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Posts For: March 1, 2009

Stephen Walt’s Intellectual Dishonesty

Over at his Foreign Policy blog, Stephen Walt has a mind-numbingly predictable take on the controversy surrounding the appointment of Charles “Chas” Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council:

As soon as the appointment was announced, a bevy of allegedly “pro-Israel” pundits leapt to attack it, in what The Nation’s Robert Dreyfuss called a “thunderous, coordinated assault.”  Freeman’s critics were the usual suspects: Jonathan Chait of the New Republic, Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard, Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, Gabriel Schoenfeld (writing on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal), Jonah Goldberg of National Review, Marty Peretz on his New Republic blog, and former AIPAC official Steve Rosen ….

And so goes the rest of the post.  Indeed, rather than addressing any of the substantive criticisms that various opinion-makers raised in the wake of Freeman’s appointment, Walt lazily defends Freeman by constantly repeating the names and affiliations of his ideological nemeses — as if, by itself, this proves his point.  (By the way, congratulations to the Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg, who is mentioned a record three times in Walt’s post – all without a single reference or link to Goldberg’s actual argument.)  Of course, this ad hominem discursive tactic is consistent with the intellectual dishonesty that Walt and co-author John Mearsheimer displayed in their infamous tome, which managed to sketch out a vast Zionist conspiracy (even the New York Times is in on it!) without actually interviewing a single pro-Israel lobbyist.

In turn, Walt foolishly fails to address the major point of contention surrounding Freeman’s appointment: that Freeman made the scandalous transition from U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia to head of a Saudi-bankrolled think tank.  In turn, Walt conveniently overlooks the fact that Freeman used his influence in Washington to peddle the Saudi party line after 9/11, which held that American foreign policy caused the terrorist attacks on our country.

Indeed, the hypocrisy is stunning.  How can Walt — who has spent the past three years bloviating on the supposed influence of pro-Israel groups on U.S. foreign policy — defend the administration for appointing an outright Saudi client to chair the all-important NIC?  Why does he bristle when “pro-Israel pundits” merely speak out on foreign policy, but has no problem empowering a man whose income came via Riyadh to determine the very intelligence that makes it into top policymakers’ hands?

Of course, I don’t expect an answer from Walt.  Conspiracy theorists aren’t known for applying their supposed principles consistently.

Over at his Foreign Policy blog, Stephen Walt has a mind-numbingly predictable take on the controversy surrounding the appointment of Charles “Chas” Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council:

As soon as the appointment was announced, a bevy of allegedly “pro-Israel” pundits leapt to attack it, in what The Nation’s Robert Dreyfuss called a “thunderous, coordinated assault.”  Freeman’s critics were the usual suspects: Jonathan Chait of the New Republic, Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard, Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, Gabriel Schoenfeld (writing on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal), Jonah Goldberg of National Review, Marty Peretz on his New Republic blog, and former AIPAC official Steve Rosen ….

And so goes the rest of the post.  Indeed, rather than addressing any of the substantive criticisms that various opinion-makers raised in the wake of Freeman’s appointment, Walt lazily defends Freeman by constantly repeating the names and affiliations of his ideological nemeses — as if, by itself, this proves his point.  (By the way, congratulations to the Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg, who is mentioned a record three times in Walt’s post – all without a single reference or link to Goldberg’s actual argument.)  Of course, this ad hominem discursive tactic is consistent with the intellectual dishonesty that Walt and co-author John Mearsheimer displayed in their infamous tome, which managed to sketch out a vast Zionist conspiracy (even the New York Times is in on it!) without actually interviewing a single pro-Israel lobbyist.

In turn, Walt foolishly fails to address the major point of contention surrounding Freeman’s appointment: that Freeman made the scandalous transition from U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia to head of a Saudi-bankrolled think tank.  In turn, Walt conveniently overlooks the fact that Freeman used his influence in Washington to peddle the Saudi party line after 9/11, which held that American foreign policy caused the terrorist attacks on our country.

