Oh, no! Doesn’t have to be this way. Time to play the cards we do have?
We, “The Organization of Petrolium Exporting Countries- Enablers,” hereafter referred to as OPEC-E, find it to be our great pleasure to extend to you our navies and marines, as guarantors of your ability to sell your oil via sea sailing tankers, unencumbered by pirates. Since you spend your oil revenues on palaces, not frigates, we’ll be glad to do the “protection” for you. We’re sure you can appreciate that protection isn’t cheap, but neither are pirates. Your ability to sell oil really does depend on us. We’re here for you!
Where shall we send the bill?
The United States Navy
The Royal Navy
The proud action arms of OPEC-E!
Just a suggestion from:
Steven from Indiana
Posts For: November 19, 2008
On the hierarchy of actionable marital offenses, according to England’s Sharia courts:
“We always try to keep the marriages together, especially when there are children,” said Hasan’s wife, Shakila Qurashi, who works as an unofficial counselor for women.
If the husband beats her, she should go to the police and have a divorce, Qurashi said. “But if he’s slapped her only once or something like that,” she said, “and he admits he has made a mistake and promised not to do it again, then we say, ‘You have to forgive.’ ”
One recent afternoon, the waiting room was full of women and their family members.
A Pakistan-born 33-year-old mother of five explained that her husband would beat her and her children. “He threatens to kill us,” she said, as her daughter translated from Urdu. “He calls me a Jew and an infidel.” Hasan told her to immediately get police protection and request an Islamic divorce.
Having yesterday praised Intelligence Squared’s and the Federalist Society’s public debates for exposing the Left and Center to ideas from the Right, I was amused to read a Daily Kos post by Adam Siegel that unintentionally helps to prove my point. He draws our attention to an upcoming Iq2US debate on the motion “Major reductions in carbon emissions are not worth the money,” in which climate-change skeptics Peter Huber, Bjørn Lomborg, and Philip Stott will face off against climate-change believers Daniel Kammen, Oliver Tickell, and Adam Werbach.
An anti-climate-change apostle, Siegel warns of the risks of publicly engaging with such unbelievers:
Unlike those in the scientific community, these three (and others of their ilk) have little to no interest in the search for truth and are not prepared to (ever) acknowledge errors and shift their views if confronted with evidence that proves their points wrong. To quote from a great modern philosopher, Stephen Colbert, they focus on “truthiness.”
The past record of such “debates” is not favorable to those focused on truth and honesty. The debates turn to the trivia as skeptics throw out some outlandish claim driving those seeking truth to can get caught up in minutia seeking to “prove” some seemingly arcane point, often enabling those selling snake oil answers to the challenges we face to set the discussion terms and, by doing so, in essence “win” the debate before the first verbal shots are fired.
One of the earlier debates he refers to was an Iq2US debate on a similar subject, “Global warming is not a crisis.” When he refers to the unfavorable record, he perhaps has in mind the results of that debate, though he doesn’t mention them. Before the two sides spoke, 30% of the New York audience voted in favor of the motion, 57% against, and 13% undecided. After the debate, the numbers were 46% in favor, 42% against, and 12% undecided—an impressive victory for the anti-alarmist side.
Now, of course, Siegel would interpret those results as showing that members of the audience—who, I should note, are the kind of people who chose to spend their evening at a policy debate—were duped by three “charlatans”: a professor of meteorology at MIT, an emeritus professor of biogeography at the University of London, and a medical doctor turned author.
To prevent any audience from being suckered by such snake-oil salesman, especially “suave and debonair” types such as Lomborg, Siegel advises his allies not to appear on stage with them at all. Second to that, he recommends that “all three [debaters] supporting the urgency of action on Global Warming should go into the debate with a series of statements and material that fundamentally call into question the very legitimacy of the three others.” In other words, he favors an ad hominem attack on their general trustworthiness over a direct attack on the validity of their claims. This speaks volumes as to Siegel’s lack of confidence in his side’s ability to win on the merits.
It is interesting that Siegel seems to assume that all prominent climate skeptics are charlatans knowingly peddling lies, as opposed to people who hold their (mistaken) opinions honestly. Perhaps it is because he finds climate change to be a simple and obvious issue, the variables so easy to disentangle. What intelligent, knowledgeable could possibly believe differently? But maybe I’m wrong about Siegel’s assumption. If so, I’d love for him to name some well-informed, articulate climate skeptics who are not charlatans. They could then be invited to take part in a future public debate that would meet his exacting standards. Let’s just organize that debate before hell freezes over.
