Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 19, 2009

The Political Wisdom of the Gaza Street

Do not let the following quotes dissuade you from the mantra that Hamas was elected in 2006 as a protest of Fatah’s corruption. Do not believe for a moment that Hamas’s implacable dedication to killing Jews, shared by a majority of Gazans, had anything to do with it. These quotes must be an aberration:

“I have always been a supporter of rockets and all forms of resistance,” said Aziz, the taxi driver. “But maybe Hamas needs to renew martyrdom operations instead,” he said, referring to suicide attacks.

Hassan, the father of five, said there was little point in firing rockets if they were not effective.

“Rockets — I think this issue needs to be stopped for sometime and restudied,” he said. “Once we have a missile that can reach the heart of Tel Aviv and blow up a building, maybe they can resume fire.”

Maybe indeed.

Do not let the following quotes dissuade you from the mantra that Hamas was elected in 2006 as a protest of Fatah’s corruption. Do not believe for a moment that Hamas’s implacable dedication to killing Jews, shared by a majority of Gazans, had anything to do with it. These quotes must be an aberration:

“I have always been a supporter of rockets and all forms of resistance,” said Aziz, the taxi driver. “But maybe Hamas needs to renew martyrdom operations instead,” he said, referring to suicide attacks.

Hassan, the father of five, said there was little point in firing rockets if they were not effective.

“Rockets — I think this issue needs to be stopped for sometime and restudied,” he said. “Once we have a missile that can reach the heart of Tel Aviv and blow up a building, maybe they can resume fire.”

Maybe indeed.

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Obama for Sale

With the presidential inauguration barely twenty-four hours away, Barack Obama’s supporters are honoring him through various commemorative accessories.  Of course, most of these items are fairly conventional, including all manner of t-shirts, hats, ski caps, and pins.  But some Obama devotees have taken their tributes to a whole new level, even eclipsing the more fanatical face-painters, mass-buttoners, and mass-bumper-stickerers.  Here are some of the most outlandish examples:

The Obama 59Fifty Sticker.  The New Era cap company’s 59Fifty model is the official cap of Major League Baseball.  Each cap typically comes with a gold sticker on the brim indicating the cap’s size and, in recent years, there has been an annoying trend of wearing 59Fifty caps without removing the sticker.  Well, if you’re an adherent of this style, you can now replace the real 59Fifty stickers on your caps with an Obamatized parody.  Its creators deserve points for subtlety, but should lose points for catering to people who apparently like to publicize the circumference of their heads.

Obama Sandals.  This is probably the ugliest piece of Obama paraphernalia available.  The bodiless Obama-heads that are strung along the sandal strap strike me as a bit freaky.  Moreover, presuming that this item is meant to honor Obama, does it really make sense to put the President-elect’s likeness so close to people’s toes?  Finally, it gives Obama’s detractors an obvious attack: whereas Obama’s fans will probably refer to these shoes as “sandals” or “thongs,” his critics will inevitably call them “flip-flops.”

Obama Meets Spider-Man.  You probably thought that Marvel Comics was non-partisan, though broadly pro-American.  Well, guess again: in the latest issue of Spider-man, the infamous web-slinger has a fateful encounter with the President-elect and thwarts a plot to disrupt the inauguration.  Of course, this issue has become an instant collector’s item: the first printing is sold out (and selling for nearly $100 on eBay), forcing Marvel to issue second and third printings.  Will DC Comics counter by dismissing Clark Kent and re-casting Obama as Superman’s civilian identity?

The Obama Loaf of Bread.  The Obama festivities have seen their fair share of baked goods, particularly cookies and cakes with the President-elect’s likeness.  (For a truly obsessive look at this phenomenon, see “Yes We Cake.”)  But one exuberant baker in California has gone beyond the call of duty, branding Obama’s image on a loaf of bread, which is eerily reminiscent of the infamous Virgin Mary grilled cheese and various apparitions of Jesus Christ on toast.  Does it get any closer to flat-out Obama worship than this?  (Oh, wait.)

Finally, in the “Well-Intended-But-Technically-Offensive” category, we have this man, who personalized an authentic Chicago Cubs jersey with “Obama 08.”  Clearly, he wanted to honor two of his passions – the Cubs and Obama – but failed to consider that Obama is a staunch White Sox fan who has bravely denounced Cubs fans in the past.  I sincerely respect Obama’s partisanship on this issue, and think that we should expect no less from supporters who are willing to sacrifice a $175 jersey as a tribute to him.

With the presidential inauguration barely twenty-four hours away, Barack Obama’s supporters are honoring him through various commemorative accessories.  Of course, most of these items are fairly conventional, including all manner of t-shirts, hats, ski caps, and pins.  But some Obama devotees have taken their tributes to a whole new level, even eclipsing the more fanatical face-painters, mass-buttoners, and mass-bumper-stickerers.  Here are some of the most outlandish examples:

The Obama 59Fifty Sticker.  The New Era cap company’s 59Fifty model is the official cap of Major League Baseball.  Each cap typically comes with a gold sticker on the brim indicating the cap’s size and, in recent years, there has been an annoying trend of wearing 59Fifty caps without removing the sticker.  Well, if you’re an adherent of this style, you can now replace the real 59Fifty stickers on your caps with an Obamatized parody.  Its creators deserve points for subtlety, but should lose points for catering to people who apparently like to publicize the circumference of their heads.

Obama Sandals.  This is probably the ugliest piece of Obama paraphernalia available.  The bodiless Obama-heads that are strung along the sandal strap strike me as a bit freaky.  Moreover, presuming that this item is meant to honor Obama, does it really make sense to put the President-elect’s likeness so close to people’s toes?  Finally, it gives Obama’s detractors an obvious attack: whereas Obama’s fans will probably refer to these shoes as “sandals” or “thongs,” his critics will inevitably call them “flip-flops.”

Obama Meets Spider-Man.  You probably thought that Marvel Comics was non-partisan, though broadly pro-American.  Well, guess again: in the latest issue of Spider-man, the infamous web-slinger has a fateful encounter with the President-elect and thwarts a plot to disrupt the inauguration.  Of course, this issue has become an instant collector’s item: the first printing is sold out (and selling for nearly $100 on eBay), forcing Marvel to issue second and third printings.  Will DC Comics counter by dismissing Clark Kent and re-casting Obama as Superman’s civilian identity?

The Obama Loaf of Bread.  The Obama festivities have seen their fair share of baked goods, particularly cookies and cakes with the President-elect’s likeness.  (For a truly obsessive look at this phenomenon, see “Yes We Cake.”)  But one exuberant baker in California has gone beyond the call of duty, branding Obama’s image on a loaf of bread, which is eerily reminiscent of the infamous Virgin Mary grilled cheese and various apparitions of Jesus Christ on toast.  Does it get any closer to flat-out Obama worship than this?  (Oh, wait.)

