Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 17, 2008

Commentary of the Day

mds 123, on Rick Richman:

i wish secretary rice -and dana perino – and ryan crocker and admiral mullen – had done a better job communicating and articulating exactly these points….

…the paralytically blinkered propagandists of the msm were able to craft narratives of the iraq conflict(s) that dramatically understate both the quality and quanitity of acheivements there….diplomatic, military and economic….

…there is still an unknown/unwritten story as to how much of iraq’s future is still contingent on the behavior of neighbors – iran, syria, saudi arabia, etc. – but the likely reality is that a stronger and democratic iraq substantially improves america’s diplomatic options in the mideast (and elsewhere)….

the dirty little secret that mumbai explicitly exposed is that the radical violence of SIAs – State Influenced Actors – is truly a global phenomenon requiring global cooperation…

…our new president will have the opportunity to learn more from the successess in iraq than its fialures in charting out what he wants that global cooperation to look like,..

….the bush administration – its flaws notwithstanding – has put america and americans in a better position to deal with future threats….

mds 123, on Rick Richman:

i wish secretary rice -and dana perino – and ryan crocker and admiral mullen – had done a better job communicating and articulating exactly these points….

…the paralytically blinkered propagandists of the msm were able to craft narratives of the iraq conflict(s) that dramatically understate both the quality and quanitity of acheivements there….diplomatic, military and economic….

…there is still an unknown/unwritten story as to how much of iraq’s future is still contingent on the behavior of neighbors – iran, syria, saudi arabia, etc. – but the likely reality is that a stronger and democratic iraq substantially improves america’s diplomatic options in the mideast (and elsewhere)….

the dirty little secret that mumbai explicitly exposed is that the radical violence of SIAs – State Influenced Actors – is truly a global phenomenon requiring global cooperation…

…our new president will have the opportunity to learn more from the successess in iraq than its fialures in charting out what he wants that global cooperation to look like,..

….the bush administration – its flaws notwithstanding – has put america and americans in a better position to deal with future threats….

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The Time For Rushing Has Passed

Matt Lewis picks up on some Daily Kos traffic about the Eric Holder confirmation and notes that Sen. Pat Leahy was critical of the Marc Rich pardon, which will be front and center in the confirmation hearing. I’ll believe it when I see Leahy take an opposite position to President-elect Obama. But I do think we have moved from the “Nothing here. Move along.” stage to the “Get The Facts Out” stage.

The amount of adverse coverage on the Rich case (from both conservative and liberal sides), not to mention the amount of documentary material that the Republicans have requested, is going to provide plenty of reasons for both sides to question Holder. The Democrats will need to allow Holder to explain himself and “clear up” any concerns. The Republicans want to find out if Holder has a good explanation of his conduct in the Clinton-era pardons as well as in matters such as the Elian Gonzales case.

None of this means that Holder won’t get through, but there is now enough concern that the “rush it through” Democratic strategy won’t work. And then today we learn that Holder neglected to list on his confirmation questionnaire his work for Blago — yeah, the story that keeps on giving — on an Illinois gaming board. If it was an effort to conceal, it was dumb and counterproductive to his effort to convince the Senate that he is above reproach. And if it was sloppiness that doesn’t say much for his professional skills. More fodder for the hearing, no doubt.

Matt Lewis picks up on some Daily Kos traffic about the Eric Holder confirmation and notes that Sen. Pat Leahy was critical of the Marc Rich pardon, which will be front and center in the confirmation hearing. I’ll believe it when I see Leahy take an opposite position to President-elect Obama. But I do think we have moved from the “Nothing here. Move along.” stage to the “Get The Facts Out” stage.

The amount of adverse coverage on the Rich case (from both conservative and liberal sides), not to mention the amount of documentary material that the Republicans have requested, is going to provide plenty of reasons for both sides to question Holder. The Democrats will need to allow Holder to explain himself and “clear up” any concerns. The Republicans want to find out if Holder has a good explanation of his conduct in the Clinton-era pardons as well as in matters such as the Elian Gonzales case.

None of this means that Holder won’t get through, but there is now enough concern that the “rush it through” Democratic strategy won’t work. And then today we learn that Holder neglected to list on his confirmation questionnaire his work for Blago — yeah, the story that keeps on giving — on an Illinois gaming board. If it was an effort to conceal, it was dumb and counterproductive to his effort to convince the Senate that he is above reproach. And if it was sloppiness that doesn’t say much for his professional skills. More fodder for the hearing, no doubt.

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We’re Staying

Eli Lake has an important piece in the New Republic on the realistic prospect of a long-term military partnership between the U.S. and Iraq. This was especially striking:

[B]oth the Kurds and Sunni Arabs in western Iraq, where the Al Assad Airbase is located, are likely to facilitate a U.S. military presence for a long time. A Washington representative for the Kurdistan Regional Government, Qubad Talabani, whose father Jalal is president of Iraq, told me last week, “As Kurdish leaders have said in the past, American forces will always be welcome in the Kurdistan region, and we look forward to working with our American friends within the framework of this law to discuss America’s long-term presence in our region.” Far from booting U.S. forces out of the country, he believes that the SOFA “gives America the legal cover for expanding their already good relations with Iraqi security institutions.” And the influential Sunni leader Sheik Ahmad Rishawi, head of the Anbar Awakening, told me in an interview in June that he had hoped a long-term treaty with America would be based on “mutual friendship” and compared the future SOFA to similar accords struck with postwar Japan and Germany, where American troops are garrisoned to this day. The committees established in the new agreement are expected to be the vehicles by which Sunni Arabs and Kurds negotiate longer-term leases for the U.S. bases in their respective areas.

In the unlikely event that Barack Obama insists on rebuffing our Sunni and Kurdish partners, he would establish the U.S. as a nation that’s indifferent to, indeed disdainful of, strategic alliances. Far from being the gesture of a “humble” country, such a rejection would mark a policy tilt toward unprecedented American arrogance. Remember, we are supposed to return to working together with allies. Turning down friends – in the Muslim world no less – is no way to signal America’s hope for cooperation among “the community of nations.”

Eli Lake has an important piece in the New Republic on the realistic prospect of a long-term military partnership between the U.S. and Iraq. This was especially striking:

[B]oth the Kurds and Sunni Arabs in western Iraq, where the Al Assad Airbase is located, are likely to facilitate a U.S. military presence for a long time. A Washington representative for the Kurdistan Regional Government, Qubad Talabani, whose father Jalal is president of Iraq, told me last week, “As Kurdish leaders have said in the past, American forces will always be welcome in the Kurdistan region, and we look forward to working with our American friends within the framework of this law to discuss America’s long-term presence in our region.” Far from booting U.S. forces out of the country, he believes that the SOFA “gives America the legal cover for expanding their already good relations with Iraqi security institutions.” And the influential Sunni leader Sheik Ahmad Rishawi, head of the Anbar Awakening, told me in an interview in June that he had hoped a long-term treaty with America would be based on “mutual friendship” and compared the future SOFA to similar accords struck with postwar Japan and Germany, where American troops are garrisoned to this day. The committees established in the new agreement are expected to be the vehicles by which Sunni Arabs and Kurds negotiate longer-term leases for the U.S. bases in their respective areas.

In the unlikely event that Barack Obama insists on rebuffing our Sunni and Kurdish partners, he would establish the U.S. as a nation that’s indifferent to, indeed disdainful of, strategic alliances. Far from being the gesture of a “humble” country, such a rejection would mark a policy tilt toward unprecedented American arrogance. Remember, we are supposed to return to working together with allies. Turning down friends – in the Muslim world no less – is no way to signal America’s hope for cooperation among “the community of nations.”

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Illinois Supreme Court To Democrats: “Do It Yourselves”

The Illinois State Supreme Court rebuffed the rather lame attempt of the Illinois Attorney General to oust Gov. Blagojevich by judicial fiat. This obvious “quick fix” was meant to avoid the need for a complete impeachment, hurry Blago out and make way for the Lt. Governor to name a Democratic senate replacement. Now the choice is: go through an impeachment proceeding (which, as I pointed out yesterday, may be delayed, as Patrick Fitzgerald insists that the criminal court case witnesses  not tell their story elsewhere) or give in and have a special election.

