Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 3, 2008

Commentary of the Day

George Jochnowitz, on Emanuele Ottolenghi:

lester,

It’s certainly true that most of the world hates Israel. Pakistanis hate Israel because India rules Kashmir. The Japanese Red Army, which sent suicide murderers to Israel in 1972, hates Israel because Israel is responsible for the fact that Japan is not a Marxist country. Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, on the other hand, approves of Israel, since as he said about Jews in 2002, “If they all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide” (cited in The New York Sun, march 11, 2005).

Hamas hates Israel because Israel is willing to give up territory in order to create a Palestinian state. Israel accepted the UN vote in 1947, it accepted resolution 242 in 1967, and it would have accepted the Taba agreement at the beginning of 2001. Hamas fears that an indeopendent Palestine would legitimize Israel’s existence. Therefore they are fighting against Israel with their lives and the lives of their children. That is why the world loves them.

George Jochnowitz, on Emanuele Ottolenghi:

lester,

It’s certainly true that most of the world hates Israel. Pakistanis hate Israel because India rules Kashmir. The Japanese Red Army, which sent suicide murderers to Israel in 1972, hates Israel because Israel is responsible for the fact that Japan is not a Marxist country. Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, on the other hand, approves of Israel, since as he said about Jews in 2002, “If they all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide” (cited in The New York Sun, march 11, 2005).

Hamas hates Israel because Israel is willing to give up territory in order to create a Palestinian state. Israel accepted the UN vote in 1947, it accepted resolution 242 in 1967, and it would have accepted the Taba agreement at the beginning of 2001. Hamas fears that an indeopendent Palestine would legitimize Israel’s existence. Therefore they are fighting against Israel with their lives and the lives of their children. That is why the world loves them.

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Get Back to Work, Already

It’s hard to figure out how the Los Angeles Times could stick the headline “Gates on board with Obama’s Iraq plan” at the top of this article. Barack Obama’s plan – at least, the one he swore to uphold throughout his campaign – was to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq within 16 months of taking office. According to the LA Times, Robert Gates said of the withdrawal issue: “That bridge has been crossed,” by virtue of the U.S.-Iraq security agreement. That agreement calls for U.S. troops to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

If Gates is okay with American forces staying in Iraq for three more years, in what way can it be said that he is “on board with Obama’s Iraq plan”? There is one answer, and a responsible article would have reflected it in the headline, “Obama on board with Bush’s Iraq plan.” Obviously, Obama has come around to dropping his notion of a 16-month drawdown and embraced the three-year time table worked out between the Bush administration and the Maliki government in Iraq.

This is a good thing. Abandoning Iraq in the midst of its recovery would likely lead to a humanitarian disaster and an irreversible American geopolitical catastrophe. Obama should be praised for rejecting fantastical slogans in favor of necessary policy.

That the mainstream media is unable to drop its campaign compulsion to come to Obama’s rescue at every turn is deeply troubling. Obama won. There’s no need to distort facts in his favor anymore. If the press continues to act irresponsibly and fawn over our incoming president the way they fawned over Obama the candidate, then whatever national “healing” Obama promised to get underway doesn’t stand a chance. By sticking with Bush administration personalities like Robert Gates, Obama has demonstrated a willingness to move past the partisan rancor that has poisoned this country for nearly eight years.

By refusing to get out of the Obama tank, and start finding the story again, journalists reveal the depths of their pathology. In their effort to sway an election, they demonstrated a chilling disdain for the American public. But as career cultists of a defunct order, they are ensuring their permanent irrelevance.

It’s hard to figure out how the Los Angeles Times could stick the headline “Gates on board with Obama’s Iraq plan” at the top of this article. Barack Obama’s plan – at least, the one he swore to uphold throughout his campaign – was to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq within 16 months of taking office. According to the LA Times, Robert Gates said of the withdrawal issue: “That bridge has been crossed,” by virtue of the U.S.-Iraq security agreement. That agreement calls for U.S. troops to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

If Gates is okay with American forces staying in Iraq for three more years, in what way can it be said that he is “on board with Obama’s Iraq plan”? There is one answer, and a responsible article would have reflected it in the headline, “Obama on board with Bush’s Iraq plan.” Obviously, Obama has come around to dropping his notion of a 16-month drawdown and embraced the three-year time table worked out between the Bush administration and the Maliki government in Iraq.

This is a good thing. Abandoning Iraq in the midst of its recovery would likely lead to a humanitarian disaster and an irreversible American geopolitical catastrophe. Obama should be praised for rejecting fantastical slogans in favor of necessary policy.

That the mainstream media is unable to drop its campaign compulsion to come to Obama’s rescue at every turn is deeply troubling. Obama won. There’s no need to distort facts in his favor anymore. If the press continues to act irresponsibly and fawn over our incoming president the way they fawned over Obama the candidate, then whatever national “healing” Obama promised to get underway doesn’t stand a chance. By sticking with Bush administration personalities like Robert Gates, Obama has demonstrated a willingness to move past the partisan rancor that has poisoned this country for nearly eight years.

By refusing to get out of the Obama tank, and start finding the story again, journalists reveal the depths of their pathology. In their effort to sway an election, they demonstrated a chilling disdain for the American public. But as career cultists of a defunct order, they are ensuring their permanent irrelevance.

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Re: Re: The Limits of Pragmatism

Peter and Shmuel have remarked on the nature and extent of Barack Obama’s “pragmatism.” Pragmatism often morphs into political expediency — doing the easy and popular thing. “Trying what works” can often appear to be doing what will garner the most positive response from voters. Looking at policies prospectively it’s often hard to gauge whether something will “work” — but polls tell us instantaneously whether something will “fly.”

Two examples will test how this pans out in practice. First, it seems that the public is overwhelmingly opposed to the car bailout. How does this mesh with President-elect Obama’s tributes to the car industry as the backbone of the American economy? Well, it seems that has now been tempered. From today’s press conference he praised the decision by Congress to force the Big Three to come back with a specific plan. He continued:

It appears, based on reports that we’ve seen, that this time out, the executives from these automakers are putting forward a more serious set of plans. I don’t want to comment on them before I’ve actually heard and seen what they’re putting forward, but I’m glad that they recognize the expectations of Congress — certainly, my expectations — that we should maintain a viable auto industry, but we should also make sure that any government assistance that’s provided is designed for a — is based on realistic assessments of what the auto market is going to be and a realistic plan for how we’re going to make these companies viable over the long term.

Hmm. What’s a pragmatist to do? And it’s not clear how to judge whether the auto companies’ plans will “work” so what does he do — give them half the money? But the public hates the idea, so maybe it’s more pragmatic not to pick a fight with voters.

