Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 15, 2008

Commentary of the Day

Ahithophel, on J.G. Thayer:

Apologists for the Obama team are quick to point to Blago’s complaint that the Obama team would only offer “appreciation.” This, they claim, decides the matter: clearly Obama and camp were not involved in any pay-to-play negotiations–and no further questions need be asked. Who can say, however, that Rahm did not come back and say, “We thought it over a little more, and the President would be so overwhelmed with gratitude that you would stand a high likelihood of getting a cush and well-remunerated job through the SEIU”? This, granted, is only a possibility. But the way in which these “journalists” suddenly become completely credulous and incurious about the involvement of Obama and his central circle just goes to show that they still have both feet firmly planted on the Obama bandwagon. Having sacrificed so much to bring him to power, and having invested their hopes in him, they are not about to let the Obama administration be undermined by some village idiot from Chicago.

Second, the RICO investigation on SEIU should start now. If the Bush administration or anyone in the Justice Department can be convinced to get the ball rolling on this now (if it isn’t already), it will be difficult politically for the Obama Justice Dept to kill the investigation. Of course, “difficult” does not equal “impossible,” especially when one has a press that is so overwhelmed with curiosity about the governor of Alaska and shoe-throwers in Baghdad that it has no curiosity left for the man who is about to become the most powerful person in the world.

Ahithophel, on J.G. Thayer:

Apologists for the Obama team are quick to point to Blago’s complaint that the Obama team would only offer “appreciation.” This, they claim, decides the matter: clearly Obama and camp were not involved in any pay-to-play negotiations–and no further questions need be asked. Who can say, however, that Rahm did not come back and say, “We thought it over a little more, and the President would be so overwhelmed with gratitude that you would stand a high likelihood of getting a cush and well-remunerated job through the SEIU”? This, granted, is only a possibility. But the way in which these “journalists” suddenly become completely credulous and incurious about the involvement of Obama and his central circle just goes to show that they still have both feet firmly planted on the Obama bandwagon. Having sacrificed so much to bring him to power, and having invested their hopes in him, they are not about to let the Obama administration be undermined by some village idiot from Chicago.

Second, the RICO investigation on SEIU should start now. If the Bush administration or anyone in the Justice Department can be convinced to get the ball rolling on this now (if it isn’t already), it will be difficult politically for the Obama Justice Dept to kill the investigation. Of course, “difficult” does not equal “impossible,” especially when one has a press that is so overwhelmed with curiosity about the governor of Alaska and shoe-throwers in Baghdad that it has no curiosity left for the man who is about to become the most powerful person in the world.

Read Less

Re: It’s Hard To Keep Up

The Obama team will be releasing information regarding its contacts with Blago, but not until the week of December 22, at the request of the U.S. Attorney. Sooner or later it will all come out, provided Blago can’t be forced to plead and all this gets swept under the rug (no hair reference intended). The squeeze will be on by every Democrat as far as the eye can see — get Blago out, have him work out a deal, and have this all wrapped up by Christmas. Will it happen? I’m not so sure — we’re talking Blago here, who no doubt thinks the jury will love him.

The Obama team will be releasing information regarding its contacts with Blago, but not until the week of December 22, at the request of the U.S. Attorney. Sooner or later it will all come out, provided Blago can’t be forced to plead and all this gets swept under the rug (no hair reference intended). The squeeze will be on by every Democrat as far as the eye can see — get Blago out, have him work out a deal, and have this all wrapped up by Christmas. Will it happen? I’m not so sure — we’re talking Blago here, who no doubt thinks the jury will love him.

Read Less

“Be Prepared.”

Remember when Barack Obama let slip his plan to bankrupt coal plants? He walked it back, of course, claiming the quote was taken out of context. Well, Obama just named  Dr. Steven Chu his Energy Secretary. Here’s Chu in Davos last year, talking about what needs to be done to the coal industry:

Carbon sequestration of coal burning plants is a must. That will not start unless we have some sort of carbon cap-and-trade. It can start now and slowly ramp up over a ten or fifteen year period. And that alone will tell industry, “be prepared.”

Look, John McCain was in favor of cap-and-trade. It’s that “ramp up” business that’s worrying.

Remember when Barack Obama let slip his plan to bankrupt coal plants? He walked it back, of course, claiming the quote was taken out of context. Well, Obama just named  Dr. Steven Chu his Energy Secretary. Here’s Chu in Davos last year, talking about what needs to be done to the coal industry:

Carbon sequestration of coal burning plants is a must. That will not start unless we have some sort of carbon cap-and-trade. It can start now and slowly ramp up over a ten or fifteen year period. And that alone will tell industry, “be prepared.”

Look, John McCain was in favor of cap-and-trade. It’s that “ramp up” business that’s worrying.

Read Less

The World Bank’s Free Pass for China

Today, Robert Zoellick, repeating Beijing’s propaganda line on the global financial crisis, gave the Chinese a free pass on their mercantilist trade policies.  “The best way China can help support the world economy at this time is through the efforts China has taken to strengthen its own growth and recovery,” the World Bank president said at a press conference in the Chinese capital.

I disagree.  So far, China’s principal plan to strengthen its “growth and recovery”- actually to stop an alarming decline in its growth rate – has been to increase its exports.  And its principal tactic for this purpose has been the lowering of the value of its currency to preserve price advantages for its exporters.  It halted the appreciation of the renminbi in July.  The plan, part of a package of export incentives, is evidently working.  Last week, Beijing announced that November’s trade surplus is a monthly record.  In the first week of this month, the People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank, extended the export campaign by driving down the value of the currency almost one percent in one day in an apparent warning to the international community that it will continue to seek unilateral trade advantages.

Is Beijing’s plan sound?  Perhaps the most fundamental cause of the global financial crisis is the existence of imbalances in the two most consequential economies today – China is running enormous trade surpluses and the United States is running gargantuan deficits.  This imbalance is largely the result of Beijing’s exclusionary trade practices, some of them violations of its World Trade Organization promises (such as its discriminatory auto parts tariffs that were just ruled illegal).

Chinese officials can succeed in keeping out imports, but a victory in doing so will be Pyrrhic.  The way back to global equilibrium – and therefore sustainable prosperity for the Chinese – is for China to permit imports so that global imbalances will be unwound as soon as possible.  Beijing, however, has decided to keep its internal market to itself.

As long as it does so, global prosperity will remain elusive.  And as long as the downturn continues, global consumers won’t be buying Chinese goods at the pace needed to sustain the Chinese economy, which is especially dependent on exports.  About 38 percent of China’s economic output relates to products manufactured for sale to other nations.

Zoellick, instead of issuing bromides from Beijing, should start speaking clearly about China’s predicament.  If he stopped handing out free passes to China at his press conferences, everyone – especially the Chinese – would be better off.

Today, Robert Zoellick, repeating Beijing’s propaganda line on the global financial crisis, gave the Chinese a free pass on their mercantilist trade policies.  “The best way China can help support the world economy at this time is through the efforts China has taken to strengthen its own growth and recovery,” the World Bank president said at a press conference in the Chinese capital.