Indeed, the hypocrisy is stunning.  How can Walt — who has spent the past three years bloviating on the supposed influence of pro-Israel groups on U.S. foreign policy — defend the administration for appointing an outright Saudi client to chair the all-important NIC?  Why does he bristle when “pro-Israel pundits” merely speak out on foreign policy, but has no problem empowering a man whose income came via Riyadh to determine the very intelligence that makes it into top policymakers’ hands?

Of course, I don’t expect an answer from Walt.  Conspiracy theorists aren’t known for applying their supposed principles consistently.

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Finding a Focus

There was much tumult within the losing party after the election. What should should conservatives do? What direction should they take? All manner of high-brow discussion was held, some with dizzying charts. Factions arose on the blogosphere between competing groups wanting to “throw the other guys out.” Three months later it all seems fairly irrelevant.

Conservatives have found their focus or the focus has found them: the president’s plans to inflate the size and scope of the federal government beyond anything we have seen in our lifetimes. The CPAC attendees certainly were on red alert in the days after the proposed budget was announced. And the straw poll taken at the event, with over 1700 respondees, reflects the degree to which fiscal conservatism has now absorbed the attention of and unified forces on the Right.  A whopping 74% of the respondees identified their most important goal as shrinking the size of government. The top two policy issues also concerned the size of government.

All of this is a healthy reminder for those pundits who don’t get out much and don’t have much regard for the everyday lives of politicians. More often than not, external events and the opposition party determine the agenda of a movement or party out of power. In a very real sense Obama has been the primary organizer and team builder for the Right. But then it is usually this way. Without Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan might have remained in California. (And without George W. Bush, it is unlikely a one-term senator would have made it to the White House.)

If the pundit class looks up from their screens and gets a peek at the real world, they’ll see where conservatives are headed.

There was much tumult within the losing party after the election. What should should conservatives do? What direction should they take? All manner of high-brow discussion was held, some with dizzying charts. Factions arose on the blogosphere between competing groups wanting to “throw the other guys out.” Three months later it all seems fairly irrelevant.

Conservatives have found their focus or the focus has found them: the president’s plans to inflate the size and scope of the federal government beyond anything we have seen in our lifetimes. The CPAC attendees certainly were on red alert in the days after the proposed budget was announced. And the straw poll taken at the event, with over 1700 respondees, reflects the degree to which fiscal conservatism has now absorbed the attention of and unified forces on the Right.  A whopping 74% of the respondees identified their most important goal as shrinking the size of government. The top two policy issues also concerned the size of government.

All of this is a healthy reminder for those pundits who don’t get out much and don’t have much regard for the everyday lives of politicians. More often than not, external events and the opposition party determine the agenda of a movement or party out of power. In a very real sense Obama has been the primary organizer and team builder for the Right. But then it is usually this way. Without Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan might have remained in California. (And without George W. Bush, it is unlikely a one-term senator would have made it to the White House.)

If the pundit class looks up from their screens and gets a peek at the real world, they’ll see where conservatives are headed.

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A Book Plug

A little bit of self-promotion for a change: my new book, Under a Mushroom Cloud: Europe, Iran and the Bomb is out in English. Many thanks to the readers at contentions, whose pointed comments on my blog entries about Iran helped me refine my arguments.

A little bit of self-promotion for a change: my new book, Under a Mushroom Cloud: Europe, Iran and the Bomb is out in English. Many thanks to the readers at contentions, whose pointed comments on my blog entries about Iran helped me refine my arguments.

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Is This the Best They Have?

John Judis comments on a defense of the stimulus bill by the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, Christina Romer:

She makes two important observations: First that many of these objections stem from a bygone view of industry, which only can only imagine jobs in construction. An education grant or healthcare spending might easily create as many jobs as a highway project. The second is that the current downturn, when interest rates are very low, provides an important opportunity to stimulate the economy while making investments that will raise productivity in the long run. There is quite of bit of this kind of spending in the stimulus bill–for instance spending for rural broadband, a new electrical grid, and high speed rail. And it’s a good thing there is.

