCain-Palin administration, that commitment is there to work with our friends in Israel.

There’s a good deal to criticize here.  Performance-wise, Palin’s answer rambled out of control, shifting from the two-state solution to Iran to historic Arab-Israeli compromises, and back to the two-state solution (I think).  And policy-wise, it seems unlikely that any administration would move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem.

But at least Palin didn’t make any factual errors.  Rather, she left that to her supposedly “expert” critics.  First, as Michael Totten noted, Joe Biden surprised everyone by announcing that “we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon.”  (Whether Biden meant Syria – and whether he was invoking the Lebowskian “royal we” – remains unclear.)  Then, later that evening, Chris Matthews chimed in with this gem:

MATTHEWS: When she talks about recognizing Jerusalem as the exclusive capital of Israel, does she know that-and she put it together in a couple sentences. And I really question if she knows what she’s talking about.  She talked very persuasively about Israel having put together a very good treaty with Jordan, the kingdom of Jordan … and, of course, the Egyptian country as well.

BUCHANAN: Egypt.

MATTHEWS: … Egypt, the republic-United Arab Republic, and she put it all together. And then she said, move the capital.  Doesn’t she know that, if you move the capital, by the United States’ standards, and move our embassy down there, that that breaks apart both those treaties? Does she really know what she’s talking about, Pat?

It’s pretty clear that Matthews – despite his handful of trips to Israel – is the one who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  For starters, the United Arab Republic hasn’t existed for nearly half a century.  (Does Matthews also still speak of the Trucial States?)  Moreover, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem would have no consequence for Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt or Jordan – that is, so long as the U.S. embassy isn’t built on the Muslim holy sites, in which Jordan maintains a “special role.”

If used correctly, these gaffes could help Palin as much as they discredit Biden and the MSM.  After all, compared to the politicians and pundits who have supposedly been watching the Arab-Israeli conflict for years, Palin has been outstanding in getting her facts straight.  This shows that she is a quick study – a good thing to be when facing a veteran senator with decades of errors in facts and judgment to his name.

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Re: CNN’s Spin

Noah, your post regarding CNN’s poll versus CNN’s spin regarding that poll–spin that might just as well have been written before the poll was taken and, for all I know, was–reminds me of an incident from the last days of the Soviet Union.

When Yuri Andropov died in 1984, he was replaced as General Secretary by Konstantin Chernenko, who survived him by barely a year and was increasingly doddering throughout his short term. During that term there was an election for the Supreme Soviet, and Soviet television showed Chernenko arriving at a polling place on election day and being greeted by the man in charge.

The next day, Chernenko having been–surprise!–triumphantly re-elected, he was shown on television being congratulated on his victory by the man who had greeted him the previous day.

Nothing unusual about any of that, except for the fact that the man, Chernenko, and everyone else in the room were wearing the same clothes they had had on the day before.

Maybe all empires act alike in their death throes.

Noah, your post regarding CNN’s poll versus CNN’s spin regarding that poll–spin that might just as well have been written before the poll was taken and, for all I know, was–reminds me of an incident from the last days of the Soviet Union.

When Yuri Andropov died in 1984, he was replaced as General Secretary by Konstantin Chernenko, who survived him by barely a year and was increasingly doddering throughout his short term. During that term there was an election for the Supreme Soviet, and Soviet television showed Chernenko arriving at a polling place on election day and being greeted by the man in charge.

The next day, Chernenko having been–surprise!–triumphantly re-elected, he was shown on television being congratulated on his victory by the man who had greeted him the previous day.

Nothing unusual about any of that, except for the fact that the man, Chernenko, and everyone else in the room were wearing the same clothes they had had on the day before.

Maybe all empires act alike in their death throes.

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Commentary of the Day

RedHeadRat, on Michael J. Totten:

What really amazes me is that Biden managed to make up and support that theory about NATO filling the void in Lebanon while it would not be much different from the current situation in Iraq.

RedHeadRat, on Michael J. Totten:

What really amazes me is that Biden managed to make up and support that theory about NATO filling the void in Lebanon while it would not be much different from the current situation in Iraq.

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CNN’s Poll vs. CNN’s Spin (Part Two)

An astute commenter to a previous post notes something about CNN’s “poll” of VP debate viewers that on the one hand is utterly predictable, given CNN’s track record, yet is still appalling: CNN declares that its poll finds Biden the winner, but CNN never discloses any information about who participated in the poll. This would be like asking people whether they liked the Red Sox or the Yankees and not revealing what percentage of phone calls were made to Boston versus New York. Without that information, the results are more than worthless — they are manipulative.

CNN’s headline declares that “Debate Poll Says Biden Won.” CNN’s “news analysis” also is headlined (in part) “Biden Wins Debate.” Nowhere in either story does CNN reveal anything about its polling sample other than its total size (611 people). CNN’s poll of the presidential debate last week employed a respondent group in which Democrats were dramatically overrepresented, which predictably led to the result of Obama “winning” the debate.

You can read CNN’s poll stories here and here. The omissions in both should be glaring to anyone with even the slightest familiarity with how poll results are supposed to be reported. CNN deserves to be trusted on these matters about as much as Dan Rather deserves to be trusted with National Guard documents.

An astute commenter to a previous post notes something about CNN’s “poll” of VP debate viewers that on the one hand is utterly predictable, given CNN’s track record, yet is still appalling: CNN declares that its poll finds Biden the winner, but CNN never discloses any information about who participated in the poll. This would be like asking people whether they liked the Red Sox or the Yankees and not revealing what percentage of phone calls were made to Boston versus New York. Without that information, the results are more than worthless — they are manipulative.

CNN’s headline declares that “Debate Poll Says Biden Won.” CNN’s “news analysis” also is headlined (in part) “Biden Wins Debate.” Nowhere in either story does CNN reveal anything about its polling sample other than its total size (611 people). CNN’s poll of the presidential debate last week employed a respondent group in which Democrats were dramatically overrepresented, which predictably led to the result of Obama “winning” the debate.

You can read CNN’s poll stories here and here. The omissions in both should be glaring to anyone with even the slightest familiarity with how poll results are supposed to be reported. CNN deserves to be trusted on these matters about as much as Dan Rather deserves to be trusted with National Guard documents.

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On A Roll

In a Carl Cameron interview, Sarah Palin picks up where she left off–dissing the MSM, bringing up Barack Obama’s spending plans and his “bombing civilians” comment, and touting her outsider-ness. And in case you are wondering, yes, she will get around to interviews with NBC–the grown-up network, not the food-fighting cable outlet.