Sen. Arlen Specter thinks that, in the confirmation of Eric Holder, the Marc Rich matter will be an “issue.” He will take a close look and get relevant materials, he says. Meanwhile, Jim Geraghty is ferreting out the lowlights of Holder’s career. There are plenty — with fodder for both the Left and the Right.
The real mystery remains: why would the President-elect borrow trouble? Holder’s involvement in the Rich affair may be, for some, a disqualification. For others it will be merely an unfortunate incident. But it will be front and center, an unneeded distraction at the start of an administration. And for someone exercising such deliberate care to construct his team, it is a very curious pick.
Yesterday, a NATO spokesman announced that the organization has no plans to go to the rescue of the Sirius Star, the Saudi supertanker captured by pirates on Saturday in the Indian Ocean. “I’m not aware that there’s any intention by NATO to try to intercept this ship,” said spokesman James Appathurai.
The organization, he noted, could prevent interceptions but has no mandate to board boats that have already been hijacked. Moreover, the Sirius Star, the largest ship ever taken by pirates, was outside the alliance’s area of operations at the time of seizure. Presently, two NATO vessels-supplied by Greece and Italy-are escorting World Food Program shipments into Mogadishu pursuant to a U.N. mandate and two other warships-from Turkey and Britain-are on deterrence patrols in the Gulf of Aden.
If NATO is not permitted to help the crew of the supertanker, how about Britain? No help here: the British Foreign Office is reported to have warned the Royal Navy in April not to detain pirates so as to avoid violating their human rights.
This leaves the nation of last resort in the international system. But you would be mistaken if you thought the global superpower is able to defeat a ragtag group of high-seas bandits. Pirates know the U.S. Navy is no threat to them because it did nothing in September when it surrounded-with five warships-the hijacked Faina, a Ukrainian freighter loaded with heavy weaponry. The finest sailors in the world merely watched these criminals shuttle back and forth between the captured boat and the Somali coast, even after the captors threatened to blow up the vessel and kill its crew to obtain a ransom. In short, our navy was merely making sure that negotiations between the pirates and ship owner proceeded smoothly.
Now, emboldened pirates are beginning to cut a critical lifeline by taking an oil carrier and holding it hostage. But don’t ask Western navies to do anything about this unfolding situation. The West, even in the face of obvious criminality, has made itself powerless to act, paralyzing its armed forces with talk of “mandates” and “human rights.” So forget about stopping nuclear proliferation or preventing invasions of our friends. We are even unable to protect shipping in open waters.
By the way, the Faina and the Sirius Star are now both anchored near each other along the Somali coast.
In Der Spiegel, Gerhard Spörl and Bernhard Zand have a piece about the Arab world’s hopes for the Obama administration. The article opens up with a description of Dubai as a wonderful land of capitalist opportunity. While the authors speak to the emirate’s big shots to get their opinions on Obama, they leave out a pretty important historical factoid:
“I love everything about America,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, said two years ago. His words reflected the sentiments of a growing class of ambitious Arabs who are tired of being seen as the eternal losers in world history. He spoke on behalf of those who are simply interested in doing business and have long felt alienated by the leftist and nationalist ideologies of pan-Arabism, by Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia and by the Palestinians’ obsession with victimhood. But despite the rapid pace of progress in this futuristic region during the last eight years, the current administration in Washington has made things difficult for these modern Arabs. This explains why the sheikh of Dubai followed his words of adoration with a much-quoted caveat: “I love everything about America, except for its foreign policy.”
The current administration has made things difficult for Dubai, huh? And therefore the prospect of President Obama may be cause for celebration? Well, Spörl and Zand obviously don’t recall that, when President Bush tried to give some port management business to a company in Dubai, Barack Obama responded with this cowardly bit of isolationist fence-sitting:
Over four years after the worst terrorist attack in our history, not only are we failing to inspect 95% of the cargo that arrives at U.S. ports, but now we’re allowing our port security to be outsourced to foreign governments. Clearly, more time should have been spent investigating this deal and consulting with homeland security experts and local officials. I support my colleagues on both sides of the aisle who are seeking a full review of this deal.
Perhaps that’s why, despite the article’s obvious intentions, the Sheikh was never quoted as saying anything positive about Obama.
