Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 4, 2009

Jews Support Use of Force … for Darfur

At the Jewish Council of Public Affairs, the delegates voted by a narrow margin to oppose off-shore drilling even though they also support energy independence (who says Jews are all smart?). They also voted overwhelmingly to back the use of force to prevent genocide in Darfur. Now, if only more Jews  supported the use of force to protect Israel…

At the Jewish Council of Public Affairs, the delegates voted by a narrow margin to oppose off-shore drilling even though they also support energy independence (who says Jews are all smart?). They also voted overwhelmingly to back the use of force to prevent genocide in Darfur. Now, if only more Jews  supported the use of force to protect Israel…

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Commentary of the Day

nacl, on Eric Trager:

Cohen is where it is at. He is a pretty interesting guy, emblematic of what has been around for a long time, not just in the NYTimes before and during WWII, but in Europe in the darkest places. He speaks for a much larger phenomenon, and is an important guy for that reason. In him we have the prop that gives anti-Semites their anti-Zionist cover. To understand him and explain and expose him would go a long way to robbing the Jew haters of their shield.

There is in Roger Cohen the attempt to find safety for himself, and for all Jews, by distancing himself from Jewish fears and attitudes, by showing himself sharing attitudes, anti-Zionist views and resentments not dissimilar to those of anti-Semites, hence erasing the Jew/nonJew divide.

nacl, on Eric Trager:

Cohen is where it is at. He is a pretty interesting guy, emblematic of what has been around for a long time, not just in the NYTimes before and during WWII, but in Europe in the darkest places. He speaks for a much larger phenomenon, and is an important guy for that reason. In him we have the prop that gives anti-Semites their anti-Zionist cover. To understand him and explain and expose him would go a long way to robbing the Jew haters of their shield.

There is in Roger Cohen the attempt to find safety for himself, and for all Jews, by distancing himself from Jewish fears and attitudes, by showing himself sharing attitudes, anti-Zionist views and resentments not dissimilar to those of anti-Semites, hence erasing the Jew/nonJew divide.

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Holder’s More Harm Than Good

Attorney General Eric Holder surfaced today at the annual gathering of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, the umbrella group for Jewish community relations councils around the country. According to the JTA, after receiving a standing ovation — no “cowards“ there –  he proceeded to knock down a straw man when he said “the conflict between fighting terrorism and protecting ‘our tradition of civil liberties’ is not a ‘zero-sum battle.’” Such an idea is not only “misguided,” he said, but “has done us more harm than good.”

Let’s be clear about this. Those who defended the Bush administration’s actions which kept the nation safe after 9/11 have never said there was such a “zero-sum battle.” The idea that the existence of the “model prison” — Holder’s description — at Guantanamo or the rough handling of a few hardened terrorists in possession of vital intelligence — undermined “our tradition of civil liberties” was what the left-wing netroots crowd that helped elect his boss has expressed. And it is this key part of Obama’s coalition that has been disappointed by the Obama administration’s cautious approach to dismantling many of Bush’s policies.

If anything has done more harm than good, it is Obama and Holder’s insistence that the Bush era policies did undermine our traditions. It is they and their fans on the left who did their best to besmirch our reputation abroad for purely partisan reasons.

Attorney General Eric Holder surfaced today at the annual gathering of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, the umbrella group for Jewish community relations councils around the country. According to the JTA, after receiving a standing ovation — no “cowards“ there –  he proceeded to knock down a straw man when he said “the conflict between fighting terrorism and protecting ‘our tradition of civil liberties’ is not a ‘zero-sum battle.’” Such an idea is not only “misguided,” he said, but “has done us more harm than good.”

Let’s be clear about this. Those who defended the Bush administration’s actions which kept the nation safe after 9/11 have never said there was such a “zero-sum battle.” The idea that the existence of the “model prison” — Holder’s description — at Guantanamo or the rough handling of a few hardened terrorists in possession of vital intelligence — undermined “our tradition of civil liberties” was what the left-wing netroots crowd that helped elect his boss has expressed. And it is this key part of Obama’s coalition that has been disappointed by the Obama administration’s cautious approach to dismantling many of Bush’s policies.