In a Carl Cameron interview, Sarah Palin picks up where she left off–dissing the MSM, bringing up Barack Obama’s spending plans and his “bombing civilians” comment, and touting her outsider-ness. And in case you are wondering, yes, she will get around to interviews with NBC–the grown-up network, not the food-fighting cable outlet.

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Well, This Aged Fast

Last week, Fareed Zakaria penned a widely circulated attack on Sarah Palin. It will stand forever as a warning against the impulse to make grand pronouncements too soon. It reads, in part:

Some commentators, like CNN’s Campbell Brown, have argued that it’s sexist to keep Sarah Palin under wraps, as if she were a delicate flower who might wilt under the bright lights of the modern media. But the more Palin talks, the more we see that it may not be sexism but common sense that’s causing the McCain campaign to treat her like a time bomb.

Can we now admit the obvious? Sarah Palin is utterly unqualified to be vice president. She is a feisty, charismatic politician who has done some good things in Alaska. But she has never spent a day thinking about any important national or international issue, and this is a hell of a time to start.

Wrong from beginning to end. Keeping Sarah Palin under wraps was obviously a tactical blunder (and a temporary victory for the unscrupulous media assassins who scared the McCain camp into thinking Palin couldn’t fend for herself.) The sexism belonged entirely to the critics. When Joe Biden reinvents American history, it’s attributed to a harmless personality quirk; when Palin stumbles Fareed Zakaria writes, “Is it too much to ask that she come to realize that she wants, in that wonderful phrase in American politics, “to spend more time with her family?” Classy, no?

Zakaria’s piece appeared in Newsweek six days ago, and it seems Sarah Palin has spent all six of them “thinking about any important national or international issue[s].” Last night she had Joe Biden so turned around on Arab democracy, he ended up expanding his historical fiction oeuvre to include the recent Middle East. There’s a month left–Zakaria may want to start pacing himself.

Last week, Fareed Zakaria penned a widely circulated attack on Sarah Palin. It will stand forever as a warning against the impulse to make grand pronouncements too soon. It reads, in part:

Some commentators, like CNN’s Campbell Brown, have argued that it’s sexist to keep Sarah Palin under wraps, as if she were a delicate flower who might wilt under the bright lights of the modern media. But the more Palin talks, the more we see that it may not be sexism but common sense that’s causing the McCain campaign to treat her like a time bomb.

Can we now admit the obvious? Sarah Palin is utterly unqualified to be vice president. She is a feisty, charismatic politician who has done some good things in Alaska. But she has never spent a day thinking about any important national or international issue, and this is a hell of a time to start.

Wrong from beginning to end. Keeping Sarah Palin under wraps was obviously a tactical blunder (and a temporary victory for the unscrupulous media assassins who scared the McCain camp into thinking Palin couldn’t fend for herself.) The sexism belonged entirely to the critics. When Joe Biden reinvents American history, it’s attributed to a harmless personality quirk; when Palin stumbles Fareed Zakaria writes, “Is it too much to ask that she come to realize that she wants, in that wonderful phrase in American politics, “to spend more time with her family?” Classy, no?

Zakaria’s piece appeared in Newsweek six days ago, and it seems Sarah Palin has spent all six of them “thinking about any important national or international issue[s].” Last night she had Joe Biden so turned around on Arab democracy, he ended up expanding his historical fiction oeuvre to include the recent Middle East. There’s a month left–Zakaria may want to start pacing himself.

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Paulson Rescue Bill Passes The House

The vote crossed the 218 threshold. They will continue to dribble in but the measure has passed.

In a flash of insight Nancy Pelosi did not insult the oppositon and helped to round up votes on her side–leaving us to wonder whether the prior failed outcome was the result of malice or sheer incompetence. The GOP increased their count as well. Perhaps this will calm the stock market and free up some credit. The race for credit (the political kind) and to translate the lessons of the financial mess into political terms is on. But I agree with others who have observed that getting this behind him–and having a boffo debate by his running mate–was what John McCain badly needed.

The vote crossed the 218 threshold. They will continue to dribble in but the measure has passed.

In a flash of insight Nancy Pelosi did not insult the oppositon and helped to round up votes on her side–leaving us to wonder whether the prior failed outcome was the result of malice or sheer incompetence. The GOP increased their count as well. Perhaps this will calm the stock market and free up some credit. The race for credit (the political kind) and to translate the lessons of the financial mess into political terms is on. But I agree with others who have observed that getting this behind him–and having a boffo debate by his running mate–was what John McCain badly needed.

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The End of American Decline

Dmitry Medvedev was absolutely gleeful when he said yesterday that the global financial crisis signaled the end of the era of American economic leadership. “The times when one economy and one country dominated are gone for good,” the Russian president said.

Trust the Russians to get things backwards. History will eventually show that the great financial crisis of 2008 marked the end of the period of relative American economic decline and the start of a new era of dominance.

Why is there a perception that the United States is falling? In Thomas Friedman’s “flat world,” relentless globalization–started by Washington, by the way–is spreading wealth from nation to nation. And as this process continues, the world’s economic supremo is losing its primacy at an alarming rate. Last year, Americans comprised 4.6 percent of the world’s population and produced 25.4 percent of its gross domestic product. But if prosperity is eventually spread evenly, the United States will one day become an economic backwater with under five percent of global output.

But the world is not flat, and the last thing we should be doing is extrapolating, especially in the middle of a downturn that could be as severe as the Great Depression. Before recent events, just about all of us assumed we were living in “China’s century.” Beijing has an economy that is still booming, but it is, for various reasons, extraordinarily vulnerable. And in a severe downturn, which virtually every Chinese economist now expects, the shaky political system could falter. The result might be a China in chaos for years-and a United States on the rise.

Will America suffer financial hardship? Most definitely. But we are a country that has a unique ability to recover. Whatever happens in the next few years, our political system will remain the same. We cannot, however, be so sure that the governments of China and Russia will be as resilient. Our economy will contract, but other economies will contract faster and further. And ours will recover earlier and more vigorously.

In periods of turmoil, investors and speculators run for safe havens, and that remains the dollar. Just ask the now-gloating Medvedev. Since the second week of August, Russians have pulled $52 billion out of their country, with much of this ending up in U.S. Treasury obligations. If I were him, I would be more careful about predicting the decline of the only country that will be in a position to bailout his Russia in the years ahead.