November 22 is almost upon us, and with it will come the usual encomia to the lost glories of “Camelot,” the glitzy term that has come to symbolize the Kennedy years but that actually was an invention after the fact — never once used to describe the Kennedy administration while Kennedy was alive but applied posthumously shortly after JFK’s assassination by a grieving Jacqueline Kennedy and an all-too-sycophantic Theodore H. White in the pages of Life magazine
John F. Kennedy was a president of questionable character and relatively meager accomplishments, but his untimely and violent death, followed by decades of unceasing image control by the Kennedys and their media groupies, has helped sustain the popular standing of a president who almost certainly would have been impeached or forced to resign the presidency had even a fraction of what we now know been made public while he was still alive and in office.
The left-wing journalist Seymour Hersh, after spending years wading through the muck of pumped-up war stories, doctored medical records (contrary to the image of “vigor” he liked to project, Kennedy suffered from a variety of ailments and consumed a prodigious daily cocktail of pharmaceuticals), compulsive extramarital activity, Mafia ties and electoral shenanigans, was forced to reevaluate the man he once admired.
“Kennedy,” he said in an Atlantic Monthly web interview shortly after the publication of his 1997 expose The Dark Side of Camelot, “was much more corrupt than other postwar presidents, by a major factor. Much more manipulative, though Nixon was a close second. There’s nothing wonderful about Nixon — Watergate proved that — but I think that Nixon was an amateur compared to Kennedy….”
Particularly irksome to Hersh and others who see through the Camelot haze is the claim by JFK apologists that had Kennedy lived, he would have put an end to America’s involvement in Vietnam — this despite the fact that the U.S. commitment there expanded from a few hundred military advisers under Eisenhower to nearly 17,000 troops under Kennedy; that the men generally viewed as the architects of Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam policies, Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, were holdovers from the Kennedy administration; that just two months before his death Kennedy told Walter Cronkite, “I don’t agree with those who say we should withdraw” and insisted to Chet Huntley that “We are not there to see a war lost”; and that the speech Kennedy planned to give in Dallas the day he was killed warned that a diminished American commitment in Vietnam would “only encourage Communist penetration.”
Of course, Kennedy insiders have a history of revisionism that goes well beyond Vietnam. On the great moral domestic issue of his time, Kennedy, far from being the champion of civil rights portrayed by court historians, was at best (to borrow from the title of Nick Bryant’s recent book on the subject) a “bystander” and at worst a president whose regional judicial appointees, according to a February 1964 Time magazine report, “have turned out to be so devoted to segregation that they may be the greatest obstacle to equal rights in the South today.”
When the existence of Nixon’s White House taping system was revealed, Kennedy loyalists were among the loudest critics. But several years later it emerged that Nixon was, to again quote Seymour Hersh, “an amateur compared to Kennedy.” Not only had JFK installed a taping system in the White House, he apparently had an insatiable need to eavesdrop on conversations held well beyond the porticos of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“The FBI and the CIA had installed dozens of wiretaps and listening devices on orders and requests from the attorney general [Robert Kennedy],” wrote Richard Reeves in his 1993 book President Kennedy: Profile of Power. “Transcripts of secret tapes of steel executives, congressmen, lobbyists, and reporters routinely ended up on the president’s desk. The targets ranged from writers who criticized the president … to members of Kennedy’s own staff.”
The crime writer James Ellroy may have put it best in his typically hardboiled novel American Tabloid: “Jack Kennedy was the mythological front man for a particularly juicy slice of our history. He talked a slick line and wore a world-class haircut. He was Bill Clinton minus pervasive media scrutiny and a few rolls of flab. Jack got whacked at the optimum moment to assure his sainthood. Lies continue to swirl around his eternal flame . . . .”
From the full transcript of Zawahiri’s audio recording:
First, a message of congratulations to the Muslim Ummah on the American people’s admission of defeat in Iraq. Although the evidence of America’s defeat in Iraq appeared years ago, Bush and his administration continued to be stubborn and deny the brilliant midday sun. If Bush has achieved anything, it is in his transfer of America’s disaster and predicament to his successor. But the American people, by electing Obama, declared its anxiety and apprehension about the future towards which the policy of the likes of Bush is leading it, and so it decided to support someone calling for withdrawal from Iraq.
Earlier, I wrote that we should not care what al Qaeda thinks of us. What I meant was: we shouldn’t heed their moral judgment. Strategically, though, it’s important to know how terrorists size us up. The above statement should serve as a reminder of exactly why it’s critical for all Americans that the U.S. wins decisively in Iraq, regardless of where you stood on the initial invasion. From uncovered internal communiqués, we know that senior al Qaeda members are not nearly as triumphal about Iraq as Zawahiri’s chest-thumping would suggest. But still, countries must want to win their wars if they are to survive.