Finally, in the “Well-Intended-But-Technically-Offensive” category, we have this man, who personalized an authentic Chicago Cubs jersey with “Obama 08.”  Clearly, he wanted to honor two of his passions – the Cubs and Obama – but failed to consider that Obama is a staunch White Sox fan who has bravely denounced Cubs fans in the past.  I sincerely respect Obama’s partisanship on this issue, and think that we should expect no less from supporters who are willing to sacrifice a $175 jersey as a tribute to him.

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Can He a Draw a Line?

Mickey Kaus takes us through Obama-speak on the auto bailout. It all sounds perfectly reasonable — and perfectly opaque. Is he going to keep doling out the bailouts or pull the plug? Is he demanding wage concessions or not? Right now he is in campaign mode — telling everyone what they want to hear.

Perhaps his final decision will be the model of clarity and end the current state of perpetual bailout, which is politically unpopular and economically nonsensical. But you sense a coming compromise and further equivocation, rather than a bright line. Sometimes presidents need to be firm and definitive — especially when dealing with parties (e.g. the UAW) who will never get a less-than clear message. Not every problem can be resolved by a compromise, not all decisions are amenable to half-a- loaf solutions. One hopes the new President won’t be hesitant when needed to make the tough calls.

Mickey Kaus takes us through Obama-speak on the auto bailout. It all sounds perfectly reasonable — and perfectly opaque. Is he going to keep doling out the bailouts or pull the plug? Is he demanding wage concessions or not? Right now he is in campaign mode — telling everyone what they want to hear.

Perhaps his final decision will be the model of clarity and end the current state of perpetual bailout, which is politically unpopular and economically nonsensical. But you sense a coming compromise and further equivocation, rather than a bright line. Sometimes presidents need to be firm and definitive — especially when dealing with parties (e.g. the UAW) who will never get a less-than clear message. Not every problem can be resolved by a compromise, not all decisions are amenable to half-a- loaf solutions. One hopes the new President won’t be hesitant when needed to make the tough calls.

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A Three-Part Day

Today was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the day before the Obama administration begins, and the last day of the Bush administration.  Here’s a common theme among the three people serendipitously joined on this day: eloquence.

That’s right, eloquence.  Martin Luther King Jr. put into words the hopes of an oppressed people and articulated the American Dream in a way that moved mountains.  Barack Obama’s eloquence made him a national figure in 2004 and won him the presidency in 2008.  And George W. Bush . . . well, read on.

The number of Bush speeches that may ultimately be viewed as historic may surprise those who misunderestimated him:  from the resolution of the September 20, 2001 Address to Congress (“We are not deceived by their pretenses to piety.  We have seen their kind before.  They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century.“) through the moving salute to an embattled ally in his 2008 Address to the Knesset (“[T]he source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty.  It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul.“), he frequently articulated ideals and commitments with unusual grace.

The Second Inaugural – with its echoes of JFK, its striking literary references, and its allusions to Natan Sharansky’s work – may eventually be recognized as among the finest statements ever of the American commitment to freedom.

As we await the undoubted eloquence of Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address tomorrow, and the historic moment of an African-American president, it is also worth recalling the lesser-remembered First Inaugural of George W. Bush.  In its opening paragraphs, Bush referred to the story of America:

We have a place, all of us, in a long story — a story we continue, but whose end we will not see. It is the story of a new world that became a friend and liberator of the old, a story of a slave-holding society that became a servant of freedom, the story of a power that went into the world to protect but not possess, to defend but not to conquer.

It is the American story — a story of flawed and fallible people, united across the generations by grand and enduring ideals.

At the end of the address, Bush concluded with a story reaching back to the beginning of nation:

After the Declaration of Independence was signed, Virginia statesman John Page wrote to Thomas Jefferson: We know the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong. Do you not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm?””

Much time has passed since Jefferson arrived for his inauguration. The years and changes accumulate. But the themes of this day he would know: our nation’s grand story of courage and its simple dream of dignity.

We are not this story’s author, who fills time and eternity with his purpose. Yet his purpose is achieved in our duty, and our duty is fulfilled in service to one another.

Never tiring, never yielding, never finishing, we renew that purpose today, to make our country more just and generous, to affirm the dignity of our lives and every life.

This work continues. This story goes on. And an angel still rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm.

As a portion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is about to be realized tomorrow, we should also be thankful for the ideals that George W. Bush articulated and defended.  From his initial response to 9/11 to the surge that defeated al Qaeda in Iraq, he did not tire and he did not yield.

Today was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the day before the Obama administration begins, and the last day of the Bush administration.  Here’s a common theme among the three people serendipitously joined on this day: eloquence.

That’s right, eloquence.  Martin Luther King Jr. put into words the hopes of an oppressed people and articulated the American Dream in a way that moved mountains.  Barack Obama’s eloquence made him a national figure in 2004 and won him the presidency in 2008.  And George W. Bush . . . well, read on.

The number of Bush speeches that may ultimately be viewed as historic may surprise those who misunderestimated him:  from the resolution of the September 20, 2001 Address to Congress (“We are not deceived by their pretenses to piety.  We have seen their kind before.  They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century.“) through the moving salute to an embattled ally in his 2008 Address to the Knesset (“[T]he source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty.  It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul.“), he frequently articulated ideals and commitments with unusual grace.

The Second Inaugural – with its echoes of JFK, its striking literary references, and its allusions to Natan Sharansky’s work – may eventually be recognized as among the finest statements ever of the American commitment to freedom.

As we await the undoubted eloquence of Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address tomorrow, and the historic moment of an African-American president, it is also worth recalling the lesser-remembered First Inaugural of George W. Bush.  In its opening paragraphs, Bush referred to the story of America:

We have a place, all of us, in a long story — a story we continue, but whose end we will not see. It is the story of a new world that became a friend and liberator of the old, a story of a slave-holding society that became a servant of freedom, the story of a power that went into the world to protect but not possess, to defend but not to conquer.

It is the American story — a story of flawed and fallible people, united across the generations by grand and enduring ideals.

At the end of the address, Bush concluded with a story reaching back to the beginning of nation:

After the Declaration of Independence was signed, Virginia statesman John Page wrote to Thomas Jefferson: We know the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong. Do you not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm?””

Much time has passed since Jefferson arrived for his inauguration. The years and changes accumulate. But the themes of this day he would know: our nation’s grand story of courage and its simple dream of dignity.

