Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 5, 2009

Why Jewish Groups are Fighting for the Stimulus Package

While support seems to be slipping everywhere for the federal stimulus package, President Obama can still count on one group of fairly influential lobbyists to fight to the last for the trillion-dollar boondoggle: American Jewish organizations. According to stories in both the Forward and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the United Jewish Communities (the national association of local Jewish philanthropic umbrella groups), the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (the national association of local community relations councils), as well as the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the National Council of Jewish Women are all heading to Capitol Hill to battle for the stimulus legislation.

An objective observer might ask why sectarian groups devoted to protecting the interests of the Jewish community would want to expand precious political capital on what is rather obviously a partisan dust-up.

The reasons are twofold:

First, groups like the Religious Action Center, the JCPA, and the NCJW have always tended to act, at least on domestic issues, as the faithful auxiliary troops for the Democratic Party. Their political orientation tilts strongly to the left and these groups can always be counted on to define any political issue as a matter of concern to the Jewish community so long as it advances a statist, liberal welfare-state agenda — even if it has very little to do with what is or is not good for the Jews. These are, for the most part, the sort of Jews who have always defined Judaism — as the old joke goes — as the Democratic Party platform with holidays thrown in. Most of them tend to believe in more federal spending and higher taxes with much more fervor than any matter of religious doctrine, let alone matters of life and death to the Jews such as Israel’s security.

But the active participation of the UJC in this debate shows that there is actually more to this story than the institutional liberalism of the organized Jewish world. Local Jewish federations and their affiliated agencies are responsible for a great deal of social welfare needs. These groups fund old-age homes, senior living facilities, and various family service organizations that help the poor. But these institutions are now so costly to run that they have been largely paid for by local, state and federal government money. Budget cuts which make good economic sense have hurt them badly, and Jewish federations — which have seen their own fund-raising decline in the last few decades due to assimilation and competition from secular charities — can’t make up the shortfall. So they have devoted themselves to lobbying for more and more government money in the form of allocations as well as earmarks of all shapes and sizes.

But whatever you might think about the dilemma that social-service providers face in an economic downturn, the all-out campaign by these groups specifically for the stimulus package proves conclusively that this bill is not aimed at helping the economy so much as funding Democratic Party constituency groups. The overwhelming majority of the hundreds of billions that the stimulus will give away will do nothing to “jump-start” the economy. It is nothing more and nothing less than a massive federal spending bill. The notion that this money will get the country out of the recession is laughable and its authors know it. What it will do is help bail out a host of causes and groups, some of which we may approve and others we may not. Those national Jewish groups that lobby for the bill should do so honestly and tell us that they need the money. But the pretense that this is part of some grand economic solution is simply false.

While support seems to be slipping everywhere for the federal stimulus package, President Obama can still count on one group of fairly influential lobbyists to fight to the last for the trillion-dollar boondoggle: American Jewish organizations. According to stories in both the Forward and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the United Jewish Communities (the national association of local Jewish philanthropic umbrella groups), the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (the national association of local community relations councils), as well as the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and the National Council of Jewish Women are all heading to Capitol Hill to battle for the stimulus legislation.

An objective observer might ask why sectarian groups devoted to protecting the interests of the Jewish community would want to expand precious political capital on what is rather obviously a partisan dust-up.

The reasons are twofold:

First, groups like the Religious Action Center, the JCPA, and the NCJW have always tended to act, at least on domestic issues, as the faithful auxiliary troops for the Democratic Party. Their political orientation tilts strongly to the left and these groups can always be counted on to define any political issue as a matter of concern to the Jewish community so long as it advances a statist, liberal welfare-state agenda — even if it has very little to do with what is or is not good for the Jews. These are, for the most part, the sort of Jews who have always defined Judaism — as the old joke goes — as the Democratic Party platform with holidays thrown in. Most of them tend to believe in more federal spending and higher taxes with much more fervor than any matter of religious doctrine, let alone matters of life and death to the Jews such as Israel’s security.

But the active participation of the UJC in this debate shows that there is actually more to this story than the institutional liberalism of the organized Jewish world. Local Jewish federations and their affiliated agencies are responsible for a great deal of social welfare needs. These groups fund old-age homes, senior living facilities, and various family service organizations that help the poor. But these institutions are now so costly to run that they have been largely paid for by local, state and federal government money. Budget cuts which make good economic sense have hurt them badly, and Jewish federations — which have seen their own fund-raising decline in the last few decades due to assimilation and competition from secular charities — can’t make up the shortfall. So they have devoted themselves to lobbying for more and more government money in the form of allocations as well as earmarks of all shapes and sizes.

But whatever you might think about the dilemma that social-service providers face in an economic downturn, the all-out campaign by these groups specifically for the stimulus package proves conclusively that this bill is not aimed at helping the economy so much as funding Democratic Party constituency groups. The overwhelming majority of the hundreds of billions that the stimulus will give away will do nothing to “jump-start” the economy. It is nothing more and nothing less than a massive federal spending bill. The notion that this money will get the country out of the recession is laughable and its authors know it. What it will do is help bail out a host of causes and groups, some of which we may approve and others we may not. Those national Jewish groups that lobby for the bill should do so honestly and tell us that they need the money. But the pretense that this is part of some grand economic solution is simply false.

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Commentary of the Day

Jay from Texas, on Jennifer Rubin:

I seem to remember Democrats always crying that Bush was scaring people with terrorist threats to get his security measures passed.

Looking at today’s headlines, “Obama warns of economic catastrophe if stimulus bill is not passed” seems as if the dems don’t quite practice what they preach.

And JEM is exactly right. If Obama thought this was so critical and so right then it would have passed. But he’s not sure so he wants as many Republicans on board as possible so he doesn’t have to take the blame.

No one has a clue how to fix this – although I for one would eliminate the payroll tax to start – but it appears that Obama wants to vote present on his own bill and let others take responsibility.

Jay from Texas, on Jennifer Rubin:

I seem to remember Democrats always crying that Bush was scaring people with terrorist threats to get his security measures passed.

Looking at today’s headlines, “Obama warns of economic catastrophe if stimulus bill is not passed” seems as if the dems don’t quite practice what they preach.

And JEM is exactly right. If Obama thought this was so critical and so right then it would have passed. But he’s not sure so he wants as many Republicans on board as possible so he doesn’t have to take the blame.

No one has a clue how to fix this – although I for one would eliminate the payroll tax to start – but it appears that Obama wants to vote present on his own bill and let others take responsibility.

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The Daily Dearborn Independent Dish

Andrew Sullivan has decided that he now knows the truth about neoconservatism:

We patiently listened as neocons told us that the Palestinians are too dysfunctional a people ever to have democratic rights or their own state, but that the the ancient sectarian warfare of Iraq can be transformed in a few years!…I took neoconservatism seriously for a long time, because it offered an interesting critique of what’s wrong with the Middle East, and seemed to have the only coherent strategic answer to the savagery of 9/11. I now realize that the answer – the permanent occupation of Iraq – was absurdly utopian and only made feasible by exploiting the psychic trauma of that dreadful day. The closer you examine it, the clearer it is that neoconservatism, in large part, is simply about enabling the most irredentist elements in Israel and sustaining a permanent war against anyone or any country who disagrees with the Israeli right.

