Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 23, 2008

“A Little Nostalgic”

President Bush, in Lima for the APEC summit, participated in his last meeting with China’s Hu Jintao in his capacity as the free world’s leader.  How did Dubya react to saying goodbye to the Chinese autocrat on Friday?  “He said he felt very comfortable in their personal relationship and that he believes the relationship between our two countries is on solid ground,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.  Bush told Hu he “felt a little nostalgic” about their final meeting.

Is that so? But imagine, for just a moment, what Mr. Hu must have felt at that sit-down.  My guess is that the enigmatic supremo is panicking at this moment, as he is about to lose the best friend his authoritarian state has had in decades.  Almost from the get-go, the Chinese have had their way with Bush.

Let’s go to the videotape.  Dubya apologized to the Chinese after they imprisoned the crew of our Navy EP-3 and stripped the plane of its electronic gear.  Then he acceded to a Chinese demand for payment for the crew’s food and lodging.  Bush then said nothing when Beijing attacked at least one of our satellites in 2006, and he’s been quiet about China’s daily cyber assaults against our military and civilian networks.  He has failed to protect American workers against grossly unfair Chinese trade practices, refusing to demand reciprocity.  He looked the other way as the Chinese supplied adulterated medicine and toxic products to American consumers, killing some of them.  He almost always took Beijing’s side against democratic Taiwan.  President Bush said nothing while China supplied small arms and components for roadside bombs to insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan.   His officials talk about China being a “responsible stakeholder” while it supports the nuclear weapons ambitions of Tehran and Pyongyang by blocking effective international sanctions at every turn and even supplying technology and materials.

So Beijing’s senior leaders will certainly feel “nostalgia” for President Bush after he leaves office.  But I certainly will not.  I put my country first.

President Bush, in Lima for the APEC summit, participated in his last meeting with China’s Hu Jintao in his capacity as the free world’s leader.  How did Dubya react to saying goodbye to the Chinese autocrat on Friday?  “He said he felt very comfortable in their personal relationship and that he believes the relationship between our two countries is on solid ground,” said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.  Bush told Hu he “felt a little nostalgic” about their final meeting.

Is that so? But imagine, for just a moment, what Mr. Hu must have felt at that sit-down.  My guess is that the enigmatic supremo is panicking at this moment, as he is about to lose the best friend his authoritarian state has had in decades.  Almost from the get-go, the Chinese have had their way with Bush.

Let’s go to the videotape.  Dubya apologized to the Chinese after they imprisoned the crew of our Navy EP-3 and stripped the plane of its electronic gear.  Then he acceded to a Chinese demand for payment for the crew’s food and lodging.  Bush then said nothing when Beijing attacked at least one of our satellites in 2006, and he’s been quiet about China’s daily cyber assaults against our military and civilian networks.  He has failed to protect American workers against grossly unfair Chinese trade practices, refusing to demand reciprocity.  He looked the other way as the Chinese supplied adulterated medicine and toxic products to American consumers, killing some of them.  He almost always took Beijing’s side against democratic Taiwan.  President Bush said nothing while China supplied small arms and components for roadside bombs to insurgents in Iraq and the Taliban in Afghanistan.   His officials talk about China being a “responsible stakeholder” while it supports the nuclear weapons ambitions of Tehran and Pyongyang by blocking effective international sanctions at every turn and even supplying technology and materials.

So Beijing’s senior leaders will certainly feel “nostalgia” for President Bush after he leaves office.  But I certainly will not.  I put my country first.

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A Time for Restraint

The accusations and conspiracy theories have been floating around, and the word “steal” has been raised a lot, with regard to the Al Franken/Norm Coleman Minnesota Senate race. What we are missing are many facts showing that the voters’ will is being undermined. Aside from the bizarre case of the woman with the thirty-two ballots in her car for over a week, there is not much to suggest that the normal recount process has been undermined. Actual news accounts suggest things are proceeding in good order. Yes, Franken has questioned some ballots that don’t seem questionable at all. But the number of challenges is roughly even between the sides, and the total number is quite limited. It simply was an unbelievably close race.

What this suggests is that some restraint is order from observers and pundits not on the scene. Since 2000, many have become very quick to claim fraud and malfeasance at the ballot box. But nothing is to be gained, and much is to be lost, by throwing around unsubstantiated accusations. We have reached an unfortunate stage in which razor-thin elections aren’t won or lost, they are “stolen.” Sometimes the “undervote” really does tip one way. Sometimes, frankly, the margin of error in counting is larger than the margin that separates the two candidates.

If the Franken forces “manufacture” votes, or evade legitimate legal processes, no one should hesitate to object. But it is better to have facts than suspicions, and best of all to have evidence that something has gone awry before claiming it has, no matter how the vote falls.

The accusations and conspiracy theories have been floating around, and the word “steal” has been raised a lot, with regard to the Al Franken/Norm Coleman Minnesota Senate race. What we are missing are many facts showing that the voters’ will is being undermined. Aside from the bizarre case of the woman with the thirty-two ballots in her car for over a week, there is not much to suggest that the normal recount process has been undermined. Actual news accounts suggest things are proceeding in good order. Yes, Franken has questioned some ballots that don’t seem questionable at all. But the number of challenges is roughly even between the sides, and the total number is quite limited. It simply was an unbelievably close race.