We are not this story’s author, who fills time and eternity with his purpose. Yet his purpose is achieved in our duty, and our duty is fulfilled in service to one another.

Never tiring, never yielding, never finishing, we renew that purpose today, to make our country more just and generous, to affirm the dignity of our lives and every life.

This work continues. This story goes on. And an angel still rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm.

As a portion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is about to be realized tomorrow, we should also be thankful for the ideals that George W. Bush articulated and defended.  From his initial response to 9/11 to the surge that defeated al Qaeda in Iraq, he did not tire and he did not yield.

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“I Dunno” Is The Answer, Mr. Geithner?

Tim Geithner doesn’t have a good explanation as to why he didn’t pay his self-employment taxes and why he didn’t pay up for the years 2001-2002 until the Obama vetters had him do so in December 2008. Byron York writes:

“His explanation was kind of, ‘I don’t know—it was stupid, obviously it was a mistake, and I don’t know why I did it,’” recalls a senator who was present during Geithner’s surprise appearance before a members-only meeting of the Senate Finance Committee last week. “What do you say to that?”

The meeting was the first time that members other than chairman Max Baucus and ranking Republican Charles Grassley heard of Geithner’s tax problem. Baucus and Grassley had known about the issue since early December, but last Tuesday’s meeting was part of a carefully planned roll-out for the other members of the committee. First, committee investigators explained the problem to the senators. Then, Geithner himself came in and responded to their questions. And while that was happening, Obama transition officials began to distribute a set of talking points defending the nominee. “They put out their release before our meeting with Geithner even ended,” says the senator. “We did not know about any of it until we walked into the meeting.”

.   .    .

Since their meeting with Geithner was the first time that most senators had heard of the problem, their questions were not terribly detailed; several of the queries were along the lines of “What were you thinking?” And Geithner’s answers were not terribly satisfying. “He can’t offer a specific reason,” says another source familiar with what went on at the meeting. “He doesn’t really have an answer. He just didn’t know.”

This is troubling and frankly bizarre — the sort of reply you’d expect from a teenage boy, not a sophisticated Treasury Secretary nominee. There are really several discrete questions which remain unanswered:

1. Did he not recall signing a receipt from the IMF each year for the tax allowance that included the admonition to pay the tax?

2. In the 2006 audit, did he affirmatively raise the statute of limitations? If not, did he think it was appropriate as a member of the Fed to take advantage of it to escape payment for 2001-2002?

3. Why did he feel it necessary to pay up in full in 2008?

4. Whose idea was it to list his children’s summer camp as a child care deduction? If he used a tax preparer, did he read his own return and question any of the items?

Geithner and the Obama team are betting that the mere invocation of the word “mistake” is enough to get by this snafu. Maybe it is. But there is something odd indeed about his inability or unwillingness to explain in a satisfactory way how this came about. Is he dishonest? Sloppy? We don’t know. All we know is that he is evasive.

This is an “off message” moment, to say the least, for the incoming administration. Is this the sort of “transparency” and “responsibility” that the new President has in mind? Expectations are high for the incoming administration, but the there is an understandable skepticism that all of this high-minded rhetoric is just rhetoric. Geithner needs to show that it’s more than that or he risks stepping on the new President’s lines, and fumbling his own confirmation.

Tim Geithner doesn’t have a good explanation as to why he didn’t pay his self-employment taxes and why he didn’t pay up for the years 2001-2002 until the Obama vetters had him do so in December 2008. Byron York writes:

“His explanation was kind of, ‘I don’t know—it was stupid, obviously it was a mistake, and I don’t know why I did it,’” recalls a senator who was present during Geithner’s surprise appearance before a members-only meeting of the Senate Finance Committee last week. “What do you say to that?”

The meeting was the first time that members other than chairman Max Baucus and ranking Republican Charles Grassley heard of Geithner’s tax problem. Baucus and Grassley had known about the issue since early December, but last Tuesday’s meeting was part of a carefully planned roll-out for the other members of the committee. First, committee investigators explained the problem to the senators. Then, Geithner himself came in and responded to their questions. And while that was happening, Obama transition officials began to distribute a set of talking points defending the nominee. “They put out their release before our meeting with Geithner even ended,” says the senator. “We did not know about any of it until we walked into the meeting.”

.   .    .

Since their meeting with Geithner was the first time that most senators had heard of the problem, their questions were not terribly detailed; several of the queries were along the lines of “What were you thinking?” And Geithner’s answers were not terribly satisfying. “He can’t offer a specific reason,” says another source familiar with what went on at the meeting. “He doesn’t really have an answer. He just didn’t know.”

This is troubling and frankly bizarre — the sort of reply you’d expect from a teenage boy, not a sophisticated Treasury Secretary nominee. There are really several discrete questions which remain unanswered:

1. Did he not recall signing a receipt from the IMF each year for the tax allowance that included the admonition to pay the tax?

2. In the 2006 audit, did he affirmatively raise the statute of limitations? If not, did he think it was appropriate as a member of the Fed to take advantage of it to escape payment for 2001-2002?

3. Why did he feel it necessary to pay up in full in 2008?

4. Whose idea was it to list his children’s summer camp as a child care deduction? If he used a tax preparer, did he read his own return and question any of the items?

Geithner and the Obama team are betting that the mere invocation of the word “mistake” is enough to get by this snafu. Maybe it is. But there is something odd indeed about his inability or unwillingness to explain in a satisfactory way how this came about. Is he dishonest? Sloppy? We don’t know. All we know is that he is evasive.

This is an “off message” moment, to say the least, for the incoming administration. Is this the sort of “transparency” and “responsibility” that the new President has in mind? Expectations are high for the incoming administration, but the there is an understandable skepticism that all of this high-minded rhetoric is just rhetoric. Geithner needs to show that it’s more than that or he risks stepping on the new President’s lines, and fumbling his own confirmation.

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Chutzpah

The scene is a retired British army colonel being interviewed by an infantile BBC news anchor. Her obsession, shared by almost the entirety of the British press corps, is Israeli barbarity, about which she demands the colonel elaborate. He is unobliging. You can almost hear the producers in the background crossing him off their lists.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WssrKJ3Iqcw[/youtube]

(H/t: Solomonia)

The scene is a retired British army colonel being interviewed by an infantile BBC news anchor. Her obsession, shared by almost the entirety of the British press corps, is Israeli barbarity, about which she demands the colonel elaborate. He is unobliging. You can almost hear the producers in the background crossing him off their lists.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WssrKJ3Iqcw[/youtube]

(H/t: Solomonia)

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Guantánamo, Stay

Today’s New York Times features a cover story headlined, “Rulings of Improper Detentions as the Bush Era Closes.” In it, William Glaberson reports that a military panel just decided Guantánamo Bay detainee Haji Bismullah “should no longer be deemed an enemy combatant.” Bismullah will therefore be returned to his native Afghanistan.