As for the latter, the state GOP party and the RNC have been banging the drum (that would be filling up reporters’ email in-boxes) with statements, polls and articles pushing for an election. Whether that is effective in moving the Illinois Democrats remains to be seen. Far more determinative, I think, is the speed with which the impeachment proceedings can be completed. If it is a matter of a couple of weeks I suspect the Democrats will endure the jibes and hold fast to the appointment option. If, however, this drags on into weeks and months it will be increasingly untenable to leave the Senate seat open. In the meantime, the New Politics looks worse than the old politics. More exciting and humorous perhaps, but not better.

The Illinois State Supreme Court rebuffed the rather lame attempt of the Illinois Attorney General to oust Gov. Blagojevich by judicial fiat. This obvious “quick fix” was meant to avoid the need for a complete impeachment, hurry Blago out and make way for the Lt. Governor to name a Democratic senate replacement. Now the choice is: go through an impeachment proceeding (which, as I pointed out yesterday, may be delayed, as Patrick Fitzgerald insists that the criminal court case witnesses  not tell their story elsewhere) or give in and have a special election.

As for the latter, the state GOP party and the RNC have been banging the drum (that would be filling up reporters’ email in-boxes) with statements, polls and articles pushing for an election. Whether that is effective in moving the Illinois Democrats remains to be seen. Far more determinative, I think, is the speed with which the impeachment proceedings can be completed. If it is a matter of a couple of weeks I suspect the Democrats will endure the jibes and hold fast to the appointment option. If, however, this drags on into weeks and months it will be increasingly untenable to leave the Senate seat open. In the meantime, the New Politics looks worse than the old politics. More exciting and humorous perhaps, but not better.

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Hobson’s Choice

One of the hallmarks of the modern Left is the word “choice.” But outside of sexual preference, the Left’s operational definition of the word bares a striking resemblance to its opposite: “coercion.”

Take, for example, your kids’ school. You have the right to pay for the public schools, whether or not your kids attend (or even if they exist). Should you wish to take your portion of what you pay the schools and give it to another institution of learning, though — forget it. That is so VERY not allowed; your dollars must go to the public schools, with their unionized teachers and droning hordes of bureaucrats and forests of regulations.

Speaking of unions, want to freely choose whether or not to join one? The Left is going after that, too. With the Orwellian-named “Employee Free Choice Act,” they plan to abolish the secret ballot and “allow” union organizers to simply present you with a union pledge card that you can freely choose to sign or not sign, in full sight of the organizer and any enforcers they happen to have with them. Thank heavens unions have so little history of violence, corruption, thuggery and intimidation.

Want to choose to support conservative talk radio? That’s another of those “bad” choices. Under a revived and expanded “Fairness Doctrine,” stations that air conservative opinions would have to provide, at no charge, opposing views. Financially, Rush Limbaugh would have to start carrying Al Franken (as Limbaugh always has plenty of sponsors, while Air America often has to pay stations to air their shows) on an hour-for-hour basis.

Want to drive a big, gas-guzzling SUV for whatever reason? Forget it. First, they’ll tack on a “gas guzzler” tax when you buy it. And they’re doing their best to keep the manufacturers from producing what the consumers demand. They impose “Corporate Average Fuel Economy” standards that force car makers to ignore market forces and juggle their production to meet these numbers.

It gets even sillier. California requires to have a certain percentage of sold cars be “low-emissions” or  “zero-emissions” vehicles.

It’s important to understand the principle at play here: for everything sold, there has to be a buyer. The makers are mandated to sell these vehicles, but the public is not required to buy them. So the makers have to go through all these convolutions and contortions (usually financial) to get the public to buy the vehicles the government mandates they sell (not just offer, but sell), in the hopes that enough of the public will be enticed to buy these vehicles.

This is why the automakers sell some vehicles at a loss. Accountants have run the numbers and determined that manufacturers  lose less selling cars at a loss then they would in paying punitive fines.

The right to choose carries with it the implicit right to make wrong choices. To make bad choices. To fail. And to deprive people of that right is to deprive them of the chance to make mistakes — and learn from them. To deny us that right — that choice — is the most obscene thing any government can do.

One of the hallmarks of the modern Left is the word “choice.” But outside of sexual preference, the Left’s operational definition of the word bares a striking resemblance to its opposite: “coercion.”

Take, for example, your kids’ school. You have the right to pay for the public schools, whether or not your kids attend (or even if they exist). Should you wish to take your portion of what you pay the schools and give it to another institution of learning, though — forget it. That is so VERY not allowed; your dollars must go to the public schools, with their unionized teachers and droning hordes of bureaucrats and forests of regulations.

Speaking of unions, want to freely choose whether or not to join one? The Left is going after that, too. With the Orwellian-named “Employee Free Choice Act,” they plan to abolish the secret ballot and “allow” union organizers to simply present you with a union pledge card that you can freely choose to sign or not sign, in full sight of the organizer and any enforcers they happen to have with them. Thank heavens unions have so little history of violence, corruption, thuggery and intimidation.

Want to choose to support conservative talk radio? That’s another of those “bad” choices. Under a revived and expanded “Fairness Doctrine,” stations that air conservative opinions would have to provide, at no charge, opposing views. Financially, Rush Limbaugh would have to start carrying Al Franken (as Limbaugh always has plenty of sponsors, while Air America often has to pay stations to air their shows) on an hour-for-hour basis.

Want to drive a big, gas-guzzling SUV for whatever reason? Forget it. First, they’ll tack on a “gas guzzler” tax when you buy it. And they’re doing their best to keep the manufacturers from producing what the consumers demand. They impose “Corporate Average Fuel Economy” standards that force car makers to ignore market forces and juggle their production to meet these numbers.

It gets even sillier. California requires to have a certain percentage of sold cars be “low-emissions” or  “zero-emissions” vehicles.

It’s important to understand the principle at play here: for everything sold, there has to be a buyer. The makers are mandated to sell these vehicles, but the public is not required to buy them. So the makers have to go through all these convolutions and contortions (usually financial) to get the public to buy the vehicles the government mandates they sell (not just offer, but sell), in the hopes that enough of the public will be enticed to buy these vehicles.

This is why the automakers sell some vehicles at a loss. Accountants have run the numbers and determined that manufacturers  lose less selling cars at a loss then they would in paying punitive fines.

The right to choose carries with it the implicit right to make wrong choices. To make bad choices. To fail. And to deprive people of that right is to deprive them of the chance to make mistakes — and learn from them. To deny us that right — that choice — is the most obscene thing any government can do.

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Raiding Somalia

Yesterday, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a U.S.-sponsored resolution allowing nations to undertake “all necessary measures” on Somali territory and through Somali airspace against the pirates who have taken refuge there.  There’s a catch: the UN resolution requires the consent of the Somali government.

The resolution is being hailed as a show of the international community’s resolve to go after the bandits that have taken more than 60 ships this year, including two yesterday.  Yet what is the value of the UN action?  If a nation has the consent of the Somali government, there is no need for Security Council authorization.  And there’s one more question: Does Somalia have a functioning government to give consent?

The Security Council, if it wanted to be a constructive force, would have declared Somalia an international zone and allowed member states to conduct military actions against the pirates without the consent of the Somali government.  If it is important to fight piracy – and it is – we should be prepared to pursue pirates wherever they are found, whether on the high seas or in Somali territory.  It would be great if the UN provides legal cover for necessary military action, but, if it cannot, the United States should ignore this failing institution.

There is no reason for other nations to look to us if we allow ourselves to be humiliated by pirates, as is happening today.  We should either do whatever it takes to get the job done or not even try.  Piracy may be a complex issue, but there is a simple solution.  And obviously, that solution is not found in the halls of the Security Council.

Yesterday, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a U.S.-sponsored resolution allowing nations to undertake “all necessary measures” on Somali territory and through Somali airspace against the pirates who have taken refuge there.  There’s a catch: the UN resolution requires the consent of the Somali government.