Dmitry Medvedev was absolutely gleeful when he said yesterday that the global financial crisis signaled the end of the era of American economic leadership. “The times when one economy and one country dominated are gone for good,” the Russian president said.

Trust the Russians to get things backwards. History will eventually show that the great financial crisis of 2008 marked the end of the period of relative American economic decline and the start of a new era of dominance.

Why is there a perception that the United States is falling? In Thomas Friedman’s “flat world,” relentless globalization–started by Washington, by the way–is spreading wealth from nation to nation. And as this process continues, the world’s economic supremo is losing its primacy at an alarming rate. Last year, Americans comprised 4.6 percent of the world’s population and produced 25.4 percent of its gross domestic product. But if prosperity is eventually spread evenly, the United States will one day become an economic backwater with under five percent of global output.

But the world is not flat, and the last thing we should be doing is extrapolating, especially in the middle of a downturn that could be as severe as the Great Depression. Before recent events, just about all of us assumed we were living in “China’s century.” Beijing has an economy that is still booming, but it is, for various reasons, extraordinarily vulnerable. And in a severe downturn, which virtually every Chinese economist now expects, the shaky political system could falter. The result might be a China in chaos for years-and a United States on the rise.

Will America suffer financial hardship? Most definitely. But we are a country that has a unique ability to recover. Whatever happens in the next few years, our political system will remain the same. We cannot, however, be so sure that the governments of China and Russia will be as resilient. Our economy will contract, but other economies will contract faster and further. And ours will recover earlier and more vigorously.

In periods of turmoil, investors and speculators run for safe havens, and that remains the dollar. Just ask the now-gloating Medvedev. Since the second week of August, Russians have pulled $52 billion out of their country, with much of this ending up in U.S. Treasury obligations. If I were him, I would be more careful about predicting the decline of the only country that will be in a position to bailout his Russia in the years ahead.

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Strange Bedfellows

Mickey Kaus notes: “Biden was still hamstrung on Iraq by his vote for the war. He didn’t come up with a winning way out. It’s Obama’s fault for picking him.” But this is even more the case with regard to Biden’s now-famous accusation that Barack Obama’s vote to cut off troops cost lives. Really, the only difference between Biden and John McCain on Iraq is that after both voting for the Iraq war, McCain championed the strategy that ultimately won and Biden backed a wildly unrealistic partition idea.

And on Iran, neither Biden or McCain ever favored direct, presidential talks with Ahmadinejad. Sure, Biden’s no Hillary Clinton — he wasn’t willing to back the Kyl-Lieberman resolution calling Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization — but throughout the Democratic primary and until he got the VP nod it is fair to say that Biden was closer to McCain on many key foreign policy matters than he was to Barack Obama.

Mickey Kaus notes: “Biden was still hamstrung on Iraq by his vote for the war. He didn’t come up with a winning way out. It’s Obama’s fault for picking him.” But this is even more the case with regard to Biden’s now-famous accusation that Barack Obama’s vote to cut off troops cost lives. Really, the only difference between Biden and John McCain on Iraq is that after both voting for the Iraq war, McCain championed the strategy that ultimately won and Biden backed a wildly unrealistic partition idea.

And on Iran, neither Biden or McCain ever favored direct, presidential talks with Ahmadinejad. Sure, Biden’s no Hillary Clinton — he wasn’t willing to back the Kyl-Lieberman resolution calling Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization — but throughout the Democratic primary and until he got the VP nod it is fair to say that Biden was closer to McCain on many key foreign policy matters than he was to Barack Obama.

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CNN Misrepresents Its Own Focus Group!

Megan McArdle exposes, hilariously, a CNN blunder last night about which I was entirely ingenuous. It came when Soledad O’Brien interviewed the focus group convened by CNN in Ohio of 32 undecided voters. I took her at her word, and so did several million others, I imagine:

Soledad O’Brien polls the 32 “persuadables” by asking them to indicate, by a show of hands, who they thought won.  She calls the vote for Biden “overwhelming”.  The magic of Tivo allows us to freeze frame and count:  11 or 12 for Palin, 12 or 13 for Biden (some people are hard to see).

I’ve heard of wearing blinders, but this is ridiculous.

Megan McArdle exposes, hilariously, a CNN blunder last night about which I was entirely ingenuous. It came when Soledad O’Brien interviewed the focus group convened by CNN in Ohio of 32 undecided voters. I took her at her word, and so did several million others, I imagine:

Soledad O’Brien polls the 32 “persuadables” by asking them to indicate, by a show of hands, who they thought won.  She calls the vote for Biden “overwhelming”.  The magic of Tivo allows us to freeze frame and count:  11 or 12 for Palin, 12 or 13 for Biden (some people are hard to see).

I’ve heard of wearing blinders, but this is ridiculous.

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After All, He Is the World’s Candidate

In the Herald Tribune, Rami G. Khouri writes:

I was not surprised, during a visit to Egypt for a few days, to read the results of the latest BBC World Service global poll showing that in 22 out of 23 countries surveyed most people feel the U.S.-led “global war on terror” has not weakened Al Qaeda. On average, the poll showed, only 22 percent of respondents feel that Al Qaeda has been weakened, while three in five believe that the war on terror has had no effect (29 percent) or made Al Qaeda stronger (30 percent).

I’m not surprised either, considering the candidate in the lead for President of the United States feels the same way. Debating John McCain last week, Barack Obama dropped this whopper on 53 million American viewers and another 60 million viewers and listeners worldwide: “Al-Qaeda is resurgent, stronger now than any time since 2001.” When the loudest, most revered American voice on the planet insists that U.S. victory is U.S. defeat what is the rest of the world supposed to think? And what are we supposed to think? Is this what Obama means by restoring America’s standing in the world?

When Obama’s not denying American victory, he’s apologizing for America’s attempts at it, even when the culprit is someone else. Indeed, when Russia invaded Georgia in August, Obama saw the perfect opportunity to beat up a little more on the U.S.. He said, “We’ve got to send a clear message to Russia and unify our allies. They can’t charge into other countries. Of course it helps if we are leading by example on that point.”

That’s exactly right: we should lead by example. We can start by being honest about what the U.S. has achieved in the War on Terror. In countries such as Iraq and Saudi Arabia, al Qaeda leadership has been killed, captured, or marginalized by the thousands. Operationally, fighters are scattered and strapped for money. And public sympathy for al Qaeda has plummeted throughout most of the Muslim world (although it is on the rise in Northern Africa, Egypt, Pakistan, and several parts of Europe.)