Then there is a tougher issue: the card check. This is the pet project of Big Labor which funded Obama’s and hundreds of other Democrats’ campaigns. Doing away with secret ballot elections certainly will “work” to pay off that debt. But it turns out that it is wildly unpopular with voters. A new poll shows 59% of voters oppose abolishing secret ballots and 81% would want secret ballots in their workplace. (Well, that’s a whole other interesting dicotomy for another time.) Hanging up the Senate in a brawl, going up against popular opinion and imposing new burdens on businesses ( which would not only be subject to unionization but mandatory arbitration on the terms of the bill being considered) doesn’t seem very “pragamatic”. So perhaps that will get the heave ho as well.

All of this suggests that defining himself as a pragmatist doesn’t really do much for the President-elect. It provides virtually no guidance in predicting which way he’ll veer on any given issue and doesn’t even help us understand which type of pragmatism (political or policy) might carry the day. That might be good for journalists but a little less good for businesses, investors and others trying to figure out which way the President-elect is going to lean on any given issue.

Peter and Shmuel have remarked on the nature and extent of Barack Obama’s “pragmatism.” Pragmatism often morphs into political expediency — doing the easy and popular thing. “Trying what works” can often appear to be doing what will garner the most positive response from voters. Looking at policies prospectively it’s often hard to gauge whether something will “work” — but polls tell us instantaneously whether something will “fly.”

Two examples will test how this pans out in practice. First, it seems that the public is overwhelmingly opposed to the car bailout. How does this mesh with President-elect Obama’s tributes to the car industry as the backbone of the American economy? Well, it seems that has now been tempered. From today’s press conference he praised the decision by Congress to force the Big Three to come back with a specific plan. He continued:

It appears, based on reports that we’ve seen, that this time out, the executives from these automakers are putting forward a more serious set of plans. I don’t want to comment on them before I’ve actually heard and seen what they’re putting forward, but I’m glad that they recognize the expectations of Congress — certainly, my expectations — that we should maintain a viable auto industry, but we should also make sure that any government assistance that’s provided is designed for a — is based on realistic assessments of what the auto market is going to be and a realistic plan for how we’re going to make these companies viable over the long term.

Hmm. What’s a pragmatist to do? And it’s not clear how to judge whether the auto companies’ plans will “work” so what does he do — give them half the money? But the public hates the idea, so maybe it’s more pragmatic not to pick a fight with voters.

Then there is a tougher issue: the card check. This is the pet project of Big Labor which funded Obama’s and hundreds of other Democrats’ campaigns. Doing away with secret ballot elections certainly will “work” to pay off that debt. But it turns out that it is wildly unpopular with voters. A new poll shows 59% of voters oppose abolishing secret ballots and 81% would want secret ballots in their workplace. (Well, that’s a whole other interesting dicotomy for another time.) Hanging up the Senate in a brawl, going up against popular opinion and imposing new burdens on businesses ( which would not only be subject to unionization but mandatory arbitration on the terms of the bill being considered) doesn’t seem very “pragamatic”. So perhaps that will get the heave ho as well.

All of this suggests that defining himself as a pragmatist doesn’t really do much for the President-elect. It provides virtually no guidance in predicting which way he’ll veer on any given issue and doesn’t even help us understand which type of pragmatism (political or policy) might carry the day. That might be good for journalists but a little less good for businesses, investors and others trying to figure out which way the President-elect is going to lean on any given issue.

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They Want More?!

It seems $25 billion simply isn’t enough any more for the Big Three auto companies. Ford is the best-off of the three, and suggested it could break even in 2011 and survive without additional funds from the government. (Ford also has a plan to invest in “green” technologies.) GM is a different story:

GM announced today that it is in particularly dire straits. The automaker said it will collapse without a $4 billion cash injection by the end of this month.

Assuming that economic conditions do not change, GM said it would need $12 billion by late March to keep operating. It is also asking the government to provide an additional $6 billion in a committed line of credit to ensure stability if the economy erodes drastically — bringing its total request for federal funding to as much as $18 billion.

GM is promising to cut brands, slash the number of dealers and employees, and cut executive pay. (Word comes today that there may be some new concessions from the UAW.) In essence, GM wants to “spend the next three months negotiating with various stakeholders the kind of deep restructuring that normally goes on as part of a “pre-packaged” bankruptcy — only in this case without actually going to court.” (Will it survive three months?)

Chrysler is no better:

Chrysler’s 14-page summary of its presentation to Congress requests $7 billion, and it said it needs the funds by Dec. 31. Chrysler also wants $6 billion from a Department of Energy program aimed at promoting fuel-efficient vehicles.

In short, GM and Chrysler are basket cases while Ford seems like a viable entity. Reviewing all this, it seems that GM and Chrysler are too sick to help, Ford too healthy. Despite the execs’ protestations that bankruptcy is “not an option” that option is indeed under discussion in Congress.

Some suggest it’s time for the Big Three to become the Big One. The way to get from here to there is that “non-option” –bankruptcy:

A bankruptcy judge could turbo-charge the overhaul of the Big Three’s costly labor contracts. Last year, the United Auto Workers agreed to sharply cut the cost disparity between Detroit and Toyota. But execs say it will take another round of talks in 2011 to match the foreign competition—a leisurely pace they can no longer afford. That’s why some say Detroit’s salvation could come in the form of a prepackaged bankruptcy, a quicker reorganization where creditors agree to cuts up front that would hopefully be less disruptive to the overall economy. With government backing to secure loans and preserve car warranties, buyers might not turn away.

Bankruptcy could solve another intractable problem: Detroit’s glut of dealers and car brands. The Big Three need to cut their dealers by one third but are blocked by state franchise laws. In bankruptcy, carmakers can tear up franchise contracts and wipe out entire brands. The question is, would a Wilbur Ross-type speculator come along to consolidate the remains of the domestic auto industry? Business experts say a Warren Buffett or Jeff Bezos could come into Detroit and whip up a winning combo.

(I’m thinking it’s Mitt Romney.)

But in any case, forcing the car companies to explain their current status and future plans was an informative exercise. It’s more clear than ever now that any additional money from the taxpayers might best be used to retrain workers who will need jobs in viable firms. When people in Michigan aren’t convinced a bailout is the way to go, it’s time to rethink whether throwing billions at very sick companies makes sense. Or put it this way: “For the Detroit Three, it is 65 million BC—the year that the meteor landed and replaced the dinosaurs with smarter and more agile creatures. There is no point in using taxpayer money to postpone the inevitable.”

It seems $25 billion simply isn’t enough any more for the Big Three auto companies. Ford is the best-off of the three, and suggested it could break even in 2011 and survive without additional funds from the government. (Ford also has a plan to invest in “green” technologies.) GM is a different story:

GM announced today that it is in particularly dire straits. The automaker said it will collapse without a $4 billion cash injection by the end of this month.

Assuming that economic conditions do not change, GM said it would need $12 billion by late March to keep operating. It is also asking the government to provide an additional $6 billion in a committed line of credit to ensure stability if the economy erodes drastically — bringing its total request for federal funding to as much as $18 billion.