The resolution is being hailed as a show of the international community’s resolve to go after the bandits that have taken more than 60 ships this year, including two yesterday.  Yet what is the value of the UN action?  If a nation has the consent of the Somali government, there is no need for Security Council authorization.  And there’s one more question: Does Somalia have a functioning government to give consent?

The Security Council, if it wanted to be a constructive force, would have declared Somalia an international zone and allowed member states to conduct military actions against the pirates without the consent of the Somali government.  If it is important to fight piracy – and it is – we should be prepared to pursue pirates wherever they are found, whether on the high seas or in Somali territory.  It would be great if the UN provides legal cover for necessary military action, but, if it cannot, the United States should ignore this failing institution.

There is no reason for other nations to look to us if we allow ourselves to be humiliated by pirates, as is happening today.  We should either do whatever it takes to get the job done or not even try.  Piracy may be a complex issue, but there is a simple solution.  And obviously, that solution is not found in the halls of the Security Council.

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There’s No Time for Attrition

The ever-astounding detail about new sanctions on Iran is that they’re new. For what reason are we staggering out the penalties?

US authorities Wednesday designated New York-based Assa Corp. as a “front company” of an Iranian state-owned bank linked to weapons proliferation, and moved to seize its assets.

The US Treasury said that Assa had funnelled funds to Bank Melli, branded by Washington and the European Union as a “proliferator” linked to Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

If time is so limited, why aren’t the mullahs sanctioned and embargoed to the hilt in one sweep? We cross our fingers and speculate about falling oil prices destabilizing the Islamic Republic enough to get them to deal. Yet we have the means to fast-forward collapse and we never use it. Steadily increasing sanctions only helps Iran inure itself to deprivation as it enriches material and builds proscribed weapons. One absolute shock to the country’s economy would constitute a crisis. Any infinitesimal hope of a diplomatic breakthrough would only stand a chance of fruition in the wake of such a national trauma. What’s happening now is just failure in slow motion.

The ever-astounding detail about new sanctions on Iran is that they’re new. For what reason are we staggering out the penalties?

US authorities Wednesday designated New York-based Assa Corp. as a “front company” of an Iranian state-owned bank linked to weapons proliferation, and moved to seize its assets.

The US Treasury said that Assa had funnelled funds to Bank Melli, branded by Washington and the European Union as a “proliferator” linked to Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

If time is so limited, why aren’t the mullahs sanctioned and embargoed to the hilt in one sweep? We cross our fingers and speculate about falling oil prices destabilizing the Islamic Republic enough to get them to deal. Yet we have the means to fast-forward collapse and we never use it. Steadily increasing sanctions only helps Iran inure itself to deprivation as it enriches material and builds proscribed weapons. One absolute shock to the country’s economy would constitute a crisis. Any infinitesimal hope of a diplomatic breakthrough would only stand a chance of fruition in the wake of such a national trauma. What’s happening now is just failure in slow motion.

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Trading Places

The Washington Post editors make a fine suggestion:

President-elect Barack Obama needs to reassure Americans and U.S. trading partners around the world that free trade will be part of his plan for U.S. economic recovery. If his campaign for the White House had a weakness, it was the mixed signals he sent in this regard. Mr. Obama frequently acknowledged the benefits of trade, but he just as frequently denounced specific agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, which he made an ill-advised pledge to renegotiate. Mr. Obama’s party is, of course, deeply divided between protectionist constituencies such as organized labor and pro-trade technocrats such as those who populate his economic team.

President-elect Obama’s reported first choice for Trade Representative, Xavier Becerra, has dropped out (or didn’t make the final cut). Although this may be a sign that the Obama team can only tolerate one pardon-plagued nominee at a time (the other being Eric Holder, of course), this might also be an indication that Becerra, whose record on free trade is mixed at best, was not ideologically aligned with the President-elect. We will see whether the nominee is more or less pro-trade than Becerra.

Protectionism is never  a good idea. The bipartisan consensus in favor of free trade has frayed during the Bush years, in part because the Democrats have demagogued the issue. But perhaps (like tax increases), the protectionist impulses can be deflected and restrained in light of the looming recession. It really would be Hooverism to pull up the drawbridge of free trade.

The new President will have to show more than just restraint. There are pending free trade agreements with South Korea and Colombia, which the Democrats have rebuffed. This is an issue on which it is not enough to “do no harm.” Rather President Obama will have to push his allies on the Hill to pass measures that open trade and disappoint their most important backer, Big Labor.

The latter isn’t doing so well these days, between the SEIU scandals, which J.G. and I have discussed, and the UAW’s role in playing chicken with the survival of the U.S. auto industry. So they might not be in a strong position to object, especially in the face of the new President’s pleas that these are extraordinary times.

Rahm Emanuel joked that you should never let a serious crisis go to waste. He meant it in the context of helping to facilitate the liberal agenda of regulation, nationalized health care and massive spending. But it might be equally true of free trade. The current economic crisis might be just the moment to revive that bipartisan support of free trade, without which neither we nor our allies can return to prosperity.

The Washington Post editors make a fine suggestion:

President-elect Barack Obama needs to reassure Americans and U.S. trading partners around the world that free trade will be part of his plan for U.S. economic recovery. If his campaign for the White House had a weakness, it was the mixed signals he sent in this regard. Mr. Obama frequently acknowledged the benefits of trade, but he just as frequently denounced specific agreements, including the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, which he made an ill-advised pledge to renegotiate. Mr. Obama’s party is, of course, deeply divided between protectionist constituencies such as organized labor and pro-trade technocrats such as those who populate his economic team.

President-elect Obama’s reported first choice for Trade Representative, Xavier Becerra, has dropped out (or didn’t make the final cut). Although this may be a sign that the Obama team can only tolerate one pardon-plagued nominee at a time (the other being Eric Holder, of course), this might also be an indication that Becerra, whose record on free trade is mixed at best, was not ideologically aligned with the President-elect. We will see whether the nominee is more or less pro-trade than Becerra.

Protectionism is never  a good idea. The bipartisan consensus in favor of free trade has frayed during the Bush years, in part because the Democrats have demagogued the issue. But perhaps (like tax increases), the protectionist impulses can be deflected and restrained in light of the looming recession. It really would be Hooverism to pull up the drawbridge of free trade.

The new President will have to show more than just restraint. There are pending free trade agreements with South Korea and Colombia, which the Democrats have rebuffed. This is an issue on which it is not enough to “do no harm.” Rather President Obama will have to push his allies on the Hill to pass measures that open trade and disappoint their most important backer, Big Labor.

The latter isn’t doing so well these days, between the SEIU scandals, which J.G. and I have discussed, and the UAW’s role in playing chicken with the survival of the U.S. auto industry. So they might not be in a strong position to object, especially in the face of the new President’s pleas that these are extraordinary times.

Rahm Emanuel joked that you should never let a serious crisis go to waste. He meant it in the context of helping to facilitate the liberal agenda of regulation, nationalized health care and massive spending. But it might be equally true of free trade. The current economic crisis might be just the moment to revive that bipartisan support of free trade, without which neither we nor our allies can return to prosperity.

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How They View America

Despite my reservations about the surveys conducted by Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), their new poll is worth considering. Among countries surveyed, opposition to U.S. naval bases in the Persian Gulf is common and broad:

14 of 20 nations say it is a bad idea, three say it is a good idea, and three are divided. On average across all publics polled, just 22 percent say it is a good idea for the US to have naval bases in the Gulf, while 52 percent say it is a bad idea.

It is not surprising that the countries in which there’s the broadest opposition to an American presence in the Gulf are the states in and around the Middle East. The nays were

led by Egypt (91%) and the Palestinian Territories (90%) and followed by Turkey (77%), Jordan (76%) and Azerbaijan (66%). However, this view is also fairly strong outside the region–in Mexico (74%), Russia (63%), Ukraine (56%), Indonesia (56%) and China (54%).

Obviously, this poll would have a totally different outcome had it surveyed the ruling elites of the Middle Eastern states – and is more a general expression of Arab (and world) anger and discontent with the U.S. than a calculated strategic position. Frankly, an Egyptian or Jordanian would derive very little benefit from the U.S. dismantling its Gulf bases.