A U.S. that doesn’t deny its successes won’t necessarily inspire the rest of the world to join in the celebration. But it will halt the course of the self-fulfilling prophecy of America’s decline. There’s more than philosophical folly in the question: is a victory still a victory if everyone calls it a defeat?

In the Herald Tribune, Rami G. Khouri writes:

I was not surprised, during a visit to Egypt for a few days, to read the results of the latest BBC World Service global poll showing that in 22 out of 23 countries surveyed most people feel the U.S.-led “global war on terror” has not weakened Al Qaeda. On average, the poll showed, only 22 percent of respondents feel that Al Qaeda has been weakened, while three in five believe that the war on terror has had no effect (29 percent) or made Al Qaeda stronger (30 percent).

I’m not surprised either, considering the candidate in the lead for President of the United States feels the same way. Debating John McCain last week, Barack Obama dropped this whopper on 53 million American viewers and another 60 million viewers and listeners worldwide: “Al-Qaeda is resurgent, stronger now than any time since 2001.” When the loudest, most revered American voice on the planet insists that U.S. victory is U.S. defeat what is the rest of the world supposed to think? And what are we supposed to think? Is this what Obama means by restoring America’s standing in the world?

When Obama’s not denying American victory, he’s apologizing for America’s attempts at it, even when the culprit is someone else. Indeed, when Russia invaded Georgia in August, Obama saw the perfect opportunity to beat up a little more on the U.S.. He said, “We’ve got to send a clear message to Russia and unify our allies. They can’t charge into other countries. Of course it helps if we are leading by example on that point.”

That’s exactly right: we should lead by example. We can start by being honest about what the U.S. has achieved in the War on Terror. In countries such as Iraq and Saudi Arabia, al Qaeda leadership has been killed, captured, or marginalized by the thousands. Operationally, fighters are scattered and strapped for money. And public sympathy for al Qaeda has plummeted throughout most of the Muslim world (although it is on the rise in Northern Africa, Egypt, Pakistan, and several parts of Europe.)

A U.S. that doesn’t deny its successes won’t necessarily inspire the rest of the world to join in the celebration. But it will halt the course of the self-fulfilling prophecy of America’s decline. There’s more than philosophical folly in the question: is a victory still a victory if everyone calls it a defeat?

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You Get What You Pay For

Debates leave impressions. They don’t determine elections; rather, they help bring issues and candidates into sharper focus, and for those who aren’t already solidly committed, become part of a dot pattern that over the month of October resolves itself into a portrait of the candidate they are going to vote for — or a portrait of the candidate they are actively going to vote against.

There has never been a national political figure like Sarah Palin, and trying to shoehorn her debate performance last night into the conventional straightjacket into which most campaign commentators snap themselves snugly, lest they suddenly break free and flail about with an independent thought, is a fool’s errand. She is a new force, with an entirely new kind of appeal — and a new kind of irritant and provoker of outrage from those on the other side. What we don’t know yet is whether her appeal transcends partisan categories, or whether she is the best young face that can be put on conventionally conservative American politics.

I think it’s fair to say that the American pundit class, of which I am some kind of member, has not the slightest idea what the final disposition of this question will be this year. That is what happens when something new comes along to alter expectations and dynamics; it is only in retrospect that we will be able to determine the effect, because there is nothing in the past to compare it to.

And yet pundits are going to spend the rest of this weekend discussing whether Palin did enough to move undecided voters to McCain. Forget for a moment that moving undecided voters to McCain is the last thing these pundits want to see Palin succeed at. As they discuss it, pundits sound like anthropologists whose knowledge of the strange and barbaric practices of an inaccessible tribe in far off Papua New Guinea comes entirely from the field reports of other anthropologists.

Watching my old classmate Jeff Toobin and my old boss David Gergen, both of whom share with me a surpassing ignorance of the gut reactions of a fairly traditionalisst swing voter in Western Pennsylvania in the midst of the economic crisis of 2008, attempt to gauge the effectiveness of Palin in speaking to and convincing that voter has an inadvertently comic aspect.

I would trust both of them with my life if I needed an extensive analysis of the offerings at Zabar’s, the relative merits of the executive lounges of different airlines, or the disposition of Harvard’s endowment. But on the matter of Sarah Palin’s appeal, and her ability to help bring that dot pattern to resolve itself in McCain’s favor? That would be like asking me to diagnose the condition of your carburetor. I’ll do it if you pay me, but if you actually listen, the joke will be on you.

Debates leave impressions. They don’t determine elections; rather, they help bring issues and candidates into sharper focus, and for those who aren’t already solidly committed, become part of a dot pattern that over the month of October resolves itself into a portrait of the candidate they are going to vote for — or a portrait of the candidate they are actively going to vote against.

There has never been a national political figure like Sarah Palin, and trying to shoehorn her debate performance last night into the conventional straightjacket into which most campaign commentators snap themselves snugly, lest they suddenly break free and flail about with an independent thought, is a fool’s errand. She is a new force, with an entirely new kind of appeal — and a new kind of irritant and provoker of outrage from those on the other side. What we don’t know yet is whether her appeal transcends partisan categories, or whether she is the best young face that can be put on conventionally conservative American politics.

I think it’s fair to say that the American pundit class, of which I am some kind of member, has not the slightest idea what the final disposition of this question will be this year. That is what happens when something new comes along to alter expectations and dynamics; it is only in retrospect that we will be able to determine the effect, because there is nothing in the past to compare it to.

And yet pundits are going to spend the rest of this weekend discussing whether Palin did enough to move undecided voters to McCain. Forget for a moment that moving undecided voters to McCain is the last thing these pundits want to see Palin succeed at. As they discuss it, pundits sound like anthropologists whose knowledge of the strange and barbaric practices of an inaccessible tribe in far off Papua New Guinea comes entirely from the field reports of other anthropologists.

Watching my old classmate Jeff Toobin and my old boss David Gergen, both of whom share with me a surpassing ignorance of the gut reactions of a fairly traditionalisst swing voter in Western Pennsylvania in the midst of the economic crisis of 2008, attempt to gauge the effectiveness of Palin in speaking to and convincing that voter has an inadvertently comic aspect.

I would trust both of them with my life if I needed an extensive analysis of the offerings at Zabar’s, the relative merits of the executive lounges of different airlines, or the disposition of Harvard’s endowment. But on the matter of Sarah Palin’s appeal, and her ability to help bring that dot pattern to resolve itself in McCain’s favor? That would be like asking me to diagnose the condition of your carburetor. I’ll do it if you pay me, but if you actually listen, the joke will be on you.