If anything has done more harm than good, it is Obama and Holder’s insistence that the Bush era policies did undermine our traditions. It is they and their fans on the left who did their best to besmirch our reputation abroad for purely partisan reasons.

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President Obama, You’re No FDR

As Jennifer pointed out this morning, Democratic Senator Evan Bayh has come out against the Omnibus Appropriation Bill, that would fund the government until the end of the fiscal year, September 30th.

It is, as Bayh writes, a monument to business as usual in Washington: an eight-percent increase inflation over the previous year and 9,000 earmarks for everything from honey bee research to foot trails.  It is, says Senator Bayh, a “spending measure that lacks the slightest hint of austerity from the federal government or the recipients of its largess.” The Obama administration dismisses the bill as last year’s business, and thus no concern of theirs.

With all the FDR comparisons floating around, it should be noted that the contrast between the Obama administration’s cavalier attitude towards this bill and FDR’s actions in the first days of his administration could not be more striking.

FDR’s first priority was the Emergency Banking Act, that brought the American banking system back from its near-death experience in the winter of 1932-33. The second bill sent up to Capitol Hill by FDR was the Economy Act that became law eleven days after the inauguration.  It called for cuts in the salaries of federal employees of up to 15 percent and cuts in the budgets of government departments by up to 25 percent. It also reduced the pensions of many veterans (veterans were then the most powerful lobby in Washington) by up to 15 percent.

Naturally, there was opposition, especially from such groups as the American Legion, from bureaucrats, and from liberals. But Roosevelt let it be known that congressmen who voted against it might find themselves denounced by him on the radio. It passed the House 266-138. In the Senate there was bipartisan opposition, from the likes of Democrat Huey Long of Louisiana, who, characteristically, thought it would benefit only the likes of “Mr. Morgan,” and “Mr. Rockefeller” and Republican senator Arthur Robinson of Indiana, who thought it would just throw still more people out of work.

But other senators argued that it was time to put aside narrow self-interest for the good of the country. Sen. Henry Fountain Ashurst of Arizona, a Democrat, noted that his state was home to a large number of veterans, who vehemently opposed the bill. But he said that “the perpetuity of the Republic does not depend on my re-election to the Senate,” but that it might “depend upon granting to the President the authority for economies called for in his message to Congress.” It passed the Senate 62-13.

The Economy Act of 1933 saved the government not far short of a billion dollars in a year when federal revenues were only $1.99 billion and outlays $4.59 billion.  Thus it provided massive relief funds for the desperate.

As Jennifer pointed out this morning, Democratic Senator Evan Bayh has come out against the Omnibus Appropriation Bill, that would fund the government until the end of the fiscal year, September 30th.

It is, as Bayh writes, a monument to business as usual in Washington: an eight-percent increase inflation over the previous year and 9,000 earmarks for everything from honey bee research to foot trails.  It is, says Senator Bayh, a “spending measure that lacks the slightest hint of austerity from the federal government or the recipients of its largess.” The Obama administration dismisses the bill as last year’s business, and thus no concern of theirs.

With all the FDR comparisons floating around, it should be noted that the contrast between the Obama administration’s cavalier attitude towards this bill and FDR’s actions in the first days of his administration could not be more striking.

FDR’s first priority was the Emergency Banking Act, that brought the American banking system back from its near-death experience in the winter of 1932-33. The second bill sent up to Capitol Hill by FDR was the Economy Act that became law eleven days after the inauguration.  It called for cuts in the salaries of federal employees of up to 15 percent and cuts in the budgets of government departments by up to 25 percent. It also reduced the pensions of many veterans (veterans were then the most powerful lobby in Washington) by up to 15 percent.

Naturally, there was opposition, especially from such groups as the American Legion, from bureaucrats, and from liberals. But Roosevelt let it be known that congressmen who voted against it might find themselves denounced by him on the radio. It passed the House 266-138. In the Senate there was bipartisan opposition, from the likes of Democrat Huey Long of Louisiana, who, characteristically, thought it would benefit only the likes of “Mr. Morgan,” and “Mr. Rockefeller” and Republican senator Arthur Robinson of Indiana, who thought it would just throw still more people out of work.