Glaberson notes:

The decision was part of a pattern that has emerged in the closing chapter of the administration. In the last three months, at least 24 detainees have been declared improperly held by courts or a tribunal – or nearly 10 percent of the population at the detention camp in GuantánamoBay, Cuba, where about 245 men remain.

An emerging pattern, huh? If some sinister plot to hold innocents indefinitely is just coming to light, how does one explain the hundreds of Guantánamo detainees that have been released from the detention facility over the past seven years? If you’re William Glaberson — or one of the thousands of Americans who jabber on about the need to close down Gitmo – you don’t. Facts are toxic.

The problem with the “close Guantánamo Bay” argument is that its adherents have forgotten exactly why Guantánamo Bay needs to be closed. “No day in court for detainees,” you say? It turns out that between military panels and federal court hearings, Guantánamo Bay now produces enough courtroom drama to warrant a reality show on Court TV.

“Well, these are show trials and the fix is already in,” some argue. But as Bismullah and the other 23 recent examples demonstrate, detainees are walking. Former detainee Salim Hamdan was Osama bin Laden’s driver. He is now a free man.

People want to close down Gitmo because it’s a symbol of all that is hated about George W. Bush. But what happens when a despised symbol does double duty as a critical national security institution?

If the New York Times was a different kind of paper it could have just as easily ran a different — more important — front-page story today. Under the headline “9/11 Plotters in Custody as the Bush Era Closes,” you might have read about Ramzi Binalshibh, who this morning told a Guantánamo war crimes court, “We did what we did; we’re proud of Sept. 11.”

He’s proud. But Americans are somehow ashamed of the system that put him behind bars and has him making his case to military judges in an open and unbiased fashion you’d find nowhere else in the world.

Today’s New York Times features a cover story headlined, “Rulings of Improper Detentions as the Bush Era Closes.” In it, William Glaberson reports that a military panel just decided Guantánamo Bay detainee Haji Bismullah “should no longer be deemed an enemy combatant.” Bismullah will therefore be returned to his native Afghanistan.

Glaberson notes:

The decision was part of a pattern that has emerged in the closing chapter of the administration. In the last three months, at least 24 detainees have been declared improperly held by courts or a tribunal – or nearly 10 percent of the population at the detention camp in GuantánamoBay, Cuba, where about 245 men remain.

An emerging pattern, huh? If some sinister plot to hold innocents indefinitely is just coming to light, how does one explain the hundreds of Guantánamo detainees that have been released from the detention facility over the past seven years? If you’re William Glaberson — or one of the thousands of Americans who jabber on about the need to close down Gitmo – you don’t. Facts are toxic.

The problem with the “close Guantánamo Bay” argument is that its adherents have forgotten exactly why Guantánamo Bay needs to be closed. “No day in court for detainees,” you say? It turns out that between military panels and federal court hearings, Guantánamo Bay now produces enough courtroom drama to warrant a reality show on Court TV.

“Well, these are show trials and the fix is already in,” some argue. But as Bismullah and the other 23 recent examples demonstrate, detainees are walking. Former detainee Salim Hamdan was Osama bin Laden’s driver. He is now a free man.

People want to close down Gitmo because it’s a symbol of all that is hated about George W. Bush. But what happens when a despised symbol does double duty as a critical national security institution?

If the New York Times was a different kind of paper it could have just as easily ran a different — more important — front-page story today. Under the headline “9/11 Plotters in Custody as the Bush Era Closes,” you might have read about Ramzi Binalshibh, who this morning told a Guantánamo war crimes court, “We did what we did; we’re proud of Sept. 11.”

He’s proud. But Americans are somehow ashamed of the system that put him behind bars and has him making his case to military judges in an open and unbiased fashion you’d find nowhere else in the world.

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The EU Turns Down Gaza?

Although I have not yet heard confirmation, IDF radio just reported that the EU has said it will not release funds for the reconstruction of Gaza so long as Hamas is in power. This is a dramatic punchline to Ehud Olmert’s impressive diplomatic maneuvering over the last few days.

Yesterday, the leaders of France, Britain, Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic and Italy all showed up in Jerusalem to show support for Israel’s cease-fire and Ehud Olmert personally. This was an unprecedented display, and does a lot to challenge the prevailing view that Israel has been overwhelmingly slammed in the international arena.

But if the EU’s latest announcement about Hamas holds firm, it suggests that there may be more to this war than meets the eye. Today, Hamas announced that its first course of business is rebuilding its arsenal — something we might have expected they would want to keep fairly quiet, and which will surely not play well internationally. If the battle lines continue to be drawn in this fashion, the war might have produced more than we yet know.

Although I have not yet heard confirmation, IDF radio just reported that the EU has said it will not release funds for the reconstruction of Gaza so long as Hamas is in power. This is a dramatic punchline to Ehud Olmert’s impressive diplomatic maneuvering over the last few days.

Yesterday, the leaders of France, Britain, Germany, Spain, the Czech Republic and Italy all showed up in Jerusalem to show support for Israel’s cease-fire and Ehud Olmert personally. This was an unprecedented display, and does a lot to challenge the prevailing view that Israel has been overwhelmingly slammed in the international arena.

But if the EU’s latest announcement about Hamas holds firm, it suggests that there may be more to this war than meets the eye. Today, Hamas announced that its first course of business is rebuilding its arsenal — something we might have expected they would want to keep fairly quiet, and which will surely not play well internationally. If the battle lines continue to be drawn in this fashion, the war might have produced more than we yet know.

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Obama’s First Test

Today, the Kremlin released the text of a decree issued by Dmitry Medvedev.  The order requires his cabinet to introduce “special economic measures” — sanctions — against countries, organizations, and individuals selling arms to Georgia.

Whether or not the Russian president intended to be the first foreign leader to test Mr. Obama, he has issued a challenge that cannot be ignored.  Medvedev has just poked us in the eye, and it’s time to poke him back.

Our recent policy of indulging the Russians has only encouraged the type of aggressive behavior we had wished to avoid.  So, it is time to change course and tell the world we will sell weapons to Georgia and defend it with American troops if necessary.  And when should we do this?  Preferably in the speech to be delivered a few moments after noon tomorrow.

Today, the Kremlin released the text of a decree issued by Dmitry Medvedev.  The order requires his cabinet to introduce “special economic measures” — sanctions — against countries, organizations, and individuals selling arms to Georgia.

Whether or not the Russian president intended to be the first foreign leader to test Mr. Obama, he has issued a challenge that cannot be ignored.  Medvedev has just poked us in the eye, and it’s time to poke him back.

