Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 14, 2008

Commentary of the Day

Diane, on Linda Chavez:

By the way, I sense that the tide is changing in the MSM. Now that their darling is the frontrunner and McCain seems powerless to defeat him, their defensive crouch is turning into something else – a genuine curiosity to discover how Obama will govern.

This is the best thing that could happen for McCain. It will expose Obama’s true colors, whatever they may be, at a time when voters are taking a final look – and asking themselves, emotions and resentments aside, “do I really want Obama to be my president?”

The less McCain attacks at this point, the more explaining Obama will have to do. Instead of crying “foul, divisive, racist” he will need to talk about what exactly he means by “change.” And when he does, I think that American centrists will get a nervous feeling in the pit of their stomachs.

Thought everyone is writing McCain’s political obituary, let’s not forget that the margin of victory is 4 percentage points. Perhaps the only way to beat a phenomenon like Obama is to capitulate. Let him preen and pontificate and measure the curtains. That’s the most powerful negative campaign I can imagine!

Diane, on Linda Chavez:

By the way, I sense that the tide is changing in the MSM. Now that their darling is the frontrunner and McCain seems powerless to defeat him, their defensive crouch is turning into something else – a genuine curiosity to discover how Obama will govern.

This is the best thing that could happen for McCain. It will expose Obama’s true colors, whatever they may be, at a time when voters are taking a final look – and asking themselves, emotions and resentments aside, “do I really want Obama to be my president?”

The less McCain attacks at this point, the more explaining Obama will have to do. Instead of crying “foul, divisive, racist” he will need to talk about what exactly he means by “change.” And when he does, I think that American centrists will get a nervous feeling in the pit of their stomachs.

Thought everyone is writing McCain’s political obituary, let’s not forget that the margin of victory is 4 percentage points. Perhaps the only way to beat a phenomenon like Obama is to capitulate. Let him preen and pontificate and measure the curtains. That’s the most powerful negative campaign I can imagine!

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Re: Jesse Jackson

It’s barely news that Jesse Jackson shares political convictions with Mahmoud Ahamdinejad. It was almost 25 years ago that Jackson called New York City “hymietown,” and said he’s “sick and tired of hearing about the Holocaust,” that “Zionism is a kind of poisonous weed that is choking Judaism,” and there are “very few Jewish reporters that have the capacity to be objective about Arab affairs.” Nor is it shocking that Barack Obama, or any Democrat, continues to flatter him as a legitimate voice on race, international relations, or social policy. After all, in 2000, Al Gore and Joe Lieberman invited him to speak at the Democratic convention. I just wonder how prominent convictions such as Jackson’s are among Obama supporters.

Many will rush to say, “not very.” Obama’s more savvy fans will be sure to claim Jackson is purposely sabotaging Obama out of the same animosity that caused him to fantasize about neutering the candidate on an open television microphone. But if Jackson is upset that Obama is “talking down to black folks,” he can’t possibly think John McCain’s greater intolerance for what John McWhorter has termed “therapeutic alienation” in parts of the black community is a more welcome alternative. No, Jesse Jackson is simply saying what he expects of, and hopes to see from, Obama in the White House. And he does not think airing these expectations will hurt Obama’s candidacy. So: on this last point is he right?

We know such sentiments are commonplace among the nutroots, because they never tire of telling us. We know anti-Semitism is enough of a mobilizing factor among potential Democratic voters to cause some at the DNC to whet bigoted appetites on their official website. When Rep. Eric Cantor was being talked about as a possible McCain running mate, the DNC launched an attack mentioning Cantor was Jewish five times in six paragraphs. And while there is absolutely no evidence that Barack Obama is remotely anti-Semitic, we know that he was unable, either because of personal conviction or strategic campaign considerations, to answer in the affirmative when asked twice by JeffreyGoldberg if present-day Zionism has justice on its side.

The point is, Obama-supporters are demanding McCain run a primetime commercial to formally distance himself from each freaky stranger that shows up to hear him speak, yet the Democrats have welcomed bigoted haters into the very heart of their movement for years. Moreover, they’ve put a legitimate face on prejudice, by wrapping it in populist arguments about who’s in control of our government and “justice” for selected ethnicities. However, I’m willing to bet that somehow-and I can’t quite envision the means-Jackson’s sentiments will bounce through the media funhouse until it’s turned into a story about John McCain stoking fear among GOP voters.

It’s barely news that Jesse Jackson shares political convictions with Mahmoud Ahamdinejad. It was almost 25 years ago that Jackson called New York City “hymietown,” and said he’s “sick and tired of hearing about the Holocaust,” that “Zionism is a kind of poisonous weed that is choking Judaism,” and there are “very few Jewish reporters that have the capacity to be objective about Arab affairs.” Nor is it shocking that Barack Obama, or any Democrat, continues to flatter him as a legitimate voice on race, international relations, or social policy. After all, in 2000, Al Gore and Joe Lieberman invited him to speak at the Democratic convention. I just wonder how prominent convictions such as Jackson’s are among Obama supporters.

Many will rush to say, “not very.” Obama’s more savvy fans will be sure to claim Jackson is purposely sabotaging Obama out of the same animosity that caused him to fantasize about neutering the candidate on an open television microphone. But if Jackson is upset that Obama is “talking down to black folks,” he can’t possibly think John McCain’s greater intolerance for what John McWhorter has termed “therapeutic alienation” in parts of the black community is a more welcome alternative. No, Jesse Jackson is simply saying what he expects of, and hopes to see from, Obama in the White House. And he does not think airing these expectations will hurt Obama’s candidacy. So: on this last point is he right?

We know such sentiments are commonplace among the nutroots, because they never tire of telling us. We know anti-Semitism is enough of a mobilizing factor among potential Democratic voters to cause some at the DNC to whet bigoted appetites on their official website. When Rep. Eric Cantor was being talked about as a possible McCain running mate, the DNC launched an attack mentioning Cantor was Jewish five times in six paragraphs. And while there is absolutely no evidence that Barack Obama is remotely anti-Semitic, we know that he was unable, either because of personal conviction or strategic campaign considerations, to answer in the affirmative when asked twice by JeffreyGoldberg if present-day Zionism has justice on its side.

The point is, Obama-supporters are demanding McCain run a primetime commercial to formally distance himself from each freaky stranger that shows up to hear him speak, yet the Democrats have welcomed bigoted haters into the very heart of their movement for years. Moreover, they’ve put a legitimate face on prejudice, by wrapping it in populist arguments about who’s in control of our government and “justice” for selected ethnicities. However, I’m willing to bet that somehow-and I can’t quite envision the means-Jackson’s sentiments will bounce through the media funhouse until it’s turned into a story about John McCain stoking fear among GOP voters.

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A Question of Character

At a time when many people are saying Barack Obama’s past associations with radical figures doesn’t matter — and even that it shouldn’t matter – it’s worth considering the opposite argument.

From the ancient Greeks to the founding fathers, many of our best political minds believed character in our leaders matters. It doesn’t matter more than anything else, and character is itself a complicated thing. People can have strong character in some respects and weak character in others. People can demonstrate battlefield valor, for example, yet show cruelty to those over whom they have power. They can speak unpleasant truths when there is a high cost to doing so and betray their spouses. Individuals can demonstrate admirable loyalty to their friends and still lie to the public, or work for peace and yet violate the laws of our land.

Still, in our wiser moments, we have always understood that character, broadly defined, is important to possess for those in high public office, in part because it tells us whether our leaders warrant our trust, whether their word is dependable, and whether they are responsible. And one of the best indicators of character is the people with whom you associate. This is basic, elementary-school level common sense. The odds are your parents wanted you to hang around with the “right” crowd instead of the wrong crowd because if you hung around with the latter it meant its members would be a bad influence on you, it would reflect poorly on you, and you’d probably end up getting into trouble.

What applies to 10-year-olds also applies to presidential candidates.

Over the years, Barack Obama hung around with some pretty disturbing characters, and what we’re talking about aren’t isolated incidents. It has happened with a slew of people on a range of issues. He has connected himself with domestic terrorists (William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn), with an anti-American and racist minister (Jeremiah Wright), and with corrupt people (Antoin “Tony” Rezko) and organizations (ACORN). What we see, then, is a pattern.

Will it be something that will manifest itself if Obama is elected President? It’s impossible to know for sure, and we can hope it wouldn’t be the case. But it might.

The concern is not that Obama will invite domestic terrorists to the White House for signing ceremonies or private lunches; rather, it is that we know enough about Obama to say that his enormous personal ambition has clouded his judgment over the years. He looks to be a man who will do disquieting things in order to climb the ladder of political success; when he was in Hyde Park, the rungs on that ladder included Mr. Ayers and the Reverend Wright. This kind of trait — soaring ambition trumping sound judgment — can manifest itself in very problematic ways, especially when you occupy the most powerful office in the world.