Anger towards the U.S. is revealed more blatantly in the second half of the PIPA survey:

Given three options, only 16 percent on average across 21 nations say “the US mostly shows respect to the Islamic world.” Sixty-seven percent think the US is disrespectful, but 36 percent say this is “out of ignorance and insensitivity,” while 31 percent say “the US purposely tries to humiliate the Islamic world.” Only Americans have a majority saying the US mostly shows respect to the Islamic world (56%).

And here’s what the rest of the world thinks of American democracy promotion:

In both Muslim and Western countries there is a widespread perception that the United States does not support democracy per se in Muslim countries; most think it only supports democracy if the government is cooperative with the US… In no nation does a majority think the US favors democracy unconditionally, though in the United States views are divided between this view (44%) and the view that the US is conditionally supportive (43%).

All this presents President-elect Obama with both opportunity and risk: his genuine intentions to convince Muslims that the U.S. does have respect for them – exemplified by his much discussed decision to speak in a Muslim capital – might help the U.S. recover some of its reputation in the region. But making real progress will be much trickier: first, Obama probably has no intention of dismantling U.S. bases in the Gulf. Second, because Obama will be less supportive of Arab democracy than was the Bush team, and more prone to favor it only in cases that suit the short term interests of the U.S.

Thus, Obama is left with that old “solution” to America’s image problem – pledge to work harder on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From the poll:

Interestingly, a majority of Palestinians themselves say that a Palestinian state is a US goal (59%). However, other nations in the region think the US does not have this goal: Egypt (87%), Azerbaijan (79%), Jordan (63%), and Turkey (52%). In addition, majorities in Russia (60%) and Mexico (56%) share this view, as well as pluralities in Germany (50% to 41%)), Indonesia (48% to 24%), Ukraine (48% to 12%), France (47% to 41%), and China (34% to 20%).

How can Obama make those people believe this is an American goal? The go-to way is to pressure Israel to make concessions. While I don’t think Obama wants to do battle with Israel’s government, one can see that the temptation is there, and might be hard to resist.

Despite my reservations about the surveys conducted by Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), their new poll is worth considering. Among countries surveyed, opposition to U.S. naval bases in the Persian Gulf is common and broad:

14 of 20 nations say it is a bad idea, three say it is a good idea, and three are divided. On average across all publics polled, just 22 percent say it is a good idea for the US to have naval bases in the Gulf, while 52 percent say it is a bad idea.

It is not surprising that the countries in which there’s the broadest opposition to an American presence in the Gulf are the states in and around the Middle East. The nays were

led by Egypt (91%) and the Palestinian Territories (90%) and followed by Turkey (77%), Jordan (76%) and Azerbaijan (66%). However, this view is also fairly strong outside the region–in Mexico (74%), Russia (63%), Ukraine (56%), Indonesia (56%) and China (54%).

Obviously, this poll would have a totally different outcome had it surveyed the ruling elites of the Middle Eastern states – and is more a general expression of Arab (and world) anger and discontent with the U.S. than a calculated strategic position. Frankly, an Egyptian or Jordanian would derive very little benefit from the U.S. dismantling its Gulf bases.

Anger towards the U.S. is revealed more blatantly in the second half of the PIPA survey:

Given three options, only 16 percent on average across 21 nations say “the US mostly shows respect to the Islamic world.” Sixty-seven percent think the US is disrespectful, but 36 percent say this is “out of ignorance and insensitivity,” while 31 percent say “the US purposely tries to humiliate the Islamic world.” Only Americans have a majority saying the US mostly shows respect to the Islamic world (56%).

And here’s what the rest of the world thinks of American democracy promotion:

In both Muslim and Western countries there is a widespread perception that the United States does not support democracy per se in Muslim countries; most think it only supports democracy if the government is cooperative with the US… In no nation does a majority think the US favors democracy unconditionally, though in the United States views are divided between this view (44%) and the view that the US is conditionally supportive (43%).

All this presents President-elect Obama with both opportunity and risk: his genuine intentions to convince Muslims that the U.S. does have respect for them – exemplified by his much discussed decision to speak in a Muslim capital – might help the U.S. recover some of its reputation in the region. But making real progress will be much trickier: first, Obama probably has no intention of dismantling U.S. bases in the Gulf. Second, because Obama will be less supportive of Arab democracy than was the Bush team, and more prone to favor it only in cases that suit the short term interests of the U.S.

Thus, Obama is left with that old “solution” to America’s image problem – pledge to work harder on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From the poll:

Interestingly, a majority of Palestinians themselves say that a Palestinian state is a US goal (59%). However, other nations in the region think the US does not have this goal: Egypt (87%), Azerbaijan (79%), Jordan (63%), and Turkey (52%). In addition, majorities in Russia (60%) and Mexico (56%) share this view, as well as pluralities in Germany (50% to 41%)), Indonesia (48% to 24%), Ukraine (48% to 12%), France (47% to 41%), and China (34% to 20%).

How can Obama make those people believe this is an American goal? The go-to way is to pressure Israel to make concessions. While I don’t think Obama wants to do battle with Israel’s government, one can see that the temptation is there, and might be hard to resist.

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Did I say, “coming to an end”?

Slate editor-in-chief, Jacob Weisberg, summing up why he believes George W. Bush is the worst American president of the past 50 years:

And to finish, I think we can say at this point that, Americans’ great nepotistic experiment is finally coming to an end. . . it’s finishing not just with failure, not just with rejection, but in global disgrace.

A Politico headline, today:

Nepotism Nation: Dems embrace dynasty politics

Thoughts, Mr. Weisberg?

Slate editor-in-chief, Jacob Weisberg, summing up why he believes George W. Bush is the worst American president of the past 50 years:

And to finish, I think we can say at this point that, Americans’ great nepotistic experiment is finally coming to an end. . . it’s finishing not just with failure, not just with rejection, but in global disgrace.

A Politico headline, today:

Nepotism Nation: Dems embrace dynasty politics

Thoughts, Mr. Weisberg?

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Depends Who The Executive Is, It Seems

Professor Bradley Smith asks some good questions:

We’re hearing a lot about the need to regulate and to prosecute private sector actors, but where’s the skepticism of big government? Where is the serious citizen oversight of President-Elect Obama’s plans, and President Bush’s actions, to “stimulate” the economy by essentially nationalizing huge parts of it? Why are so many people ready to think that turning to more government is the answer? Where is the skepticism that Barney Frank knows how to run the banking industry, or Chris Dodd the auto industry? What happened to those liberals who just a year ago were complaining about excessive presidential power and a government that was “shredding the constitution” to deal with a crisis (in that case, terrorism)?

Nowhere is the hypocrisy greater than in regard to the car bailout. From the get-go Hank Paulson and the President said that the executive branch lacked legislative authorization to use TARP funds for the car industry. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, vigilant defenders of their legislative branch said, “Oh, just do it!” Congress tried and failed to pass a bailout bill. In essence, the legislative body could not muster the will to vote for the bailout (or at least the version the Democrats were willing to put to a vote). So Reid and Pelosi, again our favorite critics of unilateral presidential power, said, “Your ball, Mr. President. Just do it!”

The concerns vigorously voiced for eight years about the proper balance of the three branches, the primacy of Congress in funding matters, and the extension of executive branch power have vanished. One wonders whether all that talk about separation of powers was just that — talk. And the MSM, which lambasted the Bush administration for “shredding the Constitution,” is only concerned that the Republicans are out to bury the auto workers. Presidential overreach –what’s that? No one is much concerned whether the Treasury Department can spend without Congressional authorization.

I suspect so long as there are Republicans able to filibuster in the Senate, and Blue Dog Democrats in the House ready to slow down the legislative train, the Reid-Peloisi duo will be happy to see President Obama exercise and extend executive powers. Perhaps, Pelosi should worry less about who Rahm Emanuel is calling, and more about what turf she is conceding to the executive branch. Unless, of course, her professed concern for the Constitution was all for show.