GM is promising to cut brands, slash the number of dealers and employees, and cut executive pay. (Word comes today that there may be some new concessions from the UAW.) In essence, GM wants to “spend the next three months negotiating with various stakeholders the kind of deep restructuring that normally goes on as part of a “pre-packaged” bankruptcy — only in this case without actually going to court.” (Will it survive three months?)

Chrysler is no better:

Chrysler’s 14-page summary of its presentation to Congress requests $7 billion, and it said it needs the funds by Dec. 31. Chrysler also wants $6 billion from a Department of Energy program aimed at promoting fuel-efficient vehicles.

In short, GM and Chrysler are basket cases while Ford seems like a viable entity. Reviewing all this, it seems that GM and Chrysler are too sick to help, Ford too healthy. Despite the execs’ protestations that bankruptcy is “not an option” that option is indeed under discussion in Congress.

Some suggest it’s time for the Big Three to become the Big One. The way to get from here to there is that “non-option” –bankruptcy:

A bankruptcy judge could turbo-charge the overhaul of the Big Three’s costly labor contracts. Last year, the United Auto Workers agreed to sharply cut the cost disparity between Detroit and Toyota. But execs say it will take another round of talks in 2011 to match the foreign competition—a leisurely pace they can no longer afford. That’s why some say Detroit’s salvation could come in the form of a prepackaged bankruptcy, a quicker reorganization where creditors agree to cuts up front that would hopefully be less disruptive to the overall economy. With government backing to secure loans and preserve car warranties, buyers might not turn away.

Bankruptcy could solve another intractable problem: Detroit’s glut of dealers and car brands. The Big Three need to cut their dealers by one third but are blocked by state franchise laws. In bankruptcy, carmakers can tear up franchise contracts and wipe out entire brands. The question is, would a Wilbur Ross-type speculator come along to consolidate the remains of the domestic auto industry? Business experts say a Warren Buffett or Jeff Bezos could come into Detroit and whip up a winning combo.

(I’m thinking it’s Mitt Romney.)

But in any case, forcing the car companies to explain their current status and future plans was an informative exercise. It’s more clear than ever now that any additional money from the taxpayers might best be used to retrain workers who will need jobs in viable firms. When people in Michigan aren’t convinced a bailout is the way to go, it’s time to rethink whether throwing billions at very sick companies makes sense. Or put it this way: “For the Detroit Three, it is 65 million BC—the year that the meteor landed and replaced the dinosaurs with smarter and more agile creatures. There is no point in using taxpayer money to postpone the inevitable.”

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Scheer Idiocy

More lefty remorse over Obama’s evident sanity. The following comes courtesy of Robert Scheer:

Unfortunately, on Monday Obama stuck with the absurd “war on terror” language he inherited from Bush in describing the attacks in Mumbai conducted by 10 lightly armed fanatics who should have been quickly dispatched by a well-functioning local paramilitary force. These terrorists did not, as available evidence would indicate, have anything to do with the Taliban or al Qaeda based in Afghanistan, where the United States continues to wage the good war, as opposed to the bad one in Iraq, that Obama invoked during the presidential campaign : “Afghanistan is where the war on terror began and where it must end.”

“10 lightly armed fanatics” — as if it’s a harmless line from “The 12 Days of Christmas.” 9 slightly crazed jihadists! 8 mildly mad Islamists! and so on. The thing is, today in Mumbai, they’ve come to the “2″ lyric, and it doesn’t really jibe with Scheer’s breezy theme:

. . .two “fully functional” bombs were found and defused at a major Mumbai train station that had reopened days earlier, a Mumbai police official announced. The discovery raised terrifying questions about why the authorities had failed to find it all this time.

Then again, if Scheer has room for the 174 dead in his cavalier assessment, what does he care about a couple of bombs.

More lefty remorse over Obama’s evident sanity. The following comes courtesy of Robert Scheer:

Unfortunately, on Monday Obama stuck with the absurd “war on terror” language he inherited from Bush in describing the attacks in Mumbai conducted by 10 lightly armed fanatics who should have been quickly dispatched by a well-functioning local paramilitary force. These terrorists did not, as available evidence would indicate, have anything to do with the Taliban or al Qaeda based in Afghanistan, where the United States continues to wage the good war, as opposed to the bad one in Iraq, that Obama invoked during the presidential campaign : “Afghanistan is where the war on terror began and where it must end.”

“10 lightly armed fanatics” — as if it’s a harmless line from “The 12 Days of Christmas.” 9 slightly crazed jihadists! 8 mildly mad Islamists! and so on. The thing is, today in Mumbai, they’ve come to the “2″ lyric, and it doesn’t really jibe with Scheer’s breezy theme:

. . .two “fully functional” bombs were found and defused at a major Mumbai train station that had reopened days earlier, a Mumbai police official announced. The discovery raised terrifying questions about why the authorities had failed to find it all this time.

Then again, if Scheer has room for the 174 dead in his cavalier assessment, what does he care about a couple of bombs.

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The EU Lets Syria off the Hook

After a string of high profile visits to Damascus broke the ice, the EU has now announced that it is set to initial the Partnership Agreement with Syria on December 14. Thus vanishes the only bargaining chip that Europe had with Syria to pressure Damascus to change behavior. Not that one should be so optimistic about Syria charting a new course. But bad behavior does not deserve rewards. However, according to the EU ambassador to Israel, Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal, quoted in the Jerusalem Post earlier today, “the EU felt a need to respond to a number of positive Syrian moves, including its decision to establish formal diplomatic ties with Lebanon, participation in a Mediterranean summit in Paris last July and the indirect talks with Israel in Turkey.”

One is hard-pressed to see any such a positive move in Syria’s behavior. Consider the following:

  • Syria continues to harbor terrorist organizations such as Hamas in Damascus
  • Syria gives sanctuary to Jihadis who operate in Iraq and allows Jihadis to transit through Syria en route to Iraq
  • Syria has been caught red handed building a nuclear power plant in secret – apparently with the help of North Korea
  • Syria continues to meddle in Lebanon’s internal affairs
  • Syria’s role in the assassination of slain Lebanese Prime minister, Rafik Hariri is still not settled – to put it nicely
  • Syria has tightened the screws on its internal dissidents and opposition, making a mockery of human rights’ commitments that are part and parcel of the Partnership agreement

Given the above, to claim that Syria’s establishment of diplomatic ties with Lebanon is an important step is risible. As for attendance at the Mediterranean Union summit in July and indirect talks with Israel in Turkey, it is not a favor Syria is doing for anyone. And, in the case of talks, Syria has so far declined to address its alliance with Iran. So what’s to reward? Nothing, unfortunately. And that means that Europe’s eagerness to promote business trumps everything–both principle and long-term strategic interest.

After a string of high profile visits to Damascus broke the ice, the EU has now announced that it is set to initial the Partnership Agreement with Syria on December 14. Thus vanishes the only bargaining chip that Europe had with Syria to pressure Damascus to change behavior. Not that one should be so optimistic about Syria charting a new course. But bad behavior does not deserve rewards. However, according to the EU ambassador to Israel, Ramiro Cibrian-Uzal, quoted in the Jerusalem Post earlier today, “the EU felt a need to respond to a number of positive Syrian moves, including its decision to establish formal diplomatic ties with Lebanon, participation in a Mediterranean summit in Paris last July and the indirect talks with Israel in Turkey.”