What this suggests is that some restraint is order from observers and pundits not on the scene. Since 2000, many have become very quick to claim fraud and malfeasance at the ballot box. But nothing is to be gained, and much is to be lost, by throwing around unsubstantiated accusations. We have reached an unfortunate stage in which razor-thin elections aren’t won or lost, they are “stolen.” Sometimes the “undervote” really does tip one way. Sometimes, frankly, the margin of error in counting is larger than the margin that separates the two candidates.

If the Franken forces “manufacture” votes, or evade legitimate legal processes, no one should hesitate to object. But it is better to have facts than suspicions, and best of all to have evidence that something has gone awry before claiming it has, no matter how the vote falls.

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Re: A Bad Move

David Hazony thinks Hillary Clinton’s agreeing to become Secretary of State is a bad career move for her. He notes, quite correctly I think, that she is likely to be more powerful as a senator, answerable only to the people of New York, than as a cabinet member who serves at the pleasure of the president and must follow his policy leads.

But I see her calculus a little differently. Clinton’s chances of becoming president are now pretty slim. She’s 61, so she would be 69 the next time she could run (unless Obama—or the economy—louses things up to the point where there could be a viable challenge to his renomination in 2012). That’s not impossibly old (Ronald Reagan was 69 when he was elected for the first time), but age was a big problem for John McCain (aged 72) this time around.

So Clinton would need a pretty powerful résumé to be a strong candidate in 2016. A very high-profile cabinet post and some foreign policy successes during her tenure, would add greatly to her credentials. Staying in the Senate would not, under the been-there-done-that doctrine. Also, if she could significantly shake up the dysfunctional Department of State and alter its famously business-as-usual culture, it would add still more luster to her résumé. If she can change the State Department, she can change anything.

And if the presidency is now beyond her reach, then perhaps she is looking to history. She might become more powerful staying in the Senate, but then she would be remembered only for having been First Lady. Except for Lyndon Johnson—who, of course, went on to become President—how many people could name a single former majority leader of the Senate?

But many secretaries of state are remembered by those outside the political junkie class: Cordell Hull, George C. Marshall, Dean Acheson, John Foster Dulles, and Henry Kissinger all remain familiar names. And Hull, Marshall, and Kissinger, along with Elihu Root and Frank Kellogg, all won Nobel Peace Prizes for their work as secretaries of state.

And it might be noted that six secretaries of state (Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Van Buren, and Buchanan) went on to become president. If historical immortality is Hillary Clinton’s goal rather than mere power, then being Secretary of State, it seems to me, is the way to go.

David Hazony thinks Hillary Clinton’s agreeing to become Secretary of State is a bad career move for her. He notes, quite correctly I think, that she is likely to be more powerful as a senator, answerable only to the people of New York, than as a cabinet member who serves at the pleasure of the president and must follow his policy leads.

But I see her calculus a little differently. Clinton’s chances of becoming president are now pretty slim. She’s 61, so she would be 69 the next time she could run (unless Obama—or the economy—louses things up to the point where there could be a viable challenge to his renomination in 2012). That’s not impossibly old (Ronald Reagan was 69 when he was elected for the first time), but age was a big problem for John McCain (aged 72) this time around.

So Clinton would need a pretty powerful résumé to be a strong candidate in 2016. A very high-profile cabinet post and some foreign policy successes during her tenure, would add greatly to her credentials. Staying in the Senate would not, under the been-there-done-that doctrine. Also, if she could significantly shake up the dysfunctional Department of State and alter its famously business-as-usual culture, it would add still more luster to her résumé. If she can change the State Department, she can change anything.

And if the presidency is now beyond her reach, then perhaps she is looking to history. She might become more powerful staying in the Senate, but then she would be remembered only for having been First Lady. Except for Lyndon Johnson—who, of course, went on to become President—how many people could name a single former majority leader of the Senate?

But many secretaries of state are remembered by those outside the political junkie class: Cordell Hull, George C. Marshall, Dean Acheson, John Foster Dulles, and Henry Kissinger all remain familiar names. And Hull, Marshall, and Kissinger, along with Elihu Root and Frank Kellogg, all won Nobel Peace Prizes for their work as secretaries of state.

And it might be noted that six secretaries of state (Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Van Buren, and Buchanan) went on to become president. If historical immortality is Hillary Clinton’s goal rather than mere power, then being Secretary of State, it seems to me, is the way to go.

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What’s the Point?

Byron York reviews Eric Holder’s involvement in the Marc Rich affair:

Holder’s buddy Jack Quinn — a former Clinton White House counsel — was representing Rich.  Everybody knew that Justice Department prosecutors, who do not look kindly on non-remorseful felons who flee the country rather than face justice — would not approve of a pardon.  When Quinn inquired about what strategy would be best for Rich, Holder told him to avoid the Justice Department.

How do we know that?  During the negotiations, Quinn sent an e-mail to the Rich legal team.  “Spoke to [Holder] last evening,” Quinn told his colleagues.  “He says go straight to WH.  Also says timing is good.  We should get in soon.”