Her observations may be “important,” but they are non-responsive. As to her argument about the type of jobs: the critics are not limiting their critiques to construction jobs. If you aren’t spending the money now, or not spending enough of it now, no industry will get a lift. If we’re relying on healthcare and education grants (which are funded and may not be completed for years) to get us out of the economic ditch, we are really in trouble. The second observation is a neat bit of misdirection. She argues that in the long run it is important to raise productivity. But that’s not the question. The question before the house is what a pork-a-thon stimulus plan that releases much of the money after 2011 is going to do now.

It would also be worth finding out how she thinks the Obama tax increases are going to impact the recovery. J.D. Foster reminds us of the findings of a 2007 study by Christina and her husband David Romer:

The Romer and Romer study presents strong evi­dence that higher taxes tend to diminish economic activity. It found that a tax increase of 1 percent of GDP initially has a modest downward effect on out­put and that the effect grows rapidly before leveling off after 10 quarters for a maximum effect of lower­ing GDP by 3 percentage points. Applied to 2007, the study suggests that after two to three years, a tax increase of about 1 percent of GDP (about $135 bil­lion) would reduce output by about $400 billion annually.

When expressed as tax reductions rather than as tax increases, the study found that “tax cuts have very large and persistent positive output effects.” More­over, the authors emphasized that these results were “strongly significant, highly robust, and much larger than those obtained using broader measures of tax changes.” In other words, the modern historical record strongly suggests a clear and robust relation­ship between lower taxes and higher economic output.

Next time Christina Romer is before the media someone might press her again on why the delayed-action stimulus is supposed to work and, more importantly, why Obama is raising rather than lowering taxes.

John Judis comments on a defense of the stimulus bill by the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, Christina Romer:

She makes two important observations: First that many of these objections stem from a bygone view of industry, which only can only imagine jobs in construction. An education grant or healthcare spending might easily create as many jobs as a highway project. The second is that the current downturn, when interest rates are very low, provides an important opportunity to stimulate the economy while making investments that will raise productivity in the long run. There is quite of bit of this kind of spending in the stimulus bill–for instance spending for rural broadband, a new electrical grid, and high speed rail. And it’s a good thing there is.

Her observations may be “important,” but they are non-responsive. As to her argument about the type of jobs: the critics are not limiting their critiques to construction jobs. If you aren’t spending the money now, or not spending enough of it now, no industry will get a lift. If we’re relying on healthcare and education grants (which are funded and may not be completed for years) to get us out of the economic ditch, we are really in trouble. The second observation is a neat bit of misdirection. She argues that in the long run it is important to raise productivity. But that’s not the question. The question before the house is what a pork-a-thon stimulus plan that releases much of the money after 2011 is going to do now.

It would also be worth finding out how she thinks the Obama tax increases are going to impact the recovery. J.D. Foster reminds us of the findings of a 2007 study by Christina and her husband David Romer:

The Romer and Romer study presents strong evi­dence that higher taxes tend to diminish economic activity. It found that a tax increase of 1 percent of GDP initially has a modest downward effect on out­put and that the effect grows rapidly before leveling off after 10 quarters for a maximum effect of lower­ing GDP by 3 percentage points. Applied to 2007, the study suggests that after two to three years, a tax increase of about 1 percent of GDP (about $135 bil­lion) would reduce output by about $400 billion annually.

When expressed as tax reductions rather than as tax increases, the study found that “tax cuts have very large and persistent positive output effects.” More­over, the authors emphasized that these results were “strongly significant, highly robust, and much larger than those obtained using broader measures of tax changes.” In other words, the modern historical record strongly suggests a clear and robust relation­ship between lower taxes and higher economic output.

Next time Christina Romer is before the media someone might press her again on why the delayed-action stimulus is supposed to work and, more importantly, why Obama is raising rather than lowering taxes.

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Another Fair and Equitable Plan

Peace processors frequently rely on important-sounding adjectives to give their plans an unearned persuasiveness.  Take, for example, the article in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs by Daniel C. Kurtzer and Michael D. Bell.