Professor Bradley Smith asks some good questions:

We’re hearing a lot about the need to regulate and to prosecute private sector actors, but where’s the skepticism of big government? Where is the serious citizen oversight of President-Elect Obama’s plans, and President Bush’s actions, to “stimulate” the economy by essentially nationalizing huge parts of it? Why are so many people ready to think that turning to more government is the answer? Where is the skepticism that Barney Frank knows how to run the banking industry, or Chris Dodd the auto industry? What happened to those liberals who just a year ago were complaining about excessive presidential power and a government that was “shredding the constitution” to deal with a crisis (in that case, terrorism)?

Nowhere is the hypocrisy greater than in regard to the car bailout. From the get-go Hank Paulson and the President said that the executive branch lacked legislative authorization to use TARP funds for the car industry. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, vigilant defenders of their legislative branch said, “Oh, just do it!” Congress tried and failed to pass a bailout bill. In essence, the legislative body could not muster the will to vote for the bailout (or at least the version the Democrats were willing to put to a vote). So Reid and Pelosi, again our favorite critics of unilateral presidential power, said, “Your ball, Mr. President. Just do it!”

The concerns vigorously voiced for eight years about the proper balance of the three branches, the primacy of Congress in funding matters, and the extension of executive branch power have vanished. One wonders whether all that talk about separation of powers was just that — talk. And the MSM, which lambasted the Bush administration for “shredding the Constitution,” is only concerned that the Republicans are out to bury the auto workers. Presidential overreach –what’s that? No one is much concerned whether the Treasury Department can spend without Congressional authorization.

I suspect so long as there are Republicans able to filibuster in the Senate, and Blue Dog Democrats in the House ready to slow down the legislative train, the Reid-Peloisi duo will be happy to see President Obama exercise and extend executive powers. Perhaps, Pelosi should worry less about who Rahm Emanuel is calling, and more about what turf she is conceding to the executive branch. Unless, of course, her professed concern for the Constitution was all for show.

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That’s Not A Bug…

Well, it’s now out in the open: Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA — is that any surprise?) is officially calling for a return of the “fairness doctrine.” And not just the old one, that covered radio and television: she wants it to apply to cable and satellite programming, as well.

This could be a bit problematic. According to the original Fairness Doctrine, radio and TV broadcasters’ use of public airwaves made them guardians of a public trust. As such, they were obligated to the government to promote what was deemed the common good. Cable and satellite companies are, by definition, not broadcasters, and therefore don’t fall under the same presumed obligations.

The Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters to grant equal time to opposing points of view. For example, if a host spent an hour railing against kicking dogs, the station would be obligated to offer an hour to someone extolling the virtues of puppy-punting.

For all the high-minded rhetoric behind the return of the Fairness Doctrine, the underlying  goal is the same: to rein in talk radio, where conservatism has found its greatest popular success. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Jerry Doyle, Dennis Miller, are monumental success.

Conversely, liberals on the radio have been utter failures. Air America still limps along, but its market share has continually diminished and it has never made a single dime. Indeed, at some points it had to resort to shady (if not downright illegal) practices to stay solvent. 

So, under a revived Fairness Doctrine, a station that aired Rush Limbaugh’s entire three-hour show would be obligated to air three hours of counterpoint. Fair is fair, right?

Wrong.

The station that airs Limbaugh does so because it is profitable for them to do so. Its advertisers are willing to sponsor Limbaugh’s show: that ‘s how it gets on the air.

Who will buy ads on the anti-Rush show? A lot fewer people.  In fact, it’s entirely possible that not enough sponsors will be found to cover the expenses of the anti-Rush show. So the station will have to decide whether or not they wish to continue to subsidize the anti-Rush show. But should they cut back (or cut out) the anti-Rush, then they have to cut back (or cut out) Limbaugh as well.

No, it’s not the stated goal, but this will cripple talk radio. Given the potential headaches, most stations will simply get rid of political talk entirely.

As the saying goes, that’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

If this seems a bit familiar, it should: it’s another example of the principle of “equality” not being applied to opportunity, but to results. As seductive and idealistic as that may sound, it never works, because it ends up punishing success and rewarding failure. If the same result arises no matter how hard you try (or don’t try at all), why try hard?

Liberal talk radio has just as much of a chance to succeed as conservative talk radio. That it has failed is not the fault of conservative talk radio, and conservative broadcasters should not be punished for simply being more popular.

The call for “fairness” will severely cripple — if not destroy — the conservative talk radio market. And that is one of the more profitable markets in radio today, especially on the otherwise-dying AM band.

In the name of “fairness,” one of the strongest forces for conservatism will be crippled, and broadcasters across the country will be devastated.

Just keep telling yourself: that’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

Well, it’s now out in the open: Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA — is that any surprise?) is officially calling for a return of the “fairness doctrine.” And not just the old one, that covered radio and television: she wants it to apply to cable and satellite programming, as well.

This could be a bit problematic. According to the original Fairness Doctrine, radio and TV broadcasters’ use of public airwaves made them guardians of a public trust. As such, they were obligated to the government to promote what was deemed the common good. Cable and satellite companies are, by definition, not broadcasters, and therefore don’t fall under the same presumed obligations.

The Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters to grant equal time to opposing points of view. For example, if a host spent an hour railing against kicking dogs, the station would be obligated to offer an hour to someone extolling the virtues of puppy-punting.

For all the high-minded rhetoric behind the return of the Fairness Doctrine, the underlying  goal is the same: to rein in talk radio, where conservatism has found its greatest popular success. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Jerry Doyle, Dennis Miller, are monumental success.

Conversely, liberals on the radio have been utter failures. Air America still limps along, but its market share has continually diminished and it has never made a single dime. Indeed, at some points it had to resort to shady (if not downright illegal) practices to stay solvent. 

So, under a revived Fairness Doctrine, a station that aired Rush Limbaugh’s entire three-hour show would be obligated to air three hours of counterpoint. Fair is fair, right?

Wrong.

The station that airs Limbaugh does so because it is profitable for them to do so. Its advertisers are willing to sponsor Limbaugh’s show: that ‘s how it gets on the air.

Who will buy ads on the anti-Rush show? A lot fewer people.  In fact, it’s entirely possible that not enough sponsors will be found to cover the expenses of the anti-Rush show. So the station will have to decide whether or not they wish to continue to subsidize the anti-Rush show. But should they cut back (or cut out) the anti-Rush, then they have to cut back (or cut out) Limbaugh as well.

No, it’s not the stated goal, but this will cripple talk radio. Given the potential headaches, most stations will simply get rid of political talk entirely.

As the saying goes, that’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

If this seems a bit familiar, it should: it’s another example of the principle of “equality” not being applied to opportunity, but to results. As seductive and idealistic as that may sound, it never works, because it ends up punishing success and rewarding failure. If the same result arises no matter how hard you try (or don’t try at all), why try hard?

Liberal talk radio has just as much of a chance to succeed as conservative talk radio. That it has failed is not the fault of conservative talk radio, and conservative broadcasters should not be punished for simply being more popular.

The call for “fairness” will severely cripple — if not destroy — the conservative talk radio market. And that is one of the more profitable markets in radio today, especially on the otherwise-dying AM band.

In the name of “fairness,” one of the strongest forces for conservatism will be crippled, and broadcasters across the country will be devastated.

Just keep telling yourself: that’s not a bug, it’s a feature.

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Who Knew The 17th Amendment Was Such A Good Idea?

The Seventeenth Amendment, providing for the direct election of senators, was ratified almost a hundred years ago. Since then, it’s had its ups and downs. For every Everett Dirksen, there’s been a Ted Stevens. But we generally have gotten along on the theory that these rather powerful people should be popularly elected.

Not so much this year. We have seats filled or to be filled by Governors in Delaware (by Joe Biden’s staffer to keep the seat warm for Biden’s son), New York (where the frontrunner is the princess who has everything, so why not a senate seat?), Illinois ( if they can figure out how to hold out long enough to impeach Blago first), and now Colorado ( the brother of the current senator is the frontrunner — I kid you not). This isn’t a good idea for lots of reasons. ( I admit this against all self-interest since this is pure comedy and journalistic gold.)

