Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 14, 2008

Flotsam and Jetsam

Peter Robinson traces the enormous growth in government (e.g. Medicare Part D, discretionary spending) at the hands of Republicans, and concludes: “The land of the free and the home of the brave could soon be transformed into the land of the dependent and the home of the infantilized.”

This is one funny interview with Karl Rove, but I don’t think the reporter found it funny. The best line is about Joe Biden: “I think he has an odd combination of longevity and long-windedness that passes for wisdom in Washington.” Translation: he’s an old wind-bag.

From this report on the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama meeting, it sounds like the Secretary of State gig is a realistic career move for Clinton. The person most put out by this could well be Joe Biden. Whatever he’s going to do in this administration it won’t be micro-managing her.

Ward Connerly soldiers on for a colorblind society. With an African American President-elect it is harder to maintain the argument that the only way for minorities to make it is through discrimination against others.

Congressman Dan Lungren challenges Minority Leader John Boehner. I am not sure how Lungren, who began serving in the Congress in 1979 ( he served as California’s Attorney General before returning to the House for a second stint in 2005), represents “change.” I think we learned in the Presidential election that if you are going to be a credible advocate for shaking up Washington it is better not to have worked there for decades.

I’m not sure what this person’s gripe with Tim Pawlenty is, but criticizing national Republicans for a poor message and ineffective messengers doesn’t signal that Pawlenty is “moderate” — it suggests he is honest and ambitious.

Jay Nordlinger writes: “In a way, it’s amazing that conservatives ever win. Conservatives will tell you the following: The Left controls education, K through graduate school. (Maybe pre-K through graduate school — I don’t know.) They control the movies, popular television, the mainstream media, etc., etc. And then conservatives get surprised, often, when liberals triumph at the polls. Well, when all the shaping institutions shape one way . . .” Fortunately for conservatives, having children, attending religious services and working out in the world for a number of years tends to counterbalance those liberal influences. But it is an uphill climb.

If this pol wants to be head of the RNC shouldn’t he explain why his state party is in such shambles despite horrid Democratic-led government? If he can’t revive the party in a state where the Democrats have rotten leadership, he may not be the one to go up against the Democrats in the Obama era.

If its mayor has his way, “bailout” money will be going to the city of San Jose to pay for rapid transit and clean technology businesses. What was this really for? Perhaps it is an irrelevant question — it’s just a race to the public trough.

Yeah, what’s the point of recruiting Republicans who can win outside traditional conservative strongholds, if they only lose when the going gets tough? Wait. What?? No. Recruit candidates, spread the message, and show constituents that Republicans are effective legislators — this is how you wind up in the majority.

The last thing Sarah Palin needs on her resume is “saved Ted Stevens and Don Young from defeat.” Actually, I think those races had far less to do with Palin than with the unfortunate reality that voters like pork. Lots of it.

Peter Robinson traces the enormous growth in government (e.g. Medicare Part D, discretionary spending) at the hands of Republicans, and concludes: “The land of the free and the home of the brave could soon be transformed into the land of the dependent and the home of the infantilized.”

This is one funny interview with Karl Rove, but I don’t think the reporter found it funny. The best line is about Joe Biden: “I think he has an odd combination of longevity and long-windedness that passes for wisdom in Washington.” Translation: he’s an old wind-bag.

From this report on the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama meeting, it sounds like the Secretary of State gig is a realistic career move for Clinton. The person most put out by this could well be Joe Biden. Whatever he’s going to do in this administration it won’t be micro-managing her.

Ward Connerly soldiers on for a colorblind society. With an African American President-elect it is harder to maintain the argument that the only way for minorities to make it is through discrimination against others.

Congressman Dan Lungren challenges Minority Leader John Boehner. I am not sure how Lungren, who began serving in the Congress in 1979 ( he served as California’s Attorney General before returning to the House for a second stint in 2005), represents “change.” I think we learned in the Presidential election that if you are going to be a credible advocate for shaking up Washington it is better not to have worked there for decades.

I’m not sure what this person’s gripe with Tim Pawlenty is, but criticizing national Republicans for a poor message and ineffective messengers doesn’t signal that Pawlenty is “moderate” — it suggests he is honest and ambitious.

Jay Nordlinger writes: “In a way, it’s amazing that conservatives ever win. Conservatives will tell you the following: The Left controls education, K through graduate school. (Maybe pre-K through graduate school — I don’t know.) They control the movies, popular television, the mainstream media, etc., etc. And then conservatives get surprised, often, when liberals triumph at the polls. Well, when all the shaping institutions shape one way . . .” Fortunately for conservatives, having children, attending religious services and working out in the world for a number of years tends to counterbalance those liberal influences. But it is an uphill climb.

If this pol wants to be head of the RNC shouldn’t he explain why his state party is in such shambles despite horrid Democratic-led government? If he can’t revive the party in a state where the Democrats have rotten leadership, he may not be the one to go up against the Democrats in the Obama era.

If its mayor has his way, “bailout” money will be going to the city of San Jose to pay for rapid transit and clean technology businesses. What was this really for? Perhaps it is an irrelevant question — it’s just a race to the public trough.

Yeah, what’s the point of recruiting Republicans who can win outside traditional conservative strongholds, if they only lose when the going gets tough? Wait. What?? No. Recruit candidates, spread the message, and show constituents that Republicans are effective legislators — this is how you wind up in the majority.

The last thing Sarah Palin needs on her resume is “saved Ted Stevens and Don Young from defeat.” Actually, I think those races had far less to do with Palin than with the unfortunate reality that voters like pork. Lots of it.

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Commentary of the Day

On the Right, on Shmuel Rosner:

I take Froma Harrop at her word when she says she does not support Obama on the basis of his appeal among non-Americans, nor of his color. But the fact is, Obama became president-elect with the overwhelming support of millions of identity-obsessed, post-nationalist groupies. They support Obama *precisely* on the basis of his popularity abroad, his color, Muslim name, immediate African ancestry, and various other aspects of his “identity.” Whether Harrop likes it or not (whether she realizes it or not), Obama’s victory is a victory for them, too, and it has set in motion tidal waves of destructive momentum in their favor, not just in the political realm, but in all areas of our common life. The time it takes for those waves to crest will be measured not in years, but in decades or generations.

On the Right, on Shmuel Rosner:

I take Froma Harrop at her word when she says she does not support Obama on the basis of his appeal among non-Americans, nor of his color. But the fact is, Obama became president-elect with the overwhelming support of millions of identity-obsessed, post-nationalist groupies. They support Obama *precisely* on the basis of his popularity abroad, his color, Muslim name, immediate African ancestry, and various other aspects of his “identity.” Whether Harrop likes it or not (whether she realizes it or not), Obama’s victory is a victory for them, too, and it has set in motion tidal waves of destructive momentum in their favor, not just in the political realm, but in all areas of our common life. The time it takes for those waves to crest will be measured not in years, but in decades or generations.

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A Russian Ultimatum

Remember that New Europe-Old Europe divide?

“Deployment of a missile defense system would bring nothing to security in Europe … it would complicate things, and would make them move backward,” [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy said after a summit with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Medvedev smiled and pointed his finger at Sarkozy in approval after the comments from the French president.

Sarkozy is certainly a much nobler man and better friend to America than Jacques Chirac ever was, but the world financial crisis threatens to realign global partnerships along problematic axes. The EU cannot afford to damage its economic relationship with Russia. While Russia couldn’t economically absorb a break in the relationship either, Putin and Medvedev have taken their bid for re-established Russian “greatness” on such an already unsustainable course that getting into a game of chicken with Medvedev is a losing option for EU countries. This denunciation of an American missile defense in Eastern Europe is not the only thing to have come from the get-together:

President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia on Friday backed away from his threat last week to deploy missiles on Europe’s borders, but only on the condition that President-elect Barack Obama take up a call Medvedev issued with France to hold a summit on European security by next summer.