Now let us see how many errors there are in this darling little passage.

First: neoconservatives told Sullivan Palestinians could never have their own state. In fact, neoconservatives were and remain the most determined supporters of George W. Bush’s June 24, 2002 speech in which he said specifically that the United States would accept a Palestinian state just so long as that state was a democratic one. Indeed, some of the most violent attacks against neoconservatives have come from  hard-line Israelis who do believe what Sullivan claims neoconservatives believe — and who believe COMMENTARY betrayed them and Israel because it published work supporting the Israeli disengagement from Gaza. In Israeli political terms, an American neoconservative would fall somewhere in the soft center, and would be roundly despised by the “Israeli right” he thinks has the neoconservatives in its thrall.

Now, as to Iraq. Seems to me the original complaint against some neoconservatives wasn’t that they wanted “permanent occupation,” but that they wanted no occupation at all — that Richard Perle, to take one example, argued we should put an Iraqi protectorate in place in the first few weeks and get out while the getting was good. What was the rap against the supposedly diabolical neocons circling Donald Rumsfeld like a monstrous set of phylacteries in Andrew Sullivan’s lurid imagination — Wolfowitz, Shulsky, Zackheim, Feith, and six others to form an evil minyan on E-Ring  — but that they refused to prepare adequately for a long occupation?

Others — Bill Kristol and Bob Kagan most prominently — did argue that we had prepared inadequately for the occupation, and that we needed far more troops. That was the claim as well of General Shinseki, who has been lionized for his honesty and supposed martyrdom by Andrew Sullivan over the years. Was he a neoconservative? The fact that Kristol and Kagan were in disagreement with Wolfowitz and Perle and Feith and many others over the course of the first few years of the war should give the lie to the notion that the “neoconservatives” were driven by a single strategy. We did all have a single goal — victory rather than defeat. Because, as patriots, we believed and believe it would be better for this country, and for the world, if we actually won the war in Iraq.

Andrew Sullivan no longer is interested in winning in Iraq, in fact is probably quietly eager for a defeat there, doubtless out of a combination of a certain degree of conviction, a ravenous hunger for leftist Web traffic, and because having decided a few years ago he’d picked the wrong horse in supporting it, he finds it unbearable to imagine that the wrong horse may prove to be the right horse after all.

So he must hold the neoconservatives to blame, first, for gulling him into support — you know, we Jews are fiendishly clever, with our Svengali hypnotic powers overcoming the will of poor, weak-minded Catholic bloggers — and must now be held to account for holding views about Israel and Iraq and democracy we never held and have, in fact, been attacked by some of our oldest friends who do hold them. But of course, those attacks by our old friends aren’t real, nor are the divisions among neoconservatives real. Because we Jews are all in it together.

At least Henry Ford knew how to make a car.

Andrew Sullivan has decided that he now knows the truth about neoconservatism:

We patiently listened as neocons told us that the Palestinians are too dysfunctional a people ever to have democratic rights or their own state, but that the the ancient sectarian warfare of Iraq can be transformed in a few years!…I took neoconservatism seriously for a long time, because it offered an interesting critique of what’s wrong with the Middle East, and seemed to have the only coherent strategic answer to the savagery of 9/11. I now realize that the answer – the permanent occupation of Iraq – was absurdly utopian and only made feasible by exploiting the psychic trauma of that dreadful day. The closer you examine it, the clearer it is that neoconservatism, in large part, is simply about enabling the most irredentist elements in Israel and sustaining a permanent war against anyone or any country who disagrees with the Israeli right.

Now let us see how many errors there are in this darling little passage.

First: neoconservatives told Sullivan Palestinians could never have their own state. In fact, neoconservatives were and remain the most determined supporters of George W. Bush’s June 24, 2002 speech in which he said specifically that the United States would accept a Palestinian state just so long as that state was a democratic one. Indeed, some of the most violent attacks against neoconservatives have come from  hard-line Israelis who do believe what Sullivan claims neoconservatives believe — and who believe COMMENTARY betrayed them and Israel because it published work supporting the Israeli disengagement from Gaza. In Israeli political terms, an American neoconservative would fall somewhere in the soft center, and would be roundly despised by the “Israeli right” he thinks has the neoconservatives in its thrall.

Now, as to Iraq. Seems to me the original complaint against some neoconservatives wasn’t that they wanted “permanent occupation,” but that they wanted no occupation at all — that Richard Perle, to take one example, argued we should put an Iraqi protectorate in place in the first few weeks and get out while the getting was good. What was the rap against the supposedly diabolical neocons circling Donald Rumsfeld like a monstrous set of phylacteries in Andrew Sullivan’s lurid imagination — Wolfowitz, Shulsky, Zackheim, Feith, and six others to form an evil minyan on E-Ring  — but that they refused to prepare adequately for a long occupation?

Others — Bill Kristol and Bob Kagan most prominently — did argue that we had prepared inadequately for the occupation, and that we needed far more troops. That was the claim as well of General Shinseki, who has been lionized for his honesty and supposed martyrdom by Andrew Sullivan over the years. Was he a neoconservative? The fact that Kristol and Kagan were in disagreement with Wolfowitz and Perle and Feith and many others over the course of the first few years of the war should give the lie to the notion that the “neoconservatives” were driven by a single strategy. We did all have a single goal — victory rather than defeat. Because, as patriots, we believed and believe it would be better for this country, and for the world, if we actually won the war in Iraq.

Andrew Sullivan no longer is interested in winning in Iraq, in fact is probably quietly eager for a defeat there, doubtless out of a combination of a certain degree of conviction, a ravenous hunger for leftist Web traffic, and because having decided a few years ago he’d picked the wrong horse in supporting it, he finds it unbearable to imagine that the wrong horse may prove to be the right horse after all.

So he must hold the neoconservatives to blame, first, for gulling him into support — you know, we Jews are fiendishly clever, with our Svengali hypnotic powers overcoming the will of poor, weak-minded Catholic bloggers — and must now be held to account for holding views about Israel and Iraq and democracy we never held and have, in fact, been attacked by some of our oldest friends who do hold them. But of course, those attacks by our old friends aren’t real, nor are the divisions among neoconservatives real. Because we Jews are all in it together.

At least Henry Ford knew how to make a car.

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Re: Revising Settled Judgments

Pete, your thoughtful take only emphasizes how foolish it would now be to withdraw precipitously from Iraq. It is of course the presence of U.S. forces in large numbers which has provided the political breathing-space for the nascent Iraqi democracy to take hold. We saw a peaceful election, the splintering of the Sunni bloc, the further marginalization of Sadr (who for all intents and purposes has ceased to be a political force), and the beginning of a transformation from purely sect-based identity politics to the type of coalitions that characterize more sophisticated democracies. But none of this is secure.