Representative Barney Frank (D-MA), chairman of the House Finance Committee, has come out and said what many are saying: one of the biggest reasons why the U.S. automakers (“The Big 2.5″) might want to go into bankruptcy: to get out of ruinous union contracts. This upsets Representative Frank, long a champion of unions.
Normally, I would not be overly concerned about Frank’s observations. He has a stellar history of being spectacularly wrong on financial matters. He was a staunch opponent of imposing any sort of increased regulations on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, even to the point of pronouncing them entirely sound as recently as January of this year. The Wall Street Journal thoroughly documented his history as Fannie and Freddie’s “patron saint” on Capitol Hill.
So on matters financial, Frank is probably a good touchstone: the louder he proclaims something, the better the odds that he’s wrong.
In this case, though, he’s right: one of the reasons why the automakers would seek bankruptcy would be to get out of their onerous union contracts. And while breaking those contracts would not necessarily break the unions, it would be a severe blow.
And it is a blow that must be struck. As noted in countless other places, American automakers spend about $72 per hour in labor. Foreign automakers in the US spend about $48 per hour. This is a crippling disadvantage, and one that is simply not sustainable. Reworking the contracts to a more sane, survivable standard is an absolute necessity if the big 2.5 are to survive in anything resembling a recognizable form.
Of course, that is only part of the situation. The management needs to be shaken up at least as thoroughly. When the CEOs of Ford, GM, and Chrysler went to Congress to beg for $25 billion in loans to keep afloat, they each flew in on their luxury corporate jets — which, they say, are “non-negotiable” in any proposed bailout. These companies are not likely to reform their management as radically as needed on their own.
Both these problems can be resolved with one solution: a bankruptcy filing. The court would be empowered to re-negotiate the contracts, and impose changes in management. On the other hand, any kind of loan would only postpone the current situation. It would allow the companies to continue to hemorrhage money at a fatal rate. All $25 billion would buy is a couple of months’ grace. And when it is gone, then everything would be right back to where it is today.
Except the execs and the unions would have a little more money in their own pockets. And that is precisely what Representative Frank seems to be backing.
Steven Pearlstein writes in favor of a “prepackaged bankruptcy” for the auto companies. There is much to commend this idea, which would set up an expedited process–”a necessary legal step to wipe out the interests of current shareholders, replace failed executives and directors, force creditors to accept less than they are owed, abrogate labor contracts, reduce pension obligations and override state dealership laws.” Two problems, though: Congress likely doesn’t have the nerve to do it, and the arrogant CEO of GM, Richard Wagoner, won’t agree to it. The Washington Post reports:
When [Republican Tennessee Senator Bob] Corker raised the prospect of a prearranged bankruptcy with the government offering to help one or more of the firms restructure under court supervision, Wagoner snapped back that the idea is “pure fantasy.”
A bankruptcy, he said, “would ripple across this economy like a tsunami we haven’t seen. It seems to me like a huge roll of the dice.”
And this was when Wagoner was on his best behavior–pleading for the help of Congress.
There is, though, a fantasy in play here–the fantasy that there is any stomach for allowing the current management of the Big Three to remain in place and devour billions more in taxpayer money. The auto chiefs’ performance yesterday probably convinced any remaining doubters that these are the last people you want left in charge of the car companies. That would be one of many problems easily resolved by a Chapter 11 proceeding.
Holder’s role was aptly described as “unconscionable” by a congressional committee. He steered Rich’s allies to retain the influential former White House counsel Jack Quinn (Holder later conceded he hoped Quinn would help him become attorney general in a Gore administration); he helped Quinn directly lobby Clinton, doing an end-run around the standard pardon process (including DOJ’s pardon attorney); and he kept the deliberations hidden from the district U.S. attorney and investigative agencies prosecuting Rich so they couldn’t learn about the pardon application and register their objections.
The contemporaneous news reports and the transcript of the hearings are quite instructive, and reveal Holder as someone who at best wasn’t focused on his duties, and at worst sacrificed the interests of justice to curry favor with Jack Quinn, whom Holder expected would be able to secure him a position in the Gore administration. The outcry at the time was bipartisan: Rep. Dan Burton, Maureen Dowd, Rep. Henry Waxman , and Sen. Mike DeWine all cried foul. (It will be interesting to watch the Democrats and the MSM reverse course to defend the pick, as they must, to maintain their Obama-devotion credentials.) It remains a mystery why President-elect Obama is apparently intent on hiring Holder. There are many smart and ethical Democratic lawyers. He should find one.