Barack Obama must not let Putin manipulate American policy with such obvious paint-by-numbers intimidation. What Russia has done is stack up threats and then dangle the removal of one layer as a reward for American compliance. It’s not hard to see the disadvantage in cooperating with Moscow on this. The U.S. will be worse off than we were, having demonstrated subservience to Putin and Medvedev, indicating profound weakness, disappointing our Eastern European allies, and betraying the actual motive behind the defense shield to begin with: the deterrence of Iran.

The instinct to ameliorate may or may not prove to be Obama’s Achilles’ heel. Moscow’s reckless bid combined with global financial instability will force the issue sooner than later.

Remember that New Europe-Old Europe divide?

“Deployment of a missile defense system would bring nothing to security in Europe … it would complicate things, and would make them move backward,” [French President Nicolas] Sarkozy said after a summit with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Medvedev smiled and pointed his finger at Sarkozy in approval after the comments from the French president.

Sarkozy is certainly a much nobler man and better friend to America than Jacques Chirac ever was, but the world financial crisis threatens to realign global partnerships along problematic axes. The EU cannot afford to damage its economic relationship with Russia. While Russia couldn’t economically absorb a break in the relationship either, Putin and Medvedev have taken their bid for re-established Russian “greatness” on such an already unsustainable course that getting into a game of chicken with Medvedev is a losing option for EU countries. This denunciation of an American missile defense in Eastern Europe is not the only thing to have come from the get-together:

President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia on Friday backed away from his threat last week to deploy missiles on Europe’s borders, but only on the condition that President-elect Barack Obama take up a call Medvedev issued with France to hold a summit on European security by next summer.

Barack Obama must not let Putin manipulate American policy with such obvious paint-by-numbers intimidation. What Russia has done is stack up threats and then dangle the removal of one layer as a reward for American compliance. It’s not hard to see the disadvantage in cooperating with Moscow on this. The U.S. will be worse off than we were, having demonstrated subservience to Putin and Medvedev, indicating profound weakness, disappointing our Eastern European allies, and betraying the actual motive behind the defense shield to begin with: the deterrence of Iran.

The instinct to ameliorate may or may not prove to be Obama’s Achilles’ heel. Moscow’s reckless bid combined with global financial instability will force the issue sooner than later.

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You Don’t Need a Weatherman

Bill Ayers claims Republicans “demonized” him. This makes no sense. You can’t “demonize” someone who is already a demon.

Bill Ayers claims Republicans “demonized” him. This makes no sense. You can’t “demonize” someone who is already a demon.

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Governors

I watched a bit of the proceedings from the Governors Association, read some interviews, and chatted with those in attendance. A number of things became apparent–things you wouldn’t pick up from reading “the end of conservatism” pieces in the mainstream media.

First, it is hard to imagine (with the exception of Mitt Romney) that virtually all the serious contenders for 2012 wouldn’t come from this group. The national Republicans have been wiped out, and any survivors will have their hands full opposing the more outlandish aspects of the popular new President’s program — and preventing their own their own political careers from going the way of so many of their colleagues. Second, the governors are by and large an impressive group, even some of the less familiar figures, like North Dakota’s John Hoeven. They are articulate, personable, and generally in the business of doing what Washington, D.C. Republicans have failed to do — apply conservative principles to governance.

And finally, there is the Sarah Palin factor. Though she clearly has the buzz and is the “it” figure for now, many of her colleagues are more polished and specific as they talk about their records and ideas. If she is going to pursue a national career beyond Alaska, she will have to raise her game. Only time will tell whether her raw political talent can be supplemented by a defined message and compelling presentation.

In general, these Republicans, unlike the characterization of Republicans in the media, were far from glum. Realistic and chastened, maybe. But they think they are the future of the GOP. Republicans should hope they are right.

I watched a bit of the proceedings from the Governors Association, read some interviews, and chatted with those in attendance. A number of things became apparent–things you wouldn’t pick up from reading “the end of conservatism” pieces in the mainstream media.

First, it is hard to imagine (with the exception of Mitt Romney) that virtually all the serious contenders for 2012 wouldn’t come from this group. The national Republicans have been wiped out, and any survivors will have their hands full opposing the more outlandish aspects of the popular new President’s program — and preventing their own their own political careers from going the way of so many of their colleagues. Second, the governors are by and large an impressive group, even some of the less familiar figures, like North Dakota’s John Hoeven. They are articulate, personable, and generally in the business of doing what Washington, D.C. Republicans have failed to do — apply conservative principles to governance.

And finally, there is the Sarah Palin factor. Though she clearly has the buzz and is the “it” figure for now, many of her colleagues are more polished and specific as they talk about their records and ideas. If she is going to pursue a national career beyond Alaska, she will have to raise her game. Only time will tell whether her raw political talent can be supplemented by a defined message and compelling presentation.

In general, these Republicans, unlike the characterization of Republicans in the media, were far from glum. Realistic and chastened, maybe. But they think they are the future of the GOP. Republicans should hope they are right.

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The Silence Of The Hounds

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”“That was the curious incident.”

Sherlock Holmes, “Silver Blaze”

With the news this week that the IAEA, in a stunning and quite possibly unprecedented demonstration of competence and integrity, discovered enriched uranium on the site of a former Syrian facility that Israel bombed a bit over a year ago.

Syria, naturally, is proclaiming its innocence, insisting that Israel must have planted the material at the same time they bombed the place into rubble — which the Syrians quickly buried and pretended that nothing ever happened.

This latest development proves nothing, of course, but gives even more weight to one theory that explains the whole situation. This theory is utterly unsubstantiated and sheerest speculation, but it is congruent with the known facts of the matter.

Those facts are:

In September of 2007, Syria complained about an Israeli plane dropping an empty fuel tank in the Syrian desert.

Shortly thereafter, the news came out that the tank had been dropped by an Israeli plane that was on a mission to bomb a hitherto-secret Syrian facility in the middle of nowhere.

North Korea was among the first and most vocal critics of Israel over the incursion.

Syria itself issued protests and condemnations that were largely pro forma, especially in light of the fact that Israel had committed a genuine act of war against Syria. (This is to distinguish the raid from the host of other actions Israel has taken that are “tantamount to acts of war,” such as imposing economic sanctions on the Palestinians or shooting back at terrorists or not dying when shot at. Military aircraft violating another nation’s airspace, dropping bombs on government facilities, and blowing them to pieces is by any standard an “act of war.”)

Israel refused to comment at all on the whole incident.

At around the same time, North Korea announced that it was out of the nuclear weapons business.

The theory goes that North Korea, not comfortable with the international spotlight, decided that it needed to get rid of its nuclear weapons program. It talked to Syria, and found they were amenable to taking over North Korea’s program and materiel. So North Korea loaded the whole kit and kaboodle on a ship and sailed it off to Syria.

Israel learned of the move, naturally saw it as a threat, and warned the U.S. that it was going on. They might have considered sinking the ship, but that would have both opened them to yet another round of international condemnation and destroyed the evidence proving their case.

So the ship was allowed to proceed to Syria unmolested, while the U.S. was convinced that the threat was valid. Then, once the facility was identified, Israel (with a bit of covert assistance from the U.S.) destroyed it.

As part of the strike, Israelis very well might have landed and captured evidence of the nuclear weapons program.