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Cut Iran’s Fuel

How many fuel refining plants could Iran build with the money spent on its nuclear program? It is a question Iranians might wish to ask as winter approaches and Iran finds itself scrapping for gasoline. According to UIP, Iran is seeking to import $7 billion worth of refined fuel products to meet its domestic needs up to the Iranian new year on 20 March 2009. When it’s cold, that is definitely a long way to go, especially since part of the assured supply of refined fuel might run out as early as December 31.

Iran imports approximately 40 percent of its domestic consumption of fuel from abroad–including gas from Turkmenistan and gasoline, diesel, and kerosene from several suppliers, including the United Arab Emirates, India and several European countries. But Iranian officials are concerned that Turkmeni supplies may dry up because of an ongoing price dispute–Turkmenistan cut Iran off early last January, wreaking havoc among northern Iran residents then in the grip of a particularly cold winter. They are now seeking alternative sources–and showing the world that an embargo on refined fuel is something the West should seriously ponder.

Iran’s dependence on fuel shows how vulnerable Iran is to pressure. Cutting off the supply lines would increase internal unrest, which continues to grow due to Iran’s troubled economy. With recent strikes multiplying and spreading to new sectors of the economy, a massive shortage of such a basic supply as fuel would have dramatic effects on the ability of the regime to rule. If Western nations wished to consider an effective way to pressure Iran, now, at the start of winter, cutting the fuel supply lines would be one of them.

How many fuel refining plants could Iran build with the money spent on its nuclear program? It is a question Iranians might wish to ask as winter approaches and Iran finds itself scrapping for gasoline. According to UIP, Iran is seeking to import $7 billion worth of refined fuel products to meet its domestic needs up to the Iranian new year on 20 March 2009. When it’s cold, that is definitely a long way to go, especially since part of the assured supply of refined fuel might run out as early as December 31.

Iran imports approximately 40 percent of its domestic consumption of fuel from abroad–including gas from Turkmenistan and gasoline, diesel, and kerosene from several suppliers, including the United Arab Emirates, India and several European countries. But Iranian officials are concerned that Turkmeni supplies may dry up because of an ongoing price dispute–Turkmenistan cut Iran off early last January, wreaking havoc among northern Iran residents then in the grip of a particularly cold winter. They are now seeking alternative sources–and showing the world that an embargo on refined fuel is something the West should seriously ponder.

Iran’s dependence on fuel shows how vulnerable Iran is to pressure. Cutting off the supply lines would increase internal unrest, which continues to grow due to Iran’s troubled economy. With recent strikes multiplying and spreading to new sectors of the economy, a massive shortage of such a basic supply as fuel would have dramatic effects on the ability of the regime to rule. If Western nations wished to consider an effective way to pressure Iran, now, at the start of winter, cutting the fuel supply lines would be one of them.

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Palin’s Wild Ride

From her surprising pick, to her outstanding convention speech, to her subpar television interviews, to last night’s superb debate performance, Governor Palin has covered a huge amount of ground in the last five weeks.

One should not underestimate the significance of last night. Given the McCain campaign’s very bad last two weeks, if Palin had done poorly, the McCain campaign might have cratered. Her performance, after all, had become a referendum not simply on herself but on Senator McCain’s judgment, making this vice presidential debate more important than most.

Instead, Palin–in the face of overwhelming pressure, with the narrative of an out-of-her-depth hockey mom about to be written in stone, and with some conservative commentators saying she should be dropped from the ticket–delivered an outstanding effort. The result will be that she not only reassures, but also reinvigorates, conservatives and grass-roots Republicans.

Governor Palin did several things well last night. While missing some opportunities to respond to factually incorrect statements made by Senator Biden, and while obviously still in the midst of a learning curve on some matters, she was conversant on the issues. She was on the offensive much of the time, especially on Iraq. She made effective use of Biden’s past criticisms against Obama. She knows how to make an appealing populist case (though I found it excessive). She did a nice job of distancing the McCain campaign from the Bush presidency, arguing that she and McCain are forward-looking while Biden and Obama are stuck in the past. And she was able to hammer home the McCain-Palin reformist credentials pretty well.

But where she shone the brightest, and where I thought she absolutely overwhelmed Biden, was in how she carried herself, with confidence, poise, and good cheer. She showed she can score effective points without coming across as mean-spirited or petty. Her colloquialisms work because they are authentic. Governor Palin has real natural talent, and it helps that she’s a happy, upbeat (political) warrior. Those things aren’t the only things that matter, but they matter enough. Ronald Reagan’s sunny disposition, for example, was an important part of his leadership. And Senator Obama’s supporters, and even some of those who don’t support him (like me), believe his temperament and equanimity count in his favor.

This would have been a successful debate for Governor Palin even if the expectations had not been so low; the fact that they were, and the pressure was so great, makes it an extremely impressive one.

In terms of the campaign, I suspect she stopped the McCain campaign’s bleeding. If the House passes the bail out/rescue plan today, it means that come Tuesday, when the next presidential debate is held, the McCain campaign has a chance to reboot.

Vice Presidential candidates almost never win, or lose, an election (LBJ was the last one to influence the outcome of a presidential race). But they do play an important role in the ebb and flow of things. Last night Sarah Palin helped John McCain. But most of all, she helped herself. Regardless of how this campaign turns out, we haven’t heard the last of her.

From her surprising pick, to her outstanding convention speech, to her subpar television interviews, to last night’s superb debate performance, Governor Palin has covered a huge amount of ground in the last five weeks.

One should not underestimate the significance of last night. Given the McCain campaign’s very bad last two weeks, if Palin had done poorly, the McCain campaign might have cratered. Her performance, after all, had become a referendum not simply on herself but on Senator McCain’s judgment, making this vice presidential debate more important than most.

Instead, Palin–in the face of overwhelming pressure, with the narrative of an out-of-her-depth hockey mom about to be written in stone, and with some conservative commentators saying she should be dropped from the ticket–delivered an outstanding effort. The result will be that she not only reassures, but also reinvigorates, conservatives and grass-roots Republicans.

Governor Palin did several things well last night. While missing some opportunities to respond to factually incorrect statements made by Senator Biden, and while obviously still in the midst of a learning curve on some matters, she was conversant on the issues. She was on the offensive much of the time, especially on Iraq. She made effective use of Biden’s past criticisms against Obama. She knows how to make an appealing populist case (though I found it excessive). She did a nice job of distancing the McCain campaign from the Bush presidency, arguing that she and McCain are forward-looking while Biden and Obama are stuck in the past. And she was able to hammer home the McCain-Palin reformist credentials pretty well.