Our recent policy of indulging the Russians has only encouraged the type of aggressive behavior we had wished to avoid.  So, it is time to change course and tell the world we will sell weapons to Georgia and defend it with American troops if necessary.  And when should we do this?  Preferably in the speech to be delivered a few moments after noon tomorrow.

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Time To Level On Iraq

According to this report, John McCain has been offering advice to the President-elect. We get this tidbit about the November 16 meeting between McCain and the Obama camp:

Mr. Emanuel said he did not remember any discussion of Iraq. “Barack has been clear that he is going to stick to his responsible reduction in forces, and he hasn’t changed from that,” he said.

But Mr. Graham, who accompanied Mr. McCain to the meeting, said Mr. Obama took a notably different tone toward Iraq than he had during the campaign, emphasizing the common ground in their views.

“He said that he understands that we had differences but he wanted to let us know that he also understands that we have got to be responsible in how we leave Iraq,” Mr. Graham recalled. “What the Obama-Biden administration has talked about is not losing the gains we have achieved. ”

He added, “Obama does not want to be the guy who lost Iraq when it is close to being won.”

On one level this is comforting — confirming that the President-elect understands the stakes in Iraq and will carry out essentially the same policy which his opponent would have. On the other hand, it is mystifying why the President-elect’s public rhetoric and private conversation differ so sharply. Why not talk to the country about Iraq as “close to being won”? After all, the policies he intends to pursue will require money and continued sacrifice from Americans, most specifically from those serving in the armed forces. Shouldn’t we explain why that continued expenditure of treasure and life is critical?

You hope that episodes like this are not revealing of character, but simply reflections of the difficulty in transitioning from partisan candidate to commander-in-chief. It isn’t a good sign that Emanuel “can’t recall” the conversation accurately or that the President-elect seems unwilling to acknowledge the assumptions underlying his national security policy. This isn’t remotely the type of “transparency” we have been promised.

One hopes the rhetoric and policy align and that, unlike his predecessor, the new President is both candid and articulate in explaining to the American people what is required in the months and years ahead in Iraq. If we learned anything in the past eight years, it is that you can’t hide the ball from the public and expect to sustain a costly war.

According to this report, John McCain has been offering advice to the President-elect. We get this tidbit about the November 16 meeting between McCain and the Obama camp:

Mr. Emanuel said he did not remember any discussion of Iraq. “Barack has been clear that he is going to stick to his responsible reduction in forces, and he hasn’t changed from that,” he said.

But Mr. Graham, who accompanied Mr. McCain to the meeting, said Mr. Obama took a notably different tone toward Iraq than he had during the campaign, emphasizing the common ground in their views.

“He said that he understands that we had differences but he wanted to let us know that he also understands that we have got to be responsible in how we leave Iraq,” Mr. Graham recalled. “What the Obama-Biden administration has talked about is not losing the gains we have achieved. ”

He added, “Obama does not want to be the guy who lost Iraq when it is close to being won.”

On one level this is comforting — confirming that the President-elect understands the stakes in Iraq and will carry out essentially the same policy which his opponent would have. On the other hand, it is mystifying why the President-elect’s public rhetoric and private conversation differ so sharply. Why not talk to the country about Iraq as “close to being won”? After all, the policies he intends to pursue will require money and continued sacrifice from Americans, most specifically from those serving in the armed forces. Shouldn’t we explain why that continued expenditure of treasure and life is critical?

You hope that episodes like this are not revealing of character, but simply reflections of the difficulty in transitioning from partisan candidate to commander-in-chief. It isn’t a good sign that Emanuel “can’t recall” the conversation accurately or that the President-elect seems unwilling to acknowledge the assumptions underlying his national security policy. This isn’t remotely the type of “transparency” we have been promised.

One hopes the rhetoric and policy align and that, unlike his predecessor, the new President is both candid and articulate in explaining to the American people what is required in the months and years ahead in Iraq. If we learned anything in the past eight years, it is that you can’t hide the ball from the public and expect to sustain a costly war.

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Yikes!

In a CNN interview on Barack Obama’s pop icon status, CafePress vice-president of marketing Amy Maniatis places the President-elect among rather dubious company:

It’s almost like what you’ve seen with Che Guevara or Eva Peron, when a political leader has this coolness factor that goes well beyond their political beliefs. They represent something even bigger.

You can’t blame Maniatis: her main concern is selling t-shirts, and any political figure with enough of a “coolness factor” is pay dirt.  But at what point does CNN actually pick up on this comparison between our next president and two decidedly undemocratic figures, and start asking whether Obama-worship has gone too far?

In a CNN interview on Barack Obama’s pop icon status, CafePress vice-president of marketing Amy Maniatis places the President-elect among rather dubious company:

It’s almost like what you’ve seen with Che Guevara or Eva Peron, when a political leader has this coolness factor that goes well beyond their political beliefs. They represent something even bigger.

You can’t blame Maniatis: her main concern is selling t-shirts, and any political figure with enough of a “coolness factor” is pay dirt.  But at what point does CNN actually pick up on this comparison between our next president and two decidedly undemocratic figures, and start asking whether Obama-worship has gone too far?

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From War to Politics

So I have been half right. Since the Gaza war began, I have been predicting that it is in the political interest of the Kadima party to bring Israelis nothing short of a decisive victory in Gaza, including the removal of the Hamas regime. Now that Israeli troops are withdrawing without such a victory in hand, the first polls are in, and indeed Kadima is getting punished: Likud is now showing a decisive lead of 6 to 8 seats. With just three weeks to go until elections, it is going to take a major turn of events to prevent Benjamin Netanyahu from becoming the next prime minister of Israel.

Where I was wrong, of course, was to assume the government would both understand and act in its own political interest. Despite all their efforts to lower expectations, and the much-touted “learning from the experience of 2006″ in waging both a diplomatic and military campaign, Israel’s leaders have, once again, completely misread the demands of the Israeli public. Israelis are willing to go to war on exactly one condition: That it bring peace, or at least safety and security of its citizens. Right now this does not seem to be happening. The government has done a lousy job of convincing average Israelis that leaving Hamas in place, preventing arms smuggling through another international agreement, currying the support of world leaders, and abandoning Gilad Shalit to his fate are indications of Israel having gone in and done the job. And now, the much-delayed election campaign begins in earnest.

