Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Flotsam and Jetsam

Matt Continetti thinks the small government crowd has it wrong: “The lesson of the last eight years is not that Americans want a smaller government. It’s that Americans recoil at what appears to be an incompetently run government out of touch with the major challenges of the day. Your average voter doesn’t mind government action if he deems it necessary to pursue a public good like national defense or supporting retirees. He votes for the party that has the most compelling program for the future, not the one simply trying to stand athwart it.”

A sound take on the real success of the Bush presidency: “Osama bin Laden once told Time magazine that the U.S. withdrawal from Somalia after the murder of 18 U.S. troops on a humanitarian mission made him realize ‘more than before that the American soldier was a paper tiger and after a few blows ran in defeat.’ Members of al Qaeda have told intelligence officials that they never thought that Washington would respond to the 9/11 attacks as ferociously as Bush responded. They expected a few bombs to be dropped, no boots on the ground, a swift withdrawal if casualties mounted – the usual short-attention span foreign policy that warped Lebanon, the Persian Gulf War, Somalia, the African embassy bombings and the attack on the destroyer Cole. Bush showed America’s enemies a country that does not retreat in fear, does not bomb with impunity, and most important, does not desert civilians or foreign governments that trust us. If you think that doesn’t matter, look at Libya, which disarmed its weapons program. And see how much easier Obama’s presidency will be, because Bush kept the faith.”It would reflect well on the new President if he acknowledged this but it does not matter in the end — it only matters what Bush did and how the world stage onto which Obama steps has been transformed by his predecessor.

Jonah Goldberg reminds us that Bill Moyers is a crackpot.

The “permanent campaign” goes on. But it’s okay because it’s Democrats. It is only bad when Republicans do it.

Norm Coleman vs. Mark Dayton for Minnesota Governor in 2010? ”Dayton is best know for closing his Senate office in October 2004 because he feared that a terrorist attack would endanger him and his staff.   The incident drew him widespread ridicule, and he decided not to run for re-election in 2006.” If that race comes about Coleman certainly would have cornered the market on foolish opponents.

Eric Holder will get confirmed, it seems, but his participation in the pardon of 16 FALN terrorists and his refusal to acknowledge the gross error in that judgment is disturbing, to say the least. Scott Johnson is right:  ”Whether or not the FALN terrorists were convicted of murder, they wantonly perpetrated it. Does Holder dispute that? Morevoer, if the recommendation was based on Holder’s best judgment, Holder shouldn’t be a partner at a prominent Washington law firm, let alone the Attorney General of the United States.”

David Ignatius on the surge and Ambassador Ryan Crocker: “Bush’s decision rocked America’s adversaries, says Crocker: ‘The lesson they had learned from Lebanon was, ‘Stick it to the Americans, make them feel the pain, and they won’t have the stomach to stick it out.’ That assumption was challenged by the surge.’ Soon, Iraq will be Barack Obama’s problem. And I ask Crocker what mistakes the new administration could make. He answers that he thinks it will avoid these errors, but he lists them anyway: ‘Concluding that this was the Bush administration’s war, that it’s stable enough now, that we don’t want to inherit it, so we’re going to back away.’” Good advice which perhaps the new and old Secretary of Defense can impart to the new President.

Is Tim Geithner really worth it? Perhaps there is something more at stake: “Politics, of course, involves compromise—and by sticking with Timothy Geithner as treasury secretary, Obama has signaled his willingness to overlook an earlier lapse in judgment by his nominee in order to get the most competent person for the job. Ignoring $34,000 in missing tax payments may seem a small price to pay for rescuing the financial system. But the country needs a cultural overhaul, and to bring it about Obama must set the right tone and example from the start.” Really, if Geithner had gotten more of the major financial decisions (e.g. Lehman Brothers) right in the last year, the “he’s indispensable” argument would have more sell.

Fred Barnes neatly categorizes all the things we have to fear about President Obama. I’ll add another: he thinks he can sustain an enormous gap between rhetoric and action (e.g. “closing” Guantanamo but not really, ending enhanced interrogation but not really, supporting Big Labor’s agenda but not really, bringing transparency to government but not really) without losing credibility. Won’t people begin to notice?

Atlantic’s OB-GYN pronounces: “I blog rather than do cable is that I think I can get at more nuanced, detailed and factual truths online than on TV.” Uh huh.

The Washington Post demonstrates all three of those qualities: “But, as matters in Iraq now stand, there is a decent chance of a reasonably pro-American incipient democracy in the heart of the Arab Middle East. This would be a major accomplishment, and one that would cast the invasion, the failures of the early years of occupation and the painful loss of more than 4,000 American lives and many thousand more Iraqi lives in a different light than that in which they are seen by most Americans now. It would also vindicate his unpopular decision to stabilize Iraq with more U.S. troops rather than abandon it to civil war and possible genocide — an instance in which Mr. Bush’s self-assurance and steadfastness paid off. ”

The Obama team grouse about losing IM. Maybe it is a good thing — reminding them that not every idea which pops into their heads should be shared with every major news outlet (which is where many White House communications eventually wind up). It’s not a bad thing to become more deliberate and more formal in the White House. You hope the complainers understand that.

The Blue Dogs seem more like lap dogs, willing to accept a huge spending plan and insignificant tax cuts in exchange for vague promises of entitlement reform and convinced that the mere election of Barack Obama will buy us great PR in the Arab world. These are the conservative Democrats?