Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 4, 2008

Beginning or the End?

Sarah Palin does her thing with the media, ducking and charming, after voting in Alaska. And, as is now her habit, she is resolutely on message. One wonders if a different approach to the mainstream media would have worked out better for all concerned. If Palin had gone on talk show after talk show, and done impromptu press gaggles day after day, would the MSM’s attacks have lost their effect? And if John McCain had overwhelmed the media with access, would the coverage have been any different? Perhaps not. But Palin has demonstrated that there is something to be gained even in short interludes–the public again and again gets the sense of who she is. And if you are disciplined enough the message does get through.

If McCain-Palin had had a “Plan B” after they went to war with the MSM, they might have had an easier time getting out their message. Palin once observed that you never win with the people who buy gallons of ink. True–but you can tighten up the score. It is a knotty problem, one that future Republican tickets will need to manage. Step 1 is getting candidates who are likable and can communicate. And Step 2 is finding outlets to allow them to do that. It was Step 2 which utterly flummoxed the McCain camp this time. The next ticket will have to do better.

Sarah Palin does her thing with the media, ducking and charming, after voting in Alaska. And, as is now her habit, she is resolutely on message. One wonders if a different approach to the mainstream media would have worked out better for all concerned. If Palin had gone on talk show after talk show, and done impromptu press gaggles day after day, would the MSM’s attacks have lost their effect? And if John McCain had overwhelmed the media with access, would the coverage have been any different? Perhaps not. But Palin has demonstrated that there is something to be gained even in short interludes–the public again and again gets the sense of who she is. And if you are disciplined enough the message does get through.

If McCain-Palin had had a “Plan B” after they went to war with the MSM, they might have had an easier time getting out their message. Palin once observed that you never win with the people who buy gallons of ink. True–but you can tighten up the score. It is a knotty problem, one that future Republican tickets will need to manage. Step 1 is getting candidates who are likable and can communicate. And Step 2 is finding outlets to allow them to do that. It was Step 2 which utterly flummoxed the McCain camp this time. The next ticket will have to do better.

Read Less

The New Voting Day

Throughout the conservative blogosphere, you see plenty of reporting on potential voter fraud, intimidation, and misbehavior. Some of it is quite shocking. The rest of the media seems not all that interested. This raises several issues. First, how extensive is it and will it impact the election? Second, where are federal authorities and what action if any are they taking? And finally, is the emphasis on the Right an attempt to deny Barack Obama a legitimate victory, if that is where we are heading?

In the course of a day, it is hard to answer these questions. Certainly perspective is in short supply. However, it is an indication that we have unfortunately passed the day when national elections were orderly, unremarkable, and uncontroversial. At some point both parties will need to figure out a way to restore confidence and normalcy to a voting system that was once the envy of the Free World.

This isn’t good for either side. Tonight or tomorrow we will have a winner, in fact many winners in many races. It appears not everyone will believe that it was a fair fight. And that the saddest outcome imaginable.

Throughout the conservative blogosphere, you see plenty of reporting on potential voter fraud, intimidation, and misbehavior. Some of it is quite shocking. The rest of the media seems not all that interested. This raises several issues. First, how extensive is it and will it impact the election? Second, where are federal authorities and what action if any are they taking? And finally, is the emphasis on the Right an attempt to deny Barack Obama a legitimate victory, if that is where we are heading?

In the course of a day, it is hard to answer these questions. Certainly perspective is in short supply. However, it is an indication that we have unfortunately passed the day when national elections were orderly, unremarkable, and uncontroversial. At some point both parties will need to figure out a way to restore confidence and normalcy to a voting system that was once the envy of the Free World.

This isn’t good for either side. Tonight or tomorrow we will have a winner, in fact many winners in many races. It appears not everyone will believe that it was a fair fight. And that the saddest outcome imaginable.

Read Less

A Timely Reminder

Jimmy Breslin, in his November 2, 2004 Newsday column titled, “I’m right – again. So I quit. Beautiful.”

One day last May, I assigned the election to John Kerry. I said it early, and often. As I looked more, I saw that it shouldn’t even be close. I said that in this space more than once. Now I am so sure that I am not even going to bother to watch the results tonight. I am going to bed early, for I must rise in the darkness and pursue immediately an exciting, overdue project.

Besides, if I was up, so many people, upon seeing every word I said of this election coming true on television in front of them, would be kissing my hands and embarrassing me with outlandish praise. So I go to bed with total confidence. I will get up and stroll to other meadows. I invented this column form. I now leave, but will return here for cameo appearances. And I leave today as the only one in America who from the start was sure John Kerry would win by a wide margin.