You point to a number of problematic situations — in Basra and Kirkuk, for example. But the presence of the U.S. also acts as a restraint, guiding and pushing Maliki to respect established political structures. Once thought to be too weak or a pawn of  Iran, we and the Iraqi people would not benefit if Maliki misinterpreted the results as a green light to aggregate power and disregard those institutions which are only now taking hold. The necessary backdrop to all of this is civil order and protection of the population from inter- and  intra-sectarian violence.

It is not clear yet what the new administration has in mind. The Obama camp is said to be working on three different withdrawal schedules. But we have reason to be concerned.  Its reaction to the election was pathetically uninspiring, lacking encouragement for the troops still there or for the Iraqis’ tremendous achievement. The eagerness to depart Iraq, rather than praise it and pledge support for continued progress, was what came through loud and clear.

Maintaining U.S. troops in essentially a peace-keeping role, to prevent the return of violence and encourage all parties to continue their political reconciliation is essential. After the blood and treasure expended and the remarkable results obtained, would the Obama administration sacrifice everything for the sake of speeding up the withdrawal to a campaign-driven sixteen month deadline? It would seem foolhardy.

National elections are scheduled (but not definitively set) for the end of the year. Preserving adequate troop levels to ensure a successful execution and a peaceful aftermath should be a top priority. That could mean that troop strength levels off, wisely, at twelve rather than ten brigades in the near future.

U.S. troops, largely because of the success of the surge, have seen their mission change dramatically. This does not mean that a U.S. presence it is no longer needed or that timetables can be artificially shortened without doing real damage to our goals. Let’s hope that administration officials understand this well.

Pete, your thoughtful take only emphasizes how foolish it would now be to withdraw precipitously from Iraq. It is of course the presence of U.S. forces in large numbers which has provided the political breathing-space for the nascent Iraqi democracy to take hold. We saw a peaceful election, the splintering of the Sunni bloc, the further marginalization of Sadr (who for all intents and purposes has ceased to be a political force), and the beginning of a transformation from purely sect-based identity politics to the type of coalitions that characterize more sophisticated democracies. But none of this is secure.

You point to a number of problematic situations — in Basra and Kirkuk, for example. But the presence of the U.S. also acts as a restraint, guiding and pushing Maliki to respect established political structures. Once thought to be too weak or a pawn of  Iran, we and the Iraqi people would not benefit if Maliki misinterpreted the results as a green light to aggregate power and disregard those institutions which are only now taking hold. The necessary backdrop to all of this is civil order and protection of the population from inter- and  intra-sectarian violence.

It is not clear yet what the new administration has in mind. The Obama camp is said to be working on three different withdrawal schedules. But we have reason to be concerned.  Its reaction to the election was pathetically uninspiring, lacking encouragement for the troops still there or for the Iraqis’ tremendous achievement. The eagerness to depart Iraq, rather than praise it and pledge support for continued progress, was what came through loud and clear.

Maintaining U.S. troops in essentially a peace-keeping role, to prevent the return of violence and encourage all parties to continue their political reconciliation is essential. After the blood and treasure expended and the remarkable results obtained, would the Obama administration sacrifice everything for the sake of speeding up the withdrawal to a campaign-driven sixteen month deadline? It would seem foolhardy.

National elections are scheduled (but not definitively set) for the end of the year. Preserving adequate troop levels to ensure a successful execution and a peaceful aftermath should be a top priority. That could mean that troop strength levels off, wisely, at twelve rather than ten brigades in the near future.

U.S. troops, largely because of the success of the surge, have seen their mission change dramatically. This does not mean that a U.S. presence it is no longer needed or that timetables can be artificially shortened without doing real damage to our goals. Let’s hope that administration officials understand this well.

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About That Lancet Study . . .

Back in 2006 the British medical journal Lancet published a study claiming that 655,000 Iraqis had died since the U.S. invasion of Iraq. No one denied that there had been lots of civilian casualties but that figure struck most observers as being ridiculously high-designed perhaps to make a political point, but hardly a serious accounting of the costs of war.

As is the nature of these things, however, such findings, no matter how outlandish, make big news. The follow-up does not. One has to search far and wide to learn that the study’s author, Gilbert Burnham of Johns Hopkins, has been censured by his professional peers at the American Association for Public Opinion Research for ethics violations related to this study.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The inquiry into Mr. Burnham’s work arose because of a complaint by one of the association’s members. But Mr. Burnham, who is not a member of the association, refused to cooperate. He wouldn’t disclose such information as the wording of questions he used in a survey of Iraqis, the instructions and explanations that were provided to respondents, and a summary of the outcomes for all households selected as potential participants in the survey, according to a statement released by the group.

“This violated the standards of science, seriously undermines open public debate on critical issues, and undermines the credibility of all survey and public-opinion research,” said Richard A. Kulka, the association’s president.

The real scandal here is that Lancet‘s peer-review process broke down so seriously that it published obviously unreliable findings, and that so many people were willing to accept the results of this “study” because it played into their anti-war prejudices.

Back in 2006 the British medical journal Lancet published a study claiming that 655,000 Iraqis had died since the U.S. invasion of Iraq. No one denied that there had been lots of civilian casualties but that figure struck most observers as being ridiculously high-designed perhaps to make a political point, but hardly a serious accounting of the costs of war.

As is the nature of these things, however, such findings, no matter how outlandish, make big news. The follow-up does not. One has to search far and wide to learn that the study’s author, Gilbert Burnham of Johns Hopkins, has been censured by his professional peers at the American Association for Public Opinion Research for ethics violations related to this study.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The inquiry into Mr. Burnham’s work arose because of a complaint by one of the association’s members. But Mr. Burnham, who is not a member of the association, refused to cooperate. He wouldn’t disclose such information as the wording of questions he used in a survey of Iraqis, the instructions and explanations that were provided to respondents, and a summary of the outcomes for all households selected as potential participants in the survey, according to a statement released by the group.

“This violated the standards of science, seriously undermines open public debate on critical issues, and undermines the credibility of all survey and public-opinion research,” said Richard A. Kulka, the association’s president.

The real scandal here is that Lancet‘s peer-review process broke down so seriously that it published obviously unreliable findings, and that so many people were willing to accept the results of this “study” because it played into their anti-war prejudices.

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Splitting the Stimulus

Over at his new perch at the Washington Post, Bill Kristol picks up on President Obama’s admission that the “stimulus” bill he is advocating is really a traditional (if gargantuan) spending bill. Kristol’s counsel to the GOP is this:

Insist on splitting the legislation being debated on the Senate floor into a true short-term stimulus, which can pass quickly, and long-term policy proposals, which require serious debate.

Republicans can then offer their own legislation that includes pro-growth tax cuts, housing measures, a few targeted spending provisions, unemployment, and COBRA extensions, which in comparison with Obama’s plan, looks serious, principled, and might actually help the American economy.

It’s an ingenious idea, and Republicans ought to embrace it.

It turns out Barack Obama is a tonic for the GOP.