And darned if they didn’t.  When Clinton’s last day in office dawned, Rich had his pardon. Let’s just say it wasn’t Eric Holder’s finest hour.

He then recaps the Elian Gonzales incident:

After the young Cuban boy was recovered at sea, his mother having died in an attempt to reach the United States, Holder and attorney general Janet Reno tried hard to reunite the boy with his father, who said he wanted the boy back but did not trouble himself to travel to the United States during the months-long controversy.Shortly before U.S. agents took Elian into custody at gunpoint, the late Tim Russert asked Holder, “You wouldn’t send a SWAT team in the dark of night to kidnap the child, in effect?”

“No,” Holder answered.  “We don’t expect anything like that to happen.”

Later, after the Department did just that, Russert asked why the change. “I’m not sure I’d call it a dramatic change,” Holder answered.  “We waited ’til five in the morning, just before dawn.”

No, that wasn’t a pretty picture of candor or good judgment either.

I understand why many Republicans are loath to raise a fuss. After all, Holder has the votes from the overwhelming Democratic majority to gain confirmation in the Senate. And as one Republican official confided to me, “Holder has bad judgment. But at least he is not an ideologue.” Talk about damning with faint praise. (And some certainly would contend that he has shown tendencies toward intemperate views of the Constitution.)

Holder seems to be just the sort of nominee whom Republicans should oppose. Frankly, the other guys won and can choose the policy team they want. But ethics, judgment, and credibility are the basic considerations that all nominees must possess. I see no reason for Republicans to consent to lowering the bar for this or any administration.

It is the responsibility of all Senators, including the loyal opposition (however thinned its ranks may be), to query nominees and oppose their confirmation if they do not meet basic ethical standards. At the very least, the public should know just what sort of standards the President-elect seeks to maintain. It is altogether fair to ask: Are we in for a “change,” or just a return to the worst traits of previous administrations?

Byron York reviews Eric Holder’s involvement in the Marc Rich affair:

Holder’s buddy Jack Quinn — a former Clinton White House counsel — was representing Rich.  Everybody knew that Justice Department prosecutors, who do not look kindly on non-remorseful felons who flee the country rather than face justice — would not approve of a pardon.  When Quinn inquired about what strategy would be best for Rich, Holder told him to avoid the Justice Department.

How do we know that?  During the negotiations, Quinn sent an e-mail to the Rich legal team.  “Spoke to [Holder] last evening,” Quinn told his colleagues.  “He says go straight to WH.  Also says timing is good.  We should get in soon.”

And darned if they didn’t.  When Clinton’s last day in office dawned, Rich had his pardon. Let’s just say it wasn’t Eric Holder’s finest hour.

He then recaps the Elian Gonzales incident:

After the young Cuban boy was recovered at sea, his mother having died in an attempt to reach the United States, Holder and attorney general Janet Reno tried hard to reunite the boy with his father, who said he wanted the boy back but did not trouble himself to travel to the United States during the months-long controversy.Shortly before U.S. agents took Elian into custody at gunpoint, the late Tim Russert asked Holder, “You wouldn’t send a SWAT team in the dark of night to kidnap the child, in effect?”

“No,” Holder answered.  “We don’t expect anything like that to happen.”

Later, after the Department did just that, Russert asked why the change. “I’m not sure I’d call it a dramatic change,” Holder answered.  “We waited ’til five in the morning, just before dawn.”

No, that wasn’t a pretty picture of candor or good judgment either.

I understand why many Republicans are loath to raise a fuss. After all, Holder has the votes from the overwhelming Democratic majority to gain confirmation in the Senate. And as one Republican official confided to me, “Holder has bad judgment. But at least he is not an ideologue.” Talk about damning with faint praise. (And some certainly would contend that he has shown tendencies toward intemperate views of the Constitution.)

Holder seems to be just the sort of nominee whom Republicans should oppose. Frankly, the other guys won and can choose the policy team they want. But ethics, judgment, and credibility are the basic considerations that all nominees must possess. I see no reason for Republicans to consent to lowering the bar for this or any administration.

It is the responsibility of all Senators, including the loyal opposition (however thinned its ranks may be), to query nominees and oppose their confirmation if they do not meet basic ethical standards. At the very least, the public should know just what sort of standards the President-elect seeks to maintain. It is altogether fair to ask: Are we in for a “change,” or just a return to the worst traits of previous administrations?

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Obama Should Tell, Not Ask

Barack Obama will not move to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy until he confers with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This brings the President-elect much closer to John McCain’s approach to the same question. In October, McCain said he was ready to review the policy, but would “rely on the commanders who will be impacted by a change in the law.” During the campaign, Obama promised to repeal the policy, and now some supporters are worried. However, the bigger problem is that Obama’s characteristic slide from boldness to indecision is likely to deepen the rift between him and the military.

A poll conducted earlier this year found that only 22% of senior officers are in favor of getting rid of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” If military advisors tell Obama that repealing the policy in the middle of two hot wars is a bad idea, what will he do? If he heeds their advice, he will have squarely contradicted himself on yet another policy position, true. But if he defies the Joint Chiefs he will face a crisis of confidence among military brass. In October, a Military Times poll of Americans on active duty showed 68 percent supported John McCain, while only 23 percent supported Obama. Such numbers manifest as real world problems if not addressed.