I think he should have honored the logic of his title and stayed on.

Jimmy Breslin, in his November 2, 2004 Newsday column titled, “I’m right – again. So I quit. Beautiful.”

One day last May, I assigned the election to John Kerry. I said it early, and often. As I looked more, I saw that it shouldn’t even be close. I said that in this space more than once. Now I am so sure that I am not even going to bother to watch the results tonight. I am going to bed early, for I must rise in the darkness and pursue immediately an exciting, overdue project.

Besides, if I was up, so many people, upon seeing every word I said of this election coming true on television in front of them, would be kissing my hands and embarrassing me with outlandish praise. So I go to bed with total confidence. I will get up and stroll to other meadows. I invented this column form. I now leave, but will return here for cameo appearances. And I leave today as the only one in America who from the start was sure John Kerry would win by a wide margin.

I think he should have honored the logic of his title and stayed on.

Read Less

What Will Become of Them?

Once the votes are counted, will the recriminations begin? There is plenty of reason for finger-pointing. The criticism already has been fierce. Their share of the voters has fallen steadily. They have financial problems. They lack respect. Republicans? No–the mainstream media.

We know that Republicans, regardless of the outcome in the Presidential race, will begin a group-encounter session ( or circular firing squad) to review their errors, plot their future course, and engage in much-needed self-evaluation. But what of the media? Their financial future is grim, their market share is diminishing, and the overwhelming majority of Americans think they are in the tank for one side. Will they hold conferences, write papers, and fight among themselves about their sorry state?

It seems they have two options. One is to continue down the same road, in essence becoming the press office for the Democratic Party and choosing partisan fidelity over good business sense. (How many papers would the Los Angeles Times have sold by publishing a full transcript of the 2003 Obama-Khalidi dinner?) The other option is to reassess, relegate cheerleading back to the opinion sections of their papers, aggressively cover both parties, and resume the role of independent adversary to those in power. That would entail wholesale personnel changes and a redirection of effort for many outlets.

In short: is the future of TV news Keith Olberman or David Gregory? Is the future of daily print news coverage the New York Times or . . . or . . . ( I’m thinking, I’m thinking). It will be interesting to see whether the GOP or the MSM is more successful in re-establishing respect and popularity. Both have their work cut out for them.

Once the votes are counted, will the recriminations begin? There is plenty of reason for finger-pointing. The criticism already has been fierce. Their share of the voters has fallen steadily. They have financial problems. They lack respect. Republicans? No–the mainstream media.

We know that Republicans, regardless of the outcome in the Presidential race, will begin a group-encounter session ( or circular firing squad) to review their errors, plot their future course, and engage in much-needed self-evaluation. But what of the media? Their financial future is grim, their market share is diminishing, and the overwhelming majority of Americans think they are in the tank for one side. Will they hold conferences, write papers, and fight among themselves about their sorry state?

It seems they have two options. One is to continue down the same road, in essence becoming the press office for the Democratic Party and choosing partisan fidelity over good business sense. (How many papers would the Los Angeles Times have sold by publishing a full transcript of the 2003 Obama-Khalidi dinner?) The other option is to reassess, relegate cheerleading back to the opinion sections of their papers, aggressively cover both parties, and resume the role of independent adversary to those in power. That would entail wholesale personnel changes and a redirection of effort for many outlets.

In short: is the future of TV news Keith Olberman or David Gregory? Is the future of daily print news coverage the New York Times or . . . or . . . ( I’m thinking, I’m thinking). It will be interesting to see whether the GOP or the MSM is more successful in re-establishing respect and popularity. Both have their work cut out for them.

Read Less

Defining Diligence Down

Speaking of Rachel Maddow, the latest issue of New York magazine contains a slobbering profile of the liberal radio and TV personality:

A Rhodes scholar and an Oxford Ph.D., she’s done stints as an AIDS activist, barista, landscaper, Air America host, and mascot in an inflatable calculator suit. She’s a civics geek who reads comic books, goes to monster-truck rallies, likes to fish, calls herself an “amateur mixologist” of classic cocktails, and even Twitters.

The theme of the piece is Maddow’s supposedly incredible work-ethic. “Since [her new] show started in September, Maddow’s schedule has been brutal.” Well, just how taxing is it? “Weekdays, she wakes up at eight in her West Village apartment . . . to work on the book she’s writing.” Eight in the morning? Wow, that is early. It’s probably best not to tell NY mag that Anthony Trollope woke every day at 5:30 a.m. to get in three solid hours of novel-writing—at 1,000 words per hour—before heading off for his day job with the Post Office (a capacity in which he invented the letter box).