Over at his new perch at the Washington Post, Bill Kristol picks up on President Obama’s admission that the “stimulus” bill he is advocating is really a traditional (if gargantuan) spending bill. Kristol’s counsel to the GOP is this:

Insist on splitting the legislation being debated on the Senate floor into a true short-term stimulus, which can pass quickly, and long-term policy proposals, which require serious debate.

Republicans can then offer their own legislation that includes pro-growth tax cuts, housing measures, a few targeted spending provisions, unemployment, and COBRA extensions, which in comparison with Obama’s plan, looks serious, principled, and might actually help the American economy.

It’s an ingenious idea, and Republicans ought to embrace it.

It turns out Barack Obama is a tonic for the GOP.

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The “Blunt” Punt

Tomorrow, Joe Biden heads to a conference in Munich, where he will clue in other nations on the Obama administration’s plan for Afghanistan. The Associated Press asks an indelicate question very delicately:

Can he curb his trademark bluntness as he strides onto the international stage in a new role and under the scrutiny of a curious world?

It’s impossible to fight off a preemptive cringe at the thought of Vice President Biden telling foreign heads of state to gird their loins. And Biden has proved such a serial offender, that there seems little hope in any good coming of this. In case you’re wondering where the AP picked up the new talking points, here’s David Axelrod:

“I think that part of his strength is his bluntness,” he said. “I would not criticize Joe. And I would not bridle him. One thing about Joe Biden is that he speaks from his gut, and I think that’s one of the reasons why he’s effective.”

I guess the Obama camp figures if they’ll never tame Biden, they might as well reframe his disequilibrium as “bluntness” and hope for the best.

And, just a side question: What is the Obama administration’s plan for Afghanistan?

Tomorrow, Joe Biden heads to a conference in Munich, where he will clue in other nations on the Obama administration’s plan for Afghanistan. The Associated Press asks an indelicate question very delicately:

Can he curb his trademark bluntness as he strides onto the international stage in a new role and under the scrutiny of a curious world?

It’s impossible to fight off a preemptive cringe at the thought of Vice President Biden telling foreign heads of state to gird their loins. And Biden has proved such a serial offender, that there seems little hope in any good coming of this. In case you’re wondering where the AP picked up the new talking points, here’s David Axelrod:

“I think that part of his strength is his bluntness,” he said. “I would not criticize Joe. And I would not bridle him. One thing about Joe Biden is that he speaks from his gut, and I think that’s one of the reasons why he’s effective.”

I guess the Obama camp figures if they’ll never tame Biden, they might as well reframe his disequilibrium as “bluntness” and hope for the best.

And, just a side question: What is the Obama administration’s plan for Afghanistan?

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The Credibility Chasm

David Broder explains why the Daschle debacle is especially problematic for the President:

Even when the White House belatedly learned of Daschle’s tax troubles, it misjudged the political fallout. Despite the glaring contradiction between Obama’s proclaimed ethical standards and Daschle’s lucrative expense-account life that led to his tax underpayment, Obama said he “absolutely” stood by his choice. One day later, he accepted Daschle’s withdrawal. This is a blow to Obama’s credibility that will not be easily forgotten.

Now Daschle and Robert Gibbs would have us believe that the President didn’t change his mind, his nominee did. But this odd sort of spin (“He really was ethically obtuse and politically tone deaf, honest!”) is belied by his later confession that he “screwed up.” Presumably he realized this sometime between the appearance of the New York Times op-ed and his TV interviews.

In any event, it is hard to tell when the President means something. He means to close Guantanamo, but not anytime soon. He means to end enhanced interrogation techniques, but he’s going to get advice for a gaping exception (the “this-guy-is-really-bad-and-he-knows-information-that-will-spare-lives” exception which was the very one the Bush administration employed without the hypocritical fanfare). He means to end earmarks, but he’s pleased (until he wasn’t) with the House pork-a-thon bill. He means to be bipartisan, yet can’t resist the urge to do the end-zone dance in front of Republicans (“I won.”) He means to reform lobbyist rules, but has at least a dozen ethics waivers (the latest at the Justice Department).

So it’s not just Daschle. There is a credibility gap, a chasm really, between much of what the President says and what he does. Daschle is just the most obvious illustration. Perhaps now that the media is snapping out of its cheerleading mode, it might look at some of these other items to see whether there is a more endemic problem within the Obama administration.

David Broder explains why the Daschle debacle is especially problematic for the President:

Even when the White House belatedly learned of Daschle’s tax troubles, it misjudged the political fallout. Despite the glaring contradiction between Obama’s proclaimed ethical standards and Daschle’s lucrative expense-account life that led to his tax underpayment, Obama said he “absolutely” stood by his choice. One day later, he accepted Daschle’s withdrawal. This is a blow to Obama’s credibility that will not be easily forgotten.

Now Daschle and Robert Gibbs would have us believe that the President didn’t change his mind, his nominee did. But this odd sort of spin (“He really was ethically obtuse and politically tone deaf, honest!”) is belied by his later confession that he “screwed up.” Presumably he realized this sometime between the appearance of the New York Times op-ed and his TV interviews.

In any event, it is hard to tell when the President means something. He means to close Guantanamo, but not anytime soon. He means to end enhanced interrogation techniques, but he’s going to get advice for a gaping exception (the “this-guy-is-really-bad-and-he-knows-information-that-will-spare-lives” exception which was the very one the Bush administration employed without the hypocritical fanfare). He means to end earmarks, but he’s pleased (until he wasn’t) with the House pork-a-thon bill. He means to be bipartisan, yet can’t resist the urge to do the end-zone dance in front of Republicans (“I won.”) He means to reform lobbyist rules, but has at least a dozen ethics waivers (the latest at the Justice Department).

So it’s not just Daschle. There is a credibility gap, a chasm really, between much of what the President says and what he does. Daschle is just the most obvious illustration. Perhaps now that the media is snapping out of its cheerleading mode, it might look at some of these other items to see whether there is a more endemic problem within the Obama administration.

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Getting Geithner

This comes from the Washington Post, not a conservative talk radio show:

As he insists that ethical standards should be the same for both the powerful and the people, critics say that President Obama is looking the other way when it comes to his Treasury secretary.

Timothy F. Geithner, like former senator and Cabinet nominee Thomas A. Daschle, failed to pay his taxes. Both men settled their debts, some after being tapped by Obama. Both operate in an elite sphere of financial and political influence.

But as Daschle heads back to a life as a private citizen, Geithner sits in his office at the Treasury Department, leading the nation’s effort to avoid an economic collapse.

[.   .   .]

Critics of the new administration continue to press their case against Geithner despite his confirmation. They say his presence in the administration highlights the flexibility of Obama’s ethical standards.

When Daschle backed out, the conventional wisdom was that Geithner had gotten “lucky” since he slipped through before the firestorm. But that might not be right and, in fact, he may now be a never-ending source of angst for the Obama team. When we get to the inevitable Obama tax hike on the “rich” will Geithner be the one trying to sell the proposition to the voters and Congress? You can hear the Republican retort already. (“Yeah, not a problem since you don’t pay all your taxes!”) Even now, is he capable of performing PR for the administration on the news show circuit while the first question would be whether he too should step down?