One is hard-pressed to see any such a positive move in Syria’s behavior. Consider the following:

  • Syria continues to harbor terrorist organizations such as Hamas in Damascus
  • Syria gives sanctuary to Jihadis who operate in Iraq and allows Jihadis to transit through Syria en route to Iraq
  • Syria has been caught red handed building a nuclear power plant in secret – apparently with the help of North Korea
  • Syria continues to meddle in Lebanon’s internal affairs
  • Syria’s role in the assassination of slain Lebanese Prime minister, Rafik Hariri is still not settled – to put it nicely
  • Syria has tightened the screws on its internal dissidents and opposition, making a mockery of human rights’ commitments that are part and parcel of the Partnership agreement

Given the above, to claim that Syria’s establishment of diplomatic ties with Lebanon is an important step is risible. As for attendance at the Mediterranean Union summit in July and indirect talks with Israel in Turkey, it is not a favor Syria is doing for anyone. And, in the case of talks, Syria has so far declined to address its alliance with Iran. So what’s to reward? Nothing, unfortunately. And that means that Europe’s eagerness to promote business trumps everything–both principle and long-term strategic interest.

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“Bush 43 is the worst president of the last 50 years”

I can confirm the following, because I saw it with my own two eyes: Last night, Bill Kristol and Karl Rove risked life and limb and came to Manhattan’s Upper West Side to defend George W. Bush. I can also verify that the two were successful. The occasion was a debate put on by Intelligence Squared U.S., and the motion before the house was “Bush 43 is the worst president of the last 50 years.” Arguing in favor of the motion were British journalist, Simon Jenkins and Slate’s editor-in-chief, Jacob Weisberg.

Just before the debate began, my friend turned to me and said, “You know there’s a chance that the argument against Bush could just be more of the baseless hysteria we’ve been hearing for years.” No, I thought. We’re dealing with noted journalists, not oddballs here. There will be some merit to what they have to say.

My friend’s suspicion was confirmed about an hour in, when Simon Jenkins announced that American Muslims are simply vanishing, due to the U.S.’s overzealous anti-terrorism policies. I’ll have more on Jenkins’s delusions when the full transcript becomes available. But for now consider the results.

The audience vote before the debate went as follows:

For the motion: 65%

Against the motion: 17%

Undecided 18%

The results after the debate:

For the motion: 68%

Against the motion: 27%

Undecided 5%

The Against side picked up 10 points to the For’s 3. Quite an away-game victory.

I can confirm the following, because I saw it with my own two eyes: Last night, Bill Kristol and Karl Rove risked life and limb and came to Manhattan’s Upper West Side to defend George W. Bush. I can also verify that the two were successful. The occasion was a debate put on by Intelligence Squared U.S., and the motion before the house was “Bush 43 is the worst president of the last 50 years.” Arguing in favor of the motion were British journalist, Simon Jenkins and Slate’s editor-in-chief, Jacob Weisberg.

Just before the debate began, my friend turned to me and said, “You know there’s a chance that the argument against Bush could just be more of the baseless hysteria we’ve been hearing for years.” No, I thought. We’re dealing with noted journalists, not oddballs here. There will be some merit to what they have to say.

My friend’s suspicion was confirmed about an hour in, when Simon Jenkins announced that American Muslims are simply vanishing, due to the U.S.’s overzealous anti-terrorism policies. I’ll have more on Jenkins’s delusions when the full transcript becomes available. But for now consider the results.

The audience vote before the debate went as follows:

For the motion: 65%

Against the motion: 17%

Undecided 18%

The results after the debate:

For the motion: 68%

Against the motion: 27%

Undecided 5%

The Against side picked up 10 points to the For’s 3. Quite an away-game victory.

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Cluster Truck

In Oslo today, some 100 countries began signing a treaty against cluster bombs. The Convention on Cluster Munitions bans all production, transfer, stockpiling, and use of cluster munitions, which operate by spreading numerous anti-personnel bomblets across an area. The argument for the ban is that the munitions cause too much collateral damage, since many bomblets do not detonate immediately, and thus pose a long-term threat to civilians who enter what was once a battlefield.

While it is undoubtedly true that that problem is a real one, signatories of the treaty fail to take into account the fact that cluster bombs are still the best weapon against enemy forces in trenches—the bomblets can bounce into them. And in fact, the munitions were used to great effect by the U.S. in Iraq against dug-in Republican Guard troops, as well as by Israel against entrenched Hezbollah soldiers in the 2006 Lebanon war. In the latter instance, Israel was severely attacked by international opinion since its military targets were supposedly too close to civilian areas, but when it comes to the treaty, the fundamental question is not whether cluster bombs were used ethically in any particular instance, but rather whether they can be used ethically at all. In an ideal world, all cluster bomblets would defuse quickly, and thus pose less of a humanitarian threat, but until that technology is available, it seems reasonable for countries to be permitted to use them responsibly. This is why the U.S.—along with China, Russia, India, Israel, Pakistan, and Brazil—oppose a total ban. Unlike most of these countries, few of the 100 countries signing the treaty anticipate having to fight trench warfare anytime soon.

A similar logic undercuts the Ottawa Treaty, much loved by Western Europeans, which completely bans all anti-personnel landmines. Does anyone think that South Korea would be safer were it not protected from its northern neighbor by a belt of one million landmines?

In Oslo today, some 100 countries began signing a treaty against cluster bombs. The Convention on Cluster Munitions bans all production, transfer, stockpiling, and use of cluster munitions, which operate by spreading numerous anti-personnel bomblets across an area. The argument for the ban is that the munitions cause too much collateral damage, since many bomblets do not detonate immediately, and thus pose a long-term threat to civilians who enter what was once a battlefield.

While it is undoubtedly true that that problem is a real one, signatories of the treaty fail to take into account the fact that cluster bombs are still the best weapon against enemy forces in trenches—the bomblets can bounce into them. And in fact, the munitions were used to great effect by the U.S. in Iraq against dug-in Republican Guard troops, as well as by Israel against entrenched Hezbollah soldiers in the 2006 Lebanon war. In the latter instance, Israel was severely attacked by international opinion since its military targets were supposedly too close to civilian areas, but when it comes to the treaty, the fundamental question is not whether cluster bombs were used ethically in any particular instance, but rather whether they can be used ethically at all. In an ideal world, all cluster bomblets would defuse quickly, and thus pose less of a humanitarian threat, but until that technology is available, it seems reasonable for countries to be permitted to use them responsibly. This is why the U.S.—along with China, Russia, India, Israel, Pakistan, and Brazil—oppose a total ban. Unlike most of these countries, few of the 100 countries signing the treaty anticipate having to fight trench warfare anytime soon.