Let’s put aside the Blago/criminality element, well sort of. The appointment by a governor of a senator creates a relationship in which the latter is entirely beholden to the former, even more so than a normal senator would be to a governor of the same party. There need not be an explicit quid pro quo to realize that there’s virtually nothing that appointee won’t do for the governor — be it judges, policies, waivers of federal requirements, bailouts and the like. And because of the circumstances of the appointment the suspicion will always be, regardless of the merits, that the governor is pulling the strings.

Then there are the candidates themselves. With an appointment, there is no winnowing in primaries or vetting in elections. Whatever we don’t know about them we won’t find out until they are in office. Whatever faults they have will be sprung upon the voters only after they are sworn in. This is especially fraught with peril when the appointee is someone who never held elective office.

You only need look at the choices this year to know that this is cronyism at its worse. A Biden staffer holding out for Biden’s son? You must be joking! The daughter of a president, sponsored by the uncle senator who’s greatest public contribution is carrying the torch of her troubled family? We owe George III an apology for all those royalty cracks, if this one slips through. Almost by definition these picks aren’t the most meritorious; they are the most connected. They had to be to get the nod.

Republicans are certainly licking their chops at the chance to run in 2010 against the related and the anointed. The very circumstances of these individuals’ elevation will raise many voters’ ire.

So what to do? All the open seats should be filled by special election. And if the money is tight in states, that’s one bailout of federal money I’d favor. Spending money on democratic elections seems about the best use of the taxpayers money one can imagine. As we see, the alternative is an embarrassment.

The Seventeenth Amendment, providing for the direct election of senators, was ratified almost a hundred years ago. Since then, it’s had its ups and downs. For every Everett Dirksen, there’s been a Ted Stevens. But we generally have gotten along on the theory that these rather powerful people should be popularly elected.

Not so much this year. We have seats filled or to be filled by Governors in Delaware (by Joe Biden’s staffer to keep the seat warm for Biden’s son), New York (where the frontrunner is the princess who has everything, so why not a senate seat?), Illinois ( if they can figure out how to hold out long enough to impeach Blago first), and now Colorado ( the brother of the current senator is the frontrunner — I kid you not). This isn’t a good idea for lots of reasons. ( I admit this against all self-interest since this is pure comedy and journalistic gold.)

Let’s put aside the Blago/criminality element, well sort of. The appointment by a governor of a senator creates a relationship in which the latter is entirely beholden to the former, even more so than a normal senator would be to a governor of the same party. There need not be an explicit quid pro quo to realize that there’s virtually nothing that appointee won’t do for the governor — be it judges, policies, waivers of federal requirements, bailouts and the like. And because of the circumstances of the appointment the suspicion will always be, regardless of the merits, that the governor is pulling the strings.

Then there are the candidates themselves. With an appointment, there is no winnowing in primaries or vetting in elections. Whatever we don’t know about them we won’t find out until they are in office. Whatever faults they have will be sprung upon the voters only after they are sworn in. This is especially fraught with peril when the appointee is someone who never held elective office.

You only need look at the choices this year to know that this is cronyism at its worse. A Biden staffer holding out for Biden’s son? You must be joking! The daughter of a president, sponsored by the uncle senator who’s greatest public contribution is carrying the torch of her troubled family? We owe George III an apology for all those royalty cracks, if this one slips through. Almost by definition these picks aren’t the most meritorious; they are the most connected. They had to be to get the nod.

Republicans are certainly licking their chops at the chance to run in 2010 against the related and the anointed. The very circumstances of these individuals’ elevation will raise many voters’ ire.

So what to do? All the open seats should be filled by special election. And if the money is tight in states, that’s one bailout of federal money I’d favor. Spending money on democratic elections seems about the best use of the taxpayers money one can imagine. As we see, the alternative is an embarrassment.

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New York’s Biggest Losers

There are many reasons to criticize Caroline Kennedy’s bid to replace Hillary Clinton as U.S. Senator from New York.  For starters, it takes a tremendous amount of chutzpah – and I mean this in the greedy, not gutsy, way – to seek appointment to a high political office without a day of meaningful experience in public service.

Moreover, to the extent that she is attractive solely on account of her last name – and all the fundraising dollars that it can produce – her appointment would represent everything that this country is supposed to be against.  It is, excuse my redundancy, worth emphasizing that this is an appointment: Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush may have similarly benefited from their last names, but at least they had to prove their political mettle in competitive elections before taking office.  If New York Governor David Paterson ultimately selects her, Caroline Kennedy will have been handed a Senate seat for no apparent reason other than having been born a Kennedy.  So much for her pre-Super Tuesday experiment of promoting “change” in America.

Still, it’s impossible to ignore that this is the second time in a decade that New York Democrats have turned to a “name” – rather than promoting from within – in selecting a U.S. Senate candidate.  This is truly incredible.  After all, New York’s House delegation – the typical talent pool for Senate candidates – contains 23 Democrats (22 if you exclude the Congressman under investigation).  How have these Congressmen – most of whom have served in Washington for over a decade – so blatantly failed to build meaningful public profiles for themselves beyond their districts?  How have they so pathetically permitted outsiders – first a former first lady of Arkansas, and now a neophyte named Kennedy – to seize their opportunities for promotion?

It may be too late to stop the Caroline Kennedy juggernaut.  But, sooner or later, New York Democrats will have to ask how – despite decades of House delegation dominance – they found themselves in the position of needing a Clinton or Kennedy to preserve a Senate seat. Where are the apparent losers that they’ve been nominating for safely gerrymandered House seats all these years – the folks who were supposed to be the next generation of statewide leaders? Without this soul-searching, New Yorkers may soon realize that they have been re-electing clowns biennially for far too long.

Or, so one can hope.

There are many reasons to criticize Caroline Kennedy’s bid to replace Hillary Clinton as U.S. Senator from New York.  For starters, it takes a tremendous amount of chutzpah – and I mean this in the greedy, not gutsy, way – to seek appointment to a high political office without a day of meaningful experience in public service.

Moreover, to the extent that she is attractive solely on account of her last name – and all the fundraising dollars that it can produce – her appointment would represent everything that this country is supposed to be against.  It is, excuse my redundancy, worth emphasizing that this is an appointment: Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush may have similarly benefited from their last names, but at least they had to prove their political mettle in competitive elections before taking office.  If New York Governor David Paterson ultimately selects her, Caroline Kennedy will have been handed a Senate seat for no apparent reason other than having been born a Kennedy.  So much for her pre-Super Tuesday experiment of promoting “change” in America.

Still, it’s impossible to ignore that this is the second time in a decade that New York Democrats have turned to a “name” – rather than promoting from within – in selecting a U.S. Senate candidate.  This is truly incredible.  After all, New York’s House delegation – the typical talent pool for Senate candidates – contains 23 Democrats (22 if you exclude the Congressman under investigation).  How have these Congressmen – most of whom have served in Washington for over a decade – so blatantly failed to build meaningful public profiles for themselves beyond their districts?  How have they so pathetically permitted outsiders – first a former first lady of Arkansas, and now a neophyte named Kennedy – to seize their opportunities for promotion?

It may be too late to stop the Caroline Kennedy juggernaut.  But, sooner or later, New York Democrats will have to ask how – despite decades of House delegation dominance – they found themselves in the position of needing a Clinton or Kennedy to preserve a Senate seat. Where are the apparent losers that they’ve been nominating for safely gerrymandered House seats all these years – the folks who were supposed to be the next generation of statewide leaders? Without this soul-searching, New Yorkers may soon realize that they have been re-electing clowns biennially for far too long.

Or, so one can hope.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Gov. Mark Sanford in a letter to President Bush warning against use of TARP funds to rescue the car companies: ” What’s unfolding now is ultimately bigger than credit in our financial system and distressed businesses. We are placing an unhealthy and unprecedented level of debt on present taxpayers and future generations. And I believe we are at a tipping point in moving from a market-based economy to a politically-based economy, wherein one’s success can be determined not by good decisions and hard work, but by the size of one’s voice and connection to Washington.”