Will a right-wing government do a better job? Most Israelis seem to think so. But Israeli politics are funny that way…

So I have been half right. Since the Gaza war began, I have been predicting that it is in the political interest of the Kadima party to bring Israelis nothing short of a decisive victory in Gaza, including the removal of the Hamas regime. Now that Israeli troops are withdrawing without such a victory in hand, the first polls are in, and indeed Kadima is getting punished: Likud is now showing a decisive lead of 6 to 8 seats. With just three weeks to go until elections, it is going to take a major turn of events to prevent Benjamin Netanyahu from becoming the next prime minister of Israel.

Where I was wrong, of course, was to assume the government would both understand and act in its own political interest. Despite all their efforts to lower expectations, and the much-touted “learning from the experience of 2006″ in waging both a diplomatic and military campaign, Israel’s leaders have, once again, completely misread the demands of the Israeli public. Israelis are willing to go to war on exactly one condition: That it bring peace, or at least safety and security of its citizens. Right now this does not seem to be happening. The government has done a lousy job of convincing average Israelis that leaving Hamas in place, preventing arms smuggling through another international agreement, currying the support of world leaders, and abandoning Gilad Shalit to his fate are indications of Israel having gone in and done the job. And now, the much-delayed election campaign begins in earnest.

Will a right-wing government do a better job? Most Israelis seem to think so. But Israeli politics are funny that way…

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A New Low In Kennedy Manipulation

The New York Times reporter is conflicted about Princess Caroline. Yes, she’s lovely and self-effacing but there’s no escaping the facts:

Still, her initial public appearances elicited criticism that Ms. Kennedy had failed to exude warmth, express herself well or make a compelling case for why she should leapfrog over seasoned politicians. Not unlike Mrs. Clinton when she first sought the Senate seat, Ms. Kennedy, who is also considered smart and a serious student of public affairs with a household name, was challenged for a résumé thin on traditional professional experience. Raised to tend her family legacy but not to trade on it, Ms. Kennedy has struggled to make the case that she is motivated by the Kennedy ethic of public service and not by any sense of entitlement.

But then the Times reporter reverts to paragraph after paragraph of Kennedy memories and teary reminders of personal tragedy. We are treated to this sort of Camelot pastiche, written in the style of a love-struck teenager:

Her first three words, according to The New York Times, were “plane,” “goodbye” and “New Hampshire.” The campaign plane in question was named the Caroline.

Moving into the White House at age 3, Caroline essentially began life in a protected zone, under the watchful eye of a nanny, a mother determined to shelter her, the Secret Service and a polite press that nonetheless covered her news, such as it was: the new puppy or “Nehru outfit”; the desegregation, by a single black child, of the White House school established for her.

After President Kennedy was slain on Nov. 22, 1963, the image of young Caroline and John holding their black-veiled mother’s hands as they descended the cathedral steps after his funeral became an icon of grief. 

No, this certainly doesn’t help rebut criticism that Caroline is simply trafficking on the family album. But nothing quite tops this maudlin conclusion:

“Caroline has been largely a product of her mother, for obvious reasons,” a family member said. “But I think this was a moment where her father’s voice whispered in her ear and said, ‘Go for it.’” 

Good grief– we’re reduced to hearing pleas from the deceased President? Until now, Caroline was always regarded as possessing taste and restraint. That, along with the illusion of quiet brilliance, is now gone. This is one very presumptuous  gal, who lacking her own qualification and botching her own roll out, now resorts (via an undisclosed family member) to the worst sort of cloying manipulation to get her way. Forget Princess Caroline this is Veruca Salt.

The New York Times reporter is conflicted about Princess Caroline. Yes, she’s lovely and self-effacing but there’s no escaping the facts:

Still, her initial public appearances elicited criticism that Ms. Kennedy had failed to exude warmth, express herself well or make a compelling case for why she should leapfrog over seasoned politicians. Not unlike Mrs. Clinton when she first sought the Senate seat, Ms. Kennedy, who is also considered smart and a serious student of public affairs with a household name, was challenged for a résumé thin on traditional professional experience. Raised to tend her family legacy but not to trade on it, Ms. Kennedy has struggled to make the case that she is motivated by the Kennedy ethic of public service and not by any sense of entitlement.

But then the Times reporter reverts to paragraph after paragraph of Kennedy memories and teary reminders of personal tragedy. We are treated to this sort of Camelot pastiche, written in the style of a love-struck teenager:

Her first three words, according to The New York Times, were “plane,” “goodbye” and “New Hampshire.” The campaign plane in question was named the Caroline.

Moving into the White House at age 3, Caroline essentially began life in a protected zone, under the watchful eye of a nanny, a mother determined to shelter her, the Secret Service and a polite press that nonetheless covered her news, such as it was: the new puppy or “Nehru outfit”; the desegregation, by a single black child, of the White House school established for her.

After President Kennedy was slain on Nov. 22, 1963, the image of young Caroline and John holding their black-veiled mother’s hands as they descended the cathedral steps after his funeral became an icon of grief. 

No, this certainly doesn’t help rebut criticism that Caroline is simply trafficking on the family album. But nothing quite tops this maudlin conclusion:

“Caroline has been largely a product of her mother, for obvious reasons,” a family member said. “But I think this was a moment where her father’s voice whispered in her ear and said, ‘Go for it.’” 

Good grief– we’re reduced to hearing pleas from the deceased President? Until now, Caroline was always regarded as possessing taste and restraint. That, along with the illusion of quiet brilliance, is now gone. This is one very presumptuous  gal, who lacking her own qualification and botching her own roll out, now resorts (via an undisclosed family member) to the worst sort of cloying manipulation to get her way. Forget Princess Caroline this is Veruca Salt.

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Friend of Hamas Will Speak at Inaugural Event

For those prepared to think the worst of the new administration, here’s a chilling tidbit. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports this morning that Ingrid Mattson, the president of a pro-Hamas group, the Islamic Society of America will be among the honored speakers at the prayer service at the National Cathedral in Washington on the day of the inauguration.

Mattson spoke at the Democratic National Convention and has “been the guest of honor at State Department dinners and has met with senior Pentagon officials during the Bush administration.”

So what’s the problem? It’s just that “as recently as last July, federal prosecutors in Dallas filed court documents linking the Plainfield, Ind.-based Islamic society to the group Hamas, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization.”

That is a reference to the successful prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation, the Hamas-front that raised money for the Islamist terrorist group in this country. Documents at the trial showed that Holy Land was founded by supporters of Hamas that also started up the Council on American Islamic Relations or CAIR. Both CAIR and the Islamic Society of North America were part of a general campaign to mobilize support here for Hamas. But unlike Holy Land, CAIR and the ISNA have managed to stay on the right side of the law. They have masqueraded as mainstream moderate Islamic groups to the government and the media but have not deviated from their real ideological agenda.

Having Mattson at the inauguration is a disgrace, but we can’t be too hard on Obama since the Bush administration was just as willing to be fooled on this point.