So much for soft power! In truth, we shouldn’t care what al Qaeda thinks about us or our leaders. We shouldn’t seek their approval and we shouldn’t question ourselves over their scorn. Ayman al-Zawahiri’s new insulting message to President-elect Obama goes to show that America is the enemy, regardless of whether its leader says bring em’ on or come together.
From an intelligence standpoint, it’s interesting. The undisguised racism of the message (Zawahiri refers to Obama as a “house negro”) reveals a sloppy desperation on the part of al Qaeda. The organization used to be disciplined about their messages, playing on what they perceived as the sympathies of the American public. American member Adam Gadahn took to peppering Western bound Qaeda communiqués with liberal talking points in hopes of re-channeling domestic Bush-hatred. But insulting America’s widely-beloved President-elect for not being the right kind of black person isn’t going to get Zawahiri much support in the U.S., especially now, in the election’s afterglow. A wiser approach would have been to praise subtley America’s choice for change, and thereby play on a war-weary public to press for a less militaristic foreign policy. Think that’s crazy? A few months ago, all Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had to do to get Nancy Pelosi to see a diplomatic “opening” was go on TV and praise America’s “new behavior.” Western countries are cheap dates, as far as that kind of pandering is concerned.
Most importantly, this message solidifies something that the intelligence community has hinted at for a while: Ayman al-Zawahiri is now al Qaeda’s number one. He has more day-to-day involvement with the terrorist network than Osama bin Laden (who I personally suspect has been dead for some time), and his communication capacities are far greater, as well. Giving a message to the new American president is not a task that would be left to the number-two man. In fact, if Bin Laden is alive, delivering such a message should have constituted a full year’s work for the isolated figurehead.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike McCullen is drawing up plans for the President-elect to move troops out of Iraq promptly, but cautions that withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq should be “driven solely by conditions on the ground.” (Meanwhile, other high-ranking officiers contend “it would be logistically impossible to dismantle dozens of large bases there and withdraw the 150,000 troops now in Iraq” by the President-elect’s announced withdrawal date of mid-2010.) Mullen continues, “What President-elect Obama has also said is that he would seek the counsel of myself and the Joint Chiefs before he made any decisions. I look forward to that discussion.” That will be one interesting conversation.
Notice how the press gushes over the lack of leaking from the Obama camp. It wasn’t so celebrated when the Bush administration was accused of “secrecy,” “lack of transparency,” and spreading “fear of retribution” if their people leaked. That was then, this is now.
When Maureen Dowd is right, she is really right: “Some critics say Hillary doesn’t have the foreign-policy chops for the job. But she would stop the pompous John Kerry from getting it, and that is a formidable recommendation.”
This sounds quite nefarious — “burrowing” Bush political appointees within the protection of civil service jobs — until your read far enough into the piece to learn this was a more widespread practice in the waning days of the Clinton administration.
A tip: when lecturing Republicans about the allegedly ill effects of religious conservatives on their party it is best not to sound dismissive and hateful. Unless, of course, the purpose is not to help Republicans at all, but to bolster one’s bookings with the MSM.
From one new Alabama Democratic House member: “I am not in favor of any tax increase. The people of this nation are taxed enough. Right now, the economy is in such bad shape, we don’t need to start hitting our average citizens — I don’t care what level they are.” Minority Whip-to-be Cantor, are you taking down names?
On the auto bailout: “Rep. Pelosi said the automakers and their unions ‘need to stop acting like little socialist countries, and start behaving like businesses again. It’s time to unleash the desire to be part of something great which lies hidden in the hearts of most American workers.’” The qutoe’s a joke, of course. Sadly.
Even Senate Democrats are skeptical of the auto bailout. It might be interesting for the Republicans to force a vote now and see how it goes. My guess is it would get less than 40 “aye” votes.
Sen. Ted Stevens loses his seat. A lesson to the Republicans not to run candidates under indictment.
The Eric Holder pick is mystifying. The Obama team better have a good story and some Scottish law precedents to get it through the committee: ”Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he began reviewing on Tuesday documents related to the [Marc] Rich pardon and Mr. Holder’s role. The senator said he will look into that and other issues before deciding on whether to support Mr. Holder.”
An entirely separate reason to disapprove of Holder is explained here.
The Left hates him too. Isn’t this a bipartisan opportunity?