Syria, caught with its pants down, and concerned that Israel might make its evidence public, quickly reacted by trying to cover up the whole incident. They leveled the site and issued a pro forma protest.

North Korea, infuriated that its material had been destroyed, issued a furious protest — one far more vehement than that of Syria, who was the direct victim of the attack.

Yes, all rampant speculation and utterly unfounded theory, but congruent with the known facts.

Did Israel pull another Osirak last year? There’s no way of telling. But the magic eight-ball says “Signs point to yes.”

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”“That was the curious incident.”

Sherlock Holmes, “Silver Blaze”

With the news this week that the IAEA, in a stunning and quite possibly unprecedented demonstration of competence and integrity, discovered enriched uranium on the site of a former Syrian facility that Israel bombed a bit over a year ago.

Syria, naturally, is proclaiming its innocence, insisting that Israel must have planted the material at the same time they bombed the place into rubble — which the Syrians quickly buried and pretended that nothing ever happened.

This latest development proves nothing, of course, but gives even more weight to one theory that explains the whole situation. This theory is utterly unsubstantiated and sheerest speculation, but it is congruent with the known facts of the matter.

Those facts are:

In September of 2007, Syria complained about an Israeli plane dropping an empty fuel tank in the Syrian desert.

Shortly thereafter, the news came out that the tank had been dropped by an Israeli plane that was on a mission to bomb a hitherto-secret Syrian facility in the middle of nowhere.

North Korea was among the first and most vocal critics of Israel over the incursion.

Syria itself issued protests and condemnations that were largely pro forma, especially in light of the fact that Israel had committed a genuine act of war against Syria. (This is to distinguish the raid from the host of other actions Israel has taken that are “tantamount to acts of war,” such as imposing economic sanctions on the Palestinians or shooting back at terrorists or not dying when shot at. Military aircraft violating another nation’s airspace, dropping bombs on government facilities, and blowing them to pieces is by any standard an “act of war.”)

Israel refused to comment at all on the whole incident.

At around the same time, North Korea announced that it was out of the nuclear weapons business.

The theory goes that North Korea, not comfortable with the international spotlight, decided that it needed to get rid of its nuclear weapons program. It talked to Syria, and found they were amenable to taking over North Korea’s program and materiel. So North Korea loaded the whole kit and kaboodle on a ship and sailed it off to Syria.

Israel learned of the move, naturally saw it as a threat, and warned the U.S. that it was going on. They might have considered sinking the ship, but that would have both opened them to yet another round of international condemnation and destroyed the evidence proving their case.

So the ship was allowed to proceed to Syria unmolested, while the U.S. was convinced that the threat was valid. Then, once the facility was identified, Israel (with a bit of covert assistance from the U.S.) destroyed it.

As part of the strike, Israelis very well might have landed and captured evidence of the nuclear weapons program.

Syria, caught with its pants down, and concerned that Israel might make its evidence public, quickly reacted by trying to cover up the whole incident. They leveled the site and issued a pro forma protest.

North Korea, infuriated that its material had been destroyed, issued a furious protest — one far more vehement than that of Syria, who was the direct victim of the attack.

Yes, all rampant speculation and utterly unfounded theory, but congruent with the known facts.

Did Israel pull another Osirak last year? There’s no way of telling. But the magic eight-ball says “Signs point to yes.”

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Understanding Syria

Two outstanding pieces from two of the smartest observers of the Middle East have recently been published. Don’t miss Syria Can’t Be Flipped by Michael Rubin, and Damascus’s Deadly Bargain, about Syria’s state sponsorship of terrorism, by Lee Smith.

Two outstanding pieces from two of the smartest observers of the Middle East have recently been published. Don’t miss Syria Can’t Be Flipped by Michael Rubin, and Damascus’s Deadly Bargain, about Syria’s state sponsorship of terrorism, by Lee Smith.

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“Catastrophe” in Korea

What’s going on in North Korea? This week, Pyongyang announced that international weapons inspectors would not be allowed to take samples of plutonium at its Yongbyon facility; slowed down the unloading of fuel rods there; told South Korea that it would close off its border on December 1; and restricted visitors from China, its only formal ally. These moves followed North Korea’s threat last month to turn its southern neighbor into “debris.”

Former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, blaming current President Lee Myung-bak, said he saw the possibility of “catastrophe.” Proponents of reconciliation with the North, like Kim, have always suggested that the only alternative to their soft approach was war on the Korean peninsula. That’s a false choice, however. Resolute polices are much more likely to produce peace than war. After all, tough policies in Seoul kept the North Koreans at bay from the armistice ending the Korean War in 1953 to the inauguration of Kim Dae Jung in 1998.

Lee Myung-bak has rejected the Sunshine Policy promoted by his two predecessors, Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo-hyun. At this point, it appears North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is trying to intimidate Seoul with reckless rhetoric. Lee, however, is standing firm.

He can do so, but only if Washington backs him up. For the last several years, the Bush administration has adopted a soft line, much in keeping with the thinking of Kim Dae Jung. The Obama administration could do real damage if it continues current American policy and thereby undercuts President Lee. So it is up to President Bush at this moment to reverse course by supporting Seoul with rhetoric of his own. And Dubya can refuse to be intimidated by calling his own time-out in the denuclearization process.

There is nothing inherently wrong in talking to the North Koreans, signing agreements with them, and even providing great amounts of assistance. Yet we can achieve stable relations with Pyongyang only after we show firmness to demonstrate that we cannot be bluffed by one of the planet’s most fragile regimes. So it’s time for us to tell Kim Dae Jung to mind his own business and to start helping a crucial ally, Lee Myung-bak. Until we do that, Kim Jong Il will keep on making threats. And if we permit the miserable runt to destabilize the Korean peninsula, one day there may really be catastrophe in one of the world’s most dangerous regions.

What’s going on in North Korea? This week, Pyongyang announced that international weapons inspectors would not be allowed to take samples of plutonium at its Yongbyon facility; slowed down the unloading of fuel rods there; told South Korea that it would close off its border on December 1; and restricted visitors from China, its only formal ally. These moves followed North Korea’s threat last month to turn its southern neighbor into “debris.”

Former South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, blaming current President Lee Myung-bak, said he saw the possibility of “catastrophe.” Proponents of reconciliation with the North, like Kim, have always suggested that the only alternative to their soft approach was war on the Korean peninsula. That’s a false choice, however. Resolute polices are much more likely to produce peace than war. After all, tough policies in Seoul kept the North Koreans at bay from the armistice ending the Korean War in 1953 to the inauguration of Kim Dae Jung in 1998.

Lee Myung-bak has rejected the Sunshine Policy promoted by his two predecessors, Kim Dae Jung and Roh Moo-hyun. At this point, it appears North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is trying to intimidate Seoul with reckless rhetoric. Lee, however, is standing firm.

He can do so, but only if Washington backs him up. For the last several years, the Bush administration has adopted a soft line, much in keeping with the thinking of Kim Dae Jung. The Obama administration could do real damage if it continues current American policy and thereby undercuts President Lee. So it is up to President Bush at this moment to reverse course by supporting Seoul with rhetoric of his own. And Dubya can refuse to be intimidated by calling his own time-out in the denuclearization process.

There is nothing inherently wrong in talking to the North Koreans, signing agreements with them, and even providing great amounts of assistance. Yet we can achieve stable relations with Pyongyang only after we show firmness to demonstrate that we cannot be bluffed by one of the planet’s most fragile regimes. So it’s time for us to tell Kim Dae Jung to mind his own business and to start helping a crucial ally, Lee Myung-bak. Until we do that, Kim Jong Il will keep on making threats. And if we permit the miserable runt to destabilize the Korean peninsula, one day there may really be catastrophe in one of the world’s most dangerous regions.