After that grueling morning (“’Writing makes me want to blow my head off,’ she says”), Maddow “heads [at 11 a.m.] to the Flatiron district to tape her Air America radio show from noon to one, then climbs into a waiting Town Car, where she uses the 25 minutes in traffic on the way to MSNBC to go over potential material with . . . her Air America producer.” I could quote more, but I’m getting tired just reading about her schedule, so let’s jump the end of her workday: “Maddow leaves the office for the first time in nine and a half hours, at 10:30 p.m.” My goodness! She has it almost as bad as a New York paralegal.

Should you wish to read about the vigorous pace of a truly indefatigable and prolific human being, go find a copy of Cruising Speed, the 1971 memoir of one week in the life of William F. Buckley.

Speaking of Rachel Maddow, the latest issue of New York magazine contains a slobbering profile of the liberal radio and TV personality:

A Rhodes scholar and an Oxford Ph.D., she’s done stints as an AIDS activist, barista, landscaper, Air America host, and mascot in an inflatable calculator suit. She’s a civics geek who reads comic books, goes to monster-truck rallies, likes to fish, calls herself an “amateur mixologist” of classic cocktails, and even Twitters.

The theme of the piece is Maddow’s supposedly incredible work-ethic. “Since [her new] show started in September, Maddow’s schedule has been brutal.” Well, just how taxing is it? “Weekdays, she wakes up at eight in her West Village apartment . . . to work on the book she’s writing.” Eight in the morning? Wow, that is early. It’s probably best not to tell NY mag that Anthony Trollope woke every day at 5:30 a.m. to get in three solid hours of novel-writing—at 1,000 words per hour—before heading off for his day job with the Post Office (a capacity in which he invented the letter box).

After that grueling morning (“’Writing makes me want to blow my head off,’ she says”), Maddow “heads [at 11 a.m.] to the Flatiron district to tape her Air America radio show from noon to one, then climbs into a waiting Town Car, where she uses the 25 minutes in traffic on the way to MSNBC to go over potential material with . . . her Air America producer.” I could quote more, but I’m getting tired just reading about her schedule, so let’s jump the end of her workday: “Maddow leaves the office for the first time in nine and a half hours, at 10:30 p.m.” My goodness! She has it almost as bad as a New York paralegal.

Should you wish to read about the vigorous pace of a truly indefatigable and prolific human being, go find a copy of Cruising Speed, the 1971 memoir of one week in the life of William F. Buckley.

Read Less

Up 20?

A commenter directed me to an online poll conducted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Keep in mind: this is not a scientific poll. However, the sample size is already upwards of 3000. The question asked is “Now that election day is here, who gets your vote?” Here’s where things stood last I checked:

Bob Barr (Libertarian) – 47 (2%)
John McCain (Republican) – 1812 (59%)
Barack Obama (Democrat) – 1201 (39%)
Ralph Nader (Independent) – 37 (1%)

A slight edge would be encouraging for McCain, but a twenty-point lead stretches validity to the breaking point.

A commenter directed me to an online poll conducted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Keep in mind: this is not a scientific poll. However, the sample size is already upwards of 3000. The question asked is “Now that election day is here, who gets your vote?” Here’s where things stood last I checked:

Bob Barr (Libertarian) – 47 (2%)
John McCain (Republican) – 1812 (59%)
Barack Obama (Democrat) – 1201 (39%)
Ralph Nader (Independent) – 37 (1%)

A slight edge would be encouraging for McCain, but a twenty-point lead stretches validity to the breaking point.

Read Less

You Stay Classy, Yale Daily News

In a story today about the lopsided donations among Yale professors to Barack Obama, the Yale Daily News does something novel: it lists by name and department the five professors who donated money to the McCain campaign. It does not publish the names of professors who donated to Obama.

This is yet another item to keep in mind the next time you hear campus liberals talk about their cherished values of tolerance and diversity in academia. As someone once said, what is in fact desired is a place where everyone looks different but thinks the same. Presumably the tenure committees of the five McCain donors have been notified.

In a story today about the lopsided donations among Yale professors to Barack Obama, the Yale Daily News does something novel: it lists by name and department the five professors who donated money to the McCain campaign. It does not publish the names of professors who donated to Obama.

This is yet another item to keep in mind the next time you hear campus liberals talk about their cherished values of tolerance and diversity in academia. As someone once said, what is in fact desired is a place where everyone looks different but thinks the same. Presumably the tenure committees of the five McCain donors have been notified.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Jonah Goldberg on conservative reformers: “The Reformers who seem to want to destroy Sarah Palin are picking an incredibly self-destructive fight for the simple reason that, as a political matter, Palin is popular and they aren’t (How many divisions does David Brooks have?). Rather, they should be fighting to win Palin and Palin supporters to their cause.” Ouch. But not all Reformers seems to dislike Palin. Still, the point is well taken.