Like the ISNA, CAIR has managed to persuade some in the State Department as well as some politicians (for example, Gov. Ed Rendell and Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania both attended a CAIR fundraiser in Philadelphia in 2007) that they are kosher, but the federal prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation proves otherwise.

One final point about Mattson. When not representing ISNA, she is a professor of Islamic Studies at the Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn. The Seminary is a longtime hotbed of anti-Zionist sentiment. Historically it was connected with the American University in Beirut and is part of the venerable and dishonorable history of mainstream Protestant groups that dabble in hatred of Israel. At the time of Israel’s 50th birthday, the then president of the Seminary wrote an op-ed in the Hartford Courant saying that Israel’s creation was a historic error and that American Jews should repent of their support for Zionism.

The Hartford Seminary is living proof that those Jews who ignore the threat to the Jewish people from left-wing Protestants while continuing to believe that Evangelical Christians are a danger are out of their minds.

For those prepared to think the worst of the new administration, here’s a chilling tidbit. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports this morning that Ingrid Mattson, the president of a pro-Hamas group, the Islamic Society of America will be among the honored speakers at the prayer service at the National Cathedral in Washington on the day of the inauguration.

Mattson spoke at the Democratic National Convention and has “been the guest of honor at State Department dinners and has met with senior Pentagon officials during the Bush administration.”

So what’s the problem? It’s just that “as recently as last July, federal prosecutors in Dallas filed court documents linking the Plainfield, Ind.-based Islamic society to the group Hamas, which the U.S. considers a terrorist organization.”

That is a reference to the successful prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation, the Hamas-front that raised money for the Islamist terrorist group in this country. Documents at the trial showed that Holy Land was founded by supporters of Hamas that also started up the Council on American Islamic Relations or CAIR. Both CAIR and the Islamic Society of North America were part of a general campaign to mobilize support here for Hamas. But unlike Holy Land, CAIR and the ISNA have managed to stay on the right side of the law. They have masqueraded as mainstream moderate Islamic groups to the government and the media but have not deviated from their real ideological agenda.

Having Mattson at the inauguration is a disgrace, but we can’t be too hard on Obama since the Bush administration was just as willing to be fooled on this point.

Like the ISNA, CAIR has managed to persuade some in the State Department as well as some politicians (for example, Gov. Ed Rendell and Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania both attended a CAIR fundraiser in Philadelphia in 2007) that they are kosher, but the federal prosecution of the Holy Land Foundation proves otherwise.

One final point about Mattson. When not representing ISNA, she is a professor of Islamic Studies at the Hartford Seminary in Hartford, Conn. The Seminary is a longtime hotbed of anti-Zionist sentiment. Historically it was connected with the American University in Beirut and is part of the venerable and dishonorable history of mainstream Protestant groups that dabble in hatred of Israel. At the time of Israel’s 50th birthday, the then president of the Seminary wrote an op-ed in the Hartford Courant saying that Israel’s creation was a historic error and that American Jews should repent of their support for Zionism.

The Hartford Seminary is living proof that those Jews who ignore the threat to the Jewish people from left-wing Protestants while continuing to believe that Evangelical Christians are a danger are out of their minds.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Harry Reid isn’t even liked in his home state. But Republicans will need a decent candidate — one that realizes he is up against someone “totally ruthless and Machiavellian.”

Nancy Pelosi has a strange definition of what “bipartisanship” looks like – a bill exclusively drafted by Democrats who have divined what Americans want. The good news: she’s not talking about card check in the first 100 days either. And I suspect anything that isn’t done fast, isn’t going to get done for a good long time.

And for those keeping track of the triangulation developments, Mitch McConnell seems to be closer to the new President on the Bush tax cuts than Pelosi. You wonder why she publicly takes such a strong position at odds with the new President — is she looking to be undercut or does she really think she’s going to pull him left? Time will tell.

Rahm Emanuel’s only explanation for why Tim Geithner only paid back taxes for 2003-4 but not 2001-2 when audited is that ” it was a mistake.” Not very illuminating, is it? David Gregory asked none of the logical follow-ups. (e.g. Did he make a decision to take advantage of the statute of limitations? What about the kids camp used as a child care deduction? Isn’t this a case of one rule for the big guys and another for everyone else?) And the questioning about Roland Burris is equally anemic. (No challenge to Emanuel’s excuse that the reason why Reid and the President-elect caved was because the secretary of state hadn’t signed off on the appointment.)

Emanuel does give the Bush administration credit for keeping America safe for seven years. Next time he’s on an interview show the host might ask him about Iraq. He told Gregory:”Given that we’re there, the president has made some decisions about what we have to do to reduce over the next 16 months our military presence there and begin to focus again on the war on terror as it relates to Afghanistan.” So does the new President realize we are “there” after having defeated the enemy? Does he acknowledge that Iraq also was a battle in the war on terror? (It is getting hard to remember a time when MTP asked the hard questions other shows didn’t. Now it’s the reverse. See, e.g., Pelosi interview on FNS above.)

Victor Davis Hanson mulls over the gap between the new President’s high flying liberal rhetoric and center-right governance: “I don’t know the shelf life of all this. The danger, of course, is that his base will catch on and understand such gestures are in lieu of real leftist policies that matter. The public may, after a time, cynically ignore the Rev. Wright-like cadences, and believe that what is promised will, at some future date, inevitably be modified or rejected, with a certain blame attached to the culpable “they” (fill in the blanks). And the conservatives, if they sense the messianic frenzy is subsidizing, will embolden their criticism. But for now? There is rich irony. The Europeans have simply dropped their anti-Americanism and seem perfectly happy to accept the Obama veneer on Bush III, while the long out of power Left is willing to assume FISA, Iraq, Guantanamo, the Patriot Act, missile defense, etc. are ‘complex’ and ‘problematic’ rather than a product of Bush-Hitler.” Well if it works the Republican Party will be on life support – but so will liberalism.

More continuity: the President-elect maintains that promotion of democracy abroad will “be at a central part of our foreign policy. It is who we are.” Yes, it sounds more nuanced and may in fact be more subtle in application. And will the Left be screaming for more”realism”? No! That sort of talk is now going to be regarded as high-minded and inspirational. Whatever. The Bush Third Term is alive and well.

George Will captures the bundle of contradictions that is the Bush legacy: “The administration’s failures in responding to Hurricane Katrina were real but secondary to, and less shocking than, the manifold derelictions of duties by the governments of Louisiana and New Orleans. A failed nomination to the Supreme Court, that of Harriet Miers, was, however, indicative of the obduracy, arrogance and frivolity that at times characterized this administration. On the other hand, among Bush’s excellent legacies, gifts that might keep on giving for decades, are two justices—John Roberts and Sam Alito.” But in the end, he hopes that his legacy will not be any of that – nor the bitterness of his opponents –but the beginning of the end of Al Qaeda, an independent and relatively democratic Iraq and a more secure America.