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You Mean He Thinks Government Knows Best?

David Brooks, much enamored of Barack Obama’s brilliant mind and dazzling temperament, is fretful. The auto bailout is the cause. He observes:

There seems to be no one who believes the companies are viable without radical change. A federal cash infusion will not infuse wisdom into management. It will not reduce labor costs. It will not attract talented new employees. . . In short, a bailout will not solve anything — just postpone things. If this goes through, Big Three executives will make decisions knowing that whatever happens, Uncle Sam will bail them out — just like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In the meantime, capital that could have gone to successful companies and programs will be directed toward companies with a history of using it badly.

Well, Barack Obama is someone who seems to think it is a good idea to give the auto companies a bailout. Doesn’t he know better? Or is he already a captive of the special interest groups?

But that isn’t the worst of it, according to Brooks:

The second part of Obama’s plan is the creation of an auto czar with vague duties. Other smart people have called for such a czar to reorganize the companies and force the companies to fully embrace green technology and other good things. That would be great, but if Obama was such a fervent believer in the Chinese model of all-powerful technocrats, he should have mentioned it during the campaign. Are we really to believe there exists a czar omniscient, omnipotent and beneficent enough to know how to fix the Big Three? Who is this deity? Are we to believe that political influence will miraculously disappear, that the czar would have absolute power over unions, management, Congress and the White House? Please.

Perhaps Brooks missed it, but at every turn during the campaign, Obama gave us plenty of warning that he believes “in the Chinese model of all-powerful technocrats.” Government bureaucrats are going to control lots of things in the Obama administration. They are going to decide which size of business must carry health insurance, and the type of insurance they must have. They are going to decide what type of energy is worth subsidizing, and which projects will get billions in taxpayer funding. They are going to tell the whole world the labor standards they must abide by in order to trade with us. And on it goes. It really isn’t quite fair to say we were not warned. Maybe not on this particular item. But Obama’s penchant for having the “deity” of government command and control a great many things was hard to miss during the campaign.

So what happens if, in January, the Democratic Congress passes, and President Obama signs, an auto bailout? This would show downright economic ignorance on Obama’s part, revealing the new President to be either less bright or less courageous than the pundits assured us he was. We will see if the scales fall from their eyes. But make no mistake: they were warned that this is exactly the sort of thing Obama would favor.

David Brooks, much enamored of Barack Obama’s brilliant mind and dazzling temperament, is fretful. The auto bailout is the cause. He observes:

There seems to be no one who believes the companies are viable without radical change. A federal cash infusion will not infuse wisdom into management. It will not reduce labor costs. It will not attract talented new employees. . . In short, a bailout will not solve anything — just postpone things. If this goes through, Big Three executives will make decisions knowing that whatever happens, Uncle Sam will bail them out — just like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In the meantime, capital that could have gone to successful companies and programs will be directed toward companies with a history of using it badly.

Well, Barack Obama is someone who seems to think it is a good idea to give the auto companies a bailout. Doesn’t he know better? Or is he already a captive of the special interest groups?

But that isn’t the worst of it, according to Brooks:

The second part of Obama’s plan is the creation of an auto czar with vague duties. Other smart people have called for such a czar to reorganize the companies and force the companies to fully embrace green technology and other good things. That would be great, but if Obama was such a fervent believer in the Chinese model of all-powerful technocrats, he should have mentioned it during the campaign. Are we really to believe there exists a czar omniscient, omnipotent and beneficent enough to know how to fix the Big Three? Who is this deity? Are we to believe that political influence will miraculously disappear, that the czar would have absolute power over unions, management, Congress and the White House? Please.

Perhaps Brooks missed it, but at every turn during the campaign, Obama gave us plenty of warning that he believes “in the Chinese model of all-powerful technocrats.” Government bureaucrats are going to control lots of things in the Obama administration. They are going to decide which size of business must carry health insurance, and the type of insurance they must have. They are going to decide what type of energy is worth subsidizing, and which projects will get billions in taxpayer funding. They are going to tell the whole world the labor standards they must abide by in order to trade with us. And on it goes. It really isn’t quite fair to say we were not warned. Maybe not on this particular item. But Obama’s penchant for having the “deity” of government command and control a great many things was hard to miss during the campaign.

So what happens if, in January, the Democratic Congress passes, and President Obama signs, an auto bailout? This would show downright economic ignorance on Obama’s part, revealing the new President to be either less bright or less courageous than the pundits assured us he was. We will see if the scales fall from their eyes. But make no mistake: they were warned that this is exactly the sort of thing Obama would favor.

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What about the Other Video?

As the red-and-blue posters start to fade, this bit of Big-Brotherism comes along:

US president-elect Barack Obama is to make the first YouTube address to the nation on Saturday, recording a talk not just on radio but also on video, a spokesman said Friday.

“President-elect Obama will record the Weekly Democratic Radio Address on video and radio,” spokesman Nick Shapiro said.

“The address will be turned into a YouTube video which we will post on www.change.gov,” the official website of the Obama transition team, he said.

“No president-elect or president has ever turned the radio address into a multi-media opportunity before,” Shapiro added.

An opportunity for whom? And for what? For President Obama to recreate himself on every last surface and sound wave that hasn’t yet been “changed” in his image? Or an opportunity for the rest of us to marvel at the planet’s last, best hope?

Here’s the Orwellian cherry on top:

“This is just one of many ways that president-elect Obama will communicate directly with the American people and make the White House and the political process more transparent,” [Shapiro] said.

Transparent? The intentions and inclinations of Obama are so deeply shrouded in contradictions, denials, and feints that his supporters had no choice but to try and turn this cryptic indecipherability into a selling point. Here’s the New York Times:

Even some of Mr. Obama’s friends call him unusually opaque. After hashing out a question with him, “you may come away thinking, ‘Wow, he agrees with me,’ ” said Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at Columbia and a former adviser to Palestinian diplomatic delegations. “But later, when you get home and think about it, you are not sure.”

None of us are quite sure how he feels about you, Mr. Khalidi. Maybe if Nick Shapiro forwards the “transparent” memo over to the Los Angeles Times, they’d be kind enough to give us a “a multi-media opportunity” to find out. But for now, our own government will issue weekly Youtube installments of the Obama Show, to run on every computer screen in the land. While the one video everyone actually wants to see remains under the lock and key of a corporation claiming to be part of America’s free press, and obligated to deliver truth to American citizens.

As the red-and-blue posters start to fade, this bit of Big-Brotherism comes along:

US president-elect Barack Obama is to make the first YouTube address to the nation on Saturday, recording a talk not just on radio but also on video, a spokesman said Friday.

“President-elect Obama will record the Weekly Democratic Radio Address on video and radio,” spokesman Nick Shapiro said.

“The address will be turned into a YouTube video which we will post on www.change.gov,” the official website of the Obama transition team, he said.

“No president-elect or president has ever turned the radio address into a multi-media opportunity before,” Shapiro added.

An opportunity for whom? And for what? For President Obama to recreate himself on every last surface and sound wave that hasn’t yet been “changed” in his image? Or an opportunity for the rest of us to marvel at the planet’s last, best hope?

Here’s the Orwellian cherry on top:

“This is just one of many ways that president-elect Obama will communicate directly with the American people and make the White House and the political process more transparent,” [Shapiro] said.