Kurtzer and Bell argue that the issue of Jerusalem requires serious attention, that unlike some other peace processors they have given it that attention, and that they have come up with a solution:

In the context of a two-state solution, fair, equitable, and sustainable governance arrangements for the Old City can be designed if both the Israelis and the Palestinians are ready to treat it as a single entity. . . . Understanding and addressing all of the stakeholders’ deeply rooted spiritual and practical needs is the only way to find a viable solution.

It is hard to oppose a solution that is “fair, equitable, and sustainable.”  If it is “viable” as well, it is even better.  And addressing everyone’s “spiritual and practical” needs – “all” of them — seems a great way to reach a fair, equitable, sustainable, and viable solution.

But exactly how would this work?  Kurtzer and Bell say the core of the conflict is multiple claims to Jerusalem’s overlapping and indivisible holy sites, so they propose having a third party run them:

Given these sites’ immense religious, cultural, and emotional power, they must be administered fairly and equitably. The involvement of an impartial third-party administrator — chosen by the Israelis and the Palestinians together — is essential, as it would build confidence between the two sides and reinforce it over time.

An “impartial” third party would be great, if there were such a thing.  It would undoubtedly build confidence over time – especially if it were fair and equitable.  But what exactly would the third party ensure?  Kurtzer and Bell answer:

It would ensure fair and appropriate access to the holy sites and security for Christian, Jewish, and Muslim worshipers.

Fair and equitable governance arrangements, which would administer the sites fairly and equitably, and ensure fair and appropriate access.  Why didn’t anyone think of something viable like this before?

Actually, somebody did.  Since 1967, there has been fair and equitable access to all the holy sites in Jerusalem, as well as security for worshippers of all faiths.  So Kurtzer and Bell’s rhetorical solution addresses a problem solved 40 years ago.

Peace processors frequently rely on important-sounding adjectives to give their plans an unearned persuasiveness.  Take, for example, the article in the March/April issue of Foreign Affairs by Daniel C. Kurtzer and Michael D. Bell.

Kurtzer and Bell argue that the issue of Jerusalem requires serious attention, that unlike some other peace processors they have given it that attention, and that they have come up with a solution:

In the context of a two-state solution, fair, equitable, and sustainable governance arrangements for the Old City can be designed if both the Israelis and the Palestinians are ready to treat it as a single entity. . . . Understanding and addressing all of the stakeholders’ deeply rooted spiritual and practical needs is the only way to find a viable solution.

It is hard to oppose a solution that is “fair, equitable, and sustainable.”  If it is “viable” as well, it is even better.  And addressing everyone’s “spiritual and practical” needs – “all” of them — seems a great way to reach a fair, equitable, sustainable, and viable solution.

But exactly how would this work?  Kurtzer and Bell say the core of the conflict is multiple claims to Jerusalem’s overlapping and indivisible holy sites, so they propose having a third party run them:

Given these sites’ immense religious, cultural, and emotional power, they must be administered fairly and equitably. The involvement of an impartial third-party administrator — chosen by the Israelis and the Palestinians together — is essential, as it would build confidence between the two sides and reinforce it over time.

An “impartial” third party would be great, if there were such a thing.  It would undoubtedly build confidence over time – especially if it were fair and equitable.  But what exactly would the third party ensure?  Kurtzer and Bell answer:

It would ensure fair and appropriate access to the holy sites and security for Christian, Jewish, and Muslim worshipers.

Fair and equitable governance arrangements, which would administer the sites fairly and equitably, and ensure fair and appropriate access.  Why didn’t anyone think of something viable like this before?

Actually, somebody did.  Since 1967, there has been fair and equitable access to all the holy sites in Jerusalem, as well as security for worshippers of all faiths.  So Kurtzer and Bell’s rhetorical solution addresses a problem solved 40 years ago.

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What About the Other 78%?

Eleanor Clift and I agree on virtually nothing, but she nearly gets this right:

The many millions of liberals who gambled that a young, charismatic politician could become a great president are now feeling that they’re in political nirvana. First, President Obama rolled out a bold agenda on energy, education and health care before Congress on Tuesday evening. Then he produced a budget backing up those commitments. . . . It’s becoming more clear by the day that Obama is a president of stunning ambition. Some members of Congress reacted skeptically when Obama said he would halve the deficit by the end of his first term. Yet compared with the other challenges he set out, like saving capitalism and finding a cure for cancer, cutting the deficit is small potatoes. Opponents say he’s unrealistic or even dangerous.