For those who say that these associations don’t matter, that they’re “distractions” from the more urgent problems of our time and an example of “Swift-boating,” consider this: if John McCain had sat in the pew of a pastor who was a white supremacist and launched his political career at the home of, and developed a working relationship with, a man who bombed abortion clinics or black churches and, for good measure, was unrepentant about it, McCain’s political career would be (rightly) over, and he would be (rightly) ostracized.

A political reference point may be helpful here. Senator Trent Lott was hounded out of his post as Majority Leader because of a few inappropriate comments — made in bad taste but in jest — at Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party. Much of the media and the political class were outraged. Yet we have a case in which Obama has had close, intimate relations with some really unsavory folks, and we’re told it doesn’t matter one bit.

It’s true enough that the McCain campaign has never explained in a sustained, adequate way why these radical associations matter; that McCain, for reasons that are hard to fathom, has declared the Reverend Jeremiah Wright is off limits; and that the MSM is so deeply wed to Obama’s victory that they have done all they can to turn the issue of Obama’s radical associations into a problem for John McCain rather than Barack Obama. And so it’s quite possible that raising Obama’s radical associations in the last 20 days won’t be politically effective and may even be politically counterproductive, given the economic crisis we’re facing and the ham-handed way it’s been handled so far. Many Americans certainly seems to be of the mind that Obama’s associations with Ayers and Wright and all the rest don’t matter.

I get all that. But some of us believe there is a responsibility to make this case in a calm, responsible, factual way. We believe it’s important to explain why Obama’s radical associations bear on the question of his character, and why Obama’s character bears on the question of electing our next President. This issue shouldn’t, by itself, be dispositive. Nor should it be the only, or even the most important, issue in the campaign. Nor is it fair to say that Obama’s character can be understood only through the prism of his associations. But to evoke eye-rolling, dismissive reactions in response to simply raising the issue is an effort to sideline a legitimate topic.

The time-honored truth is that character matters in leaders. Sometimes people forget that lesson – and when they do, it’s appropriate to remind them. And whether the country understands it or not, and whether voters think it’s a big deal or not, integrity and associations matter.

If Barack Obama is elected President, sooner or later people will realize this applies to him as well. It’s only right to ask the relevant questions in advance of this election — and despite the ridicule being dished out by the acolytes and cheerleaders of Senator Obama, it’s not too much to ask Obama to explain his relationship over the years with people who have a disturbing history of violence, hatred for America, and corruption.

At a time when many people are saying Barack Obama’s past associations with radical figures doesn’t matter — and even that it shouldn’t matter – it’s worth considering the opposite argument.

From the ancient Greeks to the founding fathers, many of our best political minds believed character in our leaders matters. It doesn’t matter more than anything else, and character is itself a complicated thing. People can have strong character in some respects and weak character in others. People can demonstrate battlefield valor, for example, yet show cruelty to those over whom they have power. They can speak unpleasant truths when there is a high cost to doing so and betray their spouses. Individuals can demonstrate admirable loyalty to their friends and still lie to the public, or work for peace and yet violate the laws of our land.

Still, in our wiser moments, we have always understood that character, broadly defined, is important to possess for those in high public office, in part because it tells us whether our leaders warrant our trust, whether their word is dependable, and whether they are responsible. And one of the best indicators of character is the people with whom you associate. This is basic, elementary-school level common sense. The odds are your parents wanted you to hang around with the “right” crowd instead of the wrong crowd because if you hung around with the latter it meant its members would be a bad influence on you, it would reflect poorly on you, and you’d probably end up getting into trouble.

What applies to 10-year-olds also applies to presidential candidates.

Over the years, Barack Obama hung around with some pretty disturbing characters, and what we’re talking about aren’t isolated incidents. It has happened with a slew of people on a range of issues. He has connected himself with domestic terrorists (William Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn), with an anti-American and racist minister (Jeremiah Wright), and with corrupt people (Antoin “Tony” Rezko) and organizations (ACORN). What we see, then, is a pattern.

Will it be something that will manifest itself if Obama is elected President? It’s impossible to know for sure, and we can hope it wouldn’t be the case. But it might.

The concern is not that Obama will invite domestic terrorists to the White House for signing ceremonies or private lunches; rather, it is that we know enough about Obama to say that his enormous personal ambition has clouded his judgment over the years. He looks to be a man who will do disquieting things in order to climb the ladder of political success; when he was in Hyde Park, the rungs on that ladder included Mr. Ayers and the Reverend Wright. This kind of trait — soaring ambition trumping sound judgment — can manifest itself in very problematic ways, especially when you occupy the most powerful office in the world.

For those who say that these associations don’t matter, that they’re “distractions” from the more urgent problems of our time and an example of “Swift-boating,” consider this: if John McCain had sat in the pew of a pastor who was a white supremacist and launched his political career at the home of, and developed a working relationship with, a man who bombed abortion clinics or black churches and, for good measure, was unrepentant about it, McCain’s political career would be (rightly) over, and he would be (rightly) ostracized.

A political reference point may be helpful here. Senator Trent Lott was hounded out of his post as Majority Leader because of a few inappropriate comments — made in bad taste but in jest — at Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party. Much of the media and the political class were outraged. Yet we have a case in which Obama has had close, intimate relations with some really unsavory folks, and we’re told it doesn’t matter one bit.

It’s true enough that the McCain campaign has never explained in a sustained, adequate way why these radical associations matter; that McCain, for reasons that are hard to fathom, has declared the Reverend Jeremiah Wright is off limits; and that the MSM is so deeply wed to Obama’s victory that they have done all they can to turn the issue of Obama’s radical associations into a problem for John McCain rather than Barack Obama. And so it’s quite possible that raising Obama’s radical associations in the last 20 days won’t be politically effective and may even be politically counterproductive, given the economic crisis we’re facing and the ham-handed way it’s been handled so far. Many Americans certainly seems to be of the mind that Obama’s associations with Ayers and Wright and all the rest don’t matter.

I get all that. But some of us believe there is a responsibility to make this case in a calm, responsible, factual way. We believe it’s important to explain why Obama’s radical associations bear on the question of his character, and why Obama’s character bears on the question of electing our next President. This issue shouldn’t, by itself, be dispositive. Nor should it be the only, or even the most important, issue in the campaign. Nor is it fair to say that Obama’s character can be understood only through the prism of his associations. But to evoke eye-rolling, dismissive reactions in response to simply raising the issue is an effort to sideline a legitimate topic.

The time-honored truth is that character matters in leaders. Sometimes people forget that lesson – and when they do, it’s appropriate to remind them. And whether the country understands it or not, and whether voters think it’s a big deal or not, integrity and associations matter.

If Barack Obama is elected President, sooner or later people will realize this applies to him as well. It’s only right to ask the relevant questions in advance of this election — and despite the ridicule being dished out by the acolytes and cheerleaders of Senator Obama, it’s not too much to ask Obama to explain his relationship over the years with people who have a disturbing history of violence, hatred for America, and corruption.

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Time For A Brother Jackson Moment?

Whether intentionally or not Jesse Jackson is causing problems again for Barack Obama. The latest from the New York Post:

Jackson believes that, although “Zionists who have controlled American policy for decades” remain strong, they’ll lose a great deal of their clout when Barack Obama enters the White House. “Obama is about change,” Jackson told me in a wide-rangingMcPeak said progress had not been made in the Middle East peace process because of the Jewish community in New York City and Miami. And the change that Obama promises is not limited to what we do in America itself. It is a change of the way America looks at the world and its place in it.”

Matt Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition put out a statement, observing the similarity to an earlier statement by Obama advisor Tony McPeak (“McPeak said progress had not been made in the Middle East peace process because of the Jewish community in New York City and Miami. ‘We have a large vote — vote, here in favor of Israel. And no politician wants to run against it.'”) and commenting:

That those with such virulent anti-Semitic and anti-Israel views support an Obama presidency continues to be deeply troubling to the Jewish community. It highlights why Obama continues to have problems in the Jewish community.

One wonders why Obama, if he in fact doesn’t share these views, doesn’t distance himself from remarks from Jackson. If he wants voters to believe the Obama that came before AIPAC ,and not the Obama who funded the Arab American Action Network with Wood Fund largess and who ingratiated himself with Rashid Khalidi, it would seem to be in his interest to do so.

UPDATE: To their credit the Obama camp has repudiated Jackson’s comments.

Whether intentionally or not Jesse Jackson is causing problems again for Barack Obama. The latest from the New York Post:

Jackson believes that, although “Zionists who have controlled American policy for decades” remain strong, they’ll lose a great deal of their clout when Barack Obama enters the White House. “Obama is about change,” Jackson told me in a wide-rangingMcPeak said progress had not been made in the Middle East peace process because of the Jewish community in New York City and Miami. And the change that Obama promises is not limited to what we do in America itself. It is a change of the way America looks at the world and its place in it.”