Transparent? The intentions and inclinations of Obama are so deeply shrouded in contradictions, denials, and feints that his supporters had no choice but to try and turn this cryptic indecipherability into a selling point. Here’s the New York Times:

Even some of Mr. Obama’s friends call him unusually opaque. After hashing out a question with him, “you may come away thinking, ‘Wow, he agrees with me,’ ” said Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at Columbia and a former adviser to Palestinian diplomatic delegations. “But later, when you get home and think about it, you are not sure.”

None of us are quite sure how he feels about you, Mr. Khalidi. Maybe if Nick Shapiro forwards the “transparent” memo over to the Los Angeles Times, they’d be kind enough to give us a “a multi-media opportunity” to find out. But for now, our own government will issue weekly Youtube installments of the Obama Show, to run on every computer screen in the land. While the one video everyone actually wants to see remains under the lock and key of a corporation claiming to be part of America’s free press, and obligated to deliver truth to American citizens.

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Hillary for State?

The media is buzzing that Hillary Clinton may be offered the job of Secretary of State. If she really is not under serious consideration, the Obama team is playing with fire. Raising hopes, and then tossing her name aside, would surely infuriate both her and her allies.

What of the choice itself? From the political perspective, it is a rather clever way for the President-elect to resolve the “3 a.m.” concern–let her answer her own phone. But he already won the race, and need not re-win the argument about his readiness. Moreover, the perils are obvious — does Bill come along too? And there were some clear differences on substance and certainly tone (most clearly on Iran) during the campaign. Still, there is much to be gained for Obama by keeping Clinton occupied, close to him, and out of the Senate (where she would be pursuing her own healthcare and domestic policy agenda).

And on the merits? As became painfully obvious during the campaign, she really doesn’t have much foreign policy experience. And her opportunistic opposition to the surge was not the high point of her career. Nevertheless, for conservatives, she might be about as good as it gets — she did support the Iraq War (until she didn’t), voted for the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, and (before she realized it would be a problem in the Ohio primaries) was a free trader. Conservatives could do worse. And they probably will.

The media is buzzing that Hillary Clinton may be offered the job of Secretary of State. If she really is not under serious consideration, the Obama team is playing with fire. Raising hopes, and then tossing her name aside, would surely infuriate both her and her allies.

What of the choice itself? From the political perspective, it is a rather clever way for the President-elect to resolve the “3 a.m.” concern–let her answer her own phone. But he already won the race, and need not re-win the argument about his readiness. Moreover, the perils are obvious — does Bill come along too? And there were some clear differences on substance and certainly tone (most clearly on Iran) during the campaign. Still, there is much to be gained for Obama by keeping Clinton occupied, close to him, and out of the Senate (where she would be pursuing her own healthcare and domestic policy agenda).

And on the merits? As became painfully obvious during the campaign, she really doesn’t have much foreign policy experience. And her opportunistic opposition to the surge was not the high point of her career. Nevertheless, for conservatives, she might be about as good as it gets — she did support the Iraq War (until she didn’t), voted for the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment, and (before she realized it would be a problem in the Ohio primaries) was a free trader. Conservatives could do worse. And they probably will.

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Wait, We’re Winning?

How ironic is this?

Voter confidence in the War on Terror has reached its highest level ever, with 60% now saying the United States and its allies are winning, according to the first Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey on the issue since Election Day.

Voters, apparently, are getting wiser by the day as the election’s dust settles. Not only do they better understand the realities of Iraq, and the extent to which the U.S. has gained there in recent months (thanks to . . . John McCain, among others), they have also become more realistic about the incoming Commander-in-Chief:

Now 62% think it is likely troops will come home in the next four years, compared to 75% in the last two surveys conducted in October. Even Democrats are slightly less confident, with 78% who say Obama will bring the troops home within his first term, compared to 85% in October.

Yes, they probably still want “change.” But with Obama now getting ready to take responsibility for the war, it’s not clear if “change” means changing policies in Iraq:

Even confidence in President Bush’s handling of the war is at its highest level in a year. Now 35% say the president is doing a good or excellent job handling the Iraq situation, while 44% say he is doing a poor job. Just one week ago, 28% of voters said Bush was doing a good or excellent job. The week before, the percentage was 27%.

With more than two months until inauguration day–if these trends continue–it’s possible that all Obama will have to do by the time he takes the oath is to promise a continuation of Bush’s winning policies in Iraq.

How ironic is this?

Voter confidence in the War on Terror has reached its highest level ever, with 60% now saying the United States and its allies are winning, according to the first Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey on the issue since Election Day.

Voters, apparently, are getting wiser by the day as the election’s dust settles. Not only do they better understand the realities of Iraq, and the extent to which the U.S. has gained there in recent months (thanks to . . . John McCain, among others), they have also become more realistic about the incoming Commander-in-Chief:

Now 62% think it is likely troops will come home in the next four years, compared to 75% in the last two surveys conducted in October. Even Democrats are slightly less confident, with 78% who say Obama will bring the troops home within his first term, compared to 85% in October.

Yes, they probably still want “change.” But with Obama now getting ready to take responsibility for the war, it’s not clear if “change” means changing policies in Iraq:

Even confidence in President Bush’s handling of the war is at its highest level in a year. Now 35% say the president is doing a good or excellent job handling the Iraq situation, while 44% say he is doing a poor job. Just one week ago, 28% of voters said Bush was doing a good or excellent job. The week before, the percentage was 27%.

With more than two months until inauguration day–if these trends continue–it’s possible that all Obama will have to do by the time he takes the oath is to promise a continuation of Bush’s winning policies in Iraq.

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So Much for 3A.M.

Sarah Palin stayed on the line a little too long when someone handed her a call from a Nicolas Sarkozy impersonator. Barack Obama made a call to the actual Polish president, who somehow took away a completely wrong idea about future American policy on missile defense (i.e., that Obama supported an American missile-defense presence in Poland, when Obama has now declared himself non-committal.) You tell me which scenario is “scary.”

Sarah Palin stayed on the line a little too long when someone handed her a call from a Nicolas Sarkozy impersonator. Barack Obama made a call to the actual Polish president, who somehow took away a completely wrong idea about future American policy on missile defense (i.e., that Obama supported an American missile-defense presence in Poland, when Obama has now declared himself non-committal.) You tell me which scenario is “scary.”

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Know Whom To Blame

Kimberley Strassel observes the stress experienced by Democrats as they try to throw the taxpayers’ money down another rat role, while keeping two constituent groups happy:

If there was a moment that highlights to what extent the Democratic Party has become captive to its special interests, this might be it. Mrs. Pelosi and Harry Reid have spent this week demanding that Washington stave off a car-maker collapse. What makes this a little weird is that Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Reid are Washington. If they so desperately want a Detroit bailout they could always, you know, pass one.

Instead, having punted the Detroit question in the past, and having failed to offload it on the Bush administration, Mrs. Pelosi is now stuck dealing with it in the middle of a lame-duck session that is tangled in Colombia trade politics. Detroit’s demands are meanwhile pressing in a postelection environment where Big Labor and greens are presenting their own bills for political services rendered. If you’re wondering why Mrs. Pelosi hasn’t yet decided what will happen when Congress returns, it’s because she hasn’t decided which group to annoy.

Since it has become apparent that the Republicans aren’t going to cooperate with the effort to rescue the auto industry from  “decades of mismanagement,” the bailout won’t likely happen anytime soon. Strassel concludes:

Mrs. Pelosi has since tasked Barney Frank with “drafting” a bailout bill. Yet by yesterday, Democrats were backing away from a vote, complaining they weren’t getting help from Republicans. That might work now, though come January, a bigger Democratic majority will no longer have the GOP as an excuse. By the looks of this week, that’s when the real fun begins.