When Bill Clinton took office and faced a skeptical armed forces, the country was not at war. Even so, President Clinton’s discomfort in prosecuting military affairs contributed to some of his early foreign policy disasters, such as the Battle of Mogadishu, which resulted in 18 dead American soldiers, and the USS Harlan County fiasco, during which shouting mobs prevented the American ship carrying deposed president Jean-Betrand Aristide from arriving in Port-au-Prince. With ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, potential operations in Iran, and the inevitable unforeseen, any disconnect between the military and this incoming administration is likely to be more consequential than anything Clinton stumbled through.

Obama’s ceaseless equanimity–so lavishly praised during the campaign –might potentially prove a liability. Having promised to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” he should stay true to his word, exercise leadership, and repeal it without delay. Instead, by blurring his position with John McCain’s and trying to satisfy parties on both sides of the question, he’s unnecessarily setting himself up for worsened relations with the armed forces he’s been charged to lead.

This is at least the second time since becoming President-elect that Obama has tried to have it both ways only to run into trouble. His lack of clarity in talking about missile defense with the President of Poland led to public disagreement, an embarrassing contradiction, and no resolution on the issue. The president must be willing to upset people, to make decisions that will turn off former supporters or create new antagonists. He must be able to make decisions, period. No one understands this better than Americans in uniform. So far, it looks like the U.S. is about to experiment with their first post-decisive commander in chief.

Barack Obama will not move to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy until he confers with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This brings the President-elect much closer to John McCain’s approach to the same question. In October, McCain said he was ready to review the policy, but would “rely on the commanders who will be impacted by a change in the law.” During the campaign, Obama promised to repeal the policy, and now some supporters are worried. However, the bigger problem is that Obama’s characteristic slide from boldness to indecision is likely to deepen the rift between him and the military.

A poll conducted earlier this year found that only 22% of senior officers are in favor of getting rid of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” If military advisors tell Obama that repealing the policy in the middle of two hot wars is a bad idea, what will he do? If he heeds their advice, he will have squarely contradicted himself on yet another policy position, true. But if he defies the Joint Chiefs he will face a crisis of confidence among military brass. In October, a Military Times poll of Americans on active duty showed 68 percent supported John McCain, while only 23 percent supported Obama. Such numbers manifest as real world problems if not addressed.

When Bill Clinton took office and faced a skeptical armed forces, the country was not at war. Even so, President Clinton’s discomfort in prosecuting military affairs contributed to some of his early foreign policy disasters, such as the Battle of Mogadishu, which resulted in 18 dead American soldiers, and the USS Harlan County fiasco, during which shouting mobs prevented the American ship carrying deposed president Jean-Betrand Aristide from arriving in Port-au-Prince. With ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, potential operations in Iran, and the inevitable unforeseen, any disconnect between the military and this incoming administration is likely to be more consequential than anything Clinton stumbled through.

Obama’s ceaseless equanimity–so lavishly praised during the campaign –might potentially prove a liability. Having promised to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell,” he should stay true to his word, exercise leadership, and repeal it without delay. Instead, by blurring his position with John McCain’s and trying to satisfy parties on both sides of the question, he’s unnecessarily setting himself up for worsened relations with the armed forces he’s been charged to lead.

This is at least the second time since becoming President-elect that Obama has tried to have it both ways only to run into trouble. His lack of clarity in talking about missile defense with the President of Poland led to public disagreement, an embarrassing contradiction, and no resolution on the issue. The president must be willing to upset people, to make decisions that will turn off former supporters or create new antagonists. He must be able to make decisions, period. No one understands this better than Americans in uniform. So far, it looks like the U.S. is about to experiment with their first post-decisive commander in chief.

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Can’t They Do Better?

The Washington Post editors start strong, appearing to be raising their first real criticism of the new administration:

President-elect Barack Obama is executing the pirouette familiar to politicians who inveigh against Washington: First you run against its insiders, then you hire them. During the campaign, the candidate made some overly broad promises about ejecting lobbyists from the government (“When I am president, they won’t find a job in my White House”) and flayed John McCain for being surrounded by phalanxes of them. Now, as president-elect, he is trying to adjust those declarations to the reality that an absolute ban on lobbyists would be both unnecessary and self-defeating.

But the Post’s editors can’t quite bring themselves to raise specific cases or question how, for example, healthcare lobbyist (they call him a “consultant,” but let’s get real) Tom Daschle can pass the test. They don’t explain, let alone identify, the members of the transition team  who come with “a complicated tangle of ties to private influence-seekers.”

They do manage to throw out this vague admonition:

These rules can be criticized as either overly stringent or unduly lax. On the stringent side, it seems silly to prohibit lobbyists from giving advice in the very fields of their expertise; well-qualified advisers will no doubt be excluded as a result. And it seems similarly odd to single out lobbyists for special prohibitions, when, say, union leaders are free under the rules to give advice on the Labor Department transition or pharmaceutical company executives are permitted to participate in the health-care review.

But they don’t name names, and they leave the reader confused as to whether President-elect Obama successfully navigated these traps.  This, I suspect, will be par for the course for some time. Things will be “of concern,” and items will be “worth further thought,” but no exacting inquiry will be forthcoming. The media is still in full swoon. It will take years for them to return to the blunt talk and sharp critiques which they regularly delivered to other presidents.