But other senators argued that it was time to put aside narrow self-interest for the good of the country. Sen. Henry Fountain Ashurst of Arizona, a Democrat, noted that his state was home to a large number of veterans, who vehemently opposed the bill. But he said that “the perpetuity of the Republic does not depend on my re-election to the Senate,” but that it might “depend upon granting to the President the authority for economies called for in his message to Congress.” It passed the Senate 62-13.

The Economy Act of 1933 saved the government not far short of a billion dollars in a year when federal revenues were only $1.99 billion and outlays $4.59 billion.  Thus it provided massive relief funds for the desperate.

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Re: We Know Nothing

The White House’s attempt to shove inquiry about Chas Freeman under the rug isn’t going so well. Republican Pete Hoekstra, ranking minority leader on the House Intelligence Committee, is calling on Freeman to step down and has sent his own letter to Admiral Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence.

The letter cites, among other things, Gabriel Schoenfeld’s Wall Street Journal op-ed detailing Freeman’s record on Israel and China. Hoekstra asks Blair how Freeman was vetted, whether Blair was aware of Freeman’s views and whether Freeman will recuse himself on issues relating to Israel, China, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.

Good questions all. The White House might now be asked if they have an opinion on any of the foregoing.

The White House’s attempt to shove inquiry about Chas Freeman under the rug isn’t going so well. Republican Pete Hoekstra, ranking minority leader on the House Intelligence Committee, is calling on Freeman to step down and has sent his own letter to Admiral Dennis Blair, Director of National Intelligence.

The letter cites, among other things, Gabriel Schoenfeld’s Wall Street Journal op-ed detailing Freeman’s record on Israel and China. Hoekstra asks Blair how Freeman was vetted, whether Blair was aware of Freeman’s views and whether Freeman will recuse himself on issues relating to Israel, China, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia.

Good questions all. The White House might now be asked if they have an opinion on any of the foregoing.

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Russian Roulette

The president and the secretary of state have to get their stories straight. Yesterday, the news broke that Barack Obama indicated to the Kremlin his willingness to abandon plans for a missile defense in Eastern Europe, provided Russia helps the U.S. halt Iran’s nuclear program. The offer was flatly rebuffed, and today Hillary Clinton is floating another line entirely:

“It is my hope that we will persuade Russia to (take) part in that defence,” she told reporters travelling with her to Brussels, adding that she thought Moscow might now feel less threatened by the US anti-missile shield plans.

“I think they are beginning to really believe it, that this is not about Russia,” she said.

After having an attempted quid pro quo shot down on the world stage, the Obama administration is back to relying on the power of suggestion. “I think they are beginning to really believe it, that this is not about Russia.” She sounds like a nightclub hypnotist trying to implant an idea in a woozy subject.

And if that’s not bad enough, Clinton is wrong on two counts. In the sense intended, Moscow has always known that the missile defense isn’t “about Russia.” George W. Bush already worked long and hard to get Vladimir Putin’s cooperation on it — to no avail. But in another sense, this most certainly is “about Russia,” because Moscow decided to make it so. Putin and Medvedev don’t want the U.S. to play hero in a region they consider to be their rightful sphere of influence. While enduring profound economic and demographic decline, the Kremlin believes its best shot at shoring up domestic support is to show disdain and aggression towards the U.S. Every time they shoot down an American exchange or plea it’s another feather in their caps.

Within two days’ time, this new administration has publicly beseeched an autocratic, hostile, and near-imploding country to help us in two different areas. The first request was thrown in our faces. The second rebuff will be coming any second now. “Smart power,” as far as I’ve been able to discern, is not about the judicious employment of might and diplomacy, but about heaping portions of servility and incoherence.

The president and the secretary of state have to get their stories straight. Yesterday, the news broke that Barack Obama indicated to the Kremlin his willingness to abandon plans for a missile defense in Eastern Europe, provided Russia helps the U.S. halt Iran’s nuclear program. The offer was flatly rebuffed, and today Hillary Clinton is floating another line entirely:

“It is my hope that we will persuade Russia to (take) part in that defence,” she told reporters travelling with her to Brussels, adding that she thought Moscow might now feel less threatened by the US anti-missile shield plans.