On a related note, Matt Continetti is right: Palin is not a culture warrior. She’s a bit of a populist and a rare political talent. Neither of which is acceptable to some pundits, although she is wildly popular with the base. The former should remember that politicians not columns win elections.

Palin is cleared in Troopergate. A little late for this election, but nice for her future prospects.

And she gets a clean bill of health as well. Finishing the to-do list at McCain headquarters, are they?

Republicans could do a lot worse to than bring back Haley Barbour as the RNC Chairman. And they likely will.

Michael Barone explains the optimistic scenario for each side today and then concludes: “To be sure, opinion in the primaries tends to be more fluid than in general elections, but we have seen shifts of 3 percent in the last couple of days in presidential general elections before. In the realclearpolitics.com map of how all the states would go if they voted for the candidate now leading (by however small a margin) in the polls, Obama gets 353 votes and McCain 185. But if you subtract 3 percent from Obama’s poll numbers and add 3 percent to McCain’s, six states with 89 electoral votes shift from the Obama column to the McCain column and McCain leads in electoral votes by 274 to 264. Which looks a lot like our optimistic McCain scenario. But the betting today is still a lot closer to the optimistic Obama scenario.”

Tucker Carlson says the “slick phony” Mitt Romney has a leg up on the “undisciplined” Palin in 2012. In three and a half years we’ll see if he’s right, but it seems that Palin can learn discpline more easily than Romney can learn authenticity.

Chris Berman rivals Rick Warren as the most interesting interviewer of McCain this campaign season.

James Taranto recounts the destitute Obama relatives and his remark about bankrupting coal companies: “In fact, his blasé attitude about deporting his beloved aunt and bankrupting fellow Americans is downright chilling. Maybe a period of heartless liberalism is a needed corrective after eight years of compassionate conservatism.”

This assessment depends on the meaning of “recent”: “But the public demand for change was total, and if the polls are right, voters will elect the man who breaks from the recent past in almost every way.” He certainly hasn’t broken with any tenet of 1970′s liberalism, however distant he may be from George W. Bush.

Jonah Goldberg on conservative reformers: “The Reformers who seem to want to destroy Sarah Palin are picking an incredibly self-destructive fight for the simple reason that, as a political matter, Palin is popular and they aren’t (How many divisions does David Brooks have?). Rather, they should be fighting to win Palin and Palin supporters to their cause.” Ouch. But not all Reformers seems to dislike Palin. Still, the point is well taken.

On a related note, Matt Continetti is right: Palin is not a culture warrior. She’s a bit of a populist and a rare political talent. Neither of which is acceptable to some pundits, although she is wildly popular with the base. The former should remember that politicians not columns win elections.

Palin is cleared in Troopergate. A little late for this election, but nice for her future prospects.

And she gets a clean bill of health as well. Finishing the to-do list at McCain headquarters, are they?

Republicans could do a lot worse to than bring back Haley Barbour as the RNC Chairman. And they likely will.

Michael Barone explains the optimistic scenario for each side today and then concludes: “To be sure, opinion in the primaries tends to be more fluid than in general elections, but we have seen shifts of 3 percent in the last couple of days in presidential general elections before. In the realclearpolitics.com map of how all the states would go if they voted for the candidate now leading (by however small a margin) in the polls, Obama gets 353 votes and McCain 185. But if you subtract 3 percent from Obama’s poll numbers and add 3 percent to McCain’s, six states with 89 electoral votes shift from the Obama column to the McCain column and McCain leads in electoral votes by 274 to 264. Which looks a lot like our optimistic McCain scenario. But the betting today is still a lot closer to the optimistic Obama scenario.”

Tucker Carlson says the “slick phony” Mitt Romney has a leg up on the “undisciplined” Palin in 2012. In three and a half years we’ll see if he’s right, but it seems that Palin can learn discpline more easily than Romney can learn authenticity.

Chris Berman rivals Rick Warren as the most interesting interviewer of McCain this campaign season.

James Taranto recounts the destitute Obama relatives and his remark about bankrupting coal companies: “In fact, his blasé attitude about deporting his beloved aunt and bankrupting fellow Americans is downright chilling. Maybe a period of heartless liberalism is a needed corrective after eight years of compassionate conservatism.”