A similar logic undercuts the Ottawa Treaty, much loved by Western Europeans, which completely bans all anti-personnel landmines. Does anyone think that South Korea would be safer were it not protected from its northern neighbor by a belt of one million landmines?

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Rice-a-Phony?

A Washington Post story on the nomination of Susan E. Rice to be ambassador to the United Nations illustrates the intellectual and moral challenges facing liberal internationalists.

In the article we learn this:

[Rice] has voiced a commitment to use American muscle to protect human rights in Africa, particularly in Darfur, where she has raised the prospect of a naval blockade and a bombing campaign to compel the Sudanese government to halt mass violence.

Rice has spoken movingly about how she was shaken by the genocide in Rwanda, where as many as 800,000 were killed. Describing a 1994 visit to the country, Rice told Stanford University‘s alumni magazine that she saw “hundreds if not thousands of decomposing corpses outside and inside a church. Corpses that had been hacked up. It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen. It makes you mad. It makes you determined.”

Since then, Rice has said she has been haunted by the United States’ failure to intervene or to reinforce a beleaguered U.N. peacekeeping mission in Rwanda on the eve of the genocide.

But we also learn this:

Rice, 44, says her connection to Obama was forged in part by a shared opposition to the war in Iraq, but she is the only top figure in Obama’s national security team who opposed the war.

And this:

U.N. officials welcomed the selection of Rice, an unapologetic proponent of multilateralism

So what’s wrong with this picture? For one thing, we are told Rice is a fierce advocate for human rights–yet she opposed the war to liberate Iraq, which overthrew one of the most sadistic figures in the last half-century, an architect of genocide, and the aggressor in wars against Iran and Kuwait. If Ms. Rice had had her way, Iraq would still be ruled by Saddam, rather than be on the road to self-government. And if Ms. Rice and President-elect Obama had both had their way, the surge would never have happened, all American combat troops would have been withdrawn from Iraq by March of this year, and Iraq would have slid into a civil war and experienced mass death and perhaps genocide.

We read Ms. Rice is an “unapologetic proponent of multilateralism”–yet it is a commitment to multilateralism that so often hamstrings nations from acting to stop genocide in nations like Sudan, Rwanda, Iraq, and elsewhere.

Multilateralism has its benefits, but it also has some striking drawbacks. Among them is that in trying to assemble a large coalition, often the consequence is that nations like Russia and China, as in the case of Darfur, will create obstacles to effective action. The more nations that are involved, the greater the possibility is of foot-dragging, delay, and outright obstructionism.

Ms. Rice and Mr. Obama are transitioning from commenting about what should be done to actually governing. The difference is enormous, and soon enough they will experience first-hand the conflict between their desire for multilateralism and their desire to achieve an admirable moral end.

For example, what happens if acting to prevent genocide is opposed rather than supported by the U.N. Security Council; that it strains rather than strengthens our relations with other nations; and that acting requires us to reduce rather than enlarge the size of an international coalition?

Insisting that we should “rally the world” to stop genocide won’t be enough. Ms. Rice will discover again, as she did during the Clinton years, that much of the world is indifferent to genocide and other evils. (Rice herself says she has been haunted by the United States’ failure to intervene or to reinforce a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Rwanda on the eve of the genocide, which killed approximately 800,000 people in 100 days.) And then she and President-elect Obama will have to choose between imperfect options.

In a December 17, 1962 interview, President Kennedy was asked whether his experience in the office matched his expectations. He answered this way:

The problems are more difficult than I had imagined them to be. The responsibilities placed on the United States are greater than I imagined them to be, and there are greater limitations upon our ability to bring about a favorable result than I had imagined them to be. And I think that is probably true of anyone who becomes President, because there is such a difference between those who advise or speak or legislate, and between the man who must select from the various alternatives proposed and say that this shall be the policy of the United States. It is much easier to make the speeches than it is to finally make the judgments. . . .

Indeed it is.

A Washington Post story on the nomination of Susan E. Rice to be ambassador to the United Nations illustrates the intellectual and moral challenges facing liberal internationalists.

In the article we learn this:

[Rice] has voiced a commitment to use American muscle to protect human rights in Africa, particularly in Darfur, where she has raised the prospect of a naval blockade and a bombing campaign to compel the Sudanese government to halt mass violence.

Rice has spoken movingly about how she was shaken by the genocide in Rwanda, where as many as 800,000 were killed. Describing a 1994 visit to the country, Rice told Stanford University‘s alumni magazine that she saw “hundreds if not thousands of decomposing corpses outside and inside a church. Corpses that had been hacked up. It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen. It makes you mad. It makes you determined.”

Since then, Rice has said she has been haunted by the United States’ failure to intervene or to reinforce a beleaguered U.N. peacekeeping mission in Rwanda on the eve of the genocide.

But we also learn this:

Rice, 44, says her connection to Obama was forged in part by a shared opposition to the war in Iraq, but she is the only top figure in Obama’s national security team who opposed the war.

And this:

U.N. officials welcomed the selection of Rice, an unapologetic proponent of multilateralism

So what’s wrong with this picture? For one thing, we are told Rice is a fierce advocate for human rights–yet she opposed the war to liberate Iraq, which overthrew one of the most sadistic figures in the last half-century, an architect of genocide, and the aggressor in wars against Iran and Kuwait. If Ms. Rice had had her way, Iraq would still be ruled by Saddam, rather than be on the road to self-government. And if Ms. Rice and President-elect Obama had both had their way, the surge would never have happened, all American combat troops would have been withdrawn from Iraq by March of this year, and Iraq would have slid into a civil war and experienced mass death and perhaps genocide.

We read Ms. Rice is an “unapologetic proponent of multilateralism”–yet it is a commitment to multilateralism that so often hamstrings nations from acting to stop genocide in nations like Sudan, Rwanda, Iraq, and elsewhere.

Multilateralism has its benefits, but it also has some striking drawbacks. Among them is that in trying to assemble a large coalition, often the consequence is that nations like Russia and China, as in the case of Darfur, will create obstacles to effective action. The more nations that are involved, the greater the possibility is of foot-dragging, delay, and outright obstructionism.

Ms. Rice and Mr. Obama are transitioning from commenting about what should be done to actually governing. The difference is enormous, and soon enough they will experience first-hand the conflict between their desire for multilateralism and their desire to achieve an admirable moral end.

For example, what happens if acting to prevent genocide is opposed rather than supported by the U.N. Security Council; that it strains rather than strengthens our relations with other nations; and that acting requires us to reduce rather than enlarge the size of an international coalition?

Insisting that we should “rally the world” to stop genocide won’t be enough. Ms. Rice will discover again, as she did during the Clinton years, that much of the world is indifferent to genocide and other evils. (Rice herself says she has been haunted by the United States’ failure to intervene or to reinforce a U.N. peacekeeping mission in Rwanda on the eve of the genocide, which killed approximately 800,000 people in 100 days.) And then she and President-elect Obama will have to choose between imperfect options.