Is the only misdeed by the Obama transition team in Blago-gate the crime of mishandling the media? Well, they picked the right people to mishandle — the most sympathetic and protective group one could imagine.

I’m so glad John McCain  Barack Obama was elected so that he can have the national security advice of people like Joe Leiberman and George Shultz to guide him. One wonders if reality has had a sobering effect. “Mumbai was a little bit of a wake-up call,” a top advisor says. Hey, we can bemoan the fact that the President-elect needed waking, but at least he’s been roused.

Richard Cohen is trying to encourage the President-elect to give up his Blackberry in favor of a newspaper, which he claims will give him a broader outlook. But this is about the worst possible argument: “The paper is not written with him in mind. The paper does not set out to please him, and it is not seeking a job.” Aside from the fact that “the paper” is an inanimate object, 80% of the writers do write with him in mind, are out to please and are seeking jobs. Ask Linda Douglass and Jay Carney, if you doubt me.

RNC Chair hopeful, Katon Dawson is playing defense on his membership in a whites-only club. His latest: well blacks played golf there as guests, so who was to know they weren’t members? Aside from the fact that as a member Dawson would likely know the other members (and know they weren’t black), and that the major political paper The State reported several years ago on the club’s exclusive status, I suppose he could have been clueless. (Although this most recent defense comes belatedly and oddly wasn’t mentioned in his letter resigning from the club this year. There was no “I just learned that. . .  ) In any event, “clueless on race” is not a good moniker for the head of the GOP, especially now.

Both Kleins agree: thumbs down on appointing Caroline Kennedy. She’s nice, but enough with the dynasty thing.

Meanwhile, Ramesh Ponnuru asks: “It is, rather, her lack of accomplishments. Board memberships; insubstantial and ‘co-written’ books: Can’t New York find someone more impressive to hand this job to? Being part of a dynasty is fine, but it’s not enough.” Frankly, having elected an unaccomplished President largely on star power, Democrats are in a poorer position than the Right to argue experience and merit. But perhaps it is one thing to be a celebrity in your own right and another merely as an accident of birth.

And Claudia Rossett nails The Banana Republic of New York.

But we’re not done with the nepotism sweepstakes! The Colorado Senate seat may be filled with the brother of Sen. Ken Salazar who has been picked for Interior. Because that’s a rule — only relatives of politicians get Senate seats, right?

Howard Fineman thinks pushing until Christmas week the release of the review of the  transition team’s Blago contacts is fishy. “Still, however justifiable the silence and caution, Emanuel (and, by extension, Obama) could pay a price for both as the Chicago mess simmers on. Emanuel already has blown up at members of the Chicago press corps—a newspaper reporter and a cameraman. Obama’s transition team, eager to show its openness and focus on naming cabinet nominees, has been forced to spend day after day dealing with the Blago story. There’s too much focus on Emanuel, whose naturally abrasive personality clashes with his boss’s cool demeanor.”

This is quite comforting: “The White House has prepared more than a dozen contingency plans to help guide President-elect Barack Obama if an international crisis erupts in the opening days of his administration, part of an elaborate operation devised to smooth the first transition of power since Sept. 11, 2001.”

Jesse Jackson, Jr. was helping the feds in Blagogate. Anyone else, or were others really unaware they were the supporting cast in the Blago-gate drama?

Harold Meyerson says the Republicans are out to destroy the UAW, which made the middle class. Actually, the middle class hasn’t been built on unionization for decades. But who needs facts when you are waxing rhapsodic? And as for the destroying part ( jobs and the attractiveness of unions in general), the UAW and the Big Three – by conspiring to resist change – are doing that all by themselves.

Gov. Mark Sanford in a letter to President Bush warning against use of TARP funds to rescue the car companies: ” What’s unfolding now is ultimately bigger than credit in our financial system and distressed businesses. We are placing an unhealthy and unprecedented level of debt on present taxpayers and future generations. And I believe we are at a tipping point in moving from a market-based economy to a politically-based economy, wherein one’s success can be determined not by good decisions and hard work, but by the size of one’s voice and connection to Washington.”

Is the only misdeed by the Obama transition team in Blago-gate the crime of mishandling the media? Well, they picked the right people to mishandle — the most sympathetic and protective group one could imagine.

I’m so glad John McCain  Barack Obama was elected so that he can have the national security advice of people like Joe Leiberman and George Shultz to guide him. One wonders if reality has had a sobering effect. “Mumbai was a little bit of a wake-up call,” a top advisor says. Hey, we can bemoan the fact that the President-elect needed waking, but at least he’s been roused.

Richard Cohen is trying to encourage the President-elect to give up his Blackberry in favor of a newspaper, which he claims will give him a broader outlook. But this is about the worst possible argument: “The paper is not written with him in mind. The paper does not set out to please him, and it is not seeking a job.” Aside from the fact that “the paper” is an inanimate object, 80% of the writers do write with him in mind, are out to please and are seeking jobs. Ask Linda Douglass and Jay Carney, if you doubt me.

RNC Chair hopeful, Katon Dawson is playing defense on his membership in a whites-only club. His latest: well blacks played golf there as guests, so who was to know they weren’t members? Aside from the fact that as a member Dawson would likely know the other members (and know they weren’t black), and that the major political paper The State reported several years ago on the club’s exclusive status, I suppose he could have been clueless. (Although this most recent defense comes belatedly and oddly wasn’t mentioned in his letter resigning from the club this year. There was no “I just learned that. . .  ) In any event, “clueless on race” is not a good moniker for the head of the GOP, especially now.

Both Kleins agree: thumbs down on appointing Caroline Kennedy. She’s nice, but enough with the dynasty thing.

Meanwhile, Ramesh Ponnuru asks: “It is, rather, her lack of accomplishments. Board memberships; insubstantial and ‘co-written’ books: Can’t New York find someone more impressive to hand this job to? Being part of a dynasty is fine, but it’s not enough.” Frankly, having elected an unaccomplished President largely on star power, Democrats are in a poorer position than the Right to argue experience and merit. But perhaps it is one thing to be a celebrity in your own right and another merely as an accident of birth.

And Claudia Rossett nails The Banana Republic of New York.

But we’re not done with the nepotism sweepstakes! The Colorado Senate seat may be filled with the brother of Sen. Ken Salazar who has been picked for Interior. Because that’s a rule — only relatives of politicians get Senate seats, right?

Howard Fineman thinks pushing until Christmas week the release of the review of the  transition team’s Blago contacts is fishy. “Still, however justifiable the silence and caution, Emanuel (and, by extension, Obama) could pay a price for both as the Chicago mess simmers on. Emanuel already has blown up at members of the Chicago press corps—a newspaper reporter and a cameraman. Obama’s transition team, eager to show its openness and focus on naming cabinet nominees, has been forced to spend day after day dealing with the Blago story. There’s too much focus on Emanuel, whose naturally abrasive personality clashes with his boss’s cool demeanor.”

This is quite comforting: “The White House has prepared more than a dozen contingency plans to help guide President-elect Barack Obama if an international crisis erupts in the opening days of his administration, part of an elaborate operation devised to smooth the first transition of power since Sept. 11, 2001.”

Jesse Jackson, Jr. was helping the feds in Blagogate. Anyone else, or were others really unaware they were the supporting cast in the Blago-gate drama?

Harold Meyerson says the Republicans are out to destroy the UAW, which made the middle class. Actually, the middle class hasn’t been built on unionization for decades. But who needs facts when you are waxing rhapsodic? And as for the destroying part ( jobs and the attractiveness of unions in general), the UAW and the Big Three – by conspiring to resist change – are doing that all by themselves.

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Spectacle and History in Iraq

Monday night, in his comments at the annual Menorah lighting at the White House, President Bush began by noting he had “had a pretty eventful weekend.”  He was not referring to the shoe thrown at him, but something larger:

So I slipped out Saturday night to Andrews Air Force Base, boarded Air Force One, and landed in Baghdad, Iraq, on Sunday afternoon.  It was an unbelievable experience, it really was, to stand next to the President of a democracy and hold my hand over my heart as they played the national anthem in front of one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces.