There must be a better way of running things than weighting down car companies with environmental regulations and then spending billions to bail them out: “The more realistic alternative to this utopian green vision is to let GM or Chrysler file for Chapter 11 like any other company that can’t pay its bills. The immediate costs would be severe, but at least bankruptcy would provide the political and legal means for them to evolve into smaller, more competitive companies. Taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to finance a green industrial policy promoted by lobbyists and Congressmen who know nothing about what it takes to make a car — much less make a profit.” Really, what’s green about propping up an industry dedicated to producing CO2-belching vehicles?
Jeffrey Goldberg published yesterday on his blog at the Atlantic an interview with Daniel Levy, director of the Middle East Initiative at the New America Foundation and the Prospects for Peace initiative at the Century Foundation, discussing “Obama, Netanyahu and the Settlements.”
Goldberg calls Levy “one of the smartest analysts of the Middle East conflict in Washington, or anywhere else.” (Noah Pollak, in his NRO article “Rewriting History” and multiple posts at CONTENTIONS, has a slightly different take on him).
Levy suggests that the “three noes” of the 1967 Khartoum declaration following the Six Day War– no recognition, no peace, no negotiations– were actually just an “opening position” (although it is not clear what part of “noes” Israel did not understand). He argues Israel should now “take yes for an answer”–the “yes” being the purported Arab willingness to live in peace if Israel will move back to the pre-’67 lines that led to the war. He says:
The key in this scenario would be for the U.S. to come up with creative ways for addressing the legitimate Israeli concerns regarding what happens in the territories from which Israel withdraws — how does one guarantee a pre-dictability of especially security, but also of governance outcomes once Israel and the IDF is no longer there. So it’s about providing compelling, attractive, and even enticing answers to the questions that postpone the needed Israeli withdrawal.
It is always good to have answers to legitimate concerns about “predictability of especially security” and of “governance outcomes” before one withdraws from strategic territory (ask Ehud Barak about Lebanon and Ehud Olmert about Gaza). But Levy’s belief that the key is for the U.S. to come up with “creative ways” to provide “compelling, attractive, and even enticing answers” seems a tad long on adjectives and a bit short on analysis.
He suggests the U.S. put together an international force to replace the IDF in the new Palestinian state “for a period of time,” with the force to focus on “guaranteeing security-related issues.” He does not say how the force would “guarantee” Israel’s security (or even its own), how the force would assure the “governance outcome,” how long the force’s “period of time” would be, or what would happen after the force left (or was forced to leave).
Given the experiences with security and governance outcomes in Lebanon and Gaza, it is hard to see why this not-so-creative (and not-so-new) idea would be attractive to either Israel or the United States. Perhaps it is for the Arab states themselves to come up with something compelling, attractive and enticing — starting with immediate diplomatic recognition of Israel as a Jewish state — to back up their rhetorical willingness to live in peace and negotiate.
Okay, it is starting to be a little bit too much. Hillary Clinton, John Podesta, Rahm Emanuel, Eric Holder, Mona Sutphen, and Greg Craig, to name just a few. What is this, a Clinton class reunion? I get that the Obama team needs experience. I get that some of these people are moderates and pragmatists, which is good if you want to keep the country from going over a cliff. And as far as Secretray of State goes, most of the other mentioned alternatives are far, far worse than Hillary. (Don’t get me wrong — conservatives are hoping Bill’s complications can be minimized so that Obama doesn’t have to go to the “B” list.) But isn’t this all sort of a bait and switch?
We were promised new faces, a new page, a new . . . well . . . everything. What we’re getting is the Clintons’ third term. That would be alright, I suppose — if the President-elect had not built his entire campaign on the premise that we had to throw the rascals out.
Some conservatives are delighted. Others are bemused. And the Left is not happy. The biggest downside that I see is that some may conclude they’ve been conned. Oh, he really didn’t mean all that stuff about change. Ah, it’s the same old crew. The proof will be in how they all perform, but I sympathize with those who thought they were buying something other than the Clinton Restoration.
So Obama might be smart to keep Hillary, but limit the other Clinton retreads. Really, isn’t there a better choice for Attorney General than Holder–one with no connection to one of the creepiest chapters in the Clinton era? Was the man who ran the Clinton impeachment defense the only one qualified for White House counsel? With his vaunted creativity and renowned people skills, I am sure Obama can attract quality personnel from outside of the Bill Clinton yearbook.
I’ve been reading through the many, many–far too many–articles for and against Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. I’ve been reading through the Friedmans and the Broders and the Dowds and the Ignatiuses and all the less famous (but frequently more thoughtful) writers. I’ve read until my eyes burn, and it all comes down to this:
For: Those hoping Clinton will be independent enough to save the U.S. from a too-naïve Obama foreign policy.