In a December 17, 1962 interview, President Kennedy was asked whether his experience in the office matched his expectations. He answered this way:

The problems are more difficult than I had imagined them to be. The responsibilities placed on the United States are greater than I imagined them to be, and there are greater limitations upon our ability to bring about a favorable result than I had imagined them to be. And I think that is probably true of anyone who becomes President, because there is such a difference between those who advise or speak or legislate, and between the man who must select from the various alternatives proposed and say that this shall be the policy of the United States. It is much easier to make the speeches than it is to finally make the judgments. . . .

Indeed it is.

Read Less

Reality Is A Drag

Victor Davis Hanson contends that the “new and improved” administration will be a whole lot like the old one:

FISA and wire-intercepts of terrorist communications in the pre-Obama president months were once derided as more of Ashcroft-Bush stomping on the Constitution — except that now ABC News reports that, in fact, US intelligence agencies supplied India with general knowledge of the rough time period, place, and perhaps even method of terrorist attack. Are we to believe that such newfound capability to warn a country 7000 miles away about terrorist infiltration on its borders would be of no utility here at home?

I think in response what we will see is that insidiously, bit by bit, Obama and the Obama-brand press will begin to drop the shrill rhetoric about destroying constitutional liberties, and replace it with the vocabulary of ambiguity (e.g., try “complex,” “no easy answers”, “problematic”, etc.). Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (mastermind of the 9/11 mass murders) will cool his heels in Gitmo for a bit longer rather than going onto a federal circus trial in NY or DC as a political prisoner with his government-paid-for lawyers seeking to find a sympathetic jury to nullify the evidence in the interest of social justice (I hope David Axlerod has polled the American people on that possible fiasco).

And, remarking “Change has rarely looked so much like continuity,” Rich Lowry finds:

Obama’s national-security choices signal that he’s going to build off the late-second-term “realist” Bush foreign policy, giving it a fresh branding as “change” internationally and augmenting our tools of “soft power” (something Secretary Gates has repeatedly plugged). The one true progressive on his team, Susan Rice, has been relegated to ambassador to the United Nations, where wishful thinking is mostly harmless and soothes the bureaucrats.

Perhaps Obama is simply bowing to the exigencies of American foreign policy, defined by a few ineluctable realities: We are the sole superpower in a dangerous world, full of enemies that only we have the military resources to defeat and of rival powers with interests divergent from ours.

The reality is that reality is a drag. The Iranians still aren’t amenable to negotiations, the victory in Iraq still has to be secured, Islamic terrorists still prowl the globe, and we still have to put those dangerous detainees somewhere. The adage goes: “A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged.” Perhaps a center-right commander-in-chief is a liberal academic who’s had some security briefings and now must defend his fellow citizens.

Put differently, there is not an enormous range of options when it comes to defending against terrorists. At least not in the real world. You need surveillance (FISA), detention (if not Guantanamo, then someplace else), and a robust military force that can secure quieting battlefields and win on raging ones. Yes, there can be fewer or more diplomatic feelers and freer or less free trade. We can be more or less serious about containing the North Korean threat. And we can be more or less realistic about the Middle East “peace process.” But unless the world changes radically, U.S. policy can’t. And last time I checked the world was pretty much the same: scary.

Victor Davis Hanson contends that the “new and improved” administration will be a whole lot like the old one:

FISA and wire-intercepts of terrorist communications in the pre-Obama president months were once derided as more of Ashcroft-Bush stomping on the Constitution — except that now ABC News reports that, in fact, US intelligence agencies supplied India with general knowledge of the rough time period, place, and perhaps even method of terrorist attack. Are we to believe that such newfound capability to warn a country 7000 miles away about terrorist infiltration on its borders would be of no utility here at home?

I think in response what we will see is that insidiously, bit by bit, Obama and the Obama-brand press will begin to drop the shrill rhetoric about destroying constitutional liberties, and replace it with the vocabulary of ambiguity (e.g., try “complex,” “no easy answers”, “problematic”, etc.). Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (mastermind of the 9/11 mass murders) will cool his heels in Gitmo for a bit longer rather than going onto a federal circus trial in NY or DC as a political prisoner with his government-paid-for lawyers seeking to find a sympathetic jury to nullify the evidence in the interest of social justice (I hope David Axlerod has polled the American people on that possible fiasco).

And, remarking “Change has rarely looked so much like continuity,” Rich Lowry finds:

Obama’s national-security choices signal that he’s going to build off the late-second-term “realist” Bush foreign policy, giving it a fresh branding as “change” internationally and augmenting our tools of “soft power” (something Secretary Gates has repeatedly plugged). The one true progressive on his team, Susan Rice, has been relegated to ambassador to the United Nations, where wishful thinking is mostly harmless and soothes the bureaucrats.

Perhaps Obama is simply bowing to the exigencies of American foreign policy, defined by a few ineluctable realities: We are the sole superpower in a dangerous world, full of enemies that only we have the military resources to defeat and of rival powers with interests divergent from ours.

The reality is that reality is a drag. The Iranians still aren’t amenable to negotiations, the victory in Iraq still has to be secured, Islamic terrorists still prowl the globe, and we still have to put those dangerous detainees somewhere. The adage goes: “A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged.” Perhaps a center-right commander-in-chief is a liberal academic who’s had some security briefings and now must defend his fellow citizens.

Put differently, there is not an enormous range of options when it comes to defending against terrorists. At least not in the real world. You need surveillance (FISA), detention (if not Guantanamo, then someplace else), and a robust military force that can secure quieting battlefields and win on raging ones. Yes, there can be fewer or more diplomatic feelers and freer or less free trade. We can be more or less serious about containing the North Korean threat. And we can be more or less realistic about the Middle East “peace process.” But unless the world changes radically, U.S. policy can’t. And last time I checked the world was pretty much the same: scary.

Read Less

Assistant Secretary of State Bill Clinton

From a Politico interview of Bill Clinton:

Q: How involved do you think you will get in the decisions that your wife will have to make as far as foreign policy?

BILL CLINTON: Very little. I think my involvement will be what our involvement with each other’s work has always been, which is [sic] all the years that I was governor and president, I talked to her about everything.

So for the former president, “very little” means “all the time.”

From a Politico interview of Bill Clinton:

Q: How involved do you think you will get in the decisions that your wife will have to make as far as foreign policy?

BILL CLINTON: Very little. I think my involvement will be what our involvement with each other’s work has always been, which is [sic] all the years that I was governor and president, I talked to her about everything.

So for the former president, “very little” means “all the time.”

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What a Difference a Month Makes

Republican Saxby Chambliss sailed to an overwhelming victory in the Georgia Senate race, putting the 60-seat filibuster-proof Democratic majority out of reach. A narrow three-point win (with a third party candidate) was converted into a double-digit thumping of his Democratic opponent in the space of four weeks.

As I noted last week, this was not a race the Republicans could afford to lose. Aside from the “magic 60″ mark, it would have been confirmation of their pathetic status and proof that they were no longer capable of winning, even in the South. But without the electrifying presence of Barack Obama or the drag of George W. Bush, it was a race like many others in recent years in the South — a comfortable win for the Republican.