“I think they are beginning to really believe it, that this is not about Russia,” she said.

After having an attempted quid pro quo shot down on the world stage, the Obama administration is back to relying on the power of suggestion. “I think they are beginning to really believe it, that this is not about Russia.” She sounds like a nightclub hypnotist trying to implant an idea in a woozy subject.

And if that’s not bad enough, Clinton is wrong on two counts. In the sense intended, Moscow has always known that the missile defense isn’t “about Russia.” George W. Bush already worked long and hard to get Vladimir Putin’s cooperation on it — to no avail. But in another sense, this most certainly is “about Russia,” because Moscow decided to make it so. Putin and Medvedev don’t want the U.S. to play hero in a region they consider to be their rightful sphere of influence. While enduring profound economic and demographic decline, the Kremlin believes its best shot at shoring up domestic support is to show disdain and aggression towards the U.S. Every time they shoot down an American exchange or plea it’s another feather in their caps.

Within two days’ time, this new administration has publicly beseeched an autocratic, hostile, and near-imploding country to help us in two different areas. The first request was thrown in our faces. The second rebuff will be coming any second now. “Smart power,” as far as I’ve been able to discern, is not about the judicious employment of might and diplomacy, but about heaping portions of servility and incoherence.

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Game On

The president told his Big Labor supporters he’s in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act. Well, yes, he was in favor of going line-by-line through the budget too, so should we be skeptical? Arguments can be made on both sides in trying to divine how serious he is. (After all, would you put Joe Biden in charge of something you really cared about?) But I think all the “will he/won’t he?” chin-scratching by the political observers is a bit misplaced. Of course the Democrats will push this through and provide their Big Labor patrons with the prize — unless they don’t have the votes.

It comes down to whether those nervous Red state Democratic senators think their political health is at risk and whether Mitch McConnell can keep his troops in line on this one. What we know from observing the Obama administration in action for over a month is that there is no part of the liberal wish-list agenda it would willingly cast aside. Obama obviously has made a decision that now is the time to get it all, or as much of it as he can get. That may send a shiver up the spine of Red state senators but they may have to vote on this one.

The president told his Big Labor supporters he’s in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act. Well, yes, he was in favor of going line-by-line through the budget too, so should we be skeptical? Arguments can be made on both sides in trying to divine how serious he is. (After all, would you put Joe Biden in charge of something you really cared about?) But I think all the “will he/won’t he?” chin-scratching by the political observers is a bit misplaced. Of course the Democrats will push this through and provide their Big Labor patrons with the prize — unless they don’t have the votes.

It comes down to whether those nervous Red state Democratic senators think their political health is at risk and whether Mitch McConnell can keep his troops in line on this one. What we know from observing the Obama administration in action for over a month is that there is no part of the liberal wish-list agenda it would willingly cast aside. Obama obviously has made a decision that now is the time to get it all, or as much of it as he can get. That may send a shiver up the spine of Red state senators but they may have to vote on this one.

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Taking a Bow for Dubai Double-standard

In today’s New York Times, columnist Harvey Araton is still falling over himself to discuss the “courage” of black women tennis players who competed in a Dubai tournament from which a Jewish Israeli was banned.

Before the tournament, when it was clear that Shahar Peer would not be allowed into the country but that the other players would still play, Araton praised Venus Williams for expressing her support for Peer  — even though she wasn’t sufficiently moved to boycott the event. As it turns out, Williams won the tournament and then told the crowd in Dubai it was “a shame that one of our players couldn’t be here,” though she didn’t mention Peer by name. That was nice but, as I wrote previously, she doesn’t deserve any medals for playing in a draw that excluded a fellow player on the basis of nationality or religion. Araton does ask Venus if it would have been better not to have shown up in Dubai. She answered, “It didn’t happen in a way that a boycott was possible” without explanation.

Interestingly, Williams and her sister Serena are not averse to boycotting other tournaments. In fact, in the same interview with Araton, Venus confirmed that the Williams family will continue their boycott of the tournament at Indian Wells, California because some of the fans there allegedly hurled racial insults at them in 2001.