Matt Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition put out a statement, observing the similarity to an earlier statement by Obama advisor Tony McPeak (“McPeak said progress had not been made in the Middle East peace process because of the Jewish community in New York City and Miami. ‘We have a large vote — vote, here in favor of Israel. And no politician wants to run against it.'”) and commenting:

That those with such virulent anti-Semitic and anti-Israel views support an Obama presidency continues to be deeply troubling to the Jewish community. It highlights why Obama continues to have problems in the Jewish community.

One wonders why Obama, if he in fact doesn’t share these views, doesn’t distance himself from remarks from Jackson. If he wants voters to believe the Obama that came before AIPAC ,and not the Obama who funded the Arab American Action Network with Wood Fund largess and who ingratiated himself with Rashid Khalidi, it would seem to be in his interest to do so.

UPDATE: To their credit the Obama camp has repudiated Jackson’s comments.

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Iraq’s Rehabilitated Detainees

One of the unheralded successes of the past 18 months in Iraq has come in the unglamorous realm of detainee operations. Along with the surge in U.S. and Iraqi troops came a surge in the number of suspects held by U.S. forces, reaching a peak of 25,504 in October 2007. That coincided with a sharp reduction in violence–only it was no coincidence. Just as in the U.S., more prisoners equals less crime.

With violence levels falling by 80% from their peaks and with doubts growing about future legal authority to hold Iraqis, the U.S. high command has been undertaking a careful program of detainee releases. The number of prisoners currently held by the U.S. is 17,966–a 29% decrease. Those numbers will fall further, since U.S. forces are releasing an average of 50 inmates a day while arresting only 25. The only detainees unlikely ever to see the light of day are the 3,500 who are said to belong to Al Qaeda in Iraq.

When I last visited Iraq back in January, I found a lot of trepidation among officers in the field about the consequences of this mass release. It was, one brigade commander told me, “one more rock in the commander’s rucksack, which is already pretty heavy.”

When I returned just a few days ago, I found that these fears have not been realized. At Camp Cropper, the coalition detention facility located near Baghdad Airport, I was told that since September 2007, 13,236 inmates have been released, and of that number, only 97 have been re-arrested. That is an astonishingly low recidivism rate of 0.7%–far below the previous rate of 7%.

Why the change? A lot of the explanation has to do with the changing dynamics of Iraqi society. Many of the released detainees are Sunnis from Anbar Province. When they went into the clink, they were part of a widespread insurgency that included most military-age males in their neighborhoods. By the time they came out, the insurgency had been defeated, with Al Qaeda terrorists chased out and the local tribes joining the Anbar Awakening. Returning detainees have no reason to take up arms.

But part of the explanation also has to do with a dramatic change in how detainees were handled that is credited to Major General Douglas Stone, a Marine reservist who commanded Task Force 134, which overseas detainee operations, from May 2007 until June 2008.

Under Stone’s guidance, the task force went from simply warehousing prisoners to trying to rehabilitate them, instituting what the military calls “COIN behind the wire”-that is, counterinsurgency operations inside the detention facilities. An important first step was to segregate detainees by level of militancy so that hard-core Al Qaeda fanatics would not have a chance to proselytize among the less-committed.

Moderate Muslim clerics were brought in to “deprogram” detainees who had their heads filled with jihadist propaganda. Classes were set up to teach skills that could be used on the outside, such as how to be a plumber or electrician. Work programs were also instituted so that inmates can volunteer to build furniture or undertake other tasks to earn them money they can send home to their families. Personal visits and even video teleconferences were arranged to keep inmates in touch with their relatives. Regular review boards were convened to consider every detainee’s case, with suspects being allowed to plead their cases before the three American officers who make up each board.

I got to see the results of these changes while touring Camp Cropper, which is smaller than its sister institution, Camp Bucca in southern Iraq. The inmates live in large, dormitory-style houses surrounded by barbed wire and catwalks. Each house appoints a chief who represents their views in meetings with administrators. The food (all halal) is so good that the average detainee gains seven pounds. Inmates have taken enthusiastically to sewing and painting classes; some of their canvases look good enough to sell. They also respond positively, I was told, to the first-rate medical care. At Cropper’s hospital, detainees are actually treated alongside their captors by the same military doctors and nurses utilizing the same sophisticated equipment.

The result has been a dramatic fall-off in incidents of prisoner unrest and an increase in cooperation with prison authorities. The infamous abuses at Abu Ghraib are now a distant memory. So impressive is Camp Cropper that I left wondering why prison wardens and criminologists from the U.S. aren’t visiting to pick up tips. The challenge now will be to replicate some of these procedures in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are currently holding only about 600 detainees–far too few to stem the tide of a growing insurgency.

One of the unheralded successes of the past 18 months in Iraq has come in the unglamorous realm of detainee operations. Along with the surge in U.S. and Iraqi troops came a surge in the number of suspects held by U.S. forces, reaching a peak of 25,504 in October 2007. That coincided with a sharp reduction in violence–only it was no coincidence. Just as in the U.S., more prisoners equals less crime.

With violence levels falling by 80% from their peaks and with doubts growing about future legal authority to hold Iraqis, the U.S. high command has been undertaking a careful program of detainee releases. The number of prisoners currently held by the U.S. is 17,966–a 29% decrease. Those numbers will fall further, since U.S. forces are releasing an average of 50 inmates a day while arresting only 25. The only detainees unlikely ever to see the light of day are the 3,500 who are said to belong to Al Qaeda in Iraq.

When I last visited Iraq back in January, I found a lot of trepidation among officers in the field about the consequences of this mass release. It was, one brigade commander told me, “one more rock in the commander’s rucksack, which is already pretty heavy.”

When I returned just a few days ago, I found that these fears have not been realized. At Camp Cropper, the coalition detention facility located near Baghdad Airport, I was told that since September 2007, 13,236 inmates have been released, and of that number, only 97 have been re-arrested. That is an astonishingly low recidivism rate of 0.7%–far below the previous rate of 7%.

Why the change? A lot of the explanation has to do with the changing dynamics of Iraqi society. Many of the released detainees are Sunnis from Anbar Province. When they went into the clink, they were part of a widespread insurgency that included most military-age males in their neighborhoods. By the time they came out, the insurgency had been defeated, with Al Qaeda terrorists chased out and the local tribes joining the Anbar Awakening. Returning detainees have no reason to take up arms.

But part of the explanation also has to do with a dramatic change in how detainees were handled that is credited to Major General Douglas Stone, a Marine reservist who commanded Task Force 134, which overseas detainee operations, from May 2007 until June 2008.

Under Stone’s guidance, the task force went from simply warehousing prisoners to trying to rehabilitate them, instituting what the military calls “COIN behind the wire”-that is, counterinsurgency operations inside the detention facilities. An important first step was to segregate detainees by level of militancy so that hard-core Al Qaeda fanatics would not have a chance to proselytize among the less-committed.

Moderate Muslim clerics were brought in to “deprogram” detainees who had their heads filled with jihadist propaganda. Classes were set up to teach skills that could be used on the outside, such as how to be a plumber or electrician. Work programs were also instituted so that inmates can volunteer to build furniture or undertake other tasks to earn them money they can send home to their families. Personal visits and even video teleconferences were arranged to keep inmates in touch with their relatives. Regular review boards were convened to consider every detainee’s case, with suspects being allowed to plead their cases before the three American officers who make up each board.

I got to see the results of these changes while touring Camp Cropper, which is smaller than its sister institution, Camp Bucca in southern Iraq. The inmates live in large, dormitory-style houses surrounded by barbed wire and catwalks. Each house appoints a chief who represents their views in meetings with administrators. The food (all halal) is so good that the average detainee gains seven pounds. Inmates have taken enthusiastically to sewing and painting classes; some of their canvases look good enough to sell. They also respond positively, I was told, to the first-rate medical care. At Cropper’s hospital, detainees are actually treated alongside their captors by the same military doctors and nurses utilizing the same sophisticated equipment.

The result has been a dramatic fall-off in incidents of prisoner unrest and an increase in cooperation with prison authorities. The infamous abuses at Abu Ghraib are now a distant memory. So impressive is Camp Cropper that I left wondering why prison wardens and criminologists from the U.S. aren’t visiting to pick up tips. The challenge now will be to replicate some of these procedures in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are currently holding only about 600 detainees–far too few to stem the tide of a growing insurgency.