The Washington Post editors start strong, appearing to be raising their first real criticism of the new administration:

President-elect Barack Obama is executing the pirouette familiar to politicians who inveigh against Washington: First you run against its insiders, then you hire them. During the campaign, the candidate made some overly broad promises about ejecting lobbyists from the government (“When I am president, they won’t find a job in my White House”) and flayed John McCain for being surrounded by phalanxes of them. Now, as president-elect, he is trying to adjust those declarations to the reality that an absolute ban on lobbyists would be both unnecessary and self-defeating.

But the Post’s editors can’t quite bring themselves to raise specific cases or question how, for example, healthcare lobbyist (they call him a “consultant,” but let’s get real) Tom Daschle can pass the test. They don’t explain, let alone identify, the members of the transition team  who come with “a complicated tangle of ties to private influence-seekers.”

They do manage to throw out this vague admonition:

These rules can be criticized as either overly stringent or unduly lax. On the stringent side, it seems silly to prohibit lobbyists from giving advice in the very fields of their expertise; well-qualified advisers will no doubt be excluded as a result. And it seems similarly odd to single out lobbyists for special prohibitions, when, say, union leaders are free under the rules to give advice on the Labor Department transition or pharmaceutical company executives are permitted to participate in the health-care review.

But they don’t name names, and they leave the reader confused as to whether President-elect Obama successfully navigated these traps.  This, I suspect, will be par for the course for some time. Things will be “of concern,” and items will be “worth further thought,” but no exacting inquiry will be forthcoming. The media is still in full swoon. It will take years for them to return to the blunt talk and sharp critiques which they regularly delivered to other presidents.

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Reality Check

A couple of days ago–when it was announced that Senator Joe Lieberman would retain his Chairmanship position at the Homeland Security Committee–I wrote that this decision helped Barack Obama in more than one way. The obvious way is that the Democrats are now getting closer to their desired 60 Senate seat majority. But the more profound way is this:

I think this is only the beginning of a long, sometimes devastating re-education of the radical wing of the Democratic Party. Obama – as proved by his support for Lieberman to retain his chairmanship and also by his possible intention to appoint Clinton to head his foreign policy team (read “Cabinet post for Clinton roils Obamaland“) – isn’t going to fulfill the many dreams of his young and restless enthusiasts. Obama is now president-elect, and it’s time to be a grownup. Lieberman – without even having such intention – is actually helping Obama and his friends. His reappointment will send them a sobering message: you can’t always get what you want.

You can apply the same logic to the report, in this morning’s Washington Post, according to which “Some in Arab World Wary of Clinton”:

Arabs, particularly Palestinians, are nervous that Obama seems prepared to give the job of top diplomat to a senator from New York who has spent eight years cultivating her pro-Israel constituency and would continue, they think, a lack of U.S. evenhandedness in refereeing the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Because of what they regard as her bellicose rhetoric toward Iran and her initial support for the Iraq war, some see her selection as a sign that Obama intends to conduct a more hawkish foreign policy than he suggested during the campaign.

Obviously, such a report should not be taken too seriously. This is, more than anything else, an attempt by experienced Arab observers to preempt a Clinton appointment–and to make the new Secretary understand that some accommodation of the Arab view is needed.

However, it is also a sign that the post-election period is, indeed, also a period of reeducation. As shown here before the election, the “world” wanted Obama to win the election. This enthusiasm about Obama initially included the Arab world. However, the closer we got to Election Day, the warier the Arab world became. Part of it was an automatic reaction to pro-Israel statements Obama was making, but the other part was more rational. Suddenly, Arabs realized that Obama, all differences aside, would be an American president–with all the baggage such job carries with it.

And now, Clinton’s nomination: What better proof for the Arabs that Obama intends to continue the reviled policies of America? Not Bush’s America–America in general. Surely, American policies will be tweaked and revisited and changed in some areas. But Obama does not intend, nor can he, change American policy in the Middle East in the profound ways his Arab supporters would like him to. (And if Israelis get cocky about Clinton’s friendliness, they’ll learn their lesson, too: his name is Jim Jones).

A couple of days ago–when it was announced that Senator Joe Lieberman would retain his Chairmanship position at the Homeland Security Committee–I wrote that this decision helped Barack Obama in more than one way. The obvious way is that the Democrats are now getting closer to their desired 60 Senate seat majority. But the more profound way is this:

I think this is only the beginning of a long, sometimes devastating re-education of the radical wing of the Democratic Party. Obama – as proved by his support for Lieberman to retain his chairmanship and also by his possible intention to appoint Clinton to head his foreign policy team (read “Cabinet post for Clinton roils Obamaland“) – isn’t going to fulfill the many dreams of his young and restless enthusiasts. Obama is now president-elect, and it’s time to be a grownup. Lieberman – without even having such intention – is actually helping Obama and his friends. His reappointment will send them a sobering message: you can’t always get what you want.