There is a valuable lesson here. The Republicans should resist the urge to help the Democrats cast bad votes for misguided policies. If the Democrats want to throw good taxpayer money after bad, without extracting any meaningful reforms or taxpayer protection, let ‘em — but with no Republican votes. The Democrats want to take away the secret ballot in union elections? They can try to get past a filibuster, but Republicans should stand firm on constitutional tradition.

In short, the spirit of bipartisanship and comity does not require that the Republicans conceal or mute their opposition to ill-conceived actions by Democrats. By forcing Democrats to act alone on misguided policies, Republicans will not only lower the chances of troublesome legislation (let’s remember that Nancy Pelosis couldn’t pass the original bailout without substantial GOP assistance), but also insure that, if it passes, the public will know whom to blame. That’s the best way to make the case for bringing back the Republicans in 2010 or 2012.

Kimberley Strassel observes the stress experienced by Democrats as they try to throw the taxpayers’ money down another rat role, while keeping two constituent groups happy:

If there was a moment that highlights to what extent the Democratic Party has become captive to its special interests, this might be it. Mrs. Pelosi and Harry Reid have spent this week demanding that Washington stave off a car-maker collapse. What makes this a little weird is that Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Reid are Washington. If they so desperately want a Detroit bailout they could always, you know, pass one.

Instead, having punted the Detroit question in the past, and having failed to offload it on the Bush administration, Mrs. Pelosi is now stuck dealing with it in the middle of a lame-duck session that is tangled in Colombia trade politics. Detroit’s demands are meanwhile pressing in a postelection environment where Big Labor and greens are presenting their own bills for political services rendered. If you’re wondering why Mrs. Pelosi hasn’t yet decided what will happen when Congress returns, it’s because she hasn’t decided which group to annoy.

Since it has become apparent that the Republicans aren’t going to cooperate with the effort to rescue the auto industry from  “decades of mismanagement,” the bailout won’t likely happen anytime soon. Strassel concludes:

Mrs. Pelosi has since tasked Barney Frank with “drafting” a bailout bill. Yet by yesterday, Democrats were backing away from a vote, complaining they weren’t getting help from Republicans. That might work now, though come January, a bigger Democratic majority will no longer have the GOP as an excuse. By the looks of this week, that’s when the real fun begins.

There is a valuable lesson here. The Republicans should resist the urge to help the Democrats cast bad votes for misguided policies. If the Democrats want to throw good taxpayer money after bad, without extracting any meaningful reforms or taxpayer protection, let ‘em — but with no Republican votes. The Democrats want to take away the secret ballot in union elections? They can try to get past a filibuster, but Republicans should stand firm on constitutional tradition.

In short, the spirit of bipartisanship and comity does not require that the Republicans conceal or mute their opposition to ill-conceived actions by Democrats. By forcing Democrats to act alone on misguided policies, Republicans will not only lower the chances of troublesome legislation (let’s remember that Nancy Pelosis couldn’t pass the original bailout without substantial GOP assistance), but also insure that, if it passes, the public will know whom to blame. That’s the best way to make the case for bringing back the Republicans in 2010 or 2012.

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No Rebranding

This article includes some of the most sensible paragraphs I’ve read in the days since Barack Obama won. “I never viewed eliciting delight from non-Americans a reason for choosing a president, including one of color”, writes columnist Froma Harrop. The article’s main argument? Criticism of all things American abroad (especially in Europe) is based on misconception–thus, European praise of America for electing the African-American Obama is also based on misconception.

“It is remarkable how many Americans, young people especially, yearn for an ‘openness seal of approval’ from people in countries whose records on racial integration is worse than ours,” Harrop writes. She’s an Obama supporter, no doubt, and is “delighted that Barack Obama has been elected president.” However:

America is a land of ideas, not ethnicity. That’s its strength. If a change in how America deals with the world is what voters wanted, then a president of any color could have done it. On this score, John McCain would have been a vast improvement over the current White House occupant. Obama’s job is to offer a sage foreign policy — not heartwarming proof that Americans will elect a biracial leader with a Muslim middle name.

What struck me the most about this article was the headline: “America Doesn’t Need ‘Rebranding’.” Harrop is right. All this talk about rebranding and marketing and fixing the image of America is a trendy way of evading the truth. What American voters want is not “rebranding,” but rather a change in foreign policy (from which they also may hope to benefit in world public opinion). Soon enough, they’ll discover that most of the changes to that policy that Obama has promised are either too dangerous to pursue or just unworkable. Soon enough, they’ll discover that a week of international celebration doesn’t make life easier for Presidents-elect. Creating a pragmatic and visibly non-Bushian foreign policy will be the real challenge (for more about that, read this).

This article includes some of the most sensible paragraphs I’ve read in the days since Barack Obama won. “I never viewed eliciting delight from non-Americans a reason for choosing a president, including one of color”, writes columnist Froma Harrop. The article’s main argument? Criticism of all things American abroad (especially in Europe) is based on misconception–thus, European praise of America for electing the African-American Obama is also based on misconception.

“It is remarkable how many Americans, young people especially, yearn for an ‘openness seal of approval’ from people in countries whose records on racial integration is worse than ours,” Harrop writes. She’s an Obama supporter, no doubt, and is “delighted that Barack Obama has been elected president.” However:

America is a land of ideas, not ethnicity. That’s its strength. If a change in how America deals with the world is what voters wanted, then a president of any color could have done it. On this score, John McCain would have been a vast improvement over the current White House occupant. Obama’s job is to offer a sage foreign policy — not heartwarming proof that Americans will elect a biracial leader with a Muslim middle name.

What struck me the most about this article was the headline: “America Doesn’t Need ‘Rebranding’.” Harrop is right. All this talk about rebranding and marketing and fixing the image of America is a trendy way of evading the truth. What American voters want is not “rebranding,” but rather a change in foreign policy (from which they also may hope to benefit in world public opinion). Soon enough, they’ll discover that most of the changes to that policy that Obama has promised are either too dangerous to pursue or just unworkable. Soon enough, they’ll discover that a week of international celebration doesn’t make life easier for Presidents-elect. Creating a pragmatic and visibly non-Bushian foreign policy will be the real challenge (for more about that, read this).

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“And On The Walls”

Byron York, speaking at a Wednesday session of the Republican Governors Association, related that conservatives have a great desire to clean house after the 2008 wipeout. When he inquired “So you want blood on the floor?” The response he got: “And on the walls.”

I do think ordinary voters remains mystified that there has not been a more complete changing of the guard in Republican circles. John Boehner is still House Minority Leader and will remain so. The RNC race remains a race of quintessential insiders–who tut-tut at the thought of Michael Steele, not one of the committeemen, running to head the club.

Yes, some newer and fresher faces appeared at  the governors’ meeting. But until the 2012 Presidential race begins in earnest, it will be hard for any one of them to seize the mantle of national leadership. The result is that the same old faces will be representing the GOP to the voters. That is a presentation problem, and ultimately a message problem.

Put simply, the Republicans need new messengers. The more of the old ones which Americans see, the harder will be the road to recovery.

Byron York, speaking at a Wednesday session of the Republican Governors Association, related that conservatives have a great desire to clean house after the 2008 wipeout. When he inquired “So you want blood on the floor?” The response he got: “And on the walls.”

I do think ordinary voters remains mystified that there has not been a more complete changing of the guard in Republican circles. John Boehner is still House Minority Leader and will remain so. The RNC race remains a race of quintessential insiders–who tut-tut at the thought of Michael Steele, not one of the committeemen, running to head the club.