The one person entirely delighted by this (other than Michael Steele, the RNC, and the Republicans in Congress) is no doubt Larry Summer. With his larger-than-life personality, he hardly needed any assistance in establishing himself as the big dog on the Obama economic team. But with Geithner sidelined Summer will likely rein supreme.

That brings us back to the rationale for allowing Geithner to pass through despite his tax problems. We were told he was indispensable to addressing our economic woes. But since he is hobbled and now a liability to the President doesn’t the justification for the tax cheat “waiver” disappear?

This comes from the Washington Post, not a conservative talk radio show:

As he insists that ethical standards should be the same for both the powerful and the people, critics say that President Obama is looking the other way when it comes to his Treasury secretary.

Timothy F. Geithner, like former senator and Cabinet nominee Thomas A. Daschle, failed to pay his taxes. Both men settled their debts, some after being tapped by Obama. Both operate in an elite sphere of financial and political influence.

But as Daschle heads back to a life as a private citizen, Geithner sits in his office at the Treasury Department, leading the nation’s effort to avoid an economic collapse.

[.   .   .]

Critics of the new administration continue to press their case against Geithner despite his confirmation. They say his presence in the administration highlights the flexibility of Obama’s ethical standards.

When Daschle backed out, the conventional wisdom was that Geithner had gotten “lucky” since he slipped through before the firestorm. But that might not be right and, in fact, he may now be a never-ending source of angst for the Obama team. When we get to the inevitable Obama tax hike on the “rich” will Geithner be the one trying to sell the proposition to the voters and Congress? You can hear the Republican retort already. (“Yeah, not a problem since you don’t pay all your taxes!”) Even now, is he capable of performing PR for the administration on the news show circuit while the first question would be whether he too should step down?

The one person entirely delighted by this (other than Michael Steele, the RNC, and the Republicans in Congress) is no doubt Larry Summer. With his larger-than-life personality, he hardly needed any assistance in establishing himself as the big dog on the Obama economic team. But with Geithner sidelined Summer will likely rein supreme.

That brings us back to the rationale for allowing Geithner to pass through despite his tax problems. We were told he was indispensable to addressing our economic woes. But since he is hobbled and now a liability to the President doesn’t the justification for the tax cheat “waiver” disappear?

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Revising Settled Judgments

In the wake of Iraq’s recent provincial elections, it is instructive to consider how many once-settled judgments now have to be significantly, and in some cases fundamentally, revised.

Perhaps most important is the one declaring that the effort to spread liberty to the Arab Middle East was a fool’s errand, that the cultural soil of Iraq was too hard and forbidding for democracy to take root, and that elections would only strengthen religious radicals and deepen sectarian differences. In fact, freedom is taking root in Iraq. We are seeing the enfranchising of Sunni Arabs. And though the journey hasn’t been easy, Iraq is today a legitimate, representative, and responsible democracy.

In addition, the fears that democracy would lead to a radical, illiberal theocratic rule have not been realized. Secular and moderately religious parties (like Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa Party) did well; sectarian parties (like the Iranian-backed Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq) did not. Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical anti-American cleric once thought to be an increasingly influential figure in Iraq’s future, has seen his power and influence diminish. And the secular Iraqi National List, led by former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, made gains.

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

In the wake of Iraq’s recent provincial elections, it is instructive to consider how many once-settled judgments now have to be significantly, and in some cases fundamentally, revised.

Perhaps most important is the one declaring that the effort to spread liberty to the Arab Middle East was a fool’s errand, that the cultural soil of Iraq was too hard and forbidding for democracy to take root, and that elections would only strengthen religious radicals and deepen sectarian differences. In fact, freedom is taking root in Iraq. We are seeing the enfranchising of Sunni Arabs. And though the journey hasn’t been easy, Iraq is today a legitimate, representative, and responsible democracy.

In addition, the fears that democracy would lead to a radical, illiberal theocratic rule have not been realized. Secular and moderately religious parties (like Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa Party) did well; sectarian parties (like the Iranian-backed Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq) did not. Moqtada al-Sadr, the radical anti-American cleric once thought to be an increasingly influential figure in Iraq’s future, has seen his power and influence diminish. And the secular Iraqi National List, led by former interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, made gains.

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

Read Less

A Snowe Job

I’m not sure what President Obama is up to. He takes to the pages of the Washington Post to defend his stimulus, attacking its critics:

In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis — the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.

He then goes on to defend a long list of liberal agenda items.

Remarkably, the Post’s editors ding him for departing form his “previous emphasis on bipartisanship” and junking up the bill with items that should be dealt with apart from the stimulus bill:

Mr. Obama praised the package yesterday as “not merely a prescription for short-term spending” but a “strategy for long-term economic growth in areas like renewable energy and health care and education.” This is precisely the problem. As credible experts, including some Democrats, have pointed out, much of this “long-term” spending either won’t stimulate the economy now, is of questionable merit, or both. . . All other policy priorities should pass through the normal budget process, which involves hearings, debate and — crucially — competition with other programs.

(That’s a gutsy opinion-page editor — offer the president space and then lambaste him for what he writes.)

But wait, didn’t the president, just as the Post editors advise, tell Sen. Olympia Snowe he was going to “scrub” the bill of non-stimulative spending? Snowe sure thought so:

“He said that he understands it needs to be scrubbed,” Snowe first said as she emerged from her midday meeting, “and he’s prepared to be receptive to the ideas and to revealing some of the spending measures that were included and are raised with questions whether or not they are stimulative. And he was amenable to that process.”

So which is it: Is he defending the exiting bill or getting ready to scrub (and scrap) it? If I were Snowe, I’d be asking why he is telling her one thing and the Washington Post readers something completely different.

I’m not sure what President Obama is up to. He takes to the pages of the Washington Post to defend his stimulus, attacking its critics:

In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis — the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.

He then goes on to defend a long list of liberal agenda items.

Remarkably, the Post’s editors ding him for departing form his “previous emphasis on bipartisanship” and junking up the bill with items that should be dealt with apart from the stimulus bill:

Mr. Obama praised the package yesterday as “not merely a prescription for short-term spending” but a “strategy for long-term economic growth in areas like renewable energy and health care and education.” This is precisely the problem. As credible experts, including some Democrats, have pointed out, much of this “long-term” spending either won’t stimulate the economy now, is of questionable merit, or both. . . All other policy priorities should pass through the normal budget process, which involves hearings, debate and — crucially — competition with other programs.

(That’s a gutsy opinion-page editor — offer the president space and then lambaste him for what he writes.)

But wait, didn’t the president, just as the Post editors advise, tell Sen. Olympia Snowe he was going to “scrub” the bill of non-stimulative spending? Snowe sure thought so:

“He said that he understands it needs to be scrubbed,” Snowe first said as she emerged from her midday meeting, “and he’s prepared to be receptive to the ideas and to revealing some of the spending measures that were included and are raised with questions whether or not they are stimulative. And he was amenable to that process.”