You can apply the same logic to the report, in this morning’s Washington Post, according to which “Some in Arab World Wary of Clinton”:

Arabs, particularly Palestinians, are nervous that Obama seems prepared to give the job of top diplomat to a senator from New York who has spent eight years cultivating her pro-Israel constituency and would continue, they think, a lack of U.S. evenhandedness in refereeing the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Because of what they regard as her bellicose rhetoric toward Iran and her initial support for the Iraq war, some see her selection as a sign that Obama intends to conduct a more hawkish foreign policy than he suggested during the campaign.

Obviously, such a report should not be taken too seriously. This is, more than anything else, an attempt by experienced Arab observers to preempt a Clinton appointment–and to make the new Secretary understand that some accommodation of the Arab view is needed.

However, it is also a sign that the post-election period is, indeed, also a period of reeducation. As shown here before the election, the “world” wanted Obama to win the election. This enthusiasm about Obama initially included the Arab world. However, the closer we got to Election Day, the warier the Arab world became. Part of it was an automatic reaction to pro-Israel statements Obama was making, but the other part was more rational. Suddenly, Arabs realized that Obama, all differences aside, would be an American president–with all the baggage such job carries with it.

And now, Clinton’s nomination: What better proof for the Arabs that Obama intends to continue the reviled policies of America? Not Bush’s America–America in general. Surely, American policies will be tweaked and revisited and changed in some areas. But Obama does not intend, nor can he, change American policy in the Middle East in the profound ways his Arab supporters would like him to. (And if Israelis get cocky about Clinton’s friendliness, they’ll learn their lesson, too: his name is Jim Jones).

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A Bad Move

J.G. Thayer and Jennifer Rubin  have both weighed in on why Hillary Clinton should take the Secretary of State (as it seems increasingly likely that she will). I dunno: seems kind of crazy to me, for anyone with as much long-term political promise as her, to put herself into what will almost certainly be a major step down.

Here are the two career paths that lie before her: (1) She remains in the senate, becoming over time a national leader in the legislative branch (which is actually quite important), angling over time for super-powerful committees and eventually maybe becoming leader of the democratic caucus. This is a whole career of serious influence over American law, policy, judicial appointments, and budget allocation. And a much better position for running for president again in the future.

Or (2), she becomes secretary of state, a position which is by definition subordinate, requires her publicly crediting the President for all her achievements, making her power dependent on the grace of the president (remember how close Condoleezza Rice was to Bush when she started, and how much she ended up having to battle with Defense and others in order to set foreign policy by the end?), and worst of all, being held accountable for any American foreign policy failure, including those over which she has no control. If Iran goes nuclear under Hillary’s watch, or there’s another 9/11 style attack, if Russia or China get really nasty — what will become of her long-term political aspirations?

The Secretary of State position is amazing for one’s speaker fees and book revenues, and it is possible to achieve a great deal during one’s tenure there, but politically in the long run it is usually something of a dead end. If she wants to convince people to put their trust in her for the presidency, she should remain in elected office, keep her independence, prove her effectiveness, retain her dignity, build her power over time.

J.G. Thayer and Jennifer Rubin  have both weighed in on why Hillary Clinton should take the Secretary of State (as it seems increasingly likely that she will). I dunno: seems kind of crazy to me, for anyone with as much long-term political promise as her, to put herself into what will almost certainly be a major step down.

Here are the two career paths that lie before her: (1) She remains in the senate, becoming over time a national leader in the legislative branch (which is actually quite important), angling over time for super-powerful committees and eventually maybe becoming leader of the democratic caucus. This is a whole career of serious influence over American law, policy, judicial appointments, and budget allocation. And a much better position for running for president again in the future.

Or (2), she becomes secretary of state, a position which is by definition subordinate, requires her publicly crediting the President for all her achievements, making her power dependent on the grace of the president (remember how close Condoleezza Rice was to Bush when she started, and how much she ended up having to battle with Defense and others in order to set foreign policy by the end?), and worst of all, being held accountable for any American foreign policy failure, including those over which she has no control. If Iran goes nuclear under Hillary’s watch, or there’s another 9/11 style attack, if Russia or China get really nasty — what will become of her long-term political aspirations?

The Secretary of State position is amazing for one’s speaker fees and book revenues, and it is possible to achieve a great deal during one’s tenure there, but politically in the long run it is usually something of a dead end. If she wants to convince people to put their trust in her for the presidency, she should remain in elected office, keep her independence, prove her effectiveness, retain her dignity, build her power over time.

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Spending And What Else?

President-elect Barack Obama is giving hints about what is in store for the next two years: tons of spending and government activity. There is a real question whether an approach ripped from the New Deal playbook will be any more successful in reviving the economy than the New Deal itself (which wasn’t at all). The answer depends, to a large degree, on what he does on tax policy and trade policy. (Let’s leave aside for the moment whether an ever-expanding budget deficit, very likely in excess of a trillion dollars, is sustainable.)

First, what  is plainly missing from the Obama economic agenda? Anything to spur private sector economic growth. Oh, that. I am not hearing that 95% of Americans are going to be getting tax cuts anytime soon. But you already knew that. Lacking any tax relief in the form of a reduction in corporate taxes or immediate expensing of equipment investment, it will be tough sledding to get businesses to invest and grow. In short, Obama is putting his eggs entirely in the Keynesian basket, which doesn’t have a great track record of success.