In today’s New York Times, columnist Harvey Araton is still falling over himself to discuss the “courage” of black women tennis players who competed in a Dubai tournament from which a Jewish Israeli was banned.

Before the tournament, when it was clear that Shahar Peer would not be allowed into the country but that the other players would still play, Araton praised Venus Williams for expressing her support for Peer  — even though she wasn’t sufficiently moved to boycott the event. As it turns out, Williams won the tournament and then told the crowd in Dubai it was “a shame that one of our players couldn’t be here,” though she didn’t mention Peer by name. That was nice but, as I wrote previously, she doesn’t deserve any medals for playing in a draw that excluded a fellow player on the basis of nationality or religion. Araton does ask Venus if it would have been better not to have shown up in Dubai. She answered, “It didn’t happen in a way that a boycott was possible” without explanation.

Interestingly, Williams and her sister Serena are not averse to boycotting other tournaments. In fact, in the same interview with Araton, Venus confirmed that the Williams family will continue their boycott of the tournament at Indian Wells, California because some of the fans there allegedly hurled racial insults at them in 2001.

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Does Anyone Support This?

Officials at the United Jewish Communities and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, as well as the Orthodox Union and the American Jewish Committee, are opposing the Obama plan to limit charitable deductions by upper income taxpayers as a way of funding the Obama health-care plan:

“We are generally supportive of health-care reform and working with the administration toward this goal, but I don’t see it as my job to find the money for this,” said William Daroff, UJC’s vice president for public policy and the director of its Washington office, which lobbies for hundreds of millions of dollars annually in federal money for social services.

“It is my job to say this is the wrong place to get it because you are hurting those you are attempting to help — average folks in need of the services of charities.  Beyond that there are over 15 million people who work for nonprofits, and we are like a lot in the federation system. We are laying off people.”

Rep. Charlie Rangel doesn’t like the idea either. Republican senators and congressmen have been blasting the idea. I’ve yet to see a report that anyone in Congress supports it. Given all that, what does this say about the political judgment and priorities of the Obama team?

Officials at the United Jewish Communities and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, as well as the Orthodox Union and the American Jewish Committee, are opposing the Obama plan to limit charitable deductions by upper income taxpayers as a way of funding the Obama health-care plan:

“We are generally supportive of health-care reform and working with the administration toward this goal, but I don’t see it as my job to find the money for this,” said William Daroff, UJC’s vice president for public policy and the director of its Washington office, which lobbies for hundreds of millions of dollars annually in federal money for social services.

“It is my job to say this is the wrong place to get it because you are hurting those you are attempting to help — average folks in need of the services of charities.  Beyond that there are over 15 million people who work for nonprofits, and we are like a lot in the federation system. We are laying off people.”

Rep. Charlie Rangel doesn’t like the idea either. Republican senators and congressmen have been blasting the idea. I’ve yet to see a report that anyone in Congress supports it. Given all that, what does this say about the political judgment and priorities of the Obama team?

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Hillary Defines “Unhelpful”

Today in Ramallah, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Israel’s demolition of Arab homes in Jerusalem was “unhelpful.” It was to be expected that she would toss the Palestinians a few bones during her visit and, one supposes, she could have said a lot worse.

Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that homes demolished in Jerusalem were built without permits, a practice that is illegal in most countries. Moreover, as anyone who has visited Jerusalem in recent years can testify, building in Arab neighborhoods of the city has grown exponentially. So the implied charge that no Arab homes are being allowed to be built is utterly false.

Of course, at the same time, the United States continues to carp about the building of Jewish homes in Jewish communities in the territories, especially those in Greater Jerusalem, which no Israeli government would ever surrender. So it’s more than a bit hypocritical for the U.S. to call on Israel to freeze the building of Jewish homes while opposing any effort to curb the growth of Arab housing.