I disagree.  So far, China’s principal plan to strengthen its “growth and recovery”- actually to stop an alarming decline in its growth rate – has been to increase its exports.  And its principal tactic for this purpose has been the lowering of the value of its currency to preserve price advantages for its exporters.  It halted the appreciation of the renminbi in July.  The plan, part of a package of export incentives, is evidently working.  Last week, Beijing announced that November’s trade surplus is a monthly record.  In the first week of this month, the People’s Bank of China, the country’s central bank, extended the export campaign by driving down the value of the currency almost one percent in one day in an apparent warning to the international community that it will continue to seek unilateral trade advantages.

Is Beijing’s plan sound?  Perhaps the most fundamental cause of the global financial crisis is the existence of imbalances in the two most consequential economies today – China is running enormous trade surpluses and the United States is running gargantuan deficits.  This imbalance is largely the result of Beijing’s exclusionary trade practices, some of them violations of its World Trade Organization promises (such as its discriminatory auto parts tariffs that were just ruled illegal).

Chinese officials can succeed in keeping out imports, but a victory in doing so will be Pyrrhic.  The way back to global equilibrium – and therefore sustainable prosperity for the Chinese – is for China to permit imports so that global imbalances will be unwound as soon as possible.  Beijing, however, has decided to keep its internal market to itself.

As long as it does so, global prosperity will remain elusive.  And as long as the downturn continues, global consumers won’t be buying Chinese goods at the pace needed to sustain the Chinese economy, which is especially dependent on exports.  About 38 percent of China’s economic output relates to products manufactured for sale to other nations.

Zoellick, instead of issuing bromides from Beijing, should start speaking clearly about China’s predicament.  If he stopped handing out free passes to China at his press conferences, everyone – especially the Chinese – would be better off.

Read Less

Paper Promise

It is obvious now that the Gaza disengagement was a strategic disaster for Israel, but at the time Ariel Sharon considered it a diplomatic triumph, since he obtained a formal American commitment regarding the post-disengagement era in a presidential letter dated April 14, 2004.

One of the explicit promises in that letter was that:

The United States will lead efforts, working together with Jordan, Egypt, and others in the international community, to build the capacity and will of Palestinian institutions to fight terrorism, dismantle terrorist organizations, and prevent the areas from which Israel has withdrawn from posing a threat that would have to be addressed by any other means.  [Emphasis added].

In early 2005, in anticipation of the Gaza disengagement, the U.S. appointed a Middle East Security Coordinator (first Lt. Gen. William Ward, then Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton), who went with his team to the region.  Gaza became a severe security problem from the very first week following Israel’s disengagement, and in June 2007 Hamas took over Gaza in fighting that lasted less than a week.

In an interview published Friday, Gen. Dayton had the following exchange with Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz about the failure to prevent the Hamas takeover:

You had no responsibility for overseeing the training of anybody in Gaza before and at the time of the June 2007 violence?

We had no responsibility for training anyone in Gaza.  We didn’t provide them any weapons or any ammunition, or any of that sort of thing.  There was a small program we had an interest in.  It dealt with the Presidential Guard at the border crossing at Rafah.  That was it.  I didn’t have any money – you can check back – to do anything, even if we had been asked to do it.  But we were not asked to do it.

Not asked to do it?

It is obvious now that the Gaza disengagement was a strategic disaster for Israel, but at the time Ariel Sharon considered it a diplomatic triumph, since he obtained a formal American commitment regarding the post-disengagement era in a presidential letter dated April 14, 2004.

One of the explicit promises in that letter was that:

The United States will lead efforts, working together with Jordan, Egypt, and others in the international community, to build the capacity and will of Palestinian institutions to fight terrorism, dismantle terrorist organizations, and prevent the areas from which Israel has withdrawn from posing a threat that would have to be addressed by any other means.  [Emphasis added].

In early 2005, in anticipation of the Gaza disengagement, the U.S. appointed a Middle East Security Coordinator (first Lt. Gen. William Ward, then Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton), who went with his team to the region.  Gaza became a severe security problem from the very first week following Israel’s disengagement, and in June 2007 Hamas took over Gaza in fighting that lasted less than a week.

In an interview published Friday, Gen. Dayton had the following exchange with Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz about the failure to prevent the Hamas takeover:

You had no responsibility for overseeing the training of anybody in Gaza before and at the time of the June 2007 violence?

We had no responsibility for training anyone in Gaza.  We didn’t provide them any weapons or any ammunition, or any of that sort of thing.  There was a small program we had an interest in.  It dealt with the Presidential Guard at the border crossing at Rafah.  That was it.  I didn’t have any money – you can check back – to do anything, even if we had been asked to do it.  But we were not asked to do it.

Not asked to do it?

Read Less

You Don’t Say?

The New York Times fails the man-in-the-mirror test:

An Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at President Bush and called him a dog became a huge celebrity in the Arab world and beyond on Monday, with many supporters exalting him for what they called a courageous act in the face of American arrogance about the war.

Barely 24 hours after the journalist, Muntader al-Zaidi, was tackled and arrested for his actions at a Baghdad news conference, the shoe-throwing incident was generating front-page headlines and continuing television news coverage. A thinly veiled glee could be discerned in much of the reporting, especially in the places where anti-American sentiment runs deepest.

The New York Times fails the man-in-the-mirror test:

An Iraqi journalist who hurled his shoes at President Bush and called him a dog became a huge celebrity in the Arab world and beyond on Monday, with many supporters exalting him for what they called a courageous act in the face of American arrogance about the war.

Barely 24 hours after the journalist, Muntader al-Zaidi, was tackled and arrested for his actions at a Baghdad news conference, the shoe-throwing incident was generating front-page headlines and continuing television news coverage. A thinly veiled glee could be discerned in much of the reporting, especially in the places where anti-American sentiment runs deepest.

Read Less

The Drama Continues

The next step in the Blago-gate drama is how the Senate seat will be filled. Republicans of course want a special election and have opened up a public campaign. But plenty of  Illinois Democrats want that option as well (those who might not be at the top of the appointment list but could make a run at a special election, for example), so it is not entirely a partisan affair. Majority Leader Harry Reid, not surprisingly, wants no delay. As far as he is concerned, the seat should be filled by appointment as soon as they can get Blago out of the way. Right now, it’s a political free-for-all.

Putting aside the partisanship — if that is even possible — if the seat is filled by appointment, that person will face extreme scrutiny. Was this a deal-within-a-deal? And was this person one of the Blago-considered candidates from the criminal complaint? The sniping will go on endlessly. The only way to remove that cloud is to have an election.

Blago meanwhile is cleverly hinting he would sign a special election bill – which might lessen some the pressure to resign immediately.  One thing is for certain: only dynamite or an impeachment will get Blago out of office. That’s the last card he has to play. Well, that and a very public trial in which Rahm Emanuel and others are called as witnesses.

The next step in the Blago-gate drama is how the Senate seat will be filled. Republicans of course want a special election and have opened up a public campaign. But plenty of  Illinois Democrats want that option as well (those who might not be at the top of the appointment list but could make a run at a special election, for example), so it is not entirely a partisan affair. Majority Leader Harry Reid, not surprisingly, wants no delay. As far as he is concerned, the seat should be filled by appointment as soon as they can get Blago out of the way. Right now, it’s a political free-for-all.