My quibble, of course, is that he is not out to “save” capitalism, but to disable it and replace it with a statist arrangement wherein the government owns banks and car companies, directs employers on how to pay and treat their employees, limits industrial output, and runs the healthcare system.

But all this raises an interesting political question: who’s in favor of this other than “millions of liberals”? (And some of them might be having second thoughts.) Contrary to what Nancy Pelosi would have us believe, liberals don’t make up a majority of the country. Exit polling in 2008 showed they made up about 22% of the electorate. That’s why Obama didn’t run on a platform of remaking our entire economic system or spending more in a month than George Bush did in seven years on two wars and Katrina. Instead, he ran on “going line by line” through the budget, a net decrease in spending, tax cuts and lots of mushy, soothing rhetoric.

So now that he’s in office,  and has the Pelosi-Reid machine at his disposal, does he muscle this through and wait to see if the country reacts in horror? Somewhere in all the talk about “liberal nirvana” is the unspoken recognition that this is agony for non-liberals. Whether that changes the course of Obama’s agenda or brings it to a quick halt in the next Congressional election remains to be seen.

Eleanor Clift and I agree on virtually nothing, but she nearly gets this right:

The many millions of liberals who gambled that a young, charismatic politician could become a great president are now feeling that they’re in political nirvana. First, President Obama rolled out a bold agenda on energy, education and health care before Congress on Tuesday evening. Then he produced a budget backing up those commitments. . . . It’s becoming more clear by the day that Obama is a president of stunning ambition. Some members of Congress reacted skeptically when Obama said he would halve the deficit by the end of his first term. Yet compared with the other challenges he set out, like saving capitalism and finding a cure for cancer, cutting the deficit is small potatoes. Opponents say he’s unrealistic or even dangerous.

My quibble, of course, is that he is not out to “save” capitalism, but to disable it and replace it with a statist arrangement wherein the government owns banks and car companies, directs employers on how to pay and treat their employees, limits industrial output, and runs the healthcare system.

But all this raises an interesting political question: who’s in favor of this other than “millions of liberals”? (And some of them might be having second thoughts.) Contrary to what Nancy Pelosi would have us believe, liberals don’t make up a majority of the country. Exit polling in 2008 showed they made up about 22% of the electorate. That’s why Obama didn’t run on a platform of remaking our entire economic system or spending more in a month than George Bush did in seven years on two wars and Katrina. Instead, he ran on “going line by line” through the budget, a net decrease in spending, tax cuts and lots of mushy, soothing rhetoric.

So now that he’s in office,  and has the Pelosi-Reid machine at his disposal, does he muscle this through and wait to see if the country reacts in horror? Somewhere in all the talk about “liberal nirvana” is the unspoken recognition that this is agony for non-liberals. Whether that changes the course of Obama’s agenda or brings it to a quick halt in the next Congressional election remains to be seen.

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While Israel’s Waiting

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was hoping to end his term in office with some sense of achievement. He launched a popular and efficient operation in Gaza, and even hoped to bring home the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit. But Shalit is still a bargaining chip in the negotiations between Israel, Egypt and Hamas and the operation in Gaza has failed to achieve the desired deterrence:

Ten rockets from the Gaza Strip struck Israel yesterday. Six targeted Gaza-area communities, two hit Ashkelon, one landed in the Eshkol district and one near Sdot Negev area, the Israel Defense Forces said. There were no casualties or property damage, with the exception of one rocket that struck an empty schoolyard in Ashkelon. The school was severely damaged, with shrapnel hitting some of the classrooms – including areas the Defense Ministry had defined as safe, Ashkelon municipal sources said.

Moreover, the recent rockets have done greater damage than their predecessors:  “Experts say the two Grad rockets that landed in Ashkelon Saturday morning were new and improved models, capable of greater destruction than those usually fired from Gaza.”