A couple of other points about Clinton’s photo-op in Ramallah:

Earlier, Clinton stated that Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority constitute the only “legitimate” government of the Palestinians. As to that, the P.A. is certainly preferable to Hamas. But Abbas’s term in office has already expired and there’s no talk about holding another election. Of course not, since the weak Abbas might well lose to Hamas. As previously promised through leaks from the State Department, Clinton also has tried to pressure Israel to open the border crossings to Hamas-run Gaza without any concrete measures to enforce a cease-fire (rockets from Gaza continue to fall on southern Israel) or to release kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The border crossings issue is directly related to the nearly $900 million stimulus plan that Obama is offering to the Palestinians. The question of where that money will go and who will administer it is vital. The U.S. wants to give the money to the P.A. but that body has no power in Gaza. Moreover, if it goes to the United Nations Relief Works Agency, the UN body dedicated to perpetuating the Palestinian refugee question, we know very well that Hamas will influence its distribution (since UNRWA is riddled with Hamas supporters) or will steal it. For all of our sympathy for ordinary Palestinians, you have to have an awful lot of faith to believe that some of the same people who have wasted billions in foreign aid in the territories over the last two decades,  will get this sum to those who truly need it.

Moreover, if Clinton’s rhetoric seems familiar, it should. There’s very little difference between her statement and actions and those of Condoleezza Rice during the last two years of the Bush administration. Rice, too, attempted to forge an impossible peace deal with a Palestinian partner that was less interested in a Palestinian state than the Israelis. So much for change. 

Today in Ramallah, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Israel’s demolition of Arab homes in Jerusalem was “unhelpful.” It was to be expected that she would toss the Palestinians a few bones during her visit and, one supposes, she could have said a lot worse.

Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that homes demolished in Jerusalem were built without permits, a practice that is illegal in most countries. Moreover, as anyone who has visited Jerusalem in recent years can testify, building in Arab neighborhoods of the city has grown exponentially. So the implied charge that no Arab homes are being allowed to be built is utterly false.

Of course, at the same time, the United States continues to carp about the building of Jewish homes in Jewish communities in the territories, especially those in Greater Jerusalem, which no Israeli government would ever surrender. So it’s more than a bit hypocritical for the U.S. to call on Israel to freeze the building of Jewish homes while opposing any effort to curb the growth of Arab housing.

A couple of other points about Clinton’s photo-op in Ramallah:

Earlier, Clinton stated that Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority constitute the only “legitimate” government of the Palestinians. As to that, the P.A. is certainly preferable to Hamas. But Abbas’s term in office has already expired and there’s no talk about holding another election. Of course not, since the weak Abbas might well lose to Hamas. As previously promised through leaks from the State Department, Clinton also has tried to pressure Israel to open the border crossings to Hamas-run Gaza without any concrete measures to enforce a cease-fire (rockets from Gaza continue to fall on southern Israel) or to release kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

The border crossings issue is directly related to the nearly $900 million stimulus plan that Obama is offering to the Palestinians. The question of where that money will go and who will administer it is vital. The U.S. wants to give the money to the P.A. but that body has no power in Gaza. Moreover, if it goes to the United Nations Relief Works Agency, the UN body dedicated to perpetuating the Palestinian refugee question, we know very well that Hamas will influence its distribution (since UNRWA is riddled with Hamas supporters) or will steal it. For all of our sympathy for ordinary Palestinians, you have to have an awful lot of faith to believe that some of the same people who have wasted billions in foreign aid in the territories over the last two decades,  will get this sum to those who truly need it.

Moreover, if Clinton’s rhetoric seems familiar, it should. There’s very little difference between her statement and actions and those of Condoleezza Rice during the last two years of the Bush administration. Rice, too, attempted to forge an impossible peace deal with a Palestinian partner that was less interested in a Palestinian state than the Israelis. So much for change. 

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Logic Goes South

The situation just south of our border is bad, and getting worse. It’s gotten to the point where Mexico’s foreign minister feels it necessary to issue statements assuring the world that he does not govern a failed state.

The cause? Drug gangs, who have for years been terrorizing and dominating large swaths of Mexico. In one city,  Juarez, the mayor has moved his family to the United States to escape death threats.The drug wars have driven Mexico’s murder rate to record highs, with Juarez alone accounting for more than one in four Mexican killings.

It isn’t just killings, though.  Kidnapping is also at record highs. Moreover,  crime associated with the Mexican drug trade has jumped the border — Phoenix, Arizona is now not only the kidnapping capital of the U.S., but it’s #2 in the world — only behind Mexico City itself.