Putting aside the partisanship — if that is even possible — if the seat is filled by appointment, that person will face extreme scrutiny. Was this a deal-within-a-deal? And was this person one of the Blago-considered candidates from the criminal complaint? The sniping will go on endlessly. The only way to remove that cloud is to have an election.

Blago meanwhile is cleverly hinting he would sign a special election bill – which might lessen some the pressure to resign immediately.  One thing is for certain: only dynamite or an impeachment will get Blago out of office. That’s the last card he has to play. Well, that and a very public trial in which Rahm Emanuel and others are called as witnesses.

Read Less

It’s Hard To Keep Up

Now word comes that a federal grand jury is looking into Governor Bill Richardson’s receipt of a political contribution from a company that advised New Mexico on bond deals:

A federal grand jury is investigating how a company that advised Jefferson County, Alabama, on bond deals that threaten to cause the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, did similar work in New Mexico after making contributions to Governor Bill Richardson’s political action committees.
The grand jury in Albuquerque is looking into Beverly Hills, California-based CDR Financial Products Inc., which received almost $1.5 million in fees from the New Mexico Finance Authority in 2004 after donating $100,000 to Richardson’s efforts to register Hispanic and American Indian voters and pay for expenses at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, people familiar with the matter said.

Other than to say Richardson is aware of the issue and expects everyone to co-operate, Richardson’s office had no further comment. Nothing from the Obama transition team, so far.

Perhaps this will turn out to be nothing. Perhaps Rahm Emanuel will face no further inquiry. But for number of investigations involving top advisors before he takes office, President-elect Obama certainly has set a new record.

To be clear, we don’t know whether anyone did anything improper in either situation. But it does put a premium on candor and not weasel-worded responses concerning aides’ involvement in matters under investigation. Speaking of which, does it really take a  week to compile a list of contacts between the transition team and Blago’s office?

Could we perhaps start with the Chicago-based advisors who logically would have had contact with Blago? Really, Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod and Emanuel should be able to come forward and explain what was said, if anything, to whom and when. Far better for it to come out now, and frankly be lost in the holiday news black hole, than to have it hang over the transition team.

Now word comes that a federal grand jury is looking into Governor Bill Richardson’s receipt of a political contribution from a company that advised New Mexico on bond deals:

A federal grand jury is investigating how a company that advised Jefferson County, Alabama, on bond deals that threaten to cause the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, did similar work in New Mexico after making contributions to Governor Bill Richardson’s political action committees.
The grand jury in Albuquerque is looking into Beverly Hills, California-based CDR Financial Products Inc., which received almost $1.5 million in fees from the New Mexico Finance Authority in 2004 after donating $100,000 to Richardson’s efforts to register Hispanic and American Indian voters and pay for expenses at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, people familiar with the matter said.

Other than to say Richardson is aware of the issue and expects everyone to co-operate, Richardson’s office had no further comment. Nothing from the Obama transition team, so far.

Perhaps this will turn out to be nothing. Perhaps Rahm Emanuel will face no further inquiry. But for number of investigations involving top advisors before he takes office, President-elect Obama certainly has set a new record.

To be clear, we don’t know whether anyone did anything improper in either situation. But it does put a premium on candor and not weasel-worded responses concerning aides’ involvement in matters under investigation. Speaking of which, does it really take a  week to compile a list of contacts between the transition team and Blago’s office?

Could we perhaps start with the Chicago-based advisors who logically would have had contact with Blago? Really, Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod and Emanuel should be able to come forward and explain what was said, if anything, to whom and when. Far better for it to come out now, and frankly be lost in the holiday news black hole, than to have it hang over the transition team.

Read Less

Why We Are In Afghanistan

The chorus of liberal observers who railed against the Iraq War, calling it an unnecessary and unwinnable blunder, have repurposed their defeatist denunciations and aimed them at the American effort in Afghanistan. It matters not that this same crowd used to hold up Afghanistan as the “right war” in criticizing Iraq. It is now the wrong war for the simple reason that it has become the more challenging. Unsurprisingly, Joe Klein leads the pack of migrant cut-and-runners.  Klein, who in June described the Iraq War as “currently drawing crucial resources from the more important war in Afghanistan,” has now decided that that “more important war” is nothing more than “an aimless absurdity.”

Why is this? Because the enemy has found safe haven inside Pakistan. In Klein and Co.’s perception, the “bad war” has moved from Iraq to Afghanistan, while the “good war” has moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan. I’m not in the habit of quoting myself, but in March I wrote of the Left’s inevitable insistence that we switch the Afghanistan effort to Pakistan:

And then when we’re there? Well, we’d be ignoring Saudi Arabia, naturally. And once we’re in Saudi? We’d be insensitive cowboys treading on holy sand and ignoring the terror financing that comes from the UAE. And once there? We’d be turning against a “non-political” ally and economic partner. And on, and on, and on. The arguments will continue to chase the U.S. around the globe, and the U.S. will continue to act prudently, if imperfectly, to marginalize or destroy the enemies of liberal democracy. The very fact that America prevents the worst threats from materializing is what allows for this silly rhetorical fill-in-the-blanks game to begin with.

Seven years after 9/11, Joe Klein is still trying to pin down a neat and discrete state enemy. Good luck. It is the presence and actions of American troops in Afghanistan that have driven Taliban fighters across the border to hide in Pakistan. And simply switching the focus to Pakistan would send a good number back to Afghanistan. The Joe Kleins of the world judge the utility of America’s wars based on which chamber of the jihadist hourglass is being filled. And when fortunes turn the device over again, the Left will have found their new marching orders. While frustration is understandable, such a simplistic criterion for determining where to fight is absurd. The U.S. should be stomping out enemies in several places simultaneously. In fact, on a smaller scale, that is how Gen. David Petraeus achieved results in Iraq. By hitting multiple terrorist dens at once, he left the enemy with no place to hide. With Gen. Petraeus now head of Central Command, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the larger implementation of this strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan – Joe Klein’s objections notwithstanding.

As for Klein’s larger question, “Why are we in Afghanistan?” the answers are as obvious as they are numerous.

First, America cannot afford the perception that it has lost a war to Islamic extremists. The worst thing a superpower can do is take on a perceived underdog and lose. Had we heeded the cut-and-runners’ advice in Iraq, jihadists the world over would be rightfully celebrating the defeat of the American paper tiger. Moderate Muslims would see the triumph of jihad and determine partnership with radicals to be a safer bet than the adoption of democratic institutions. Hostile regimes would be further emboldened to destabilize the region and defy the U.S. As it turns out, we stayed on in Iraq, and evidence from intercepted al Qaeda communiqués reveals a dispirited and broken down network that’s been stunned and overwhelmed by American and Iraqi power. Additionally, popular support for bin Ladenism has plummeted in the Muslim world, and bad actors have been put on notice. Victory against jihadists, wherever they are, is the only living refutation of Osama bin Laden’s dreams.