Sarah Palin will claim some credit, having campaigned for Saxby. But this was clearly more than just her doing, or that of the other surrogates including Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. It is a cautionary lesson for Democrats: without Obama  at the top of the ticket, many races may return to “normal.” Exceptional turnout figures are just that — the  exception and not the rule in American politics. If Republicans field capable candidates and run on the issues — including opposition to the extreme agenda of the Democratic Congress — they can still win. At least in Georgia.

In sum, the Republican Party still has a pulse.

Republican Saxby Chambliss sailed to an overwhelming victory in the Georgia Senate race, putting the 60-seat filibuster-proof Democratic majority out of reach. A narrow three-point win (with a third party candidate) was converted into a double-digit thumping of his Democratic opponent in the space of four weeks.

As I noted last week, this was not a race the Republicans could afford to lose. Aside from the “magic 60″ mark, it would have been confirmation of their pathetic status and proof that they were no longer capable of winning, even in the South. But without the electrifying presence of Barack Obama or the drag of George W. Bush, it was a race like many others in recent years in the South — a comfortable win for the Republican.

Sarah Palin will claim some credit, having campaigned for Saxby. But this was clearly more than just her doing, or that of the other surrogates including Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. It is a cautionary lesson for Democrats: without Obama  at the top of the ticket, many races may return to “normal.” Exceptional turnout figures are just that — the  exception and not the rule in American politics. If Republicans field capable candidates and run on the issues — including opposition to the extreme agenda of the Democratic Congress — they can still win. At least in Georgia.

In sum, the Republican Party still has a pulse.

Read Less

Re: The Limits of Pragmatism

Writing extensively about “The Limits to Pragmatism” yesterday, Peter Wehner explored many of the inherent weaknesses inseparable from policies based on such a method:

When pragmatism-an approach to politics that is characterized by centrist, moderate, deal-cutting instincts rather than a commitment to core political principles-becomes a defining political identity, it often leads to ad hoc policies. Decisions are made discretely, in an unrelated fashion, and are not put within a larger philosophical framework. Pragmatism tends to be process-oriented, reactive, and crisis-driven. And it assumes politics is above all about management.

While I agree with almost everything Peter has said, there’s one question I think is worth further exploring regarding pragmatism. Does it, in fact, exist–or is it just a buzzword, like “change”?

I suspect it’s the latter. Obama has been using the “pragmatic” theme for quite a while now. Those following his stump speech during election season can easily remember the phrases promising to abandon debates about “big government” and “small government” in order to establish a “smart government.” But while this might sound rhetorically similar to other Obama crowd-pleasing phrases like “this is no blue American or red America, this is the United States of America,” there’s a huge difference between the two.

His second statement in essence says: Forget politics, we are one nation. It is clear, and also true. But parsing the notion of “smart government” is much trickier, because it demands further explanation. What does he mean by smart–a government that can execute its own policies? I don’t think we can find a President going into office with the hope that his government will not be able to do such thing. One might also ask: is it going to be a big smart government or a small one? By saying it is smart, Obama can’t eliminate the question about the size–and the question about the role–of this government.

A capable government has to make decisions everyday, and these decisions all have to be derived from some ideological framework. Does Obama want a competent government that can work to better America’s image in the world? That’s great.  But deciding that America’s image is more important than other things is a decision based on ideology. Does Obama want to save the American car industry? Of course he would need a competent government to do that, but he also needs to have the desire to do that. That desire is ideological, in the final analysis.

What’s really behind the “pragmatism” campaign is not a battle against ideology. There’s no such thing as a non-ideological government. It is a campaign against the Bush ideology, but smartly crafted. The Bush years have made voters wary and tired. They no longer want ideological battles. That’s why Obama– definitely the most competent politician when it comes to the crafting of messages –isn’t talking about the beliefs of his government, but rather about its pragmatism.

But at the end of January, when the Obama administration has to start making decisions, its pragmatism will only help if there’s a framework of ideas and beliefs guiding it toward the right decisions. It is the pragmatic means that Obama hopes to be able to use–but there also has to be an end.

Writing extensively about “The Limits to Pragmatism” yesterday, Peter Wehner explored many of the inherent weaknesses inseparable from policies based on such a method:

When pragmatism-an approach to politics that is characterized by centrist, moderate, deal-cutting instincts rather than a commitment to core political principles-becomes a defining political identity, it often leads to ad hoc policies. Decisions are made discretely, in an unrelated fashion, and are not put within a larger philosophical framework. Pragmatism tends to be process-oriented, reactive, and crisis-driven. And it assumes politics is above all about management.

While I agree with almost everything Peter has said, there’s one question I think is worth further exploring regarding pragmatism. Does it, in fact, exist–or is it just a buzzword, like “change”?

I suspect it’s the latter. Obama has been using the “pragmatic” theme for quite a while now. Those following his stump speech during election season can easily remember the phrases promising to abandon debates about “big government” and “small government” in order to establish a “smart government.” But while this might sound rhetorically similar to other Obama crowd-pleasing phrases like “this is no blue American or red America, this is the United States of America,” there’s a huge difference between the two.

His second statement in essence says: Forget politics, we are one nation. It is clear, and also true. But parsing the notion of “smart government” is much trickier, because it demands further explanation. What does he mean by smart–a government that can execute its own policies? I don’t think we can find a President going into office with the hope that his government will not be able to do such thing. One might also ask: is it going to be a big smart government or a small one? By saying it is smart, Obama can’t eliminate the question about the size–and the question about the role–of this government.

A capable government has to make decisions everyday, and these decisions all have to be derived from some ideological framework. Does Obama want a competent government that can work to better America’s image in the world? That’s great.  But deciding that America’s image is more important than other things is a decision based on ideology. Does Obama want to save the American car industry? Of course he would need a competent government to do that, but he also needs to have the desire to do that. That desire is ideological, in the final analysis.

What’s really behind the “pragmatism” campaign is not a battle against ideology. There’s no such thing as a non-ideological government. It is a campaign against the Bush ideology, but smartly crafted. The Bush years have made voters wary and tired. They no longer want ideological battles. That’s why Obama– definitely the most competent politician when it comes to the crafting of messages –isn’t talking about the beliefs of his government, but rather about its pragmatism.

But at the end of January, when the Obama administration has to start making decisions, its pragmatism will only help if there’s a framework of ideas and beliefs guiding it toward the right decisions. It is the pragmatic means that Obama hopes to be able to use–but there also has to be an end.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Could John McCain face a serious primary challenge from former Congressman (and current talk show host) J.D. Hayworth? It would be an extraordinary turn of events. And quite a predicament for Sarah Palin — would loyalty trump her efforts to woo the base?

“Infrastructure” sounds like such a good way to spend “stimulus” money — until you consider how long it takes to get projects underway, and how complicated it is to even identify the  recipients of federal dollars.