So which is it: Is he defending the exiting bill or getting ready to scrub (and scrap) it? If I were Snowe, I’d be asking why he is telling her one thing and the Washington Post readers something completely different.

Read Less

Some Mush with Your Breakfast

From Barack Obama’s address at the National Prayer Breakfast:

“In a world that grows smaller by the day, perhaps we can begin to crowd out the destructive forces of zealotry and make room for the healing power of understanding,” Obama told the gathering of lawmakers, dignitaries and world leaders. “This is my hope. This is my prayer.”

This is my president?

From Barack Obama’s address at the National Prayer Breakfast:

“In a world that grows smaller by the day, perhaps we can begin to crowd out the destructive forces of zealotry and make room for the healing power of understanding,” Obama told the gathering of lawmakers, dignitaries and world leaders. “This is my hope. This is my prayer.”

This is my president?

Read Less

Re: Lost and Downed

Pete, it seems that the Obama team is losing all sorts of things. Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh sounds panicky as he warns the President has “has all but lost control of the agenda in Washington at a time when he simply can’t afford to do so.” We are told:

The decisive issue here is leadership. The lack of it is what is plaguing the Obama administration. Every war needs a successful general, and this administration doesn’t have one yet.

Hirsh thinks the problem is giving in to those tiresome Republicans who don’t want to lard up a “stimulus” bill. But, of course, the real problems started when the President ceded the floor to Nancy Pelosi and in return got what virtually everyone agrees is an embarrassing, unworkable bill.

Politico says he’s “losing the stimulus message war.”

And Chris Matthews may have lost the tingle:

You knew Kennedy wanted the Peace Corps; wanted to put a man on the moon, wanted civil rights. You knew Reagan was out there cutting taxes to make government smaller. What’s Barack Obama doing? He keeps talking about his stimulus package like it’s some big Santa’s bag filled with all sorts of sundry items: extended unemployment benefits, “green” jobs, aid to states. But how on earth does this trillion-dollar grab bag work? How does spending this money—all of it borrowed—repeat, all of it borrowed, going to help the country get moving again?

But all of this “losing” raises a question about temperament. Remember how critical that was, how impressed everyone was with Obama’s temperament during the campaign? Well, some of us questioned “the Zen-like benefits of inactivity.” And sure enough it seems that vaunted temperament has manifested itself as passivity or cluelessness. Yes, he’s very calm — as he’s losing control and losing influence.

Granted, calm is good. Focus, decisiveness, good judgment and leadership would be better.

Pete, it seems that the Obama team is losing all sorts of things. Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh sounds panicky as he warns the President has “has all but lost control of the agenda in Washington at a time when he simply can’t afford to do so.” We are told:

The decisive issue here is leadership. The lack of it is what is plaguing the Obama administration. Every war needs a successful general, and this administration doesn’t have one yet.

Hirsh thinks the problem is giving in to those tiresome Republicans who don’t want to lard up a “stimulus” bill. But, of course, the real problems started when the President ceded the floor to Nancy Pelosi and in return got what virtually everyone agrees is an embarrassing, unworkable bill.

Politico says he’s “losing the stimulus message war.”

And Chris Matthews may have lost the tingle:

You knew Kennedy wanted the Peace Corps; wanted to put a man on the moon, wanted civil rights. You knew Reagan was out there cutting taxes to make government smaller. What’s Barack Obama doing? He keeps talking about his stimulus package like it’s some big Santa’s bag filled with all sorts of sundry items: extended unemployment benefits, “green” jobs, aid to states. But how on earth does this trillion-dollar grab bag work? How does spending this money—all of it borrowed—repeat, all of it borrowed, going to help the country get moving again?

But all of this “losing” raises a question about temperament. Remember how critical that was, how impressed everyone was with Obama’s temperament during the campaign? Well, some of us questioned “the Zen-like benefits of inactivity.” And sure enough it seems that vaunted temperament has manifested itself as passivity or cluelessness. Yes, he’s very calm — as he’s losing control and losing influence.

Granted, calm is good. Focus, decisiveness, good judgment and leadership would be better.

Read Less

S-CHIP of Fools

Well, President Obama has signed his first bill into law, and it’s an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or S-CHIP. In the name of providing health insurance to poor children, the federal government will now be the insurance provider of choice for families making up to four times the poverty level, and covering “children” up to their mid-twenties. This raises the entertaining possibility that some people could end up both being customers and beneficiaries of the program — “children” whose own children would also be covered by the same taxpayer-subsidized plan.

Here’s what President Obama said at the occasion of the bill’s signing: “The way I see it, providing coverage to 11 million children through CHIP is a down payment on my commitment to cover every single American.”

Ah, universal health insurance coverage — the liberal holy grail.

The idea is that everyone will have health insurance, provided by the government and paid for in taxes. And in selling it, the more you separate the actual costs of something from the item or program itself, the more palatable it becomes for those who will pay for it.

It’s the core concept behind the success of the income tax: most people pay it indirectly, all year, through paycheck withholding. Then, every April, many of them rejoice in getting money back from the government. It’s actually a repayment of an interest-free loan they made to the government over the past year. It’s their own money. But still, many people see their income tax returns as a “bonus” from the government.

It’s also behind the student loan and college tuition racket. For years, the cost of a college education has been soaring, well in excess of inflation. But since most college students don’t pay as they go, but instead just sign loans and grant applications, they don’t see how much money they are spending for that education. No, the real cost becomes clear after graduation, when former students are suddenly in heavy debt. But by then they have already consumed the product.

Advocates are pushing for “free” universal coverage, but nothing is ever free. The S-CHIP program is being funded by a 150% hike in the federal tax on cigarettes, but that is a very unreliable revenue stream — after all, another part of the government is dedicated to getting people to stop smoking entirely, while S-CHIP is dependent on more and more people taking up the habit. Sooner or later, the costs of the program will outstrip the cigarette tax revenue, and then we’ll be asked to swallow some new tax to cover it.

And this is, as promised, just the first step.

P. J. O’Rourke said it best: “If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.”

I can’t wait for the first insurance company to seek a federal bailout because the government has stolen most of their customers.

Well, President Obama has signed his first bill into law, and it’s an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or S-CHIP. In the name of providing health insurance to poor children, the federal government will now be the insurance provider of choice for families making up to four times the poverty level, and covering “children” up to their mid-twenties. This raises the entertaining possibility that some people could end up both being customers and beneficiaries of the program — “children” whose own children would also be covered by the same taxpayer-subsidized plan.

Here’s what President Obama said at the occasion of the bill’s signing: “The way I see it, providing coverage to 11 million children through CHIP is a down payment on my commitment to cover every single American.”

Ah, universal health insurance coverage — the liberal holy grail.

The idea is that everyone will have health insurance, provided by the government and paid for in taxes. And in selling it, the more you separate the actual costs of something from the item or program itself, the more palatable it becomes for those who will pay for it.