Post-election confusion has prevented the Israeli government from making decisions. The Olmert-Livni-Barak troika is on the way out, and of different minds on the necessary next step. (Barak wants a negotiated cease-fire; Olmert and Livni aren’t sure). While Israel is waiting for the political process to reach its successful conclusion, the perception of the Gaza operation as a successful and necessary enterprise diminishes. If may have failed to deliver a “bearable” existence to Israelis in the south, and failed to achieve deterrence.

Fighting Hamas is no less urgent than it was two months ago. But launching another operation with an Israeli consensus could prove difficult. And the truth is: nobody knows how complicated it will become by the time a new coalition is formed. Netanyahu has more than 30 days to present his new government. That translates into a lot of Palestinian rockets.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was hoping to end his term in office with some sense of achievement. He launched a popular and efficient operation in Gaza, and even hoped to bring home the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit. But Shalit is still a bargaining chip in the negotiations between Israel, Egypt and Hamas and the operation in Gaza has failed to achieve the desired deterrence:

Ten rockets from the Gaza Strip struck Israel yesterday. Six targeted Gaza-area communities, two hit Ashkelon, one landed in the Eshkol district and one near Sdot Negev area, the Israel Defense Forces said. There were no casualties or property damage, with the exception of one rocket that struck an empty schoolyard in Ashkelon. The school was severely damaged, with shrapnel hitting some of the classrooms – including areas the Defense Ministry had defined as safe, Ashkelon municipal sources said.

Moreover, the recent rockets have done greater damage than their predecessors:  “Experts say the two Grad rockets that landed in Ashkelon Saturday morning were new and improved models, capable of greater destruction than those usually fired from Gaza.”

Post-election confusion has prevented the Israeli government from making decisions. The Olmert-Livni-Barak troika is on the way out, and of different minds on the necessary next step. (Barak wants a negotiated cease-fire; Olmert and Livni aren’t sure). While Israel is waiting for the political process to reach its successful conclusion, the perception of the Gaza operation as a successful and necessary enterprise diminishes. If may have failed to deliver a “bearable” existence to Israelis in the south, and failed to achieve deterrence.

Fighting Hamas is no less urgent than it was two months ago. But launching another operation with an Israeli consensus could prove difficult. And the truth is: nobody knows how complicated it will become by the time a new coalition is formed. Netanyahu has more than 30 days to present his new government. That translates into a lot of Palestinian rockets.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A CPAC poll three years before the presidential election isn’t predictive of anything. But regarding the current mood, it sure does undermine the “Republicans are rubes” theory when they put Mitt Romney and Bobby Jindal at the top of the list. Note: the only organized groups I saw there were the Ron Paul and Sarah Palin brigades.

A president who acts without Congressional authority might be accused of shredding the Constitution or re-enacting the Nixonian imperial presidency. But not to worry, it’s just Barack Obama going around the will of the people and Congress to continue the Bush-Paulson-Geithner bailouts.

Yuval Levin surveys the cratering economy and the Obama New Deal re-enactment (on steroids) and concludes: “A huge and complicated new tax on energy, which is essentially a tax on all economic activity, will not spur those vigorous growth rates, and neither will the new federal health insurance regulatory scheme—directed as it is toward creating the conditions for basically putting the entire country on Medicare. These are not only bad ideas, they are bad ideas suited to a time of plenty. In this lean time, they seem astonishingly counterproductive.”

The Bush foreign policy lives on: “The United States reiterated on Friday that despite a meeting held by a State Department official with the Syrian envoy to Washington, there will be no normalization of ties with the Damascus regime until it meets key American demands, including an end to ‘interference in Lebanese issue issue,’ a State Department spokesman Robert Wood said on Friday.”

Don’t faint: the New York Times says the government should direct GM to the bankruptcy court if it doesn’t get going on extracting deals from bondholders and the UAW. I think that was Sen. Bob Corker’s position four months and $20B dollars ago.