But where she shone the brightest, and where I thought she absolutely overwhelmed Biden, was in how she carried herself, with confidence, poise, and good cheer. She showed she can score effective points without coming across as mean-spirited or petty. Her colloquialisms work because they are authentic. Governor Palin has real natural talent, and it helps that she’s a happy, upbeat (political) warrior. Those things aren’t the only things that matter, but they matter enough. Ronald Reagan’s sunny disposition, for example, was an important part of his leadership. And Senator Obama’s supporters, and even some of those who don’t support him (like me), believe his temperament and equanimity count in his favor.

This would have been a successful debate for Governor Palin even if the expectations had not been so low; the fact that they were, and the pressure was so great, makes it an extremely impressive one.

In terms of the campaign, I suspect she stopped the McCain campaign’s bleeding. If the House passes the bail out/rescue plan today, it means that come Tuesday, when the next presidential debate is held, the McCain campaign has a chance to reboot.

Vice Presidential candidates almost never win, or lose, an election (LBJ was the last one to influence the outcome of a presidential race). But they do play an important role in the ebb and flow of things. Last night Sarah Palin helped John McCain. But most of all, she helped herself. Regardless of how this campaign turns out, we haven’t heard the last of her.

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Time For Some Hard Questions

John McCain needed a break, and he may have just gotten one. Larry Walsh, poker buddy and close political confidante of Barack Obama, was raided by the FBI. So reports this paper. This is not just a guy in Obama’s neighborhood, as one report details:

Mr. Walsh, who served in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2005, was endorsed by Mr. Obama in his county executive election bid. With the support of some of Mr. Obama’s U.S. Senate volunteers, he easily defeated incumbent Republican Joseph Mikan. A corn farmer from Joliet, Mr. Walsh has supported his friend’s presidential bid, and campaigned for him in rural and farming areas of the state. They are seen hugging each other in photos before Mr. Obama’s announcement that he was running for president. . . . The two men became tight friends during their tenure in the Illinois Senate and bonded over games of poker. According to a report in Time magazine, Mr. Walsh lost to Mr. Obama once with what he thought was a winning hand, and then slammed down his cards and said: “Doggone it, Barack, if you were more liberal in your card-playing and more conservative in your politics, you and I would get along much better.”

And Mr. Walsh’s County got his share of guess what — federal grants ( that would be “earmarks” I assume) which seem to be at the heart of the matter :

Will County auditor Steve Weber confirmed that his office had been asked by the FBI to assist in an investigation, but he did not elaborate on the specifics. Two FBI agents out of Chicago reportedly spent more than an hour in the Will County offices on Wednesday morning. According to sources, the Walsh investigation may be tied to lobbying firm Smith Dawson and Andrews, which was hired in 2006 for $10,000 per month to help Will County acquire federal grants. The firm, which is registered with the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, assists clients with communications and legislative strategies that better their public policy agendas, according to its Web site. Last month, Mr. Walsh announced that Will County was the recipient of a $750,000 federal government grant that would allow law enforcement and prosecutors to fight against domestic violence. One of the firm’s partners, James P. Smith, contributed $2,000 to help Mr. Walsh’s county executive election bid.

And Barack Obama? Well he sure got a lot of earmarks in there for Will County, although we do not know whether these are the immediate concern of or related in any way to the investigation. In Obama’s earmark disclosure you will find:

In 2006, Obama requested that Will County receive $1.3 million to support its Flood Studies for Unincorporated Will County.

In 2006, Obama requested $800,000 for the Will County Sheriff’s Office Wireless Communications Technology Upgrades.

In 2006, Obama requested $1,953,331 for Will County’s Ridgewood Water and Sewage Project.

In 2005, Obama requested $2 million for the Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois, to establish a Center for Academic and Community Learning, which is designed to address the significant educational needs of the less advantaged in the Will County region by providing academic assistance not only for students on campus but also for residents of the surrounding communities.

Another reference appears to relate to the Will County Health Department’s mental health program which I am informed got another $1.95 million.

So let’s review: Obama’s sponsor and friend Tony Rezko is going to jail, the Governor of his state whom he supported is going to be indicted and his close confident — for whom Obama got millions in earmarks — is under FBI investigation. Do you think this should be front page news in every mainstream paper? Should we have a feeding frenzy on the stump today as the press demands answers?

Let us find out just how curious the media can be. More important, let’s see if McCain and/or his running mate finally will call out their opponent and ask a tough question: Is this the guy who we want to reform Washington?

John McCain needed a break, and he may have just gotten one. Larry Walsh, poker buddy and close political confidante of Barack Obama, was raided by the FBI. So reports this paper. This is not just a guy in Obama’s neighborhood, as one report details:

Mr. Walsh, who served in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2005, was endorsed by Mr. Obama in his county executive election bid. With the support of some of Mr. Obama’s U.S. Senate volunteers, he easily defeated incumbent Republican Joseph Mikan. A corn farmer from Joliet, Mr. Walsh has supported his friend’s presidential bid, and campaigned for him in rural and farming areas of the state. They are seen hugging each other in photos before Mr. Obama’s announcement that he was running for president. . . . The two men became tight friends during their tenure in the Illinois Senate and bonded over games of poker. According to a report in Time magazine, Mr. Walsh lost to Mr. Obama once with what he thought was a winning hand, and then slammed down his cards and said: “Doggone it, Barack, if you were more liberal in your card-playing and more conservative in your politics, you and I would get along much better.”

And Mr. Walsh’s County got his share of guess what — federal grants ( that would be “earmarks” I assume) which seem to be at the heart of the matter :

Will County auditor Steve Weber confirmed that his office had been asked by the FBI to assist in an investigation, but he did not elaborate on the specifics. Two FBI agents out of Chicago reportedly spent more than an hour in the Will County offices on Wednesday morning. According to sources, the Walsh investigation may be tied to lobbying firm Smith Dawson and Andrews, which was hired in 2006 for $10,000 per month to help Will County acquire federal grants. The firm, which is registered with the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, assists clients with communications and legislative strategies that better their public policy agendas, according to its Web site. Last month, Mr. Walsh announced that Will County was the recipient of a $750,000 federal government grant that would allow law enforcement and prosecutors to fight against domestic violence. One of the firm’s partners, James P. Smith, contributed $2,000 to help Mr. Walsh’s county executive election bid.