Second, we’ve already tried leaving Afghanistan to rot on its own. How did that work out? We got a bona fide terrorist state that served as a training camp, safe haven, and operational base from which a successful plot against America was launched. Abandoning that country once again would be indirect suicide. If Klein doesn’t like the lay of the land now, what does he suppose that country would look like six months after the U.S. left? And when the Taliban kicks over the Karzai government and re-establishes their rule in earnest, will Klein once again direct us to the “important” struggle being neglected in Afghanistan? We are there because we can’t let a Muslim country become a terrorist state again. Pledging to “stand with India” is cute and all. But it doesn’t mean anything if we ignore the fast-moving forces conspiring to destroy us and our enemies.

Last, it seems people have forgotten that the Taliban is more than a group of mountain fighters. It is a barbaric organization of bottomless stupidity and cruelty. Under the Taliban’s rule, Afghan females were cradle-to-grave prisoners. And theirs was no ordinary prison. Public stoning executions, beatings, organized rapes, clitorectomies, and auctioning off to elderly male relatives were the order of the day. It is no small achievement that in the wake of the U.S. invasion, Afghanis freely elected the country’s first female governor. How does Joe Klein envision her fate under a reconstituted Taliban government? Our ethical mandate for staying simply could not be stronger.

The real question is: why should we leave Afghanistan? Oh yeah, I forgot, because wars are hard to win.

The chorus of liberal observers who railed against the Iraq War, calling it an unnecessary and unwinnable blunder, have repurposed their defeatist denunciations and aimed them at the American effort in Afghanistan. It matters not that this same crowd used to hold up Afghanistan as the “right war” in criticizing Iraq. It is now the wrong war for the simple reason that it has become the more challenging. Unsurprisingly, Joe Klein leads the pack of migrant cut-and-runners.  Klein, who in June described the Iraq War as “currently drawing crucial resources from the more important war in Afghanistan,” has now decided that that “more important war” is nothing more than “an aimless absurdity.”

Why is this? Because the enemy has found safe haven inside Pakistan. In Klein and Co.’s perception, the “bad war” has moved from Iraq to Afghanistan, while the “good war” has moved from Afghanistan to Pakistan. I’m not in the habit of quoting myself, but in March I wrote of the Left’s inevitable insistence that we switch the Afghanistan effort to Pakistan:

And then when we’re there? Well, we’d be ignoring Saudi Arabia, naturally. And once we’re in Saudi? We’d be insensitive cowboys treading on holy sand and ignoring the terror financing that comes from the UAE. And once there? We’d be turning against a “non-political” ally and economic partner. And on, and on, and on. The arguments will continue to chase the U.S. around the globe, and the U.S. will continue to act prudently, if imperfectly, to marginalize or destroy the enemies of liberal democracy. The very fact that America prevents the worst threats from materializing is what allows for this silly rhetorical fill-in-the-blanks game to begin with.

Seven years after 9/11, Joe Klein is still trying to pin down a neat and discrete state enemy. Good luck. It is the presence and actions of American troops in Afghanistan that have driven Taliban fighters across the border to hide in Pakistan. And simply switching the focus to Pakistan would send a good number back to Afghanistan. The Joe Kleins of the world judge the utility of America’s wars based on which chamber of the jihadist hourglass is being filled. And when fortunes turn the device over again, the Left will have found their new marching orders. While frustration is understandable, such a simplistic criterion for determining where to fight is absurd. The U.S. should be stomping out enemies in several places simultaneously. In fact, on a smaller scale, that is how Gen. David Petraeus achieved results in Iraq. By hitting multiple terrorist dens at once, he left the enemy with no place to hide. With Gen. Petraeus now head of Central Command, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the larger implementation of this strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan – Joe Klein’s objections notwithstanding.

As for Klein’s larger question, “Why are we in Afghanistan?” the answers are as obvious as they are numerous.

First, America cannot afford the perception that it has lost a war to Islamic extremists. The worst thing a superpower can do is take on a perceived underdog and lose. Had we heeded the cut-and-runners’ advice in Iraq, jihadists the world over would be rightfully celebrating the defeat of the American paper tiger. Moderate Muslims would see the triumph of jihad and determine partnership with radicals to be a safer bet than the adoption of democratic institutions. Hostile regimes would be further emboldened to destabilize the region and defy the U.S. As it turns out, we stayed on in Iraq, and evidence from intercepted al Qaeda communiqués reveals a dispirited and broken down network that’s been stunned and overwhelmed by American and Iraqi power. Additionally, popular support for bin Ladenism has plummeted in the Muslim world, and bad actors have been put on notice. Victory against jihadists, wherever they are, is the only living refutation of Osama bin Laden’s dreams.

Second, we’ve already tried leaving Afghanistan to rot on its own. How did that work out? We got a bona fide terrorist state that served as a training camp, safe haven, and operational base from which a successful plot against America was launched. Abandoning that country once again would be indirect suicide. If Klein doesn’t like the lay of the land now, what does he suppose that country would look like six months after the U.S. left? And when the Taliban kicks over the Karzai government and re-establishes their rule in earnest, will Klein once again direct us to the “important” struggle being neglected in Afghanistan? We are there because we can’t let a Muslim country become a terrorist state again. Pledging to “stand with India” is cute and all. But it doesn’t mean anything if we ignore the fast-moving forces conspiring to destroy us and our enemies.

Last, it seems people have forgotten that the Taliban is more than a group of mountain fighters. It is a barbaric organization of bottomless stupidity and cruelty. Under the Taliban’s rule, Afghan females were cradle-to-grave prisoners. And theirs was no ordinary prison. Public stoning executions, beatings, organized rapes, clitorectomies, and auctioning off to elderly male relatives were the order of the day. It is no small achievement that in the wake of the U.S. invasion, Afghanis freely elected the country’s first female governor. How does Joe Klein envision her fate under a reconstituted Taliban government? Our ethical mandate for staying simply could not be stronger.

The real question is: why should we leave Afghanistan? Oh yeah, I forgot, because wars are hard to win.

Read Less

Carter Corners Obama

When former U.S. President Jimmy Carter visited Damascus back in April, it was easy to dismiss him as an embarrassing crackpot.  After all, the Bush administration had clearly distanced itself from Carter, thus ensuring the total irrelevance of his meetings with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal.  In turn, the damage resulting from Carter’s visit was limited to public diplomacy: for example, during one of his typically desperate Dixie Chicks moments, Carter denounced Americans’ views on the Middle East to an assembly of Egyptian university students.

Well, Carter’s fortunes have changed significantly since April.  Indeed, President-elect Barack Obama’s pledge to pursue diplomacy with Syria has given Carter a new opening for interfering with U.S. foreign policy – an opportunity that Carter has wasted no time in seizing.

Yesterday, during his latest meeting with Assad in Damascus, Carter committed the incoming administration to stronger ties with Syria, and further stated that Obama would fulfill his campaign promises on Iraq, “which will lead to better relations with the states of the region.”  The former U.S. president thereby raised Assad’s expectations significantly, pressuring Obama against possible backtracking and undermining the incoming administration’s foreign policy flexibility.

Of course, Obama richly deserves Carter’s cornering.  Only two days after winning the election, Obama dispatched the terminally wrong-headed Robert Malley to Damascus with promises that Syrian interests would be taken into “greater account.”  By eschewing diplomatic gradualism in favor of this starry-eyed pursuit of Assad, the President elect had already undermined his flexibility vis-à-vis Syria.