This assessment depends on the meaning of “recent”: “But the public demand for change was total, and if the polls are right, voters will elect the man who breaks from the recent past in almost every way.” He certainly hasn’t broken with any tenet of 1970′s liberalism, however distant he may be from George W. Bush.

Read Less

Did He Check “Present”?

The AP reports on Barack Obama’s trip to the polls.

Obama kissed the cheek of the poll worker who took his ballot, then watched while she fed it into a machine. The crowd broke into applause when a smiling Obama held up his validation slip and said, “I voted.”

Better late than never, I suppose.

The AP reports on Barack Obama’s trip to the polls.

Obama kissed the cheek of the poll worker who took his ballot, then watched while she fed it into a machine. The crowd broke into applause when a smiling Obama held up his validation slip and said, “I voted.”

Better late than never, I suppose.

Read Less

The Progressive Poll Tax

Rachel Maddow is receiving plaudits for arguing that long lines at election sites are effectively a poll tax:

This is a poll tax. How much do you get paid for an hour of work? Do you have the kind of job that would be delighted to give you an hour, a half-day, a whole day off work because you were waiting in line at your precinct? Even if it won’t cost you your job, can you afford to not work those hours?

While overly long lines are regrettable, at least this “poll tax” is a progressive one. After all, for those voters who are paid by the hour, the cost of waiting rises with the increase in hourly wage. Shouldn’t that please a liberal like Maddow? Admittedly, the marginal utility of each dollar that is not earned due to the polling queue is greatest for those making the minimum wage. And things would be even worse for illegal immigrants, who often make less than that wage (just don’t mention that to Democrats), but of course they may not vote. It’s also worth pointing out that the “poll tax” is also progressive on the self-employed, since the opportunity cost is greater the more productive a voter would otherwise be with his time. Last, there’s also one category of voters for whom long lines at the polls are not just not a tax, but a benefit: salaried workers get paid for not working! I just hope they bring a good book.

Rachel Maddow is receiving plaudits for arguing that long lines at election sites are effectively a poll tax:

This is a poll tax. How much do you get paid for an hour of work? Do you have the kind of job that would be delighted to give you an hour, a half-day, a whole day off work because you were waiting in line at your precinct? Even if it won’t cost you your job, can you afford to not work those hours?

While overly long lines are regrettable, at least this “poll tax” is a progressive one. After all, for those voters who are paid by the hour, the cost of waiting rises with the increase in hourly wage. Shouldn’t that please a liberal like Maddow? Admittedly, the marginal utility of each dollar that is not earned due to the polling queue is greatest for those making the minimum wage. And things would be even worse for illegal immigrants, who often make less than that wage (just don’t mention that to Democrats), but of course they may not vote. It’s also worth pointing out that the “poll tax” is also progressive on the self-employed, since the opportunity cost is greater the more productive a voter would otherwise be with his time. Last, there’s also one category of voters for whom long lines at the polls are not just not a tax, but a benefit: salaried workers get paid for not working! I just hope they bring a good book.

Read Less

South of the Blue Line

If any further proof of the futility of talking to terrorists such as Hezbollah were needed, Hezbollah offered it earlier today, when its “foreign minister” Nawaf Musawi laid claims to more Israeli territory south of the blue line, which demarcates the southern border of Lebanon. Advocates of dialogue with Hezbollah have repeatedly argued that a compromise over the Shebaa Farms would deny Hezbollah any further pretext for continuing “resistance” against Israel. In a textbook move, Hezbollah has just laid out just that–the next pretext. Not that anyone expects Western leaders to notice. After all, a delegation of Members of the European Parliament visiting Gaza has just extended an invitation to Hamas “lawmakers” to come to Brussels, despite the fact that Hamas is on the EU terror list. Still, one would hope that where decisions do matter–not Brussels, but Jerusalem and Washington–nobody is going to nurture any illusions about what appeasing a terror group can beget.

If any further proof of the futility of talking to terrorists such as Hezbollah were needed, Hezbollah offered it earlier today, when its “foreign minister” Nawaf Musawi laid claims to more Israeli territory south of the blue line, which demarcates the southern border of Lebanon. Advocates of dialogue with Hezbollah have repeatedly argued that a compromise over the Shebaa Farms would deny Hezbollah any further pretext for continuing “resistance” against Israel. In a textbook move, Hezbollah has just laid out just that–the next pretext. Not that anyone expects Western leaders to notice. After all, a delegation of Members of the European Parliament visiting Gaza has just extended an invitation to Hamas “lawmakers” to come to Brussels, despite the fact that Hamas is on the EU terror list. Still, one would hope that where decisions do matter–not Brussels, but Jerusalem and Washington–nobody is going to nurture any illusions about what appeasing a terror group can beget.