Former McCain campaign foreign policy guru Randy Scheunemann writes: “Instead of supporting an immediate cutoff of funds for U.S. troops in Iraq, Obama now requests billions for their continued presence. Instead of claiming that American forces were baby-sitting a civil war, Obama recognizes their sacrifice has given Iraqis a ‘precious opportunity.’ Instead of promising to “end this war now” with an artificial 16-month deadline, Obama has wisely moved on. . . Now, we should all hope President Obama continues to listen to Gens. David Petraeus and Ray Odierno, rebuffs his left-wing critics and stays the course with an Iraq policy John McCain might have formulated.”

The tea party protests are spreading. Actually I think tea is the only item not due for a tax hike in the Obama plan — although, come to think of it, the electricity to process it and the capital gains for investors in the tea companies will take a hit.

You wonder if Maureen Dowd reads her own paper when she writes things like this: “Mr. Obama called W. on Friday to give him a heads-up about the repudiation on Iraq. Robert Gibbs said the call was not at all contentious.” Should someone tell her it wasn’t contentious because it marked  the fulfillment not the repudiation of Bush’s Iraq policy? (Hence, the decision to leave the most troops possible in place through the next election and leave 50,000 there for a while thereafter.)

That said, those expecting magnanimity from Obama are barking up the wrong tree.

A CPAC poll three years before the presidential election isn’t predictive of anything. But regarding the current mood, it sure does undermine the “Republicans are rubes” theory when they put Mitt Romney and Bobby Jindal at the top of the list. Note: the only organized groups I saw there were the Ron Paul and Sarah Palin brigades.

A president who acts without Congressional authority might be accused of shredding the Constitution or re-enacting the Nixonian imperial presidency. But not to worry, it’s just Barack Obama going around the will of the people and Congress to continue the Bush-Paulson-Geithner bailouts.

Yuval Levin surveys the cratering economy and the Obama New Deal re-enactment (on steroids) and concludes: “A huge and complicated new tax on energy, which is essentially a tax on all economic activity, will not spur those vigorous growth rates, and neither will the new federal health insurance regulatory scheme—directed as it is toward creating the conditions for basically putting the entire country on Medicare. These are not only bad ideas, they are bad ideas suited to a time of plenty. In this lean time, they seem astonishingly counterproductive.”

The Bush foreign policy lives on: “The United States reiterated on Friday that despite a meeting held by a State Department official with the Syrian envoy to Washington, there will be no normalization of ties with the Damascus regime until it meets key American demands, including an end to ‘interference in Lebanese issue issue,’ a State Department spokesman Robert Wood said on Friday.”

Don’t faint: the New York Times says the government should direct GM to the bankruptcy court if it doesn’t get going on extracting deals from bondholders and the UAW. I think that was Sen. Bob Corker’s position four months and $20B dollars ago.

Former McCain campaign foreign policy guru Randy Scheunemann writes: “Instead of supporting an immediate cutoff of funds for U.S. troops in Iraq, Obama now requests billions for their continued presence. Instead of claiming that American forces were baby-sitting a civil war, Obama recognizes their sacrifice has given Iraqis a ‘precious opportunity.’ Instead of promising to “end this war now” with an artificial 16-month deadline, Obama has wisely moved on. . . Now, we should all hope President Obama continues to listen to Gens. David Petraeus and Ray Odierno, rebuffs his left-wing critics and stays the course with an Iraq policy John McCain might have formulated.”

The tea party protests are spreading. Actually I think tea is the only item not due for a tax hike in the Obama plan — although, come to think of it, the electricity to process it and the capital gains for investors in the tea companies will take a hit.

You wonder if Maureen Dowd reads her own paper when she writes things like this: “Mr. Obama called W. on Friday to give him a heads-up about the repudiation on Iraq. Robert Gibbs said the call was not at all contentious.” Should someone tell her it wasn’t contentious because it marked  the fulfillment not the repudiation of Bush’s Iraq policy? (Hence, the decision to leave the most troops possible in place through the next election and leave 50,000 there for a while thereafter.)

That said, those expecting magnanimity from Obama are barking up the wrong tree.

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