There is something to be said for David Frum’s recipe for the Republicans: “We Republicans cannot recover the votes of the college-educated until we understand why we lost them. So long as we think Barack Obama won because of a fluke—because he waltzed into an economic crisis, or because his supporters somehow mastered better election technology, or because he somehow bamboozled the American public with vague, endearing promises of change—so long as we think those things, so long will our troubles continue. Barack Obama won because a majority of Americans believed he was an intelligent, levelheaded and responsible person who could solve problems they cared about. If we’re to beat him—or succeed him—we’re going to have to convince them that we can do the same or better.” But I think what is missing is a distinctive message — if Republicans are too much like Democrats why not vote for the latter?

One final classy act by the Bushes — moving everything out ahead of time to accommodate the White House staff and the new residents. They have set a new standard for cooperation and decency during the transition which one hopes every President will adhere to on the way out the door.

Responsibility” is a great theme for the Inaugural Address. But how does that apply to Tim Geithner? To Charlie Rangel and Chris Dodd? Once you set down the marker for a new standard of conduct people my expect you to live up to it.

The “tick-tock” on the speech writing is a far cry from “He wrote it himself” spin which we are getting. I’m not sure why the pretense of presidential authorship is needed. (Only the devoted media are enraptured by the notion of author as president.)

Harry Reid isn’t even liked in his home state. But Republicans will need a decent candidate — one that realizes he is up against someone “totally ruthless and Machiavellian.”

Nancy Pelosi has a strange definition of what “bipartisanship” looks like – a bill exclusively drafted by Democrats who have divined what Americans want. The good news: she’s not talking about card check in the first 100 days either. And I suspect anything that isn’t done fast, isn’t going to get done for a good long time.

And for those keeping track of the triangulation developments, Mitch McConnell seems to be closer to the new President on the Bush tax cuts than Pelosi. You wonder why she publicly takes such a strong position at odds with the new President — is she looking to be undercut or does she really think she’s going to pull him left? Time will tell.

Rahm Emanuel’s only explanation for why Tim Geithner only paid back taxes for 2003-4 but not 2001-2 when audited is that ” it was a mistake.” Not very illuminating, is it? David Gregory asked none of the logical follow-ups. (e.g. Did he make a decision to take advantage of the statute of limitations? What about the kids camp used as a child care deduction? Isn’t this a case of one rule for the big guys and another for everyone else?) And the questioning about Roland Burris is equally anemic. (No challenge to Emanuel’s excuse that the reason why Reid and the President-elect caved was because the secretary of state hadn’t signed off on the appointment.)

Emanuel does give the Bush administration credit for keeping America safe for seven years. Next time he’s on an interview show the host might ask him about Iraq. He told Gregory:”Given that we’re there, the president has made some decisions about what we have to do to reduce over the next 16 months our military presence there and begin to focus again on the war on terror as it relates to Afghanistan.” So does the new President realize we are “there” after having defeated the enemy? Does he acknowledge that Iraq also was a battle in the war on terror? (It is getting hard to remember a time when MTP asked the hard questions other shows didn’t. Now it’s the reverse. See, e.g., Pelosi interview on FNS above.)

Victor Davis Hanson mulls over the gap between the new President’s high flying liberal rhetoric and center-right governance: “I don’t know the shelf life of all this. The danger, of course, is that his base will catch on and understand such gestures are in lieu of real leftist policies that matter. The public may, after a time, cynically ignore the Rev. Wright-like cadences, and believe that what is promised will, at some future date, inevitably be modified or rejected, with a certain blame attached to the culpable “they” (fill in the blanks). And the conservatives, if they sense the messianic frenzy is subsidizing, will embolden their criticism. But for now? There is rich irony. The Europeans have simply dropped their anti-Americanism and seem perfectly happy to accept the Obama veneer on Bush III, while the long out of power Left is willing to assume FISA, Iraq, Guantanamo, the Patriot Act, missile defense, etc. are ‘complex’ and ‘problematic’ rather than a product of Bush-Hitler.” Well if it works the Republican Party will be on life support – but so will liberalism.

More continuity: the President-elect maintains that promotion of democracy abroad will “be at a central part of our foreign policy. It is who we are.” Yes, it sounds more nuanced and may in fact be more subtle in application. And will the Left be screaming for more”realism”? No! That sort of talk is now going to be regarded as high-minded and inspirational. Whatever. The Bush Third Term is alive and well.

George Will captures the bundle of contradictions that is the Bush legacy: “The administration’s failures in responding to Hurricane Katrina were real but secondary to, and less shocking than, the manifold derelictions of duties by the governments of Louisiana and New Orleans. A failed nomination to the Supreme Court, that of Harriet Miers, was, however, indicative of the obduracy, arrogance and frivolity that at times characterized this administration. On the other hand, among Bush’s excellent legacies, gifts that might keep on giving for decades, are two justices—John Roberts and Sam Alito.” But in the end, he hopes that his legacy will not be any of that – nor the bitterness of his opponents –but the beginning of the end of Al Qaeda, an independent and relatively democratic Iraq and a more secure America.

There is something to be said for David Frum’s recipe for the Republicans: “We Republicans cannot recover the votes of the college-educated until we understand why we lost them. So long as we think Barack Obama won because of a fluke—because he waltzed into an economic crisis, or because his supporters somehow mastered better election technology, or because he somehow bamboozled the American public with vague, endearing promises of change—so long as we think those things, so long will our troubles continue. Barack Obama won because a majority of Americans believed he was an intelligent, levelheaded and responsible person who could solve problems they cared about. If we’re to beat him—or succeed him—we’re going to have to convince them that we can do the same or better.” But I think what is missing is a distinctive message — if Republicans are too much like Democrats why not vote for the latter?

One final classy act by the Bushes — moving everything out ahead of time to accommodate the White House staff and the new residents. They have set a new standard for cooperation and decency during the transition which one hopes every President will adhere to on the way out the door.

Responsibility” is a great theme for the Inaugural Address. But how does that apply to Tim Geithner? To Charlie Rangel and Chris Dodd? Once you set down the marker for a new standard of conduct people my expect you to live up to it.

The “tick-tock” on the speech writing is a far cry from “He wrote it himself” spin which we are getting. I’m not sure why the pretense of presidential authorship is needed. (Only the devoted media are enraptured by the notion of author as president.)

Read Less




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