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Re:Re: Suspicious Mind

John and Linda, I entirely concur and remain puzzled by what dividing line or rationale keeps John McCain from raising Reverend Wright but condones the attack on the Bill Ayers connection. Today, the McCain camp once again blasted back at the Obama camp for asserting the latter is “beyond the pale.” McCain is right, of course, that longstanding ties to a terrorist and participation in his Left-wing endeavors (when added to Obama’s lying about the same) raises serious questions. And these attack must, at some level be working, or we wouldn’t see a strangely defensive and entirely incomplete explanation of Obama’s relationship with Ayers in a new ad.

But isn’t this also true of Wright? In another of his invaluable pieces on Obama’s associations Stanley Kurtz details the extent and nature of Obama’s relationship to Wright and his anti-American, extreme agenda.

In short, part of the reason Ayers is so problematic is that it is not an isolated relationship. It is one in a series of bizarre associations and questionable personal affiliations. If McCain can’t see that and make that case, his campaign should stop putting out emails and running rebuttals on any of these topics. It is a waste unless the candidate believes that the concern is justified and that voters should reject Obama on this basis.

John and Linda, I entirely concur and remain puzzled by what dividing line or rationale keeps John McCain from raising Reverend Wright but condones the attack on the Bill Ayers connection. Today, the McCain camp once again blasted back at the Obama camp for asserting the latter is “beyond the pale.” McCain is right, of course, that longstanding ties to a terrorist and participation in his Left-wing endeavors (when added to Obama’s lying about the same) raises serious questions. And these attack must, at some level be working, or we wouldn’t see a strangely defensive and entirely incomplete explanation of Obama’s relationship with Ayers in a new ad.

But isn’t this also true of Wright? In another of his invaluable pieces on Obama’s associations Stanley Kurtz details the extent and nature of Obama’s relationship to Wright and his anti-American, extreme agenda.

In short, part of the reason Ayers is so problematic is that it is not an isolated relationship. It is one in a series of bizarre associations and questionable personal affiliations. If McCain can’t see that and make that case, his campaign should stop putting out emails and running rebuttals on any of these topics. It is a waste unless the candidate believes that the concern is justified and that voters should reject Obama on this basis.

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Engaging Aggressors

Yesterday, members of the European Union discussed restarting talks with Moscow about a broad pact covering a range of issues from trade to human rights.  Negotiations over the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement were ended in early September as a reaction to the Russian invasion of Georgia the preceding month.  E.U. leaders are bound to again tackle the issue of relations with the Kremlin when they meet tomorrow and Thursday in Brussels.  Germany, France, and Italy are in favor of restarting the talks at this time.  Britain, the Baltic states, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, and Poland, on the other hand, favor a go-slow approach.  Russia still has not withdrawn from all land it grabbed during the August invasion.

The assumption in all Western capitals is that Russia should be engaged so that it will cooperate on the important issues of the day.  The feeling is especially strong in the European Union, which obtains a third of its oil and an even larger percentage of its gas from Russia–and which sits at the tip of a landmass dominated by a Russian state covering eleven time zones.

Yet the feeling is also prevalent in the United States, which has no reason to cower in the shadows.  As Representative Howard Berman, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said today in Moscow, America and Russia must work together on common challenges.  “We will undoubtedly spend time discussing those areas where we have differences, and I don’t intend to minimize them,” the California Democrat said after meeting with a State Duma member who is a critic of the United States.  “My hope is that we can spend even greater amount of time figuring out what we can do together to confront these grave threats.”

If only we could talk our way to peace.  There is an assumption in the West that, because we all face the same challenges, agreement is somehow possible.  This strain of thinking has been around for centuries, but it has become especially common after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Because we now believe our values are universal–they are–we assume they must prevail.  So, many contend that not even aggression should end conversations with autocrats on critical issues because they must eventually reform.  As a consequence of this version of logic, most Western policymakers believe the remedy for the failure of engagement is even more engagement.

Washington cannot change this thinking because it is so infected itself.  And it cannot relocate the 27 member states of the E.U. to less vulnerable geography.  Yet we can encourage the Europeans to move faster in developing alternative sources of hydrocarbons–and we can accelerate research into alternative fuels.  You would have thought that we would have done these things by now to lessen our dependence on authoritarian states.  The West, unfortunately, never seems to adopt the obvious solutions when it tries to think long term.

Yesterday, members of the European Union discussed restarting talks with Moscow about a broad pact covering a range of issues from trade to human rights.  Negotiations over the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement were ended in early September as a reaction to the Russian invasion of Georgia the preceding month.  E.U. leaders are bound to again tackle the issue of relations with the Kremlin when they meet tomorrow and Thursday in Brussels.  Germany, France, and Italy are in favor of restarting the talks at this time.  Britain, the Baltic states, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, and Poland, on the other hand, favor a go-slow approach.  Russia still has not withdrawn from all land it grabbed during the August invasion.

The assumption in all Western capitals is that Russia should be engaged so that it will cooperate on the important issues of the day.  The feeling is especially strong in the European Union, which obtains a third of its oil and an even larger percentage of its gas from Russia–and which sits at the tip of a landmass dominated by a Russian state covering eleven time zones.

Yet the feeling is also prevalent in the United States, which has no reason to cower in the shadows.  As Representative Howard Berman, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said today in Moscow, America and Russia must work together on common challenges.  “We will undoubtedly spend time discussing those areas where we have differences, and I don’t intend to minimize them,” the California Democrat said after meeting with a State Duma member who is a critic of the United States.  “My hope is that we can spend even greater amount of time figuring out what we can do together to confront these grave threats.”

If only we could talk our way to peace.  There is an assumption in the West that, because we all face the same challenges, agreement is somehow possible.  This strain of thinking has been around for centuries, but it has become especially common after the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Because we now believe our values are universal–they are–we assume they must prevail.  So, many contend that not even aggression should end conversations with autocrats on critical issues because they must eventually reform.  As a consequence of this version of logic, most Western policymakers believe the remedy for the failure of engagement is even more engagement.

Washington cannot change this thinking because it is so infected itself.  And it cannot relocate the 27 member states of the E.U. to less vulnerable geography.  Yet we can encourage the Europeans to move faster in developing alternative sources of hydrocarbons–and we can accelerate research into alternative fuels.  You would have thought that we would have done these things by now to lessen our dependence on authoritarian states.  The West, unfortunately, never seems to adopt the obvious solutions when it tries to think long term.

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What Difference Does It Make?

Lots of voters may be concerned about a Barack Obama presidency combined with a Democratic Congress. Still, they might rationalize: “Oh, we’re out of money and Iraq is secured, what damage could they do?” Well plenty.

Here’s one isolated but important issue: the Orwellian-named Employee Free Choice Act, which will make secret union elections a thing of the past. If you think it’s just concerns cranky conservatives, think again. George McGovern of all people has been talking against it.

It ranks high on Fred Barnes list of concerns:

Start with “card check.” It would permit organized labor to unionize the private sector without winning a certification election by secret ballot. It’s easy to get workers to sign cards saying they want a union, but it’s hard to get them to vote that way when labor organizers aren’t hounding them. Card check is labor’s last hope for more dues-paying union members.

Unions simply aren’t popular and neither is card check. But it passed the House last year, only to be blocked in the Senate by a Republican filibuster. In 2009, with Washington controlled by Democrats, it would sail through Congress and President Obama would sign it. After all, neither Obama nor congressional Democrats have bucked organized labor even once.

This, of course, is just one of many items on Big Labor’s list (which includes a heavy dose of protectionism), and on the longer liberal interset group wish-list which will sail through if an Obama presidency is combined with a compliant Democratic Congress. Had Obama demonstrated any propensity to buck his own party, voters might rest easy. But if we have learned anything about Obama it is that in his choice of associations and voting record he has always demonstrated fidelity to the most extreme wing of his party — be it in on labor, judges, abortion, gun control, regulation, taxes or foreign policy. Not just conservatives, but all voters, had better buckle their seatbelts — it could be a very bumpy ride.

Lots of voters may be concerned about a Barack Obama presidency combined with a Democratic Congress. Still, they might rationalize: “Oh, we’re out of money and Iraq is secured, what damage could they do?” Well plenty.

Here’s one isolated but important issue: the Orwellian-named Employee Free Choice Act, which will make secret union elections a thing of the past. If you think it’s just concerns cranky conservatives, think again. George McGovern of all people has been talking against it.

It ranks high on Fred Barnes list of concerns:

Start with “card check.” It would permit organized labor to unionize the private sector without winning a certification election by secret ballot. It’s easy to get workers to sign cards saying they want a union, but it’s hard to get them to vote that way when labor organizers aren’t hounding them. Card check is labor’s last hope for more dues-paying union members.

Unions simply aren’t popular and neither is card check. But it passed the House last year, only to be blocked in the Senate by a Republican filibuster. In 2009, with Washington controlled by Democrats, it would sail through Congress and President Obama would sign it. After all, neither Obama nor congressional Democrats have bucked organized labor even once.