Second, what about trade? This weekend Mexican President Felipe Calderon warned the President-elect about tearing up NAFTA. Bloomberg reports:

Calderon’s comments reflect unease among U.S. trading partners over the likely economic policies of President-elect Obama, who has expressed reservations about Nafta and pending agreements with Colombia and South Korea. Leaders from the Asia- Pacific region also said they are concerned protectionism would exacerbate the global economic crisis.

Let’s hope candidate Obama’s protectionist rhetoric and refusal to back the Colombia and South Korea free trade deals were simply some of the many cons he employed to lure an unwary Democratic base.

So it seems certain that spending, lots and lots of it, will be in. The government will continue, one imagines, its unprecedented role in supporting and directing financial institutions and perhaps to many other sectors of the economy. What we don’t know is whether this will be any more successful than it has been in the last couple of months. Moreover, we don’t yet know whether it will be supplemented by tax and trade policies which help revive the private sector or instead which prolong and deepen the recession. When we know what those policies will be, we will know far more about the prospects for economic recovery.

President-elect Barack Obama is giving hints about what is in store for the next two years: tons of spending and government activity. There is a real question whether an approach ripped from the New Deal playbook will be any more successful in reviving the economy than the New Deal itself (which wasn’t at all). The answer depends, to a large degree, on what he does on tax policy and trade policy. (Let’s leave aside for the moment whether an ever-expanding budget deficit, very likely in excess of a trillion dollars, is sustainable.)

First, what  is plainly missing from the Obama economic agenda? Anything to spur private sector economic growth. Oh, that. I am not hearing that 95% of Americans are going to be getting tax cuts anytime soon. But you already knew that. Lacking any tax relief in the form of a reduction in corporate taxes or immediate expensing of equipment investment, it will be tough sledding to get businesses to invest and grow. In short, Obama is putting his eggs entirely in the Keynesian basket, which doesn’t have a great track record of success.

Second, what about trade? This weekend Mexican President Felipe Calderon warned the President-elect about tearing up NAFTA. Bloomberg reports:

Calderon’s comments reflect unease among U.S. trading partners over the likely economic policies of President-elect Obama, who has expressed reservations about Nafta and pending agreements with Colombia and South Korea. Leaders from the Asia- Pacific region also said they are concerned protectionism would exacerbate the global economic crisis.

Let’s hope candidate Obama’s protectionist rhetoric and refusal to back the Colombia and South Korea free trade deals were simply some of the many cons he employed to lure an unwary Democratic base.

So it seems certain that spending, lots and lots of it, will be in. The government will continue, one imagines, its unprecedented role in supporting and directing financial institutions and perhaps to many other sectors of the economy. What we don’t know is whether this will be any more successful than it has been in the last couple of months. Moreover, we don’t yet know whether it will be supplemented by tax and trade policies which help revive the private sector or instead which prolong and deepen the recession. When we know what those policies will be, we will know far more about the prospects for economic recovery.

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School Daze

Last week, the town of Hempstead, New York, became the first to name one of its schools after our next president. Getting an early jump on things, Ludlum Elementary will become Barack Obama Elementary School.

This is considerably premature, but who knows? It might work out all right.

Or it might end up like another school named in President Elect Obama’s honor — the Senator Obama Kogelo Secondary School in Kogelo, Kenya.

In 2006, then-Senator Obama was visiting his father’s ancestral home in Kogelo when it was announced that a school was being renamed for him. He was honored, and pledged that he would help raise money to support the school.

It was a promise that was never fulfilled.

That rankled a certain blogger named Juliette “Baldilocks” Ochieng, another American who shares Obama’s tribal heritage. She felt a certain obligation to help keep Obama’s promise, and she started a non-profit foundation  to raise money for the school. She put out a call for donations, playing both on people’s generosity and the chance to tweak Obama’s nose a little.

Well, Juliette  pulled together over $6,000 before she ran into too much corruption and strongly-worded hints that the village was not interested in any project that might embarrass their favorite son.

At least Hempstead isn’t counting on any Obama promises for their continued success.

Last week, the town of Hempstead, New York, became the first to name one of its schools after our next president. Getting an early jump on things, Ludlum Elementary will become Barack Obama Elementary School.

This is considerably premature, but who knows? It might work out all right.

Or it might end up like another school named in President Elect Obama’s honor — the Senator Obama Kogelo Secondary School in Kogelo, Kenya.

In 2006, then-Senator Obama was visiting his father’s ancestral home in Kogelo when it was announced that a school was being renamed for him. He was honored, and pledged that he would help raise money to support the school.

It was a promise that was never fulfilled.

That rankled a certain blogger named Juliette “Baldilocks” Ochieng, another American who shares Obama’s tribal heritage. She felt a certain obligation to help keep Obama’s promise, and she started a non-profit foundation  to raise money for the school. She put out a call for donations, playing both on people’s generosity and the chance to tweak Obama’s nose a little.

Well, Juliette  pulled together over $6,000 before she ran into too much corruption and strongly-worded hints that the village was not interested in any project that might embarrass their favorite son.

At least Hempstead isn’t counting on any Obama promises for their continued success.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Greg Craig has quite a client list — a who’s who of miscreants and foreign foes of the U.S.