Obviously, this is a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States. It’s something that simply can not be ignored.

And President Obama isn’t ignoring it. He tapped Arizona’s sitting governor to be new Secretary of Homeland Security. If anyone would know about the dangers posed by Mexico’s problems, it would be Janet Napolitano, right?

Yet, the Obama administration’s go-to response to Mexico-related crime is to suggest more gun control laws.

The logic, one assumes, goes like this: Mexican gangs like using fully-automatic weapons. For pretty much all intents and purposes, fully-automatic weapons are banned from private ownership in the US. However, since we must be seen as doing something, we’ll ban semi-automatic weapons that kinda sorta look like the illegal ones. Because the last thing we need in the midst of a major crime wave from another country is Americans exercising their right to keep and bear arms and lawfully defend themselves.

Back during the first assault weapons ban, critics mocked it as “the scary-looking guns” ban. The military has a perfectly workable definition of an “assault weapon” — it must be capable of either automatic fire, or “burst” fire — more than one round from a single pull of the trigger. But that’s too simple for Congress; the old law targeted weapons that carry such features as a mounting point for a bayonet or a grenade launcher. After all, what self-respecting psycho killer would want to do without a bayonet or grenade launcher?

As many have noted, there is no proof that Mexican gangs are using weapons taken from American civilians in their drug wars. Indeed, there is considerable circumstantial evidence that they are not — as noted, fully-automatic weapons are, by and large, unavailable to civilians. No, it is far more likely that they are getting them from Mexican law enforcement and military sources — corruption in the ranks of those organizations is legendary. But that doesn’t seem to matter to editorial board of the Boston Globe.

The situation in Mexico is a major crisis. And we have in the White House Rahm Emanuel, who observed that one “should never let a crisis go to waste.”

The situation just south of our border is bad, and getting worse. It’s gotten to the point where Mexico’s foreign minister feels it necessary to issue statements assuring the world that he does not govern a failed state.

The cause? Drug gangs, who have for years been terrorizing and dominating large swaths of Mexico. In one city,  Juarez, the mayor has moved his family to the United States to escape death threats.The drug wars have driven Mexico’s murder rate to record highs, with Juarez alone accounting for more than one in four Mexican killings.

It isn’t just killings, though.  Kidnapping is also at record highs. Moreover,  crime associated with the Mexican drug trade has jumped the border — Phoenix, Arizona is now not only the kidnapping capital of the U.S., but it’s #2 in the world — only behind Mexico City itself.

Obviously, this is a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States. It’s something that simply can not be ignored.

And President Obama isn’t ignoring it. He tapped Arizona’s sitting governor to be new Secretary of Homeland Security. If anyone would know about the dangers posed by Mexico’s problems, it would be Janet Napolitano, right?

Yet, the Obama administration’s go-to response to Mexico-related crime is to suggest more gun control laws.

The logic, one assumes, goes like this: Mexican gangs like using fully-automatic weapons. For pretty much all intents and purposes, fully-automatic weapons are banned from private ownership in the US. However, since we must be seen as doing something, we’ll ban semi-automatic weapons that kinda sorta look like the illegal ones. Because the last thing we need in the midst of a major crime wave from another country is Americans exercising their right to keep and bear arms and lawfully defend themselves.

Back during the first assault weapons ban, critics mocked it as “the scary-looking guns” ban. The military has a perfectly workable definition of an “assault weapon” — it must be capable of either automatic fire, or “burst” fire — more than one round from a single pull of the trigger. But that’s too simple for Congress; the old law targeted weapons that carry such features as a mounting point for a bayonet or a grenade launcher. After all, what self-respecting psycho killer would want to do without a bayonet or grenade launcher?

As many have noted, there is no proof that Mexican gangs are using weapons taken from American civilians in their drug wars. Indeed, there is considerable circumstantial evidence that they are not — as noted, fully-automatic weapons are, by and large, unavailable to civilians. No, it is far more likely that they are getting them from Mexican law enforcement and military sources — corruption in the ranks of those organizations is legendary. But that doesn’t seem to matter to editorial board of the Boston Globe.