Read Less

Slightly Nervous

A new report–written by Michael Eisenstadt, director of the Military and Security Studies Program at the Washington Institute–will make many American voters uneasy, and should make Israelis cringe. Barack Obama–assuming he is elected today–will be a wartime president, Eisenstadt writes.

Why will this make Americans uneasy? Because this election cycle has concluded as if the war in Iraq is merely a footnote. Obama’s voters–and I met many such people in the last two weeks, during which I’ve been on the road from Maine to Florida to North Carolina to Ohio–think about history. They think about changing Washington. They think about a younger generation taking over. But they hardly ever think about how or why.

And why should Israelis cringe? Not because of Obama–although, as Amos Harel writes today, “Obama’s support for renewing the dialogue with Tehran is making [Israeli officials] very uncomfortable.”

Israelis, according to Eisenstadt’s paper, should worry because the list of possible conflicts he mentions consists mostly of possible confrontations involving Israel:

The challenges posed by the Middle East are legion: “fragile and reversible” security in Iraq; military fallout from a possible Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program; the destabilizing consequences of a nuclear breakout by the Islamic Republic; a new round of violence between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA)–this time in the West Bank; an Israeli military intervention in Gaza to halt renewed rocket attacks, preempt a Hamas military buildup, or crush the nascent Hamas government there; and the possibility of a second Hizballah-Israeli war.

On Iran, the overwhelming challenge this region poses to the next president, Eisenstadt advises the “next president”–the politically-correct code name for Obama until tonight–to try and do, well, what the Bush administration has been trying to do:

Washington should quietly approach intermediaries to sound out Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, prior to Iran’s presidential elections to determine if there is any basis for serious, public contacts or negotiations in the immediate aftermath of the elections, and if Iran would be willing to suspend enrichment for the duration of these talks.

Freezing enrichment is the one concession the Bush administration was asking from the Iranians, in return for direct talks. With no success. It’s true Obama would be a fresh start. It’s possible that the Iranians didn’t trust Bush, and might decide to try out his successor. It’s probable that Obama would enjoy the benefit of a more cooperative international community (for a while). But how likely it is that Tehran will agree to a condition it has already rejected? I’m hopeful. But still skeptical.

A new report–written by Michael Eisenstadt, director of the Military and Security Studies Program at the Washington Institute–will make many American voters uneasy, and should make Israelis cringe. Barack Obama–assuming he is elected today–will be a wartime president, Eisenstadt writes.

Why will this make Americans uneasy? Because this election cycle has concluded as if the war in Iraq is merely a footnote. Obama’s voters–and I met many such people in the last two weeks, during which I’ve been on the road from Maine to Florida to North Carolina to Ohio–think about history. They think about changing Washington. They think about a younger generation taking over. But they hardly ever think about how or why.

And why should Israelis cringe? Not because of Obama–although, as Amos Harel writes today, “Obama’s support for renewing the dialogue with Tehran is making [Israeli officials] very uncomfortable.”

Israelis, according to Eisenstadt’s paper, should worry because the list of possible conflicts he mentions consists mostly of possible confrontations involving Israel:

The challenges posed by the Middle East are legion: “fragile and reversible” security in Iraq; military fallout from a possible Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program; the destabilizing consequences of a nuclear breakout by the Islamic Republic; a new round of violence between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA)–this time in the West Bank; an Israeli military intervention in Gaza to halt renewed rocket attacks, preempt a Hamas military buildup, or crush the nascent Hamas government there; and the possibility of a second Hizballah-Israeli war.

On Iran, the overwhelming challenge this region poses to the next president, Eisenstadt advises the “next president”–the politically-correct code name for Obama until tonight–to try and do, well, what the Bush administration has been trying to do:

Washington should quietly approach intermediaries to sound out Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, prior to Iran’s presidential elections to determine if there is any basis for serious, public contacts or negotiations in the immediate aftermath of the elections, and if Iran would be willing to suspend enrichment for the duration of these talks.

Freezing enrichment is the one concession the Bush administration was asking from the Iranians, in return for direct talks. With no success. It’s true Obama would be a fresh start. It’s possible that the Iranians didn’t trust Bush, and might decide to try out his successor. It’s probable that Obama would enjoy the benefit of a more cooperative international community (for a while). But how likely it is that Tehran will agree to a condition it has already rejected? I’m hopeful. But still skeptical.

Read Less

Pick The Catastrophe Guy?