Yes, some newer and fresher faces appeared at  the governors’ meeting. But until the 2012 Presidential race begins in earnest, it will be hard for any one of them to seize the mantle of national leadership. The result is that the same old faces will be representing the GOP to the voters. That is a presentation problem, and ultimately a message problem.

Put simply, the Republicans need new messengers. The more of the old ones which Americans see, the harder will be the road to recovery.

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Lawyers, Lawyers, Everywhere

Recently, the American Bar Association Journal published an article entitled “Better Question: Who Isn’t a Lawyer on Obama’s Transition Team?” According to their research, 16 of the top 25 people named to date are holders of law degrees. And that doesn’t include Obama himself, Michelle Obama, and Joe Biden — all possessors of law degrees.

This raises an interesting (and troubling) thought: is it really such a good idea to have so many lawyers setting government policy?

Probably not.

Abraham Maslow once famously noted that “It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

The problem with lawyers is that they think like lawyers. They tend to see all situations as legal ones — they want to set up adversarial methods, consider all facts on the criteria of whether they would be admissible in court, weigh how things would be perceived by a jury, and seek solutions that would meet with the satisfaction of a judge. This is no accident. This is the deliberate result of a legal education. To quote Professor Kingsfield of “The Paper Chase,” “You come in here with a skull full of mush and you leave thinking like a lawyer.”

We have already seen the result of having lawyers run the war on terror. When Al Qaeda first struck on American soil and bombed the World Trade Center, it was treated almost entirely as a criminal act, not an act of war. The FBI took the lead, evidence was carefully collected, the perpetrators identified, arrested, tried, and convicted. And we all lived happily ever after. The End.

But it wasn’t The End. It was barely The Beginning.

With the convictions, we took several Al Qaeda players off the board. But the rest, quite possibly heartened by the tepid response to the attack, continued to plan and carry out attacks against the United States. They stayed away from our soil, but not our territory — the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed in 1998, and the destroyer USS Cole was bombed in 2000. (Both embassies and warships are considered sovereign territory of the nation they represent.)

And even the bombers we caught continued to be active from behind bars. The spiritual leader of the bombers, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, was caught continuing to issue orders and instructions to his followers with the complicity of his lawyer, Lynne Stewart.
Then, in 2001, the compatriots of the World Trade Center returned to finish the task started in 1993 — and over 3,000 people died on a beautiful September morning.

The core of the problem is that terrorists are not criminals. Yes, they commit crimes, but that is only a superficial resemblance. Their motives are not those of criminals, and the breaking of laws is only incidental to their political goals.

Nor are they warriors or soldiers. Their methods bear a passing resemblance to those of such people, but again it is an incomplete comparison. They use many of the same tools and tactics, but they lack the honor, discipline, and resources of a nation-state that back up modern military forces.

They are a hybrid, a bastard offspring of both worlds. They pick and choose which elements of each to adopt, and reject those that would not aid their goals. To fight them, we need to attack them on both fronts.

The major failing of the Clinton administration in the war on terror was to recognize this fact. To treat terrorism purely as a legal matter was to give free reign to the terrorists. They didn’t break laws because of any traditional criminal motive, but because that was the best way to achieve their goals. The terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks learned from the mistakes of the World Trade Center bombers and stayed within the law as best they could while they planned and prepared for their attack.

Now it seems likely that the Obama administration is making the very same mistakes the Clinton administration made. With the discussed plan to close down the detention facility at Guantanamo and bring the detainees to the United States for trials, it doesn’t take a lawyer to see the field day their defense attorneys will have in open courts:

1) Jurisdiction. Did the defendants break any American laws in places where American laws have standing?

2) Admissibility: Was the evidence used to justify the detention of these people gathered in a legal manner?

3) Rights Of The Accused: Will the defendants be able to confront their accusers — in particular, the US troops who took them into custody, often on the battlefield — in court? Will the troops be forced to leave their duty station and appear in court? What if the troops in question have left the service, or died?

4) Disclosure. Will the defendants be granted full access to all the evidence against them, and details on how it was gathered? Will the US government have to compromise the sources and methods it used to identify the accused?

Assuming all these obstacles are overcome and the government actually wins convictions, what will be the sentence? Where will they be held? And what would keep them from finding another Lynne Stewart, a lawyer willing to aid them in continuing to participate in terrorist plots even while in prison?

That is not the sort of thing that lawyers consider.

But it is the sort of thing that our political leaders not only should, but must.

Recently, the American Bar Association Journal published an article entitled “Better Question: Who Isn’t a Lawyer on Obama’s Transition Team?” According to their research, 16 of the top 25 people named to date are holders of law degrees. And that doesn’t include Obama himself, Michelle Obama, and Joe Biden — all possessors of law degrees.

This raises an interesting (and troubling) thought: is it really such a good idea to have so many lawyers setting government policy?

Probably not.

Abraham Maslow once famously noted that “It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”

The problem with lawyers is that they think like lawyers. They tend to see all situations as legal ones — they want to set up adversarial methods, consider all facts on the criteria of whether they would be admissible in court, weigh how things would be perceived by a jury, and seek solutions that would meet with the satisfaction of a judge. This is no accident. This is the deliberate result of a legal education. To quote Professor Kingsfield of “The Paper Chase,” “You come in here with a skull full of mush and you leave thinking like a lawyer.”

We have already seen the result of having lawyers run the war on terror. When Al Qaeda first struck on American soil and bombed the World Trade Center, it was treated almost entirely as a criminal act, not an act of war. The FBI took the lead, evidence was carefully collected, the perpetrators identified, arrested, tried, and convicted. And we all lived happily ever after. The End.

But it wasn’t The End. It was barely The Beginning.

With the convictions, we took several Al Qaeda players off the board. But the rest, quite possibly heartened by the tepid response to the attack, continued to plan and carry out attacks against the United States. They stayed away from our soil, but not our territory — the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed in 1998, and the destroyer USS Cole was bombed in 2000. (Both embassies and warships are considered sovereign territory of the nation they represent.)

And even the bombers we caught continued to be active from behind bars. The spiritual leader of the bombers, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, was caught continuing to issue orders and instructions to his followers with the complicity of his lawyer, Lynne Stewart.
Then, in 2001, the compatriots of the World Trade Center returned to finish the task started in 1993 — and over 3,000 people died on a beautiful September morning.

The core of the problem is that terrorists are not criminals. Yes, they commit crimes, but that is only a superficial resemblance. Their motives are not those of criminals, and the breaking of laws is only incidental to their political goals.

Nor are they warriors or soldiers. Their methods bear a passing resemblance to those of such people, but again it is an incomplete comparison. They use many of the same tools and tactics, but they lack the honor, discipline, and resources of a nation-state that back up modern military forces.

They are a hybrid, a bastard offspring of both worlds. They pick and choose which elements of each to adopt, and reject those that would not aid their goals. To fight them, we need to attack them on both fronts.

The major failing of the Clinton administration in the war on terror was to recognize this fact. To treat terrorism purely as a legal matter was to give free reign to the terrorists. They didn’t break laws because of any traditional criminal motive, but because that was the best way to achieve their goals. The terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks learned from the mistakes of the World Trade Center bombers and stayed within the law as best they could while they planned and prepared for their attack.

Now it seems likely that the Obama administration is making the very same mistakes the Clinton administration made. With the discussed plan to close down the detention facility at Guantanamo and bring the detainees to the United States for trials, it doesn’t take a lawyer to see the field day their defense attorneys will have in open courts:

1) Jurisdiction. Did the defendants break any American laws in places where American laws have standing?

2) Admissibility: Was the evidence used to justify the detention of these people gathered in a legal manner?