This, of course, is just one of many items on Big Labor’s list (which includes a heavy dose of protectionism), and on the longer liberal interset group wish-list which will sail through if an Obama presidency is combined with a compliant Democratic Congress. Had Obama demonstrated any propensity to buck his own party, voters might rest easy. But if we have learned anything about Obama it is that in his choice of associations and voting record he has always demonstrated fidelity to the most extreme wing of his party — be it in on labor, judges, abortion, gun control, regulation, taxes or foreign policy. Not just conservatives, but all voters, had better buckle their seatbelts — it could be a very bumpy ride.

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Re: Suspicious Minds

The decision by the McCain campaign to put the Rev. Wright issue off limits tells me that McCain, once again, would rather lose an election than do something he thinks will harm the country. The decision says a lot about the man, for good and ill. Obviously, McCain is concerned about raising racial animosity in the country, and the behavior of a handful of yahoos at recent campaign events has frightened him. I think he’s worried that the anger directed toward Obama could turn violent and he does not want to take any chance of fanning the flames of racial hatred.

The problem is that Wright is one of the most racially divisive figures to take the American stage in recent memory–and it was Barack Obama, not John McCain, who gave Wright his platform. Obama not only attended Wright’s church for 20 years, knowing, as he admitted in his memoir, that Wright was a divisive character, but he stood by him even after Wright’s racist diatribes became public. It’s important to remember that Obama only renounced Wright after Wright turned on him.

Obama’s relationship with Wright is at the core of who this man is. Unlike his relationship with Bill Ayers, which is far more tenuous if no less repugnant, Obama’s ties to Wright reveal the deepest inconsistencies in Obama’s character. Obama’s longstanding and deep relationship with Wright is just cause for concern, and if the shoe were on the other foot, would anyone give John McCain a similar pass?

John McCain’s sense of honor is misplaced this time. He is doing a disservice not only to himself but the American people in silencing debate on Obama’s ties to Wright.

The decision by the McCain campaign to put the Rev. Wright issue off limits tells me that McCain, once again, would rather lose an election than do something he thinks will harm the country. The decision says a lot about the man, for good and ill. Obviously, McCain is concerned about raising racial animosity in the country, and the behavior of a handful of yahoos at recent campaign events has frightened him. I think he’s worried that the anger directed toward Obama could turn violent and he does not want to take any chance of fanning the flames of racial hatred.

The problem is that Wright is one of the most racially divisive figures to take the American stage in recent memory–and it was Barack Obama, not John McCain, who gave Wright his platform. Obama not only attended Wright’s church for 20 years, knowing, as he admitted in his memoir, that Wright was a divisive character, but he stood by him even after Wright’s racist diatribes became public. It’s important to remember that Obama only renounced Wright after Wright turned on him.

Obama’s relationship with Wright is at the core of who this man is. Unlike his relationship with Bill Ayers, which is far more tenuous if no less repugnant, Obama’s ties to Wright reveal the deepest inconsistencies in Obama’s character. Obama’s longstanding and deep relationship with Wright is just cause for concern, and if the shoe were on the other foot, would anyone give John McCain a similar pass?

John McCain’s sense of honor is misplaced this time. He is doing a disservice not only to himself but the American people in silencing debate on Obama’s ties to Wright.

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Hitch Glitch

It is going to be hard for Christopher Hitchens to tout his contrarian credentials after bringing every well-worn and unfounded cliché to bear in his endorsement of Barack Obama. But never mind that Hitchens bravely breaks the news that John McCain is old or that he determines the rumors of Sarah Palin’s “bizarre religious and political affiliations” to be true without offering evidence. It’s what he asserts about Barack Obama that’s got me wondering about premature senility in Hitchens.

Obama is greatly overrated in my opinion, but the Obama-Biden ticket is not a capitulationist one, even if it does accept the support of the surrender faction, and it does show some signs of being able and willing to profit from experience.

Not capitulationist? Obama has centered his very campaign on capitulation. He just calls it “ending” the war instead. If Obama had been President these last four years, we’d have left Iraq to al Qaeda and Shiite terrorists. And while Obama would squirm his way around the definition of “ending,” there’d have been no mistake about what “dying” looks like, as it would have befallen our Iraqi allies en masse.

And the only things Obama has shown “signs of being able and willing to profit from” are ACORN, Fannie and Freddie. Obama’s admission that the surge has succeeded is no indication he’s able to learn from experience. It’s an indication that he possesses the faculties of vision and hearing. And, if Hitchen’s endorsement is any indication, the skill of mesmerization, as well.

It is going to be hard for Christopher Hitchens to tout his contrarian credentials after bringing every well-worn and unfounded cliché to bear in his endorsement of Barack Obama. But never mind that Hitchens bravely breaks the news that John McCain is old or that he determines the rumors of Sarah Palin’s “bizarre religious and political affiliations” to be true without offering evidence. It’s what he asserts about Barack Obama that’s got me wondering about premature senility in Hitchens.

Obama is greatly overrated in my opinion, but the Obama-Biden ticket is not a capitulationist one, even if it does accept the support of the surrender faction, and it does show some signs of being able and willing to profit from experience.

Not capitulationist? Obama has centered his very campaign on capitulation. He just calls it “ending” the war instead. If Obama had been President these last four years, we’d have left Iraq to al Qaeda and Shiite terrorists. And while Obama would squirm his way around the definition of “ending,” there’d have been no mistake about what “dying” looks like, as it would have befallen our Iraqi allies en masse.

And the only things Obama has shown “signs of being able and willing to profit from” are ACORN, Fannie and Freddie. Obama’s admission that the surge has succeeded is no indication he’s able to learn from experience. It’s an indication that he possesses the faculties of vision and hearing. And, if Hitchen’s endorsement is any indication, the skill of mesmerization, as well.

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McCain’s Last Shot

John McCain’s economic speech in Pennsylvania today is actually quite bold and employs some effective rhetoric. On the positive side he finally sets forth a pro-growth plan:

In my administration, we will instead revive the market by attracting new investment. I will cut in half the capital gains tax on stocks purchased and held for more than a year – from a rate of 15 to 7.5 percent. This vital measure will promote buying, raise asset values, help companies and shore up the pension plans for workers and retirees.

We should also not penalize Americans who are forced to sell investments in today’s tough markets. I will increase the amount of capital losses from $3,000 to $15,000, which can be deducted from your ordinary income in tax years 2008 and 2009. So much of this decline in our markets and value destruction was due to the failure of Congress and the Administration to come out with a timely rescue package. Investors are always responsible for their investment decisions, but the hard earned savings of Americans should not be penalized by the erratic behavior of politicians.

. . .

While we put government back on your side, we must reform our tax system to deliver needed tax relief to working Americans, and to create jobs. I will double the child deduction, from 3,500 dollars to 7,000 dollars. Every person in America who chooses it will receive a 5,000 dollars towards the purchase of health insurance – health plans that will be theirs to keep, even if they change jobs or move to another state. And we will reduce the federal business tax rate from 35 percent – the second-highest in the world – to 25 percent. I am also proposing today that for those who are between jobs, we eliminate all taxes on unemployment benefits. It is unclear to me why the government taxes money it has just sent you, and we should relieve this burden from Americans who’ve been hit the hardest.

And then he levels his most effective attack on the substance of Barack Obama’s agenda:

Senator Obama also promises to restrict international trade and risk access to foreign markets for American goods and services. The last President to raise taxes and restrict trade in a bad economy was Herbert Hoover. That didn’t turn out to well. They say those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. Well, I know my history lessons, and I sure won’t make the mistakes Senator Obama will. And were my opponent elected with a Democratic Congress in power, not only would there be no check on my opponent’s reckless economic policies, there would be considerable pressure on him to tax and spend even more.

This weekend, a plumber concerned that Senator Obama was going to raise his taxes asked him directly about his plan. The response was telling. Senator Obama explained to him that he was going to raise his taxes to quote “spread the wealth around.” This explains how Senator Obama can promise an income tax cut for millions who aren’t even paying income taxes right now. My friends, my plan isn’t intended to force small businesses to cut jobs to pay higher taxes so we can “spread the wealth around.” My plan is intended to create jobs and increase the wealth of all Americans.

The contrast between a classic right-of-center, pro-growth and free trade agenda and a liberal, high-tax, protectionist regime is a compelling one. It comes too late, perhaps, and is marred by his own indictment of Wall Street “greed” (why not give government all the money if you can’t trust the private sector?). Still, it does demonstrate that a case can be made, and made effectively, against the Obama agenda and in favor of a more conservative and less government-centric one. Whether McCain can make that same case at the final debate and sway voters remains an open question.