Marginal subgroup: Those thinking Obama can actually control Clinton.
Against: Those apprehensive about an independent Clinton ruining the chance for a “changed” foreign policy.
Marginal subgroup: Those still suspecting Clinton is really a radical dove.
The rest, as the sages used to say, is commentary.
David Broder doesn’t like the idea of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. There is the Bill problem, but this is the heart of his complaint:
What Obama wants and needs in the person running the State Department is a diplomat who will carry out his foreign policy. He does not need someone who will tell him how to approach the world or be his mentor in international relations. One of the principal reasons he was elected was that, relying on his own instincts, he came to the correct conclusion that war with Iraq was not in America’s interest.
No, no, say conservatives. That’s exactly why America needs Hillary. She is there to prevent Obama from following his instincts, to curb his dangerous and naive tendencies, and to explain that the world is filled with scheming and dangerous characters. We don’t want a lackey (John Kerry comes to mind) to say, “Sure Mr. President, the faster you pull out of Iraq the better!” We need someone to explain the dangers of that approach — and assure him that the Left wing of the Democratic base doesn’t have any real sway at this point. He doesn’t need someone to schedule tea with Ahmadinejad. He needs someone to explain that conservatives can call it “preconditions” and he can call it “preparations,” but there is no reason on Earth for the President to give the Holocaust-denying and terrorist-sponsoring Ahmadinejad the greatest propaganda coup (i.e. a face-to-face meeting with the leader of the Free World) he could ever hope to obtain.
In short, President Obama’s underlying instincts are peppered with dangerous misconceptions which, if followed, will set back the security of the U.S. and its allies. It is up to Hillary (or, if Obama’s not smart enough to figure out a Bill solution, someone equally savvy, tough and cunning) to defend U.S. interests and guide him back to a centrist course on foreign policy.
Oh, but this is so undemocratic! The President is supposed to run the show! Well, the State Department has a tried and true tradition of manipulating and pressuring the White House. Usually it works to “curb” Republican Presidents, but there is no reason that a Secretary Clinton couldn’t employ that same bag of tricks (e.g. leaking, back-channel negotiations, unauthorized statements, inter-agency politics) to give the future occupant some spine and our foreign policy some needed toughness.
The fact that the President-elect is considering Hillary might even suggest that he is aware that’s what he needs. If so, that’s one instinct he should follow.
The floating of Eric Holder’s name as a possible Attorney General nominee has brought up a lot of details about the Clinton Administration — and a lot of bad memories.
Holder was appointed to succeed Jamie Gorelick, who had been instrumental in crafting the “wall of separation” between law enforcement and intelligence agencies that many give at least partial blame for the government being blindsided by the 9/11 attacks. This was merely the first step for Ms. Gorelick, who has become a bit of a political Typhoid Mary. She left the Justice Department for a six-year stint as a director at Fannie Mae, during which time she collected a very tidy sum. (Almost $800,000 in one year alone.) She was also there when a massive accounting fraud was perpetrated, and a lot of the bad decisions that eventually led to its collapse were made.
She left Fannie Mae to serve as one of the Democratic appointees to the 9/11 Commission, despite some serious concern that she would better serve as a testifying witness than as a commissioner. While there, the memo she authored on the “wall” policy was given very, very short shrift.
Continuing her reverse Midas touch, she represented Duke University when several members of its lacrosse team were accused (falsely, it turned out) of raping a woman. She was charged with defending the school who, based on very shaky evidence that eventually crumbled away, fired the coach, shut down the team, and encouraged (or, at least tolerated) nearly the entire campus treating the accused players as if they had been tried and convicted.
Anyway, that’s whose shoes Mr. Holder was stepping into. And it appears that, for the most part, he did a credible job right up to the end of the Clinton administration.
But in those waning days, Holder found himself in the catbird’s seat when the pardon request for Marc Rich came up.
Rich was a financier and major Democratic fundraiser who, in 1993, was indicted for tax evasion and trading with Iran. (The U.S. Attorney who brought the case was some guy named Rudy Giuliani. Whatever became of that guy?) The indictment came down while he was abroad, and he simply chose to not return to face the charges. So for eight years, he stayed a wanted man.