Still, there’s a small chance that Carter’s freelance meddling will backfire.  Remember: Barack Obama is arguably the most image-conscious politician ever, and Carter’s unseemly diplomatic sideshow just might provide a cautionary tale to the fastidiously cautious President-elect.  Obama’s political advisers must recognize that Carter’s ongoing intervention on behalf of rogue leaders – including Yasser Arafat, Fidel Castro, and Hugo Chavez – has made him a constant target of derision, and significantly undermined his public authority.  Does Obama really want to cast his lot with the likes of Jimmy Carter, negating whatever he might achieve as president with profoundly naïve antics?

Only time will tell.

When former U.S. President Jimmy Carter visited Damascus back in April, it was easy to dismiss him as an embarrassing crackpot.  After all, the Bush administration had clearly distanced itself from Carter, thus ensuring the total irrelevance of his meetings with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal.  In turn, the damage resulting from Carter’s visit was limited to public diplomacy: for example, during one of his typically desperate Dixie Chicks moments, Carter denounced Americans’ views on the Middle East to an assembly of Egyptian university students.

Well, Carter’s fortunes have changed significantly since April.  Indeed, President-elect Barack Obama’s pledge to pursue diplomacy with Syria has given Carter a new opening for interfering with U.S. foreign policy – an opportunity that Carter has wasted no time in seizing.

Yesterday, during his latest meeting with Assad in Damascus, Carter committed the incoming administration to stronger ties with Syria, and further stated that Obama would fulfill his campaign promises on Iraq, “which will lead to better relations with the states of the region.”  The former U.S. president thereby raised Assad’s expectations significantly, pressuring Obama against possible backtracking and undermining the incoming administration’s foreign policy flexibility.

Of course, Obama richly deserves Carter’s cornering.  Only two days after winning the election, Obama dispatched the terminally wrong-headed Robert Malley to Damascus with promises that Syrian interests would be taken into “greater account.”  By eschewing diplomatic gradualism in favor of this starry-eyed pursuit of Assad, the President elect had already undermined his flexibility vis-à-vis Syria.

Still, there’s a small chance that Carter’s freelance meddling will backfire.  Remember: Barack Obama is arguably the most image-conscious politician ever, and Carter’s unseemly diplomatic sideshow just might provide a cautionary tale to the fastidiously cautious President-elect.  Obama’s political advisers must recognize that Carter’s ongoing intervention on behalf of rogue leaders – including Yasser Arafat, Fidel Castro, and Hugo Chavez – has made him a constant target of derision, and significantly undermined his public authority.  Does Obama really want to cast his lot with the likes of Jimmy Carter, negating whatever he might achieve as president with profoundly naïve antics?

Only time will tell.

Read Less

Sharp Lawyers

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Barack Obama had begun thinking about his Senate successor even before the presidential election, and dispatched Rahm Emanuel days after the vote to contact aides of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to begin talking up Mr. Obama’s preferred candidates, associates of Mr. Emanuel said this weekend.

If true, then the President-elect’s “I” had no contact with Blago is particularly Clinton-esque. The full and complete truth was: ” I didn’t, but I instructed my Chief of Staff designee to have conversations and relay my requests.” Why the evasion and half-truth? It seems unfortunate and ill-advised. He certainly knew that the Rahm Emanuel conversation would come to light, so why hide the ball? And if in fact the conversation was wholly innocent, it certainly would have reassured the public that Emanuel, far from “dealing,” was simply conveying a message.

Instead we are left puzzling over the substance of that conversation and whether Emanuel, even if he did no wrong, was made aware that Blago had a shake-down in mind. Meanwhile, that promised list of all the contacts with Blago’s office hasn’t been delivered.

For a group of people whom we are assured did absolutely nothing wrong, they certainly are acting like sophisticated lawyers: delay, delay, delay.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Barack Obama had begun thinking about his Senate successor even before the presidential election, and dispatched Rahm Emanuel days after the vote to contact aides of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to begin talking up Mr. Obama’s preferred candidates, associates of Mr. Emanuel said this weekend.

If true, then the President-elect’s “I” had no contact with Blago is particularly Clinton-esque. The full and complete truth was: ” I didn’t, but I instructed my Chief of Staff designee to have conversations and relay my requests.” Why the evasion and half-truth? It seems unfortunate and ill-advised. He certainly knew that the Rahm Emanuel conversation would come to light, so why hide the ball? And if in fact the conversation was wholly innocent, it certainly would have reassured the public that Emanuel, far from “dealing,” was simply conveying a message.

Instead we are left puzzling over the substance of that conversation and whether Emanuel, even if he did no wrong, was made aware that Blago had a shake-down in mind. Meanwhile, that promised list of all the contacts with Blago’s office hasn’t been delivered.

For a group of people whom we are assured did absolutely nothing wrong, they certainly are acting like sophisticated lawyers: delay, delay, delay.

Read Less

Why the Palestinian Authority is Not Pakistan

Little has helped Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas as much as the rise of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The whole Western world seems convinced that the PA under Abbas is kind of like Pakistan: A regime that, despite its difficulty in rooting out the terrorists in its midst, is essentially pro-Western, a moderate force, and a long-term partner in solving the region’s problems. Accordingly, Israel’s government recently transferred about $25 million in currency to Palestinian banks in Gaza, and today released 224 Palestinians who were either accused of, or serving time for, terror activity, as a gesture of good will.

The difference, of course, is this: While Pakistan has disavowed terror, rejected the Mumbai attack, and has promised to cooperate fully in the investigation into the attack, the Palestinian Authority is convinced that no Palestinians currently held actually deserve to be in jail. This includes some of the most vicious convicted terrorists in the world. At no point has Abbas ever admitted that these people were doing anything wrong. Today he announced that his “joy won’t be complete until Israel frees all Palestinian prisoners.”

Joy?

Little has helped Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas as much as the rise of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The whole Western world seems convinced that the PA under Abbas is kind of like Pakistan: A regime that, despite its difficulty in rooting out the terrorists in its midst, is essentially pro-Western, a moderate force, and a long-term partner in solving the region’s problems. Accordingly, Israel’s government recently transferred about $25 million in currency to Palestinian banks in Gaza, and today released 224 Palestinians who were either accused of, or serving time for, terror activity, as a gesture of good will.

The difference, of course, is this: While Pakistan has disavowed terror, rejected the Mumbai attack, and has promised to cooperate fully in the investigation into the attack, the Palestinian Authority is convinced that no Palestinians currently held actually deserve to be in jail. This includes some of the most vicious convicted terrorists in the world. At no point has Abbas ever admitted that these people were doing anything wrong. Today he announced that his “joy won’t be complete until Israel frees all Palestinian prisoners.”

Joy?