It’s the core concept behind the success of the income tax: most people pay it indirectly, all year, through paycheck withholding. Then, every April, many of them rejoice in getting money back from the government. It’s actually a repayment of an interest-free loan they made to the government over the past year. It’s their own money. But still, many people see their income tax returns as a “bonus” from the government.

It’s also behind the student loan and college tuition racket. For years, the cost of a college education has been soaring, well in excess of inflation. But since most college students don’t pay as they go, but instead just sign loans and grant applications, they don’t see how much money they are spending for that education. No, the real cost becomes clear after graduation, when former students are suddenly in heavy debt. But by then they have already consumed the product.

Advocates are pushing for “free” universal coverage, but nothing is ever free. The S-CHIP program is being funded by a 150% hike in the federal tax on cigarettes, but that is a very unreliable revenue stream — after all, another part of the government is dedicated to getting people to stop smoking entirely, while S-CHIP is dependent on more and more people taking up the habit. Sooner or later, the costs of the program will outstrip the cigarette tax revenue, and then we’ll be asked to swallow some new tax to cover it.

And this is, as promised, just the first step.

P. J. O’Rourke said it best: “If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.”

I can’t wait for the first insurance company to seek a federal bailout because the government has stolen most of their customers.

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Minnesota Recount

The three-judge panel reviewing the U.S. Senate race in Minnesota is plowing through more than 4700 absentee ballots to determine which, if any, were improperly discarded and should be counted. But even this might not end the contest.

Hans von Spakovsky, formerly of the Justice Department’s Voting Rights Section and now a visiting scholar at the Heritage Foundation, writes that there is a Bush. v. Gore problem:

Regrettably, we have an entire series of actions in the Minnesota recount that fit squarely within the unequal treatment problems that ensnared Florida officials in 2000 and led directly to the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore. These problems range from allowing double votes in some counties to allowing votes that violated state law.

The disparate treatment of votes was clearly present in the Minnesota recount. Because of the failure of local election officials to properly mark and segregate the original, defective ballots that could not be counted by precinct computer scanners and the duplicate ballots created as substitutes, both the original and duplicate ballots were hand-counted in a number of counties. Thus, the value placed on the ballots of some persons was greater than the value placed on ballots of other Minnesota voters, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

The fact that the total vote count from one county was based on the election-day electronic total and apparently included nonexistent ballots, while the vote totals from other counties were based on the hand count, is another example of the application of a disparate standard.

After the Minnesota state court proceeding, the losing party could very well head to federal court. But then it gets messy. It seems that no one much bothered to segregate the original and duplicate ballots. If they can’t do that, then, according to von Spakovsky, “it will not be possible for Minnesota to conduct a recount that values every person’s vote equally.” What then?

Under such circumstances, the state would be forced to stand by the original electronic count from election day along with (1) any corrections in the absentee ballot count (which may properly be considered under Minnesota law at the “contest” phase) and (2) new and consistent determinations of voter intent on defective ballots–both as determined by the court in full compliance with Minnesota law. Otherwise, the only constitutionally acceptable remedy will be to conduct a new, special election for the vacancy in the position of the United States Senator from Minnesota.

Another election? Yup.

The three-judge panel reviewing the U.S. Senate race in Minnesota is plowing through more than 4700 absentee ballots to determine which, if any, were improperly discarded and should be counted. But even this might not end the contest.

Hans von Spakovsky, formerly of the Justice Department’s Voting Rights Section and now a visiting scholar at the Heritage Foundation, writes that there is a Bush. v. Gore problem:

Regrettably, we have an entire series of actions in the Minnesota recount that fit squarely within the unequal treatment problems that ensnared Florida officials in 2000 and led directly to the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore. These problems range from allowing double votes in some counties to allowing votes that violated state law.

The disparate treatment of votes was clearly present in the Minnesota recount. Because of the failure of local election officials to properly mark and segregate the original, defective ballots that could not be counted by precinct computer scanners and the duplicate ballots created as substitutes, both the original and duplicate ballots were hand-counted in a number of counties. Thus, the value placed on the ballots of some persons was greater than the value placed on ballots of other Minnesota voters, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause.

The fact that the total vote count from one county was based on the election-day electronic total and apparently included nonexistent ballots, while the vote totals from other counties were based on the hand count, is another example of the application of a disparate standard.

After the Minnesota state court proceeding, the losing party could very well head to federal court. But then it gets messy. It seems that no one much bothered to segregate the original and duplicate ballots. If they can’t do that, then, according to von Spakovsky, “it will not be possible for Minnesota to conduct a recount that values every person’s vote equally.” What then?

Under such circumstances, the state would be forced to stand by the original electronic count from election day along with (1) any corrections in the absentee ballot count (which may properly be considered under Minnesota law at the “contest” phase) and (2) new and consistent determinations of voter intent on defective ballots–both as determined by the court in full compliance with Minnesota law. Otherwise, the only constitutionally acceptable remedy will be to conduct a new, special election for the vacancy in the position of the United States Senator from Minnesota.

Another election? Yup.

Read Less

Obama’s Like Bush on Iran

As Jonathan Tobin noted yesterday, the Obama administration’s renewed efforts to engage Iran are experiencing the first signs of turbulence. (For those who worry about President Obama’s focus on engagement, Lee Smith and Claudia Rosett both offer useful advice.) But we should not be too alarmist about the possibility of a naive and dangerous reversal of approach by the new administration.

And not only because Iran is doing everything in its power to undermine the argument for engagement - launching a satellite , stirring up trouble in Iraq, resupplying weapons to Hamas, intimidating those Western institutions that have made dialogue their raison d’etre. All these steps will be hard to ignore for the advocates of dialogue. But the real reason for the need to be cautious about sounding the alarm is that the Obama administration’s early warnings all speak to either continuity or increased toughness.

The Obama team has just re-confirmed Stuart Levey, Treasury Department undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence to his post, a sign that the Bush policy of squeazing Iran through financial sanctions will be continued. And so far, the right noise is being made.

Europe meanwhile is rumored to be planning tougher sanctions, which, if approved under the draft proposal, would target Iran’s entire banking sector, its shipping and insurance companies and a broad number of front companies engaged in procurement efforts in Europe. For those who wish that the American fighter jets were already on the runway, this is of course well short of satisfactory, but it does not appear to be such a U-turn from the Bush administration, and it might even become tougher over time.

As Jonathan Tobin noted yesterday, the Obama administration’s renewed efforts to engage Iran are experiencing the first signs of turbulence. (For those who worry about President Obama’s focus on engagement, Lee Smith and Claudia Rosett both offer useful advice.) But we should not be too alarmist about the possibility of a naive and dangerous reversal of approach by the new administration.

And not only because Iran is doing everything in its power to undermine the argument for engagement - launching a satellite , stirring up trouble in Iraq, resupplying weapons to Hamas, intimidating those Western institutions that have made dialogue their raison d’etre. All these steps will be hard to ignore for the advocates of dialogue. But the real reason for the need to be cautious about sounding the alarm is that the Obama administration’s early warnings all speak to either continuity or increased toughness.