John McCain’s economic speech in Pennsylvania today is actually quite bold and employs some effective rhetoric. On the positive side he finally sets forth a pro-growth plan:

In my administration, we will instead revive the market by attracting new investment. I will cut in half the capital gains tax on stocks purchased and held for more than a year – from a rate of 15 to 7.5 percent. This vital measure will promote buying, raise asset values, help companies and shore up the pension plans for workers and retirees.

We should also not penalize Americans who are forced to sell investments in today’s tough markets. I will increase the amount of capital losses from $3,000 to $15,000, which can be deducted from your ordinary income in tax years 2008 and 2009. So much of this decline in our markets and value destruction was due to the failure of Congress and the Administration to come out with a timely rescue package. Investors are always responsible for their investment decisions, but the hard earned savings of Americans should not be penalized by the erratic behavior of politicians.

. . .

While we put government back on your side, we must reform our tax system to deliver needed tax relief to working Americans, and to create jobs. I will double the child deduction, from 3,500 dollars to 7,000 dollars. Every person in America who chooses it will receive a 5,000 dollars towards the purchase of health insurance – health plans that will be theirs to keep, even if they change jobs or move to another state. And we will reduce the federal business tax rate from 35 percent – the second-highest in the world – to 25 percent. I am also proposing today that for those who are between jobs, we eliminate all taxes on unemployment benefits. It is unclear to me why the government taxes money it has just sent you, and we should relieve this burden from Americans who’ve been hit the hardest.

And then he levels his most effective attack on the substance of Barack Obama’s agenda:

Senator Obama also promises to restrict international trade and risk access to foreign markets for American goods and services. The last President to raise taxes and restrict trade in a bad economy was Herbert Hoover. That didn’t turn out to well. They say those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. Well, I know my history lessons, and I sure won’t make the mistakes Senator Obama will. And were my opponent elected with a Democratic Congress in power, not only would there be no check on my opponent’s reckless economic policies, there would be considerable pressure on him to tax and spend even more.

This weekend, a plumber concerned that Senator Obama was going to raise his taxes asked him directly about his plan. The response was telling. Senator Obama explained to him that he was going to raise his taxes to quote “spread the wealth around.” This explains how Senator Obama can promise an income tax cut for millions who aren’t even paying income taxes right now. My friends, my plan isn’t intended to force small businesses to cut jobs to pay higher taxes so we can “spread the wealth around.” My plan is intended to create jobs and increase the wealth of all Americans.

The contrast between a classic right-of-center, pro-growth and free trade agenda and a liberal, high-tax, protectionist regime is a compelling one. It comes too late, perhaps, and is marred by his own indictment of Wall Street “greed” (why not give government all the money if you can’t trust the private sector?). Still, it does demonstrate that a case can be made, and made effectively, against the Obama agenda and in favor of a more conservative and less government-centric one. Whether McCain can make that same case at the final debate and sway voters remains an open question.

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Re Re: Government As Shareholder

Jen, surely you jest — government has had a hands-off policy toward financial institutions? Sarbanes-Oxley, in 2002, certainly wasn’t hands-off. Executive compensation is already capped at $1 million, which is one of the reasons stock options began playing such a disproportionate role. What I’m saying is that the direct ownership of financial institutions won’t last because there’s too much in it for government to sell off valuable assets as a means of getting money without raising taxes.

Jen, surely you jest — government has had a hands-off policy toward financial institutions? Sarbanes-Oxley, in 2002, certainly wasn’t hands-off. Executive compensation is already capped at $1 million, which is one of the reasons stock options began playing such a disproportionate role. What I’m saying is that the direct ownership of financial institutions won’t last because there’s too much in it for government to sell off valuable assets as a means of getting money without raising taxes.

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Some Foreign Policy Questions

A friend sends along a couple of thoughts on recent news events that I think are worth sharing.

First, he asks, “What G-_ is meeting to address the global financial crisis? The same G-_ that denounced Russia’s invasion at the Foreign Minister level: The G-7.” This is significant because of all the flack John McCain has caught for suggesting that Russia be booted out of the G-8 — a tiny club of rich democracies to which it has done nothing to earn membership. The fact that it is the G-7, and not the G-8, that mobilizes to tackle major crises would seem to offer vindication of McCain’s much-maligned proposal.

Second, my friend points out, lost in the controversy over the North Korean nuclear deal is that “the whole episode just proves the terrorist list is about politics, not about actions that support terrorism. What does nuclear verification have to do with terrorist support? Nothing.” This is hardly the first time that an administration has played politics with the list. The Reagan administration did so in 1982 when it removed Iraq from the list in order to be able to sell arms to Saddam Hussein in his war with Iran. Such brazen zig-zags only undermine the point of the entire
exercise — which is to force states to actually end their support for terrorism if they want to be taken off the list. If North Korea has genuinely ended its relations with terror groups and the states that sponsor them, fine; take it off the list. But don’t remove Pyongyang in return for concessions in another realm — especially not when those concessions are, in all likelihood, nonexistent.

A friend sends along a couple of thoughts on recent news events that I think are worth sharing.

First, he asks, “What G-_ is meeting to address the global financial crisis? The same G-_ that denounced Russia’s invasion at the Foreign Minister level: The G-7.” This is significant because of all the flack John McCain has caught for suggesting that Russia be booted out of the G-8 — a tiny club of rich democracies to which it has done nothing to earn membership. The fact that it is the G-7, and not the G-8, that mobilizes to tackle major crises would seem to offer vindication of McCain’s much-maligned proposal.

Second, my friend points out, lost in the controversy over the North Korean nuclear deal is that “the whole episode just proves the terrorist list is about politics, not about actions that support terrorism. What does nuclear verification have to do with terrorist support? Nothing.” This is hardly the first time that an administration has played politics with the list. The Reagan administration did so in 1982 when it removed Iraq from the list in order to be able to sell arms to Saddam Hussein in his war with Iran. Such brazen zig-zags only undermine the point of the entire
exercise — which is to force states to actually end their support for terrorism if they want to be taken off the list. If North Korea has genuinely ended its relations with terror groups and the states that sponsor them, fine; take it off the list. But don’t remove Pyongyang in return for concessions in another realm — especially not when those concessions are, in all likelihood, nonexistent.

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Re: Re: Government As Shareholder

John, from your lips to Nancy Pelosi’s and Barack Obama’s ears! But once government gets its mitts into major financial institutions, regulates executive compensation and becomes not just a shareholder but an uber-regulator, I think the chances of them going back to life before the Crash of 2008 are nil. Some of the innovations like unlimited FDIC protection for all checking accounts may be wise moves. But I think we’re engaged in wishful thinking if we are going to return, anytime within the era of Democratic dominance, to a hands-off government role with regard to financial institutions. Even after the government “cashes out” ( if it ever does) the impulse to remain as super-bank regulators will be great. After all, even John McCain told us the problem was Wall Street greed, right?

John, from your lips to Nancy Pelosi’s and Barack Obama’s ears! But once government gets its mitts into major financial institutions, regulates executive compensation and becomes not just a shareholder but an uber-regulator, I think the chances of them going back to life before the Crash of 2008 are nil. Some of the innovations like unlimited FDIC protection for all checking accounts may be wise moves. But I think we’re engaged in wishful thinking if we are going to return, anytime within the era of Democratic dominance, to a hands-off government role with regard to financial institutions. Even after the government “cashes out” ( if it ever does) the impulse to remain as super-bank regulators will be great. After all, even John McCain told us the problem was Wall Street greed, right?

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EMP

There’s a new installment in the list of sickening post-9/11 initials, courtesy of Iran: EMP. Clifford May and Jay Carafano wrote an excellent breakdown:

. . . a blue-ribbon commission has reported to Congress on what appears to be an Iranian drive to obtain the means to carry out an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) attack.

An EMP attack is produced by launching a ballistic missile with a nuclear weapon attached — and detonating it high above the Earth. This produces a massive pulse of ionized particles that could damage or even wipe out many electrical and information systems. Such an attack would disrupt telecommunications, banking and finance, fuel and energy, food and water supplies, emergency and government services and much more, threatening millions of lives.

Iran has been carrying out missile tests from the sea in which warheads have been detonated at the peak of the missile’s trajectory, instead of over a target. Once they’ve got nukes, it would be fairly easy for Iran to place a missile on a commercial ship, and detonate a warhead above the U.S. As May and Carafano write:

It would mean no electricity, no food on the shelves, no phone, no fuel deliveries. Life would look more like the barter system of the 19th century, not to mention the millions that would die from traffic accidents, fires, failed hospital equipment, disease and the other chaos that would result from such an attack.

And part of the genius of such a plan is that it would be hard for the U.S. to link the attack back to the source.