In one of the oddest editorials of the campaign season, the Washington Post, which endorsed Barack Obama, takes us through an “irony” in Iraq:

The irony is that the reversal of fortunes came about after President Bush ignored the message from 2006 voters and the Democratic congressional majority they elected. Instead of withdrawing U.S. troops, Mr. Bush launched the “surge” for which Republican John McCain had been pressing. Yet the biggest beneficiary of its success is not Mr. Bush, whose popularity is as low as ever, or Mr. McCain, but Democrat Barack Obama. Mr. Obama gained traction early in the Democratic primary campaign by stressing his opposition to the war and support for a 16-month withdrawal timetable. By the time his general election competition with Mr. McCain began, Iraq had faded as an issue. Mr. Obama’s withdrawal proposal, which would have triggered a catastrophe in 2007 and still looked irresponsible a few months ago, now does not sound that different from what the Iraqi government and the Bush administration have lately been negotiating.
There remain important differences between Mr. Obama’s strategy and that espoused by U.S. commanders and Iraqi leaders. We hope that, if elected, Mr. Obama will embrace the prudent conditionality that those commanders support and at which Mr. Obama so far has only hinted. But today is not the day for detailed policy advice. Suffice it instead today to be grateful that the president-elect will inherit a war that has gone from the brink of disaster to a path toward success — and to give thanks, above all, to the servicemen and women and their family members who have sacrificed incalculably to make that turnaround possible.

It is not just the “servicemen and women and their family members” that the president-elect will owe a debt of gratitude to, but McCain himself. Isn’t that right? So the man the Post endorses–who made the exact wrong call and whom the MSM coddled and protected from much scrutiny on this very subject–should, if he wins, be grateful that McCain was there to do the right thing. But who should be there the next time a hard call is required? The Post recommends Obama, the one whose advice was, luckily, ignored. Obama: the one whose policy would have triggered a “catastrophe,” in the words of his endorser. Got it! It is no wonder the Post–and others who honestly perceive the course of events in Iraq–rely on “hope” and “transformation” to justify their support for Obama.

In one of the oddest editorials of the campaign season, the Washington Post, which endorsed Barack Obama, takes us through an “irony” in Iraq:

The irony is that the reversal of fortunes came about after President Bush ignored the message from 2006 voters and the Democratic congressional majority they elected. Instead of withdrawing U.S. troops, Mr. Bush launched the “surge” for which Republican John McCain had been pressing. Yet the biggest beneficiary of its success is not Mr. Bush, whose popularity is as low as ever, or Mr. McCain, but Democrat Barack Obama. Mr. Obama gained traction early in the Democratic primary campaign by stressing his opposition to the war and support for a 16-month withdrawal timetable. By the time his general election competition with Mr. McCain began, Iraq had faded as an issue. Mr. Obama’s withdrawal proposal, which would have triggered a catastrophe in 2007 and still looked irresponsible a few months ago, now does not sound that different from what the Iraqi government and the Bush administration have lately been negotiating.
There remain important differences between Mr. Obama’s strategy and that espoused by U.S. commanders and Iraqi leaders. We hope that, if elected, Mr. Obama will embrace the prudent conditionality that those commanders support and at which Mr. Obama so far has only hinted. But today is not the day for detailed policy advice. Suffice it instead today to be grateful that the president-elect will inherit a war that has gone from the brink of disaster to a path toward success — and to give thanks, above all, to the servicemen and women and their family members who have sacrificed incalculably to make that turnaround possible.

It is not just the “servicemen and women and their family members” that the president-elect will owe a debt of gratitude to, but McCain himself. Isn’t that right? So the man the Post endorses–who made the exact wrong call and whom the MSM coddled and protected from much scrutiny on this very subject–should, if he wins, be grateful that McCain was there to do the right thing. But who should be there the next time a hard call is required? The Post recommends Obama, the one whose advice was, luckily, ignored. Obama: the one whose policy would have triggered a “catastrophe,” in the words of his endorser. Got it! It is no wonder the Post–and others who honestly perceive the course of events in Iraq–rely on “hope” and “transformation” to justify their support for Obama.

Read Less

The Biden Doctrine

Everyone from Colin Powell to New York Times columnists has lauded the “transformative” nature of Barack Obama. Conservatives fear he wants to transform too much. But Bret Stephens reminds us that much in the world is not capable of transformation:

[Obama] has campaigned on the theme that the old categories no longer apply: not of race or class, or of blue and red states, or of left and right. And in the matter of race, the transcendence Mr. Obama offers is genuinely wonderful.

But not everything is susceptible to transcendence. Terrorists will not be less dangerous by being contextualized in a matrix of threats that includes climate change and global poverty, or because they will be mollified by Mr. Obama’s middle name. Nor will Iran be deterred from developing nuclear weapons because a President Obama will restore faith in “brand America.”