In a roundtable with the Associated Press yesterday, Condoleezza Rice was asked about “this, you know, sort of signature moment of a guy throwing a shoe and saying, you know, this is your goodbye present.”  The AP reporter wanted to know “why should Americans think that we have done a lasting and valuable thing in Iraq?  And I know you’re going to say the removal of a tyrant, but beyond – beyond the change of” – at which point Rice interrupted him with this answer:

SECRETARY RICE:  The removal of a tyrant is a pretty big thing.  Look, so a reporter threw a shoe, which, by the way, is a kind of sign of the freedom that people feel in Iraq, but somehow what was missed was the extraordinary moment for the President of the United States to go to Iraq, of all places, and to be received by a democratically elected Prime Minister, a democratically elected Presidency Council, with full honors at the Presidential Palace with the Iraqi band playing the national anthem of the United States of America.  I think that is far more salient than one guy who decided to throw a shoe.

And I have to say that the weight of the story is about the President being able, after all of the difficulties and the ups and downs, to go to Iraq and to receive that kind of honor with an Iraqi Government that is preparing for provincial elections at the end of January, that an Iraq that is no longer ruled by a bloody tyrant who put 300,000 people in mass graves, who used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and against his neighbors, who literally tried to absorb the state of Kuwait – for me, one of the extraordinary moments was to drive into Kuwait the last time and see the Iraqi flag flying voluntarily in Kuwait, an Iraq that will no longer be a threat to its neighbors, that has its best relations with Turkey ever, that is being integrated into the Arab community of states again, but this time as a Shia-majority, democratic government that is an avowed friend of the United States.  That’s what that story is about.  And frankly, I think it’s peculiar that any of you decided to focus on the shoe.

On September 11, 2007, at a time when most of the country and its elite simply wanted to withdraw from Iraq, Norman Podhoretz published World War IV:  The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, his sustained defense of the Bush Doctrine – the combination of (a) pre-emptive military action to preclude anti-American fascist states from amassing weapons of mass destruction, and (b) a forward strategy of freedom to compete with anti-American fascist ideology.  The first part of that strategy had led to an amazingly successful three-week campaign to remove Saddam Hussein, followed by the much more difficult task of bringing representative government to Iraq.

Podhoretz noted that opponents of the Bush Doctrine had sought to dismiss Iraq as merely a “civil war,” while they acknowledged (somewhat inconsistently) that it had attracted al Qaeda, who had not been there before.  But the involvement of al Qaeda — and Iran and Syria — demonstrated the Iraq conflict was no more a meaningless “civil war,” without wider consequences, than the Spanish Civil War in 1936 was simply a “civil war” unrelated to the future of fascism.  Podhoretz wrote of his amazement regarding charges that the Bush Doctrine had failed:

After all, Iraq had been liberated from one of the worst tyrants in the Middle East; three elections had been held; a decent constitution had been written; a government was in place; and previous unimaginable liberties were being enjoyed.  By what bizarre calculation did all this add up to failure?  And by whatever stranger logic was failure to be read into the fact that the forces opposed to democratization were fighting back with all their might?

In the book, Podhoretz expressed his belief that the hindsight of history would recognize George W. Bush had developed a strategic doctrine to meet a worldwide challenge, articulated it in a series of historic speeches (particularly the September 20, 2001 Address to Congress and the Second Inaugural Address), and remained remarkably steadfast in Iraq in the face of not only relentless criticism but extraordinary personal ridicule and demonization.

If history remembers the shoe, it will remember it was thrown by a reporter who was allowed in the room to ask harsh questions of the Iraqi prime minister and the American president, without fear for his life, and who – if he is tried for his assault on the president – will have a lawyer at his side and a public unafraid to speak out in his behalf.  History will record the shoe as evidence that as he left office at the end of 2008, the president who did not flinch was vilified by many, but had in fact achieved a pretty big thing.

Monday night, in his comments at the annual Menorah lighting at the White House, President Bush began by noting he had “had a pretty eventful weekend.”  He was not referring to the shoe thrown at him, but something larger:

So I slipped out Saturday night to Andrews Air Force Base, boarded Air Force One, and landed in Baghdad, Iraq, on Sunday afternoon.  It was an unbelievable experience, it really was, to stand next to the President of a democracy and hold my hand over my heart as they played the national anthem in front of one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces.

In a roundtable with the Associated Press yesterday, Condoleezza Rice was asked about “this, you know, sort of signature moment of a guy throwing a shoe and saying, you know, this is your goodbye present.”  The AP reporter wanted to know “why should Americans think that we have done a lasting and valuable thing in Iraq?  And I know you’re going to say the removal of a tyrant, but beyond – beyond the change of” – at which point Rice interrupted him with this answer:

SECRETARY RICE:  The removal of a tyrant is a pretty big thing.  Look, so a reporter threw a shoe, which, by the way, is a kind of sign of the freedom that people feel in Iraq, but somehow what was missed was the extraordinary moment for the President of the United States to go to Iraq, of all places, and to be received by a democratically elected Prime Minister, a democratically elected Presidency Council, with full honors at the Presidential Palace with the Iraqi band playing the national anthem of the United States of America.  I think that is far more salient than one guy who decided to throw a shoe.

And I have to say that the weight of the story is about the President being able, after all of the difficulties and the ups and downs, to go to Iraq and to receive that kind of honor with an Iraqi Government that is preparing for provincial elections at the end of January, that an Iraq that is no longer ruled by a bloody tyrant who put 300,000 people in mass graves, who used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and against his neighbors, who literally tried to absorb the state of Kuwait – for me, one of the extraordinary moments was to drive into Kuwait the last time and see the Iraqi flag flying voluntarily in Kuwait, an Iraq that will no longer be a threat to its neighbors, that has its best relations with Turkey ever, that is being integrated into the Arab community of states again, but this time as a Shia-majority, democratic government that is an avowed friend of the United States.  That’s what that story is about.  And frankly, I think it’s peculiar that any of you decided to focus on the shoe.

On September 11, 2007, at a time when most of the country and its elite simply wanted to withdraw from Iraq, Norman Podhoretz published World War IV:  The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism, his sustained defense of the Bush Doctrine – the combination of (a) pre-emptive military action to preclude anti-American fascist states from amassing weapons of mass destruction, and (b) a forward strategy of freedom to compete with anti-American fascist ideology.  The first part of that strategy had led to an amazingly successful three-week campaign to remove Saddam Hussein, followed by the much more difficult task of bringing representative government to Iraq.

Podhoretz noted that opponents of the Bush Doctrine had sought to dismiss Iraq as merely a “civil war,” while they acknowledged (somewhat inconsistently) that it had attracted al Qaeda, who had not been there before.  But the involvement of al Qaeda — and Iran and Syria — demonstrated the Iraq conflict was no more a meaningless “civil war,” without wider consequences, than the Spanish Civil War in 1936 was simply a “civil war” unrelated to the future of fascism.  Podhoretz wrote of his amazement regarding charges that the Bush Doctrine had failed:

After all, Iraq had been liberated from one of the worst tyrants in the Middle East; three elections had been held; a decent constitution had been written; a government was in place; and previous unimaginable liberties were being enjoyed.  By what bizarre calculation did all this add up to failure?  And by whatever stranger logic was failure to be read into the fact that the forces opposed to democratization were fighting back with all their might?

In the book, Podhoretz expressed his belief that the hindsight of history would recognize George W. Bush had developed a strategic doctrine to meet a worldwide challenge, articulated it in a series of historic speeches (particularly the September 20, 2001 Address to Congress and the Second Inaugural Address), and remained remarkably steadfast in Iraq in the face of not only relentless criticism but extraordinary personal ridicule and demonization.

If history remembers the shoe, it will remember it was thrown by a reporter who was allowed in the room to ask harsh questions of the Iraqi prime minister and the American president, without fear for his life, and who – if he is tried for his assault on the president – will have a lawyer at his side and a public unafraid to speak out in his behalf.  History will record the shoe as evidence that as he left office at the end of 2008, the president who did not flinch was vilified by many, but had in fact achieved a pretty big thing.

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