The second-best defense against an EMP attack would consist of stepped up U.S. missile defense and a clear message to Iran that an attack would result in inevitable nuclear retaliation. John McCain supports new missile defense; Barack Obama has pledged not to fund new missile defense technologies. However, given Obama’s record for morphing into McCain when reality calls, it’s a good bet he’ll flip on that.

The best defense against an EMP attack consists of stopping Iran in the planning phase. When weighing the catastrophic effects of a U.S. attack on Iran, make sure to keep the EMP scenario in mind, and compare.

There’s a new installment in the list of sickening post-9/11 initials, courtesy of Iran: EMP. Clifford May and Jay Carafano wrote an excellent breakdown:

. . . a blue-ribbon commission has reported to Congress on what appears to be an Iranian drive to obtain the means to carry out an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) attack.

An EMP attack is produced by launching a ballistic missile with a nuclear weapon attached — and detonating it high above the Earth. This produces a massive pulse of ionized particles that could damage or even wipe out many electrical and information systems. Such an attack would disrupt telecommunications, banking and finance, fuel and energy, food and water supplies, emergency and government services and much more, threatening millions of lives.

Iran has been carrying out missile tests from the sea in which warheads have been detonated at the peak of the missile’s trajectory, instead of over a target. Once they’ve got nukes, it would be fairly easy for Iran to place a missile on a commercial ship, and detonate a warhead above the U.S. As May and Carafano write:

It would mean no electricity, no food on the shelves, no phone, no fuel deliveries. Life would look more like the barter system of the 19th century, not to mention the millions that would die from traffic accidents, fires, failed hospital equipment, disease and the other chaos that would result from such an attack.

And part of the genius of such a plan is that it would be hard for the U.S. to link the attack back to the source.

The second-best defense against an EMP attack would consist of stepped up U.S. missile defense and a clear message to Iran that an attack would result in inevitable nuclear retaliation. John McCain supports new missile defense; Barack Obama has pledged not to fund new missile defense technologies. However, given Obama’s record for morphing into McCain when reality calls, it’s a good bet he’ll flip on that.

The best defense against an EMP attack consists of stopping Iran in the planning phase. When weighing the catastrophic effects of a U.S. attack on Iran, make sure to keep the EMP scenario in mind, and compare.

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Suspicious Mind

Byron York reports that the McCain campaign has made a final determination not to use Barack Obama’s relation to Jeremiah Wright as part of its brief against Obama’s character and trustworthiness. To put it mildly, this makes no sense; if Bill Ayers is an issue, then Wright is an issue, and a more salient one. In fact, it makes so little sense a supposition advanced by Michael Crowley on the New Republic’s campaign blog last week seems like a logical explanation.

What if the refusal to use Wright — which, according to Byron York, comes directly from McCain himself — is the result of a private deal between McCain and Colin Powell? McCain desperately wanted Powell’s endorsement, and when it was clear he wasn’t going to get it, desperately did not want Powell to endorse Obama; there really might have been a quid pro quo here.

Remember that, alone among the Bush administration’s senior foreign-policy figures, Powell has always gotten a pass from McCain, who considers him an old friend — even though Powell was working at cross purposes against McCain’s favored policy in Iraq almost from the beginning. This is a relationship in which Powell holds the whip hand, and the McCain refusal to discuss Jeremiah Wright is so bizarre it is only explicable in a context like this one.

Byron York reports that the McCain campaign has made a final determination not to use Barack Obama’s relation to Jeremiah Wright as part of its brief against Obama’s character and trustworthiness. To put it mildly, this makes no sense; if Bill Ayers is an issue, then Wright is an issue, and a more salient one. In fact, it makes so little sense a supposition advanced by Michael Crowley on the New Republic’s campaign blog last week seems like a logical explanation.

What if the refusal to use Wright — which, according to Byron York, comes directly from McCain himself — is the result of a private deal between McCain and Colin Powell? McCain desperately wanted Powell’s endorsement, and when it was clear he wasn’t going to get it, desperately did not want Powell to endorse Obama; there really might have been a quid pro quo here.

Remember that, alone among the Bush administration’s senior foreign-policy figures, Powell has always gotten a pass from McCain, who considers him an old friend — even though Powell was working at cross purposes against McCain’s favored policy in Iraq almost from the beginning. This is a relationship in which Powell holds the whip hand, and the McCain refusal to discuss Jeremiah Wright is so bizarre it is only explicable in a context like this one.

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An Opening

Barack Obama came out with a grab-bag of expensive, yet timid proposals to respond to the economic crisis. Minor and temporary tax breaks (without altering his plans to hike payroll and income taxes on the “rich”), a copycat proposal mirroring John McCain’s proposed relief for 401K withdrawals, a reversal of his prior opposition to a foreclosure moratorium and a new entity to lend money –to other governmental entities. That’s it? What about significant help for private sector job creation? Not there. What about a promise to increase trade which has kept the economy afloat? Nope. What about some recognition that corporate tax rates are uncompetitive? No way. It is all surprisingly meek and ineffectual, showing an underlying lack of confidence in the private sector as the engine of growth.

It may be that the McCain camp is finally willing to put forth a bold alternative to pull us out of a recession and spur growth. We will find out more today, and at Wednesday’s debate, on whether this is one opportunity which McCain won’t miss.

Barack Obama came out with a grab-bag of expensive, yet timid proposals to respond to the economic crisis. Minor and temporary tax breaks (without altering his plans to hike payroll and income taxes on the “rich”), a copycat proposal mirroring John McCain’s proposed relief for 401K withdrawals, a reversal of his prior opposition to a foreclosure moratorium and a new entity to lend money –to other governmental entities. That’s it? What about significant help for private sector job creation? Not there. What about a promise to increase trade which has kept the economy afloat? Nope. What about some recognition that corporate tax rates are uncompetitive? No way. It is all surprisingly meek and ineffectual, showing an underlying lack of confidence in the private sector as the engine of growth.

It may be that the McCain camp is finally willing to put forth a bold alternative to pull us out of a recession and spur growth. We will find out more today, and at Wednesday’s debate, on whether this is one opportunity which McCain won’t miss.

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Re: Government As Shareholder

Jen, I think there’s something apocalyptic in your account that doesn’t match the realities of the present moment. If the plan to stabilize the banks works, and the federal government owns preferred shares in those banks it can sell at a later date, there is a colossal incentive for the federal government to do exactly that — because the sale will be counted from the first dollar as a profit (we’re talking about federal accounting, in which all inflows are considered equal, no matter whether they were the result of prior spending or not). Just the ticket for any administration — a sudden influx of dollars comparable to the auctioning of the digital spectrum (value to government; $70 billion) that can be spent on new programs without adding to the federal deficit or used to “reduce the deficit.”

That will outweigh any hunger to hold on to the shares in the medium to long term. We are all privatizers now.

Jen, I think there’s something apocalyptic in your account that doesn’t match the realities of the present moment. If the plan to stabilize the banks works, and the federal government owns preferred shares in those banks it can sell at a later date, there is a colossal incentive for the federal government to do exactly that — because the sale will be counted from the first dollar as a profit (we’re talking about federal accounting, in which all inflows are considered equal, no matter whether they were the result of prior spending or not). Just the ticket for any administration — a sudden influx of dollars comparable to the auctioning of the digital spectrum (value to government; $70 billion) that can be spent on new programs without adding to the federal deficit or used to “reduce the deficit.”

That will outweigh any hunger to hold on to the shares in the medium to long term. We are all privatizers now.

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Time To Come Clean

The Wall Street Journal explains exactly what ACORN is and what that organization has done — much of it with the assistance of taxpayer funds. The editors get to the nub of the matter:

In 1992 [Obama] led voter registration efforts as the director of Project Vote, which included Acorn. This past November, he lauded Acorn’s leaders for being “smack dab in the middle” of that effort. Mr. Obama also served as a lawyer for Acorn in 1995, in a case against Illinois to increase access to the polls.

During his tenure on the board of Chicago’s Woods Fund, that body funneled more than $200,000 to Acorn. More recently, the Obama campaign paid $832,000 to an Acorn affiliate. The campaign initially told the Federal Election Commission this money was for “staging, sound, lighting.” It later admitted the cash was to get out the vote.

The Obama campaign is now distancing itself from Acorn, claiming Mr. Obama never organized with it and has nothing to do with illegal voter registration. Yet it’s disingenuous to channel cash into an operation with a history of fraud and then claim you’re shocked to discover reports of fraud. As with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers, Mr. Obama was happy to associate with Acorn when it suited his purposes. But now that he’s on the brink of the Presidency, he wants to disavow his ties.

The Justice Department needs to treat these fraud reports as something larger than a few local violators. The question is whether Acorn is systematically subverting U.S. election law — on the taxpayer’s dime.