And Barack Obama? Well he sure got a lot of earmarks in there for Will County, although we do not know whether these are the immediate concern of or related in any way to the investigation. In Obama’s earmark disclosure you will find:

In 2006, Obama requested that Will County receive $1.3 million to support its Flood Studies for Unincorporated Will County.

In 2006, Obama requested $800,000 for the Will County Sheriff’s Office Wireless Communications Technology Upgrades.

In 2006, Obama requested $1,953,331 for Will County’s Ridgewood Water and Sewage Project.

In 2005, Obama requested $2 million for the Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois, to establish a Center for Academic and Community Learning, which is designed to address the significant educational needs of the less advantaged in the Will County region by providing academic assistance not only for students on campus but also for residents of the surrounding communities.

Another reference appears to relate to the Will County Health Department’s mental health program which I am informed got another $1.95 million.

So let’s review: Obama’s sponsor and friend Tony Rezko is going to jail, the Governor of his state whom he supported is going to be indicted and his close confident — for whom Obama got millions in earmarks — is under FBI investigation. Do you think this should be front page news in every mainstream paper? Should we have a feeding frenzy on the stump today as the press demands answers?

Let us find out just how curious the media can be. More important, let’s see if McCain and/or his running mate finally will call out their opponent and ask a tough question: Is this the guy who we want to reform Washington?

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Last Night: An Audience 33 Percent Larger

Maybe it was the difference between a Friday and a Thursday night or maybe the MSM — just as they did for her Convention speech — built such anticipation into the event that they inadvertantly delivered Sarah Palin a huge audience over which to cast her spell. Whatever the reason, it seems that the VP debate beat last week’s presidential debate’s ratings by 33%,  based on preliminary returns.

If you believe Frank Luntz’s focus group (I am skeptical of these things, since the participants all talk in soundbites worthy of the best TV talking-heads) or at least agree with many pundits that “you betcha” Palin far exceeded all expectations, then the big audience is a good thing for the McCain-Palin ticket.

Maybe it was the difference between a Friday and a Thursday night or maybe the MSM — just as they did for her Convention speech — built such anticipation into the event that they inadvertantly delivered Sarah Palin a huge audience over which to cast her spell. Whatever the reason, it seems that the VP debate beat last week’s presidential debate’s ratings by 33%,  based on preliminary returns.

If you believe Frank Luntz’s focus group (I am skeptical of these things, since the participants all talk in soundbites worthy of the best TV talking-heads) or at least agree with many pundits that “you betcha” Palin far exceeded all expectations, then the big audience is a good thing for the McCain-Palin ticket.

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Obama’s Damage

With his first entry in an otherwise blank foreign policy ledger, Barack Obama sabotaged America’s operational relationship with Pakistan. On August 1, 2007, during a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, Senator Obama said of Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan:

There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again . . . If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.

The statement was swiftly criticized by prominent Republicans and Democrats as inept and harmful to American interests. (It was actually Senator Joe Biden who leveled the most insightful charge at Obama, saying, “The last thing you want to do is telegraph to the folks in Pakistan plans that threaten their sovereignty.”)

Yet that is precisely what Senator Obama managed to do.

Read the rest of this COMMENTARY web exclusive here.

With his first entry in an otherwise blank foreign policy ledger, Barack Obama sabotaged America’s operational relationship with Pakistan. On August 1, 2007, during a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, Senator Obama said of Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan:

There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again . . . If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.

The statement was swiftly criticized by prominent Republicans and Democrats as inept and harmful to American interests. (It was actually Senator Joe Biden who leveled the most insightful charge at Obama, saying, “The last thing you want to do is telegraph to the folks in Pakistan plans that threaten their sovereignty.”)

Yet that is precisely what Senator Obama managed to do.

Read the rest of this COMMENTARY web exclusive here.

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A Worrying Analogy

Some might think the following is a reassuring line of argument, but I find it distressing. It’s been used in the past by John McCain, and appeared yesterday in the VP debate courtesy of  Governor Sarah Palin:

Israel is our strongest and best ally in the Middle East. We have got to assure them that we will never allow a second Holocaust, despite, again, warnings from Iran and any other country that would seek to destroy Israel, that that is what they would like to see.

It’s not that I do not appreciate the thought–I just think that no assurances can be sufficient in this case at this point in time. So far the U.S. has failed miserably in its effort to stop or significantly slow Iran’s nuclear program, so the Holocaust analogy is more frightening than it is reassuring. It is as if we were saying: if we keep failing, a second holocaust is imminent–when in fact we are failing.

It is also not reassuring because Israelis are starting to realize that America might not be available for help in the coming years:

Israel has always put its trust in American backing and support. As long as America was around, we knew we had something to rely on. Not just arms supplies, but political backing for Israel’s interests, including support for peace initiatives . . . With the approach of the U.S. presidential elections next month, America’s order of priorities is liable to change.

And as Haaretz‘s Aluf Benn has remarked, Israeli leaders have toned down their rhetoric on Iran. Whether this is a result of realization that Israel will not be able to preempt Iran all by itself (as Prime Minister Olmert has said in an interview last week) or a tactical move, supposedly misleading the Iranians into believing that Israel can’t act, is yet to be determined. But either way this seems to me to be the right thing to do. Getting the Iranians to believe that a second Holocaust is within reach is not an advisable way to go. And if one is serious about doing what’s necessary, this is a case to which I’d apply the “if you want to shoot, shoot–don’t talk” rule (and by “shoot” I don’t mean literally shoot; I mean do something that might have an impact).

Some might think the following is a reassuring line of argument, but I find it distressing. It’s been used in the past by John McCain, and appeared yesterday in the VP debate courtesy of  Governor Sarah Palin:

Israel is our strongest and best ally in the Middle East. We have got to assure them that we will never allow a second Holocaust, despite, again, warnings from Iran and any other country that would seek to destroy Israel, that that is what they would like to see.

It’s not that I do not appreciate the thought–I just think that no assurances can be sufficient in this case at this point in time. So far the U.S. has failed miserably in its effort to stop or significantly slow Iran’s nuclear program, so the Holocaust analogy is more frightening than it is reassuring. It is as if we were saying: if we keep failing, a second holocaust is imminent–when in fact we are failing.

It is also not reassuring because Israelis are starting to realize that America might not be available for help in the coming years:

Israel has always put its trust in American backing and support. As long as America was around, we knew we had something to rely on. Not just arms supplies, but political backing for Israel’s interests, including support for peace initiatives . . . With the approach of the U.S. presidential elections next month, America’s order of priorities is liable to change.