Read Less

Full Employment For Lobbyists

Robert J. Samuelson spots the next Obama promise headed for the dust-heap of history: eliminating the influence of lobbyists:

The only way to eliminate lobbying and special interests is to eliminate government. The more powerful government becomes, the more lobbying there will be. So, paradoxically, Obama’s ambitions for more expansive government will promote special pleading. You need only watch the response to the expected “economic stimulus” plan — totaling perhaps $700 billion — to verify this eternal truth. “A Lobbying Frenzy for Federal Funds,” read the headline of one Post story.
There’s more to come. Obama envisions refashioning a third of the economy: the health-care sector, representing about 16 percent of gross domestic product; the energy sector, nearly 10 percent of GDP; and the financial sector (banks, securities brokers, insurance companies), about 8 percent of GDP. There will be a vast mobilization of interests: from radiologists to renewable energy producers; from mutual funds to hospitals. Says Bara Vaida, the respected lobbying reporter for National Journal: “This will be a bonanza for K Street” — the symbolic hub of Washington lobbyists.

Samuelson contends that lobbyists aren’t so bad — they are veritable portraits of democracy in action. Well, that is one way of looking at it. Another is that the opportunities for mischief-making expand geometrically with each accretion to government. Each new program or policy affects multiple interests, who in turn set their sights on influencing those who make laws and perform oversight functions. Lobbyists do not just come armed with facts and clever arguments. They come with suitcases of cash.

Hence we have the reality, or the suspicion, that the “fix” is in, that the regulated are calling the tune on the regulators and the one with the most cash (not the most pervasive argument) wins the day. While Samuelson points to the AARP and AFL-CIO as evidence that the “wealthy” don’t have all the lobbyists, I’m not particularly moved. (We’ll put aside for a moment the issue of whether, as a relative matter, senior citizens and unionized workers don’t make out better than the young and non-unionized workers.) The issue is whether we have more ethical and effective government by virtue of the expansion of the public sector and, correspondingly, of special interests. The answer, I think, is plainly “no.”

Robert J. Samuelson spots the next Obama promise headed for the dust-heap of history: eliminating the influence of lobbyists:

The only way to eliminate lobbying and special interests is to eliminate government. The more powerful government becomes, the more lobbying there will be. So, paradoxically, Obama’s ambitions for more expansive government will promote special pleading. You need only watch the response to the expected “economic stimulus” plan — totaling perhaps $700 billion — to verify this eternal truth. “A Lobbying Frenzy for Federal Funds,” read the headline of one Post story.
There’s more to come. Obama envisions refashioning a third of the economy: the health-care sector, representing about 16 percent of gross domestic product; the energy sector, nearly 10 percent of GDP; and the financial sector (banks, securities brokers, insurance companies), about 8 percent of GDP. There will be a vast mobilization of interests: from radiologists to renewable energy producers; from mutual funds to hospitals. Says Bara Vaida, the respected lobbying reporter for National Journal: “This will be a bonanza for K Street” — the symbolic hub of Washington lobbyists.

Samuelson contends that lobbyists aren’t so bad — they are veritable portraits of democracy in action. Well, that is one way of looking at it. Another is that the opportunities for mischief-making expand geometrically with each accretion to government. Each new program or policy affects multiple interests, who in turn set their sights on influencing those who make laws and perform oversight functions. Lobbyists do not just come armed with facts and clever arguments. They come with suitcases of cash.

Hence we have the reality, or the suspicion, that the “fix” is in, that the regulated are calling the tune on the regulators and the one with the most cash (not the most pervasive argument) wins the day. While Samuelson points to the AARP and AFL-CIO as evidence that the “wealthy” don’t have all the lobbyists, I’m not particularly moved. (We’ll put aside for a moment the issue of whether, as a relative matter, senior citizens and unionized workers don’t make out better than the young and non-unionized workers.) The issue is whether we have more ethical and effective government by virtue of the expansion of the public sector and, correspondingly, of special interests. The answer, I think, is plainly “no.”

Read Less

“Shot fired”

From Michael Totten’s new piece about going on the hunt for a notorious terrorist in Baghdad:

We were possibly homing in on one of the most dangerous terrorists in the world, and I could hardly see a damn thing. Whoever it was we were chasing probably couldn’t see any better than I could. That was a good thing. Gunfire would reveal our location.

If I hear gunfire too close that isn’t ours, I thought, I’m throwing myself onto the ground and planting my face in that muck.

“The target’s pushing southeast,” someone said. “That’s back behind us.”

But then we heard a gun shot just a few blocks ahead of us on the other side of some houses.

“Shot fired,” someone quietly said into the radio.

Read it all.

From Michael Totten’s new piece about going on the hunt for a notorious terrorist in Baghdad:

We were possibly homing in on one of the most dangerous terrorists in the world, and I could hardly see a damn thing. Whoever it was we were chasing probably couldn’t see any better than I could. That was a good thing. Gunfire would reveal our location.

If I hear gunfire too close that isn’t ours, I thought, I’m throwing myself onto the ground and planting my face in that muck.

“The target’s pushing southeast,” someone said. “That’s back behind us.”

But then we heard a gun shot just a few blocks ahead of us on the other side of some houses.

“Shot fired,” someone quietly said into the radio.

Read it all.

Read Less

Time Is Running Out To Do The Right Thing

Juan Williams, that well-known conservative, explains the auto bailout:

Well, I hate to be Ebenezer Scrooge about this, but you know what? I don’t think people are mad at the unions. I think they’re mad at the people who have been running these auto companies and running them into a ditch, Bill.I think that they’ve been running them badly and that’s why most Americans think that this bailout is a mistake. They think it’s a mistake to reward failure.

And the sympathy goes out, of course, to the workers who would be losing jobs and then there comes the political reality, which is that the economy is in trouble and if you have — I think the big three employ 150,000 people. If you have that many people put in danger, plus all the suppliers and auto dealers down the line, you have a problem. But the thing is if you are going to do this, and I think this is the argument the Republicans on the Hill are making, who is representing the taxpayer? Why are you and I paying for this bailout and is it, as some have said, a bridge loan to nowhere? Because what happens in three months?

You say the car czar was there and he could’ve started these negotiations. Why do you think the UAW would’ve been any more amenable to the car czar, knowing that Barack Obama is coming, and Barack Obama has had tremendous support from the unions. He’s going to do everything he can for the unions.

He is in line with not only Debbie Stabenow, but Jennifer Granholm and all the politicians in Detroit, in Michigan. So I think that right now, it’s a setup for the auto companies to get what they want. Everybody’s going to say, “You know what? We had to do it to save the economy.” What are they going to say when state governments show up at the door and say, “We want some of that bailout money, too?” What about transit companies? I mean, everybody is going to say, “We want a piece of the pie.” Every lobbyist in town is after that money.

Williams isn’t a conservative, of course, but neither is he caught in the wave of fear that seems to have gripped President Bush and his advisors. They seem to be convinced that by resisting the pleas to give the Big Three funds without significant restructuring requirements they will worsen their historical legacy. It is simply bad policy to let the Big Three and the U.A.W. off the hook — and ultimately fatal to the chances of the latter’s members for long-term employment. Indeed it’s a bad deal for everyone (taxpayers, the Big Three and their employees.)

Williams is right: the window of opportunity to do the right thing is closing. The Bush administration is said to be looking at all the options, including a prepackaged bankruptcy plan. That, or something approximating the Corker Plan, would be a smart move and spare Bush from earning the moniker The President Who Nationalized the Auto Industry.