The Obama team has just re-confirmed Stuart Levey, Treasury Department undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence to his post, a sign that the Bush policy of squeazing Iran through financial sanctions will be continued. And so far, the right noise is being made.

Europe meanwhile is rumored to be planning tougher sanctions, which, if approved under the draft proposal, would target Iran’s entire banking sector, its shipping and insurance companies and a broad number of front companies engaged in procurement efforts in Europe. For those who wish that the American fighter jets were already on the runway, this is of course well short of satisfactory, but it does not appear to be such a U-turn from the Bush administration, and it might even become tougher over time.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

The handling of General Zinni’s appointment and un-appointment is simply shameful. What is wrong over there?

The Washington Post suggests President Obama not look a gift horse in the mouth: “Oddly, the biggest beneficiary of the election other than Mr. Maliki may be President Obama, who has been a skeptic both of progress in Iraq and the value of elections in unstable states. . . [T]he president would do well to recognize, value and exploit the very real political progress Iraq has made — and to be careful not to undercut it by acting too quickly on his exit strategy. ”

Is the New York Times online going to start charging again? Oh, puleez! How I miss the days of TimesSelect. (When I didn’t feel compelled to read a column arguing that it is okay the stimulus is messy because the columnist’s desk is messy. As is her reasoning.)

If this report is any indication, the press honeymoon is over.

And E.J. Dionne confirms that, really, his fellow journalists are liberal propagandists, but unreliable ones: “In just two weeks, the elation of Inauguration Day has given way to a classic form of partisan hardball. Obama and his advisers have been forced to learn basic lessons on the run. For starters, the media cannot be counted on to be either liberal or permanently enchanted with any politician.”

Darth Vader plays mind games with the Obama team. Yeah, go ahead and change those Bush-era policies and be prepared for an attack on America. Or is it Clint Eastwood?

Well, maybe he can snag a spot as a Fox political analyst: “‘You have Daschle with his tax problem. You have [Treasury Secretary Tim] Geithner with his tax problem. You have Charlie Rangel, who’s chairman of the Ways and Means Committee — doesn’t understand the tax code. You have Chris Dodd, who got special — alleged special terms’ on a mortgage. ‘If I look at that from our standpoint I’d start to worry about it if I were a Democrat. There’s nothing more dangerous, politically, than hypocrisy. At some point, here, we’re going to get critical mass.”

Republicans get excited about their prospects in New Jersey at their own peril. Still, Governor Corzine’s numbers look awful.

Governor Paterson ended Caroline Kennedy’s political career — and did a rather effective job of damaging his own. I’m thinking that 2010 Governor’s race is going to be competitive.

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) must be in the (blue) dog house. He backpedals on his claim that the White House encouraged him to vote against Nancy Pelosi’s stimulus bill.

Would you let this woman draft your most important piece of legislation? (Okay, we knew she wasn’t good at math.)

Tax cuts are an effective stimulus, it turns out. Who knew? The Congressional Research Service, actually.

Meanwhile, the timing on this couldn’t be better: “Republican Rep. John R. Carter of Texas offered legislation Wednesday that would require Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel to relinquish his gavel until the ethics committee completes an investigation into Rangel’s finances. Under the rules of the House, members must consider Carter’s resolution by next Tuesday, forcing Democrats to confront Rangel’s ethics in the same week they will try to move the massive economic stimulus and a handful of late appropriations bills.”

And Rangel has more problems: failure to disclose book royalties.

Next up: “The White House’s nominee for Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, has earned more than $700,000 in speaking and consulting fees since the beginning of 2008, with some of the payments coming from troubled financial firms and from a firm that invests in contractors for federal national security agencies, according to financial disclosures released Wednesday.” You can’t make this stuff up.

The handling of General Zinni’s appointment and un-appointment is simply shameful. What is wrong over there?

The Washington Post suggests President Obama not look a gift horse in the mouth: “Oddly, the biggest beneficiary of the election other than Mr. Maliki may be President Obama, who has been a skeptic both of progress in Iraq and the value of elections in unstable states. . . [T]he president would do well to recognize, value and exploit the very real political progress Iraq has made — and to be careful not to undercut it by acting too quickly on his exit strategy. ”

Is the New York Times online going to start charging again? Oh, puleez! How I miss the days of TimesSelect. (When I didn’t feel compelled to read a column arguing that it is okay the stimulus is messy because the columnist’s desk is messy. As is her reasoning.)

If this report is any indication, the press honeymoon is over.

And E.J. Dionne confirms that, really, his fellow journalists are liberal propagandists, but unreliable ones: “In just two weeks, the elation of Inauguration Day has given way to a classic form of partisan hardball. Obama and his advisers have been forced to learn basic lessons on the run. For starters, the media cannot be counted on to be either liberal or permanently enchanted with any politician.”

Darth Vader plays mind games with the Obama team. Yeah, go ahead and change those Bush-era policies and be prepared for an attack on America. Or is it Clint Eastwood?

Well, maybe he can snag a spot as a Fox political analyst: “‘You have Daschle with his tax problem. You have [Treasury Secretary Tim] Geithner with his tax problem. You have Charlie Rangel, who’s chairman of the Ways and Means Committee — doesn’t understand the tax code. You have Chris Dodd, who got special — alleged special terms’ on a mortgage. ‘If I look at that from our standpoint I’d start to worry about it if I were a Democrat. There’s nothing more dangerous, politically, than hypocrisy. At some point, here, we’re going to get critical mass.”

Republicans get excited about their prospects in New Jersey at their own peril. Still, Governor Corzine’s numbers look awful.

Governor Paterson ended Caroline Kennedy’s political career — and did a rather effective job of damaging his own. I’m thinking that 2010 Governor’s race is going to be competitive.

Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) must be in the (blue) dog house. He backpedals on his claim that the White House encouraged him to vote against Nancy Pelosi’s stimulus bill.

Would you let this woman draft your most important piece of legislation? (Okay, we knew she wasn’t good at math.)

Tax cuts are an effective stimulus, it turns out. Who knew? The Congressional Research Service, actually.

Meanwhile, the timing on this couldn’t be better: “Republican Rep. John R. Carter of Texas offered legislation Wednesday that would require Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel to relinquish his gavel until the ethics committee completes an investigation into Rangel’s finances. Under the rules of the House, members must consider Carter’s resolution by next Tuesday, forcing Democrats to confront Rangel’s ethics in the same week they will try to move the massive economic stimulus and a handful of late appropriations bills.”

And Rangel has more problems: failure to disclose book royalties.

Next up: “The White House’s nominee for Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon Panetta, has earned more than $700,000 in speaking and consulting fees since the beginning of 2008, with some of the payments coming from troubled financial firms and from a firm that invests in contractors for federal national security agencies, according to financial disclosures released Wednesday.” You can’t make this stuff up.

Read Less




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