3) Rights Of The Accused: Will the defendants be able to confront their accusers — in particular, the US troops who took them into custody, often on the battlefield — in court? Will the troops be forced to leave their duty station and appear in court? What if the troops in question have left the service, or died?

4) Disclosure. Will the defendants be granted full access to all the evidence against them, and details on how it was gathered? Will the US government have to compromise the sources and methods it used to identify the accused?

Assuming all these obstacles are overcome and the government actually wins convictions, what will be the sentence? Where will they be held? And what would keep them from finding another Lynne Stewart, a lawyer willing to aid them in continuing to participate in terrorist plots even while in prison?

That is not the sort of thing that lawyers consider.

But it is the sort of thing that our political leaders not only should, but must.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

There is no doubt which opponent the Virginia Republicans are rooting for in the 2009 governor’s race, when you see a headline like this: “Gubernatorial Is One Thing Terry McAuliffe Isn’t.” As even the Washington Post must acknowledge, it isn’t apparent that “a state in a grim budget situation [could] use a chief executive who once wrestled a 280-pound alligator to land a $15,000 donation from a Florida Indian tribe.”

Republicans holding firm in opposition to the auto bailout. If the auto companies can’t survive until January, the bailout may be moot.

We’re surrounded by paranoids. No, really.

We learned the names of the Obama transition advisors and, lo and behold, there’s no evidence of the dawning of the age of New Politics: “The group is filled with second-tier veterans of the Clinton administration and workers in the technology and financial sectors. It includes four former lobbyists, three top campaign fund-raisers and two former employees of troubled mortgage giant Fannie Mae, with some overlap among them. Four people in the group have ties to the consultant McKinsey & Co. and two have experience leading high-tech start-ups. . . . The 19 people named Wednesday include four who have been registered lobbyists and two others who have worked in the lobbying business as recently as this year. ” I know, you’re shocked, just shocked, to find it was all a canard.

Israeli Prime Minister Tzipi Livni expresses cautious optimism about the President Elect.

The newer Sarah Palin: more bipartisan, more media-friendly and more emphatic about her role as Governor. That, rather than cultural warrior/media combatant, seems the smarter way to proceed.

I think Utah Governor Jon Huntsman had it right on Palin-mania: “I think her future largely will be driven by the ideas that come out of her system of governance in Alaska . . . I really do think it’s going to be a meritocracy of sorts in the Republican Party. And that is looking to the best ideas, the purveyors and articulators of those ideas as opposed to just playing the random ‘who’s up, who’s down’ personality game.”

Once again, we see Palin getting the conservative principles “right,” but with some hard-to-follow syntax. One thing conservatives will be looking for from candidates  is the ability to articulate the reasons why voters should agree with them. The experience with George W. Bush and John McCain shows that, unlike life according to Woody Allen, 90% of politics isn’t merely showing up. It is making the often not self-evident conservative case to key nonpartisan voters.

Peter Wallison bashes Hank Paulson for practicing the policy of “Oh, never mind,” and for further diminishing confidence.

Are reporters so inept they really can’t figure out whom to call for a Republican response to actions by the President Elect? Oh, please. Ever hear of Mitch McConnell? Mike Pence? Eric Cantor? I’m not sure how long they can play dumb — they are playing, right?

Batman v. Batman – can’t wait for Commissioner Gordon’s deposition.

Ross Douthat wonders where the journalism bailout is: “Doesn’t America need the New York Times as much at it needs the Chevy Cobalt? Isn’t the Star-Ledger as important as the GMC Savana? Sure, GM employs roughly five times as many people as all all of America’s newsrooms combined – but that just means that we’d be much, much cheaper to bail out! GM needs $25 billion, but we’d settle for, I dunno, five billion?” Well, the difference is that Obama still needs to work for blue collar and Rust Belt support. He’s got the reporter vote pretty much locked up.

It looks like one of the most confrontational and combative labor bosses in the country won’t be filling the top job at the Department of Labor. Conservatives have to be thankful for small bits of good news these days.

I’m not sure “losing once” is the credential Mitt Romney would want to stress in a potential 2012 race. However, “at least I understand the economy” isn’t bad. (And if there is one guy who could straighten out the car industry, he might be it.)

There is no doubt which opponent the Virginia Republicans are rooting for in the 2009 governor’s race, when you see a headline like this: “Gubernatorial Is One Thing Terry McAuliffe Isn’t.” As even the Washington Post must acknowledge, it isn’t apparent that “a state in a grim budget situation [could] use a chief executive who once wrestled a 280-pound alligator to land a $15,000 donation from a Florida Indian tribe.”

Republicans holding firm in opposition to the auto bailout. If the auto companies can’t survive until January, the bailout may be moot.

We’re surrounded by paranoids. No, really.

We learned the names of the Obama transition advisors and, lo and behold, there’s no evidence of the dawning of the age of New Politics: “The group is filled with second-tier veterans of the Clinton administration and workers in the technology and financial sectors. It includes four former lobbyists, three top campaign fund-raisers and two former employees of troubled mortgage giant Fannie Mae, with some overlap among them. Four people in the group have ties to the consultant McKinsey & Co. and two have experience leading high-tech start-ups. . . . The 19 people named Wednesday include four who have been registered lobbyists and two others who have worked in the lobbying business as recently as this year. ” I know, you’re shocked, just shocked, to find it was all a canard.

Israeli Prime Minister Tzipi Livni expresses cautious optimism about the President Elect.

The newer Sarah Palin: more bipartisan, more media-friendly and more emphatic about her role as Governor. That, rather than cultural warrior/media combatant, seems the smarter way to proceed.

I think Utah Governor Jon Huntsman had it right on Palin-mania: “I think her future largely will be driven by the ideas that come out of her system of governance in Alaska . . . I really do think it’s going to be a meritocracy of sorts in the Republican Party. And that is looking to the best ideas, the purveyors and articulators of those ideas as opposed to just playing the random ‘who’s up, who’s down’ personality game.”

Once again, we see Palin getting the conservative principles “right,” but with some hard-to-follow syntax. One thing conservatives will be looking for from candidates  is the ability to articulate the reasons why voters should agree with them. The experience with George W. Bush and John McCain shows that, unlike life according to Woody Allen, 90% of politics isn’t merely showing up. It is making the often not self-evident conservative case to key nonpartisan voters.

Peter Wallison bashes Hank Paulson for practicing the policy of “Oh, never mind,” and for further diminishing confidence.

Are reporters so inept they really can’t figure out whom to call for a Republican response to actions by the President Elect? Oh, please. Ever hear of Mitch McConnell? Mike Pence? Eric Cantor? I’m not sure how long they can play dumb — they are playing, right?

Batman v. Batman – can’t wait for Commissioner Gordon’s deposition.

Ross Douthat wonders where the journalism bailout is: “Doesn’t America need the New York Times as much at it needs the Chevy Cobalt? Isn’t the Star-Ledger as important as the GMC Savana? Sure, GM employs roughly five times as many people as all all of America’s newsrooms combined – but that just means that we’d be much, much cheaper to bail out! GM needs $25 billion, but we’d settle for, I dunno, five billion?” Well, the difference is that Obama still needs to work for blue collar and Rust Belt support. He’s got the reporter vote pretty much locked up.

It looks like one of the most confrontational and combative labor bosses in the country won’t be filling the top job at the Department of Labor. Conservatives have to be thankful for small bits of good news these days.

I’m not sure “losing once” is the credential Mitt Romney would want to stress in a potential 2012 race. However, “at least I understand the economy” isn’t bad. (And if there is one guy who could straighten out the car industry, he might be it.)

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