Contrary to what is said by Democrats, much of the media, and UAW-apologists, the Republicans didn’t crush the bailout bill because they are mean or indifferent. They didn’t do it to dance on the grave of the U.S. auto industry. They did it because, as just about anyone who has looked at this rationally has been telling us, it is utterly counterproductive to give the Big Three more money without insisting on their prompt and dramatic restructuring. Absent that, the Big Three (or however many survive) will become perpetual corporate welfare recipients.

Perhaps the White House and Treasury officials looking over this have that concern in mind and are working on a meaningful plan. (The fact that they didn’t immediate fork over TARP funds is a hopeful sign.) But if instead the Bush administration gives billions away without a real requirement for the car companies to align their costs with foreign owned competitors, we’ll look back on this opportunity and wonder why no one had the nerve to practice some tough love.

Juan Williams, that well-known conservative, explains the auto bailout:

Well, I hate to be Ebenezer Scrooge about this, but you know what? I don’t think people are mad at the unions. I think they’re mad at the people who have been running these auto companies and running them into a ditch, Bill.I think that they’ve been running them badly and that’s why most Americans think that this bailout is a mistake. They think it’s a mistake to reward failure.

And the sympathy goes out, of course, to the workers who would be losing jobs and then there comes the political reality, which is that the economy is in trouble and if you have — I think the big three employ 150,000 people. If you have that many people put in danger, plus all the suppliers and auto dealers down the line, you have a problem. But the thing is if you are going to do this, and I think this is the argument the Republicans on the Hill are making, who is representing the taxpayer? Why are you and I paying for this bailout and is it, as some have said, a bridge loan to nowhere? Because what happens in three months?

You say the car czar was there and he could’ve started these negotiations. Why do you think the UAW would’ve been any more amenable to the car czar, knowing that Barack Obama is coming, and Barack Obama has had tremendous support from the unions. He’s going to do everything he can for the unions.

He is in line with not only Debbie Stabenow, but Jennifer Granholm and all the politicians in Detroit, in Michigan. So I think that right now, it’s a setup for the auto companies to get what they want. Everybody’s going to say, “You know what? We had to do it to save the economy.” What are they going to say when state governments show up at the door and say, “We want some of that bailout money, too?” What about transit companies? I mean, everybody is going to say, “We want a piece of the pie.” Every lobbyist in town is after that money.

Williams isn’t a conservative, of course, but neither is he caught in the wave of fear that seems to have gripped President Bush and his advisors. They seem to be convinced that by resisting the pleas to give the Big Three funds without significant restructuring requirements they will worsen their historical legacy. It is simply bad policy to let the Big Three and the U.A.W. off the hook — and ultimately fatal to the chances of the latter’s members for long-term employment. Indeed it’s a bad deal for everyone (taxpayers, the Big Three and their employees.)

Williams is right: the window of opportunity to do the right thing is closing. The Bush administration is said to be looking at all the options, including a prepackaged bankruptcy plan. That, or something approximating the Corker Plan, would be a smart move and spare Bush from earning the moniker The President Who Nationalized the Auto Industry.

Contrary to what is said by Democrats, much of the media, and UAW-apologists, the Republicans didn’t crush the bailout bill because they are mean or indifferent. They didn’t do it to dance on the grave of the U.S. auto industry. They did it because, as just about anyone who has looked at this rationally has been telling us, it is utterly counterproductive to give the Big Three more money without insisting on their prompt and dramatic restructuring. Absent that, the Big Three (or however many survive) will become perpetual corporate welfare recipients.

Perhaps the White House and Treasury officials looking over this have that concern in mind and are working on a meaningful plan. (The fact that they didn’t immediate fork over TARP funds is a hopeful sign.) But if instead the Bush administration gives billions away without a real requirement for the car companies to align their costs with foreign owned competitors, we’ll look back on this opportunity and wonder why no one had the nerve to practice some tough love.

Read Less

A Less Perfect Union

As Jennifer has been pointing out, Rod Blogojevich was hoping the SEIU would play  middleman in a deal to sell Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat — one of Blagojevich’s schemes was to appoint Obama’s choice to the Senate in exchange for Obama using his influence to get Blagojevich a very high-paying job as director of  the union’s group “Change to Win,” in exchange for some future consideration. In other words, Obama gets his choice as Senator, Blagojevich gets a cushy, rewarding job, and the SEIU now has Obama’s marker.

This plot apparently fell through when Obama (or his intermediaries) refused to play ball.

This sort of corruption is nothing new to the SEIU, I’m afraid. Over the past few years, they have managed to do something amazing — they have passed the Teamsters as “the most corrupt union in America.”

This became most apparent during the last election cycle. They, like most everybody these days, have their own Political Action Committee. And wow, is it a potent one. Not only was it the best-financed PAC from all the 527 groups last cycle, raising just under $32 million, but that number dwarfs the rest — it is more than groups 2-7 combined.

How did they get so much money? Quite simple. They demanded it.

Recently, they amended their Constitution to demand that each local chapter contribute at least $6.00 per member to the group’s PAC. If a group failed, it would be fined for the difference plus a 150% penalty out of its general funds.

Clever idea, but with one teeny little flaw: it’s illegal. Under fedeal law, PAC contributions are to be entirely voluntary. But the same people who howl when big corporations persuade their employees to contribute to their PACs are strangely silent at this illegal shakedown.

It isn’t just elections and Senate seats that the union is involved in buying and selling, either. They have also been caught funneling millions of dollars to businessesand organizations that, by an astonishing coincidence, are at least partly owned by union officials.

But back to the Blagojevich mess — as noted, the SEIU would come out of the deal with an unspecified future favor from Obama. One possible use for that might have been his support for the Orwellian-named “Employee Free Choice Act.”

Under that proposed bill, employees who are considering joining a union would be “free” to skip over the currently-mandated secret ballot procedure and simply declare their support by signing a pledge card. Signed, most probably, in the presence of a union organizer or three or a dozen — at least one of which would not be an intimadating thug, I’m sure.

If ever an organization was ripe for a RICO investigation, then it would have to be the SEIU. But that is highly unlikely under an Obama Justice Department. The best we can do is to keep exposing their deeds and hope that the publicity will curb their greatest excesses.

As Jennifer has been pointing out, Rod Blogojevich was hoping the SEIU would play  middleman in a deal to sell Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat — one of Blagojevich’s schemes was to appoint Obama’s choice to the Senate in exchange for Obama using his influence to get Blagojevich a very high-paying job as director of  the union’s group “Change to Win,” in exchange for some future consideration. In other words, Obama gets his choice as Senator, Blagojevich gets a cushy, rewarding job, and the SEIU now has Obama’s marker.

This plot apparently fell through when Obama (or his intermediaries) refused to play ball.

This sort of corruption is nothing new to the SEIU, I’m afraid. Over the past few years, they have managed to do something amazing — they have passed the Teamsters as “the most corrupt union in America.”

This became most apparent during the last election cycle. They, like most everybody these days, have their own Political Action Committee. And wow, is it a potent one. Not only was it the best-financed PAC from all the 527 groups last cycle, raising just under $32 million, but that number dwarfs the rest — it is more than groups 2-7 combined.

How did they get so much money? Quite simple. They demanded it.