Then, as Bill Clinton was preparing to leave office, Rich had his American lawyers do the paperwork for a pardon. (In an astonishing coincidence, this followed some very, very hefty donations to the Democratic party and Bill Clinton’s presidential library by Rich’s ex-wife.) To call the application irregular would be a gross understatement — historically, pardons were reserved for those who had been convicted of some crime. The Justice Department’s official guidelines recommend at least five years to pass from conviction to pardon. Also, the acceptance of a pardon also carried with it a tacit admission of guilt.
That all changed when President Ford issued a pardon to Richard Nixon. Nixon had not been charged with any crimes, never admitted to any lawbreaking, but accepted the pardon.
That later led to the first President Bush’s issuance of pardons to many of his top staffers as he left office, heading off a host of investigations into possible wrongdoings during his and President Reagan’s administrations. That, too, was seen as controversial.
But that was dwarfed by the last-minute rush of pardons in the last two years of his administration. But unlike Bush’s pardons, which were seen as favors for political cronies, many of Clinton’s pardons seemed to have connections to people who had financially aided the Clintons and their families, or groups that could help Hillary Clinton’s Senate race.
For example, the case of Edgar and Vonna Jo Gregory. The carnival owners had been convicted of bank fraud in 1982, and that conviction hindered their business practices. So they loaned/gave a bunch of money to a guy who just happened to be the brother of the First Lady, and got their pardon.
Then there are the pardons of the FALN terrorists (Puerto Rican separatists), and the commutations of the sentences of four men from New Square, New York who had been convicted of defrauding the government out of more than $30 million dollars for a non-existent school.
And, of course, the Rich case.
The power of a president to issue pardons is absolute. By the Constitution, there is absolutely no check on that ability — a president can issue pardons to anyone, at any time, for any reason or no reason, and absolutely no one or no body can do a thing about it. Over the years, the Justice Department has crafted guidelines and policies and procedures for the process, but should a president choose to ignore them, then he can freely.
The Rich case illustrates this perfectly: it violated several of those rules, positively reeked of being bought, and was issued within the last hours of the Clinton administration. But it was perfectly legal and Constitutional.
The issue here is Holder’s role. With all the facts before him, he was called to issue his advisory opinion on whether or not the pardon was a good idea — and he took the bold position of “neutral, leaning towards favorable.”
A pardon for a man who had been a fugitive from justice for eight years, who had renounced his American citizenship, and whose ex-wife had made very, very substantial donations to both the Clintons and the Democrats in general. “Appearance of impropriety” barely begins to cover the situation.
Earlier, before Holder’s name was leaked, there was talk that Gorelick herself might be Obama’s nominee for the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. Many people were horrified at that thought, and in that light Holder is an improvement — which is certainly a case of “damning with faint praise.” Indeed, it might even be that Gorelick’s name was initially leaked to make Holder more palatable.
In general, a president should be allowed to choose whomever he wishes as their top advisers and officers. Only in exreme circumstances should a nominee be rejected.
In Holder’s case, his involvement in the Rich pardon and the abysmal judgment he demonstrated shows that, despite his history as a judge a U.S. Attorney, and a Deputy Attorney General, should he be nominated, he should at the very least be subject to some very probing questions before he is confirmed.
Mitt Romney, who knows something about car companies, comes out strongly against the bailout. He whacks both sides, starting with the wage differential the UAW foisted on the car companies:
First, their huge disadvantage in costs relative to foreign brands must be eliminated. That means new labor agreements to align pay and benefits to match those of workers at competitors like BMW, Honda, Nissan and Toyota. Furthermore, retiree benefits must be reduced so that the total burden per auto for domestic makers is not higher than that of foreign producers.
That extra burden is estimated to be more than $2,000 per car. Think what that means: Ford, for example, needs to cut $2,000 worth of features and quality out of its Taurus to compete with Toyota’s Avalon. Of course the Avalon feels like a better product — it has $2,000 more put into it. Considering this disadvantage, Detroit has done a remarkable job of designing and engineering its cars. But if this cost penalty persists, any bailout will only delay the inevitable.
Second, management as is must go. New faces should be recruited from unrelated industries — from companies widely respected for excellence in marketing, innovation, creativity and labor relations.
He does favor more government supported R&D, but ultimately sees only one way out:
In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check.
This is smart politics for Romney, demonstrating his expertise and his conservative bona fides. More importantly, he is right on the merits, and may help stiffen the spines of fellow Republicans. It is well and good to wax sentimental about the auto companies, but until someone explains how a Congressional bailout would work better than Chapter 11 to restore the industry to health, Congressmen on both sides of the aisle would do well to follow Romney’s advice.