And as Haaretz‘s Aluf Benn has remarked, Israeli leaders have toned down their rhetoric on Iran. Whether this is a result of realization that Israel will not be able to preempt Iran all by itself (as Prime Minister Olmert has said in an interview last week) or a tactical move, supposedly misleading the Iranians into believing that Israel can’t act, is yet to be determined. But either way this seems to me to be the right thing to do. Getting the Iranians to believe that a second Holocaust is within reach is not an advisable way to go. And if one is serious about doing what’s necessary, this is a case to which I’d apply the “if you want to shoot, shoot–don’t talk” rule (and by “shoot” I don’t mean literally shoot; I mean do something that might have an impact).

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Why only kick Maureen Dowd off the McCain campaign plane? At least her stuff is labeled “opinion.”

Fred Barnes is right, the killer moment came when Sarah Palin said: “Can we talk about Afghanistan real quick?”

A helpful guide to Joe Biden’s make believe world of invented facts and out-and-out lies.

John Miller pulls a Marshall McLuhan/Woody Allen and tracks down Lou Cannon, whom Gwen Ifill seemed to accuse of the same bias she possessed. But Cannon says that “I would never have moderated a televised debate involving Reagan—and never did—because it would have been perceived as a conflict of interest by liberals and conservatives alike even though I think I would have been balanced. But perception is very important.” So Ifill got her facts wrong, slurred Cannon, didn’t disclose her conflict, and played the race card. Lovely.

Having spent two weeks bashing cowardly and ignorant lawmakers it is right to applaud a really brave and smart one: Rep. Paul Ryan.

The MSM hates to admit it : they like Sarah Palin and doggone it, she beat the odds and the stereotypes — which, come to think of it, they cooked up. So that would mean she showed them all up and they still like her? This is the wackiest race ever.

Great advice for conservatives: “Republicans must fight (not whine about) media bias at every turn. Marshall the facts. Bypass the media gatekeepers. Don’t play their game, don’t turn the other cheek. Go directly to the people. Be relentless. Be cheerfully ruthless in defense of truth and accuracy. And if debate moderators fail to bring up Ayers or Wright or Rezko or Raines or Born-Alive or Fannie Mae or the Surge, Republicans must bring them up. Don’t concede that they’re somehow off-limits just because the media have been doing everything in their power to ignore them. Let the media dictate the rules of engagement and you lose.” Media bias should be decried — because it is bad for democracy and fundamentally unfair — but it’s not a valid excuse for losing elections.

A new modus operandi for Nancy Pelosi: ““We’re not going to take a bill to the floor that doesn’t have the votes.” What a concept.

I agree that taxes are still a potent issue. But how many voters are aware that, under Barack Obama’s scheme, the effective top marginal rate is headed over 50% and the majority of small businesses will be socked? (That’s assuming only the “rich” get a tax hike.) Well, more after last night’s debate.

I find this take entirely persuasive. Short term tactics by the McCain camp worked beautifully but they were means to an end: developing a comprehensive and persuasive message of his own and critique of the oppositon. That “end” hasn’t come yet and the end of the campaign is growing near.

This could be an ad for any Republican running in this cycle.

Charles Krauthamer sums up: “Obama has shown that he is a man of limited experience, questionable convictions, deeply troubling associations (Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, Tony Rezko) and an alarming lack of self- definition — do you really know who he is and what he believes? Nonetheless, he’s got both a first-class intellect and a first-class temperament. That will likely be enough to make him president.” And of course the good luck to be following a hugely unpopular president. McCain still has a month to provide some “definition” and see if he can cast doubt on that temperament.

Why only kick Maureen Dowd off the McCain campaign plane? At least her stuff is labeled “opinion.”

Fred Barnes is right, the killer moment came when Sarah Palin said: “Can we talk about Afghanistan real quick?”

A helpful guide to Joe Biden’s make believe world of invented facts and out-and-out lies.

John Miller pulls a Marshall McLuhan/Woody Allen and tracks down Lou Cannon, whom Gwen Ifill seemed to accuse of the same bias she possessed. But Cannon says that “I would never have moderated a televised debate involving Reagan—and never did—because it would have been perceived as a conflict of interest by liberals and conservatives alike even though I think I would have been balanced. But perception is very important.” So Ifill got her facts wrong, slurred Cannon, didn’t disclose her conflict, and played the race card. Lovely.

Having spent two weeks bashing cowardly and ignorant lawmakers it is right to applaud a really brave and smart one: Rep. Paul Ryan.

The MSM hates to admit it : they like Sarah Palin and doggone it, she beat the odds and the stereotypes — which, come to think of it, they cooked up. So that would mean she showed them all up and they still like her? This is the wackiest race ever.

Great advice for conservatives: “Republicans must fight (not whine about) media bias at every turn. Marshall the facts. Bypass the media gatekeepers. Don’t play their game, don’t turn the other cheek. Go directly to the people. Be relentless. Be cheerfully ruthless in defense of truth and accuracy. And if debate moderators fail to bring up Ayers or Wright or Rezko or Raines or Born-Alive or Fannie Mae or the Surge, Republicans must bring them up. Don’t concede that they’re somehow off-limits just because the media have been doing everything in their power to ignore them. Let the media dictate the rules of engagement and you lose.” Media bias should be decried — because it is bad for democracy and fundamentally unfair — but it’s not a valid excuse for losing elections.

A new modus operandi for Nancy Pelosi: ““We’re not going to take a bill to the floor that doesn’t have the votes.” What a concept.

I agree that taxes are still a potent issue. But how many voters are aware that, under Barack Obama’s scheme, the effective top marginal rate is headed over 50% and the majority of small businesses will be socked? (That’s assuming only the “rich” get a tax hike.) Well, more after last night’s debate.

I find this take entirely persuasive. Short term tactics by the McCain camp worked beautifully but they were means to an end: developing a comprehensive and persuasive message of his own and critique of the oppositon. That “end” hasn’t come yet and the end of the campaign is growing near.

This could be an ad for any Republican running in this cycle.

Charles Krauthamer sums up: “Obama has shown that he is a man of limited experience, questionable convictions, deeply troubling associations (Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, Tony Rezko) and an alarming lack of self- definition — do you really know who he is and what he believes? Nonetheless, he’s got both a first-class intellect and a first-class temperament. That will likely be enough to make him president.” And of course the good luck to be following a hugely unpopular president. McCain still has a month to provide some “definition” and see if he can cast doubt on that temperament.

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