It is almost inconceivable that Barack Obama should not have been grilled on this –either by his opponent or the media. (The latter is just beginning to cover the story.) Obama’s ties are deep and extensive with an organization that embraces goals and tactics well outside the political mainstream and that has engaged in a pattern of illegal activity usually seen only in RICO indictments. ACORN’s present involvement in coast-to-coast fraud is jaw-dropping and should raise the issue as to whether an Obama Justice Department would vigorously investigate and, if warranted, prosecute this entity and all involved.(A helpful compilation of ACORN’s suspect activities is here.) Put simply, Obama worked for and helped funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to a fraud-infested, corrupt organization and has yet to explain himself, let alone apologize for the same.

If the voters want such a president they will have him, but he should first explain himself and justify why his participation in and assistance to such an enterprise should not be serious grounds to question his fitness for office.

The Wall Street Journal explains exactly what ACORN is and what that organization has done — much of it with the assistance of taxpayer funds. The editors get to the nub of the matter:

In 1992 [Obama] led voter registration efforts as the director of Project Vote, which included Acorn. This past November, he lauded Acorn’s leaders for being “smack dab in the middle” of that effort. Mr. Obama also served as a lawyer for Acorn in 1995, in a case against Illinois to increase access to the polls.

During his tenure on the board of Chicago’s Woods Fund, that body funneled more than $200,000 to Acorn. More recently, the Obama campaign paid $832,000 to an Acorn affiliate. The campaign initially told the Federal Election Commission this money was for “staging, sound, lighting.” It later admitted the cash was to get out the vote.

The Obama campaign is now distancing itself from Acorn, claiming Mr. Obama never organized with it and has nothing to do with illegal voter registration. Yet it’s disingenuous to channel cash into an operation with a history of fraud and then claim you’re shocked to discover reports of fraud. As with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers, Mr. Obama was happy to associate with Acorn when it suited his purposes. But now that he’s on the brink of the Presidency, he wants to disavow his ties.

The Justice Department needs to treat these fraud reports as something larger than a few local violators. The question is whether Acorn is systematically subverting U.S. election law — on the taxpayer’s dime.

It is almost inconceivable that Barack Obama should not have been grilled on this –either by his opponent or the media. (The latter is just beginning to cover the story.) Obama’s ties are deep and extensive with an organization that embraces goals and tactics well outside the political mainstream and that has engaged in a pattern of illegal activity usually seen only in RICO indictments. ACORN’s present involvement in coast-to-coast fraud is jaw-dropping and should raise the issue as to whether an Obama Justice Department would vigorously investigate and, if warranted, prosecute this entity and all involved.(A helpful compilation of ACORN’s suspect activities is here.) Put simply, Obama worked for and helped funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to a fraud-infested, corrupt organization and has yet to explain himself, let alone apologize for the same.

If the voters want such a president they will have him, but he should first explain himself and justify why his participation in and assistance to such an enterprise should not be serious grounds to question his fitness for office.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

John McCain may have done a perfectly wretched job of explaining why Barack Obama’s associations matter but it doesn’t mean they aren’t important. This is as good a summary as any.

Perhaps Obama should start explaining why he gave $200,000 at the Woods Funds to a Mickey Mouse group like ACORN. Doe he have no political radar for sleaze?

Not every publication is willing to give John Lewis a pass on his race baiting rhetoric.

One heck of an editing error from the Gray Lady: “Because of an editing error, an article on Saturday about the changing tactics of Senator John McCain’s campaign misstated, in some editions, Mr. McCain’s reaction to a woman’s comment at his rally in Lakeville, Minn., that Senator Barack Obama was not trustworthy because he was an ‘Arab.’ Mr. McCain told the woman, ‘No Ma’am, he’s a decent family man, citizen.’ Mr. McCain did not fail to respond to the woman’s accusation.”

If you think ACORN’s only relevance is voter fraud read this. It is ironic that the candidate who is most closely tied to this group is running a campaign seeking to capitalize on the financial debacle (which that organization helped bring about). And it shouldn’t escape notice that Obama supporters’ thuggish tactics are straight out of the ACORN playbook.

Yikes — there is something about that Florida Congressional seat, isn’t there? First Mark Foley and now Tim Mahoney. We’ll see if the voters are any less disgusted this time around. And let’s see if the media is as curious this time about which Democratic leaders knew what was going on and when they knew it.

Lots of Democrats are “scared of Franken winning”? Yes, says Chuck Todd about Democratic Senate candidate Al Franken. With a figure as absurd as Franken, I’m not sure the “only positive” approach of Norm Coleman makes sense. Really, don’t the sober-minded people of Minnesota have more respect for the Senate than to send to Washington a foul-mouthed comedian who doesn’t pay his taxes or workers’ comp bills?

When you say McCain is “within striking distance” I suppose it depends on the definition of “distance.”

A novel idea emerges from the Washington Post: asking Obama tough questions about what he’s actually going to do about the economic crisis and how it affects his agenda. That would sort of be like having an independent watchdog that ferrets out information for voters. Wow.

20,000 voters in Virginia should be encouraging to the McCain camp — even better is that Sarah Palin is asking why Democrats never talk about winning in Iraq.

It should come as no surprise that Obama’s economic policy is rooted in wealth redistribution. Perhaps it is time for McCain to get the word out — the public seems confused.

So there really will be a new economic plan from the McCain plan? Gosh, if they tried they coldn’t have done a better job of turning their last shot at substance into a negative “process” story about campaign incompetence.

Time for the RNC to use the money to save some House and Senate seats? It depends on how you answer these queries: Who has a better chance: Elizabeth Dole or John McCain? Norm Coleman or McCain?

Jon Corzine for Obama’s Treasury Secretary? Somehow I think he could do better than that.

Another good debate question: “Does Obama believe the schools should advocate a leftist ‘social justice’ ideology?” That’s one of many reasons why the Bill Ayers-Annenberg connection matters.

John McCain may have done a perfectly wretched job of explaining why Barack Obama’s associations matter but it doesn’t mean they aren’t important. This is as good a summary as any.

Perhaps Obama should start explaining why he gave $200,000 at the Woods Funds to a Mickey Mouse group like ACORN. Doe he have no political radar for sleaze?

Not every publication is willing to give John Lewis a pass on his race baiting rhetoric.

One heck of an editing error from the Gray Lady: “Because of an editing error, an article on Saturday about the changing tactics of Senator John McCain’s campaign misstated, in some editions, Mr. McCain’s reaction to a woman’s comment at his rally in Lakeville, Minn., that Senator Barack Obama was not trustworthy because he was an ‘Arab.’ Mr. McCain told the woman, ‘No Ma’am, he’s a decent family man, citizen.’ Mr. McCain did not fail to respond to the woman’s accusation.”

If you think ACORN’s only relevance is voter fraud read this. It is ironic that the candidate who is most closely tied to this group is running a campaign seeking to capitalize on the financial debacle (which that organization helped bring about). And it shouldn’t escape notice that Obama supporters’ thuggish tactics are straight out of the ACORN playbook.

Yikes — there is something about that Florida Congressional seat, isn’t there? First Mark Foley and now Tim Mahoney. We’ll see if the voters are any less disgusted this time around. And let’s see if the media is as curious this time about which Democratic leaders knew what was going on and when they knew it.

Lots of Democrats are “scared of Franken winning”? Yes, says Chuck Todd about Democratic Senate candidate Al Franken. With a figure as absurd as Franken, I’m not sure the “only positive” approach of Norm Coleman makes sense. Really, don’t the sober-minded people of Minnesota have more respect for the Senate than to send to Washington a foul-mouthed comedian who doesn’t pay his taxes or workers’ comp bills?

When you say McCain is “within striking distance” I suppose it depends on the definition of “distance.”

A novel idea emerges from the Washington Post: asking Obama tough questions about what he’s actually going to do about the economic crisis and how it affects his agenda. That would sort of be like having an independent watchdog that ferrets out information for voters. Wow.

20,000 voters in Virginia should be encouraging to the McCain camp — even better is that Sarah Palin is asking why Democrats never talk about winning in Iraq.

It should come as no surprise that Obama’s economic policy is rooted in wealth redistribution. Perhaps it is time for McCain to get the word out — the public seems confused.

So there really will be a new economic plan from the McCain plan? Gosh, if they tried they coldn’t have done a better job of turning their last shot at substance into a negative “process” story about campaign incompetence.

Time for the RNC to use the money to save some House and Senate seats? It depends on how you answer these queries: Who has a better chance: Elizabeth Dole or John McCain? Norm Coleman or McCain?

Jon Corzine for Obama’s Treasury Secretary? Somehow I think he could do better than that.

Another good debate question: “Does Obama believe the schools should advocate a leftist ‘social justice’ ideology?” That’s one of many reasons why the Bill Ayers-Annenberg connection matters.

Read Less




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