Recently, they amended their Constitution to demand that each local chapter contribute at least $6.00 per member to the group’s PAC. If a group failed, it would be fined for the difference plus a 150% penalty out of its general funds.

Clever idea, but with one teeny little flaw: it’s illegal. Under fedeal law, PAC contributions are to be entirely voluntary. But the same people who howl when big corporations persuade their employees to contribute to their PACs are strangely silent at this illegal shakedown.

It isn’t just elections and Senate seats that the union is involved in buying and selling, either. They have also been caught funneling millions of dollars to businessesand organizations that, by an astonishing coincidence, are at least partly owned by union officials.

But back to the Blagojevich mess — as noted, the SEIU would come out of the deal with an unspecified future favor from Obama. One possible use for that might have been his support for the Orwellian-named “Employee Free Choice Act.”

Under that proposed bill, employees who are considering joining a union would be “free” to skip over the currently-mandated secret ballot procedure and simply declare their support by signing a pledge card. Signed, most probably, in the presence of a union organizer or three or a dozen — at least one of which would not be an intimadating thug, I’m sure.

If ever an organization was ripe for a RICO investigation, then it would have to be the SEIU. But that is highly unlikely under an Obama Justice Department. The best we can do is to keep exposing their deeds and hope that the publicity will curb their greatest excesses.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Rahm Emanuel might not have had a legal duty to report Blago to the authorities, but let’s hope he did so. It would be nice to think that the next Chief of Staff didn’t play footsie with an ethical psychopath and understood his obligation to blow the whistle on attempts to shake down the President-elect.

Is Emanuel the next Bert Lance?

Now they tell us: “Many who know the governor well say that as Mr. Blagojevich’s famed fund-raising capability seemed to have shrunk in recent months and as his legal bills mounted after years of federal investigation, he appeared to have evolved from what [Illinois Democrat] John Fritchey considered callous into something closer to panicked or delusional.”

Bernard Madoff, like Blago, is a reminder that ultimately corrupt people will cheat and steal until they are cornered. Rather than spur more regulation, he should be a reminder to follow the Founding Fathers’ advice: disperse power widely.

Shoes don’t hurt people. Journalists with shoes do. (I can see it now — as in airports, the White House press corps will have to check their shoes.)

John McCain may not have intended to be as dismissive as he sounded about Sarah Palin. But the media’s take — that it was a deliberate slight — will only raise the conservative base’s ire and reignite talk about a primary challenger.

Did David Gregory take up the mantle of hard-hitting, adversarial newsman? Actually, I think he’s giving Chris Matthews a run for his money in the Cheerleader-in-chief contest.

Jimmy Carter met again with Hamas and declared, “he intends to continue meeting with Hamas leaders because peace requires dialogue with all sides.” Actually, it requires Hamas to stop killing Jews and seeking the destruction of Israel. No word so far from President-elect Obama. He’s likely “disappointed.”

 Mitt Romney gives an impressive Meet The Press performance — making the argument that we have to help the Big Three and UAW by not giving them a blank check.

And it turns out that writing a blank check is more complicated than it seems.

Professor Bradley Smith sums up the sentiment of many conservatives: “Three cheers for Republicans in the Senate, and three cheers that Cheney and Bush (who have been following Hoover-like interventionist, big government economic policies for years) will be leaving DC. Of course, we can expect even more big government under Obama, but if we’re going to embark on an unprecedented big government spending spree to permanently alter our economic institutions, it’s best we do it under people who at least don’t claim to be free marketers.”

Not since Nixon’s Enemies List has a journalist so reveled in being a political target.

Joe Biden beats the President-elect in the dog acquisition department. Why is it that Obama selected a HUD  Secretary before his kids’ pet? On the relative scale of importance I think the latter ranks higher.

Whoa, weren’t we told that an Obama Presidency would improve relations with our allies, encourage global unity and restore our image? (It is our moment, or something like that, right?) It seems they haven’t all gotten the memo: “Gordon Brown is considering rejecting an expected request from Barack Obama, the US President-elect, to send 2,000 more British troops to Afghanistan to join the surge of US forces confronting the Taleban.” Truth be told, everyone — the President-elect, the media, the Democratic base, other countries — are going to find out the “change” means there is nothing new under the sun.

Rahm Emanuel might not have had a legal duty to report Blago to the authorities, but let’s hope he did so. It would be nice to think that the next Chief of Staff didn’t play footsie with an ethical psychopath and understood his obligation to blow the whistle on attempts to shake down the President-elect.

Is Emanuel the next Bert Lance?

Now they tell us: “Many who know the governor well say that as Mr. Blagojevich’s famed fund-raising capability seemed to have shrunk in recent months and as his legal bills mounted after years of federal investigation, he appeared to have evolved from what [Illinois Democrat] John Fritchey considered callous into something closer to panicked or delusional.”

Bernard Madoff, like Blago, is a reminder that ultimately corrupt people will cheat and steal until they are cornered. Rather than spur more regulation, he should be a reminder to follow the Founding Fathers’ advice: disperse power widely.

Shoes don’t hurt people. Journalists with shoes do. (I can see it now — as in airports, the White House press corps will have to check their shoes.)

John McCain may not have intended to be as dismissive as he sounded about Sarah Palin. But the media’s take — that it was a deliberate slight — will only raise the conservative base’s ire and reignite talk about a primary challenger.

Did David Gregory take up the mantle of hard-hitting, adversarial newsman? Actually, I think he’s giving Chris Matthews a run for his money in the Cheerleader-in-chief contest.

Jimmy Carter met again with Hamas and declared, “he intends to continue meeting with Hamas leaders because peace requires dialogue with all sides.” Actually, it requires Hamas to stop killing Jews and seeking the destruction of Israel. No word so far from President-elect Obama. He’s likely “disappointed.”

 Mitt Romney gives an impressive Meet The Press performance — making the argument that we have to help the Big Three and UAW by not giving them a blank check.

And it turns out that writing a blank check is more complicated than it seems.

Professor Bradley Smith sums up the sentiment of many conservatives: “Three cheers for Republicans in the Senate, and three cheers that Cheney and Bush (who have been following Hoover-like interventionist, big government economic policies for years) will be leaving DC. Of course, we can expect even more big government under Obama, but if we’re going to embark on an unprecedented big government spending spree to permanently alter our economic institutions, it’s best we do it under people who at least don’t claim to be free marketers.”

Not since Nixon’s Enemies List has a journalist so reveled in being a political target.

Joe Biden beats the President-elect in the dog acquisition department. Why is it that Obama selected a HUD  Secretary before his kids’ pet? On the relative scale of importance I think the latter ranks higher.

Whoa, weren’t we told that an Obama Presidency would improve relations with our allies, encourage global unity and restore our image? (It is our moment, or something like that, right?) It seems they haven’t all gotten the memo: “Gordon Brown is considering rejecting an expected request from Barack Obama, the US President-elect, to send 2,000 more British troops to Afghanistan to join the surge of US forces confronting the Taleban.” Truth be told, everyone — the President-elect, the media, the Democratic base, other countries — are going to find out the “change” means there is nothing new under the sun.

Read Less




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

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

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

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

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