Logic, political acumen, and a working knowledge of and respect for the Constitution are not required to write columns for the New York Times. But usually these deficits are better hidden.

An edifying account of Eric Holder’s role in the Marc Rich pardon — maneuvering around the Justice Department to help Jack Quinn, Rich’s lawyer, who just happened to be the person Holder hoped to land a job with in the Gore administration. What is clear is that Holder’s subsequent testimony before a Congressional committee pleading lack of focus on the matter was disingenuous. Holder knew exactly what this was all about. He had in essence actively helped Rich in his petition while Holder was representing the government.

Michael Goldfarb explains the post-election array of foreign policy factions. The only thing that is clear? The Left is out. And if “realism” is now to be defined as securing the gains in Iraq and pushing to an equally successful conclusion in Afghanistan, we may be on the verge of a broader bipartisan consensus than we would have imagined from a candidate who won the primary by promising an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

This makes for some interesting reading on the close Hillary Clinton-Madeline Albright relationship. “Albright’s relatives had fled both Hitler and Stalin, instilling in her a belief that dictators must be challenged. ‘My mindset is Munich,’ she once said. ‘Most of my generation’s is Vietnam.’ It may have been such thinking that once led Albright to query a stunned Colin Powell, ‘What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?'” Will see if Munich really trumps Vietnam at Hillary’s Foggy Bottom.

Say what you will about the President-elect’s cabinet picks, at least he knew enough not to put Howard Dean and John Kerry anywhere and not to put Susan Rice or Bill Richardson in top spots.

A very sound assessment on what Hillary Clinton brings to State –“Tough and realistic is better than arrogant and naive.”

Mark Halperin says the press coverage of the presidential race was a “disgusting failure” and showed “extreme bias.” So why didn’t he make this argument during the campaign? Too busy gushing over “Land of Lincolner” Obama?

This take on the D.C. v. Heller making the argument that it is equivalent to Roe v. Wade is just wrong. There simply is no comparison between interpreting a right specifically enumerated in the Constitution (the right to bear arms) and making up one which is devoid of any textual foundation (abortion). Nor is the fact that subsequent cases must deal with particular factual circumstances (e.g. gun registration laws) a sign of creeping judicial activism. (That is simply what follows from every Supreme Court precedent.)  I would recommend that everyone re-read the opinion by Justice Scalia.

An interesting list of the hottest Republicans, from The Fix. Guess who is not on it? It would be the most popular candidate for 2012. But let’s be honest: the first is the MSM’s conventional wisdom, and the second is essentially name recognition. Neither is indicative of much at this stage in the game.

Greg Craig has quite a client list — a who’s who of miscreants and foreign foes of the U.S.

Logic, political acumen, and a working knowledge of and respect for the Constitution are not required to write columns for the New York Times. But usually these deficits are better hidden.

An edifying account of Eric Holder’s role in the Marc Rich pardon — maneuvering around the Justice Department to help Jack Quinn, Rich’s lawyer, who just happened to be the person Holder hoped to land a job with in the Gore administration. What is clear is that Holder’s subsequent testimony before a Congressional committee pleading lack of focus on the matter was disingenuous. Holder knew exactly what this was all about. He had in essence actively helped Rich in his petition while Holder was representing the government.

Michael Goldfarb explains the post-election array of foreign policy factions. The only thing that is clear? The Left is out. And if “realism” is now to be defined as securing the gains in Iraq and pushing to an equally successful conclusion in Afghanistan, we may be on the verge of a broader bipartisan consensus than we would have imagined from a candidate who won the primary by promising an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

This makes for some interesting reading on the close Hillary Clinton-Madeline Albright relationship. “Albright’s relatives had fled both Hitler and Stalin, instilling in her a belief that dictators must be challenged. ‘My mindset is Munich,’ she once said. ‘Most of my generation’s is Vietnam.’ It may have been such thinking that once led Albright to query a stunned Colin Powell, ‘What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?'” Will see if Munich really trumps Vietnam at Hillary’s Foggy Bottom.

Say what you will about the President-elect’s cabinet picks, at least he knew enough not to put Howard Dean and John Kerry anywhere and not to put Susan Rice or Bill Richardson in top spots.

A very sound assessment on what Hillary Clinton brings to State –“Tough and realistic is better than arrogant and naive.”

Mark Halperin says the press coverage of the presidential race was a “disgusting failure” and showed “extreme bias.” So why didn’t he make this argument during the campaign? Too busy gushing over “Land of Lincolner” Obama?

This take on the D.C. v. Heller making the argument that it is equivalent to Roe v. Wade is just wrong. There simply is no comparison between interpreting a right specifically enumerated in the Constitution (the right to bear arms) and making up one which is devoid of any textual foundation (abortion). Nor is the fact that subsequent cases must deal with particular factual circumstances (e.g. gun registration laws) a sign of creeping judicial activism. (That is simply what follows from every Supreme Court precedent.)  I would recommend that everyone re-read the opinion by Justice Scalia.

An interesting list of the hottest Republicans, from The Fix. Guess who is not on it? It would be the most popular candidate for 2012. But let’s be honest: the first is the MSM’s conventional wisdom, and the second is essentially name recognition. Neither is indicative of much at this stage in the game.

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