Obama and his starry-eyed followers are convinced, and are trying to convince us, that his very election will change intractable international problems, melt the hearts of our opponents, and reshape the entire world’s opinion of America.

But his running mate has suggested his election will have a different result — one that entices challenge and conflict rather than resolves it. In Biden’s world view, enemies of the U.S. don’t swoon at the election of an African-American or thrill at the thought of new multilateral agreements. They leap if they perceive weakness. And they continue to pursue self-interests which directly conflict with ours. If Obama is elected, we will find out whether Joe Biden finally stumbled onto an accurate national security assessment.

Everyone from Colin Powell to New York Times columnists has lauded the “transformative” nature of Barack Obama. Conservatives fear he wants to transform too much. But Bret Stephens reminds us that much in the world is not capable of transformation:

[Obama] has campaigned on the theme that the old categories no longer apply: not of race or class, or of blue and red states, or of left and right. And in the matter of race, the transcendence Mr. Obama offers is genuinely wonderful.

But not everything is susceptible to transcendence. Terrorists will not be less dangerous by being contextualized in a matrix of threats that includes climate change and global poverty, or because they will be mollified by Mr. Obama’s middle name. Nor will Iran be deterred from developing nuclear weapons because a President Obama will restore faith in “brand America.”

Obama and his starry-eyed followers are convinced, and are trying to convince us, that his very election will change intractable international problems, melt the hearts of our opponents, and reshape the entire world’s opinion of America.

But his running mate has suggested his election will have a different result — one that entices challenge and conflict rather than resolves it. In Biden’s world view, enemies of the U.S. don’t swoon at the election of an African-American or thrill at the thought of new multilateral agreements. They leap if they perceive weakness. And they continue to pursue self-interests which directly conflict with ours. If Obama is elected, we will find out whether Joe Biden finally stumbled onto an accurate national security assessment.

Read Less

Can You Even Remember?

It seems a lifetime ago when this all started. Two years ago Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, John McCain was unstoppable (before he was un-revivable ), John Edwards was a lightweight but not loathsome, Bill Richardson was impressive, and Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee were unknowns to most Americans. Virtually everything changed over two years, including the Iraq War (which went from disastrous to winnable) and the economy (when went from fine to disastrous). Immigration was going to be the hot issue and turned into a non-issue. The few constants: Bill Clinton never was quite on message and the MSM was infuriatingly dishonest and biased.

In a sense, “the race” at the beginning bears virtually no relation to “the race” at the end. Indeed, the beginning and end are populated by different people, focused on different issues, and played out in different environments. One would think that a note of caution — for advisors, pundits and candidates — might be in order the next time around.

Were all those visits to Iowa two years before the Ames Straw poll (which was indicative of exactly nothing) really needed? Did it make sense for pundits to talk about McCain’s campaign in the past tense in the spring of 2007? Were the millions raised and spent by Romney more than a year before New Hampshire wisely spent? In retrospect, it all seems rather silly.

Maybe next time around, the candidates will get into the race a few months before the primaries, the pundits will scrutinize all candidates equally and avoid telling us who “won” before they have done so, and the primary voters will keep in mind that what is central in 2010 will be a distant memory in 2012. You think it could happen? Me neither.

It seems a lifetime ago when this all started. Two years ago Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, John McCain was unstoppable (before he was un-revivable ), John Edwards was a lightweight but not loathsome, Bill Richardson was impressive, and Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee were unknowns to most Americans. Virtually everything changed over two years, including the Iraq War (which went from disastrous to winnable) and the economy (when went from fine to disastrous). Immigration was going to be the hot issue and turned into a non-issue. The few constants: Bill Clinton never was quite on message and the MSM was infuriatingly dishonest and biased.

In a sense, “the race” at the beginning bears virtually no relation to “the race” at the end. Indeed, the beginning and end are populated by different people, focused on different issues, and played out in different environments. One would think that a note of caution — for advisors, pundits and candidates — might be in order the next time around.

Were all those visits to Iowa two years before the Ames Straw poll (which was indicative of exactly nothing) really needed? Did it make sense for pundits to talk about McCain’s campaign in the past tense in the spring of 2007? Were the millions raised and spent by Romney more than a year before New Hampshire wisely spent? In retrospect, it all seems rather silly.

Maybe next time around, the candidates will get into the race a few months before the primaries, the pundits will scrutinize all candidates equally and avoid telling us who “won” before they have done so, and the primary voters will keep in mind that what is central in 2010 will be a distant memory in 2012. You think it could happen? Me neither.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.