Joe Biden jokes, but he doesn’t sound amused, that “since the race is over, no one pays attention to me at all.”

And further proof — as if any were needed — that Biden’s can’t stick to a script no matter how mundane. It’s always possible he might not make it to the second Obama term, if any. (President Obama can only expected to endure so much.) You know, there’s this very savvy politician with 18 million supporters who might step up to the plate if needed in 2012.

Could it be that the RNC cares more about who belongs to their “club” than who belonged to a club that excluded Blacks and Jews? Nah, after an election in which their lack of appeal to minorities was a major factor in their drubbing, they wouldn’t pick someone who belonged to a whites-only club for more than a decade. Would they?

David Gregory goes to Meet The Press. A straight-shooter, but to paraphrase Norma Desmond, is it the shows or the anchors that are getting small?

Another voice sings Bobby Jindal’s praises: “The reason that they’re comparing Jindal to Obama is that, in person, he comes off a lot like Obama.  He’s extremely positive, he’s personally charming, and he’s kind of skinny and his ears stick out.  . . [H]e is not George W. Bush, or John Kerry, or Al Gore, or any of the other range of uninspired sons of the gentry who have graced our political landscape recently.  He is phenomenally smart, and phenomenally talented, and phenomenally likeable.”

The retirement of Mel Martinez may be one of those rare instances in which the seat is better defended without the incumbent. The GOP, for a change, has a strong field.

Eric Cantor talks common sense on the economy and promises to field candidates and improve the GOP’s technology. Sort of like a viable political party!

Larry Summers doesn’t like health care mandates. (h/t Club for Growth) At least not before he was selected to head Obama’s National Economic Council.

In Minnesota more ballots turn up , Al Franken’s attorney spins  and the Democratic attorney general wants to take a look at those rejected absentee ballots. Still, you get the sense Norm Coleman has the recount won. We’ll see if it lasts. Sen. John Ensign threatens a “heavy political price” if the Democrats try to snatch it away from Coleman in the Senate. Is that “Senate-speak” for “There shouldn’t be any business conducted on any matter unless the final vote in Minnesota is respected?” It may come to that.

Mickey Kaus isn’t buying the “I was duped” defense from Eric Holder on the Marc Rich case: “Unfortunately, the NYT story makes it pretty clear that Holder knew too much about the case to have been unwillingly played. Seems more like the buddy system at work.” And if he was duped, he’s too dense to be attorney general, no? Hey, if Holder isn’t winning over Richard Cohen and Mickey Kaus, is his confirmation really preordained?

Is Bush going to run for Senate? That’s Jeb. If his last name were “Smith” it’d be a slam-dunk.

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. doesn’t think much of bailout-mania: “Bless them for trying, but our firemen have done an objectively crummy job. They failed to douse the confidence/systemic-risk fire and now have moved on to fighting recession by turning credit allocation into a public utility. Vikram Pandit of Citigroup says: ‘We have gone from arm’s length, free market, just-in-time availability’ of funding to a system where big credit-reliant businesses now have only one place to turn, government.” And we haven’t even begun bailing out the auto and other industries.

Another pundit recognizes that “continuity is the new change.” Michael Gerson points out that George Bush wasn’t much of a free marketeer. Since Barack Obama isn’t turning out to be much of a dove there is less daylight between the two than most anticipated.

Could John McCain face a serious primary challenge from former Congressman (and current talk show host) J.D. Hayworth? It would be an extraordinary turn of events. And quite a predicament for Sarah Palin — would loyalty trump her efforts to woo the base?

“Infrastructure” sounds like such a good way to spend “stimulus” money — until you consider how long it takes to get projects underway, and how complicated it is to even identify the  recipients of federal dollars.

Joe Biden jokes, but he doesn’t sound amused, that “since the race is over, no one pays attention to me at all.”

And further proof — as if any were needed — that Biden’s can’t stick to a script no matter how mundane. It’s always possible he might not make it to the second Obama term, if any. (President Obama can only expected to endure so much.) You know, there’s this very savvy politician with 18 million supporters who might step up to the plate if needed in 2012.

Could it be that the RNC cares more about who belongs to their “club” than who belonged to a club that excluded Blacks and Jews? Nah, after an election in which their lack of appeal to minorities was a major factor in their drubbing, they wouldn’t pick someone who belonged to a whites-only club for more than a decade. Would they?

David Gregory goes to Meet The Press. A straight-shooter, but to paraphrase Norma Desmond, is it the shows or the anchors that are getting small?

Another voice sings Bobby Jindal’s praises: “The reason that they’re comparing Jindal to Obama is that, in person, he comes off a lot like Obama.  He’s extremely positive, he’s personally charming, and he’s kind of skinny and his ears stick out.  . . [H]e is not George W. Bush, or John Kerry, or Al Gore, or any of the other range of uninspired sons of the gentry who have graced our political landscape recently.  He is phenomenally smart, and phenomenally talented, and phenomenally likeable.”

The retirement of Mel Martinez may be one of those rare instances in which the seat is better defended without the incumbent. The GOP, for a change, has a strong field.

Eric Cantor talks common sense on the economy and promises to field candidates and improve the GOP’s technology. Sort of like a viable political party!

Larry Summers doesn’t like health care mandates. (h/t Club for Growth) At least not before he was selected to head Obama’s National Economic Council.

In Minnesota more ballots turn up , Al Franken’s attorney spins  and the Democratic attorney general wants to take a look at those rejected absentee ballots. Still, you get the sense Norm Coleman has the recount won. We’ll see if it lasts. Sen. John Ensign threatens a “heavy political price” if the Democrats try to snatch it away from Coleman in the Senate. Is that “Senate-speak” for “There shouldn’t be any business conducted on any matter unless the final vote in Minnesota is respected?” It may come to that.

Mickey Kaus isn’t buying the “I was duped” defense from Eric Holder on the Marc Rich case: “Unfortunately, the NYT story makes it pretty clear that Holder knew too much about the case to have been unwillingly played. Seems more like the buddy system at work.” And if he was duped, he’s too dense to be attorney general, no? Hey, if Holder isn’t winning over Richard Cohen and Mickey Kaus, is his confirmation really preordained?

Is Bush going to run for Senate? That’s Jeb. If his last name were “Smith” it’d be a slam-dunk.

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. doesn’t think much of bailout-mania: “Bless them for trying, but our firemen have done an objectively crummy job. They failed to douse the confidence/systemic-risk fire and now have moved on to fighting recession by turning credit allocation into a public utility. Vikram Pandit of Citigroup says: ‘We have gone from arm’s length, free market, just-in-time availability’ of funding to a system where big credit-reliant businesses now have only one place to turn, government.” And we haven’t even begun bailing out the auto and other industries.

Another pundit recognizes that “continuity is the new change.” Michael Gerson points out that George Bush wasn’t much of a free marketeer. Since Barack Obama isn’t turning out to be much of a dove there is less daylight between the two than most anticipated.

Read Less




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