The situation in Mexico is a major crisis. And we have in the White House Rahm Emanuel, who observed that one “should never let a crisis go to waste.”

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We Know Nothing

Jake Tapper is the only mainstream White House reporter with the temerity to raise the Chas Freeman issue. The White House feigns ignorance about the objections to Freeman and says, via Robert Gibbs, ”I think people can be reasonably assured of where the president is on this and how he’ll be actively engaged in seeking Middle East peace.”

Well we aren’t assured of where he is because he placed someone in a high-level security role who, as Tapper points out, defended the Chinese crackdown on Tienanmen Square protesters and had a longstanding financial arrangement with the House of Saud. Throw in the fact that Freeman suggested that the U.S. bears responsibility for 9-11 and you can understand why people have questions about the president’s idea of credibility,

But aside from what Obama intends to do or not, Freeman’s appointment raises an issue that much of the press corps used to obsess over: the politicization of our intelligence agencies. The financial conflict of interest regarding Saudi Arabia is only one aspect. But more importantly, it is hard to believe that the president is going to get impartial, unpoliticized advice from Freeman. Is the man who published Mearsheimer and Walt’s screed on the “Israel Lobby” and who assessed responsibility for 9-11 as “exist[ing] in both directions” really the source of reliable judgment on national security matters? Or is he a propagandist for a particular viewpoint?

Gibbs can try a Scott McClellan “I have no clue what you mean” dodge for one presser, but I doubt the administration can successfully keep this up. For starters, there is a letter signed by nine congressmen, including the House Minority Leader John Boehner, asking the Inspector General to investigate Freeman’s financial ties to the Saudis. So if the president or Rahm Emanuel are asked directly, can they credibly deny knowledge of the controversy? The effort to appear clueless seems to be a strategy of limited utility.

Jake Tapper is the only mainstream White House reporter with the temerity to raise the Chas Freeman issue. The White House feigns ignorance about the objections to Freeman and says, via Robert Gibbs, ”I think people can be reasonably assured of where the president is on this and how he’ll be actively engaged in seeking Middle East peace.”

Well we aren’t assured of where he is because he placed someone in a high-level security role who, as Tapper points out, defended the Chinese crackdown on Tienanmen Square protesters and had a longstanding financial arrangement with the House of Saud. Throw in the fact that Freeman suggested that the U.S. bears responsibility for 9-11 and you can understand why people have questions about the president’s idea of credibility,

But aside from what Obama intends to do or not, Freeman’s appointment raises an issue that much of the press corps used to obsess over: the politicization of our intelligence agencies. The financial conflict of interest regarding Saudi Arabia is only one aspect. But more importantly, it is hard to believe that the president is going to get impartial, unpoliticized advice from Freeman. Is the man who published Mearsheimer and Walt’s screed on the “Israel Lobby” and who assessed responsibility for 9-11 as “exist[ing] in both directions” really the source of reliable judgment on national security matters? Or is he a propagandist for a particular viewpoint?

Gibbs can try a Scott McClellan “I have no clue what you mean” dodge for one presser, but I doubt the administration can successfully keep this up. For starters, there is a letter signed by nine congressmen, including the House Minority Leader John Boehner, asking the Inspector General to investigate Freeman’s financial ties to the Saudis. So if the president or Rahm Emanuel are asked directly, can they credibly deny knowledge of the controversy? The effort to appear clueless seems to be a strategy of limited utility.

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Re: It’s Only Your Life’s Savings

Yesterday President Obama said this:

What I ‘ m looking at is not the day-to-day gyrations of the stock market, but the long-term ability for the United States and the entire world economy to regain its footing. And, you know, the stock market is sort of like a tracking poll in politics. You know, it bobs up and down day to day. And if you spend all your time worrying about that, then you’re probably going to get the long-term strategy wrong.

Bill Kristol and Jennifer Rubin have commented on this matter quite well. I’d only add that Obama is playing a silly game. He is trying to frame this as if the cratering market is evidence that he is putting in place the pieces for the right long-term strategy. In fact, the market is collapsing precisely because Obama is doing almost everything wrong when it comes to putting in place a sound long-term strategy — from shaking the confidence of the market and the public, to targeting businesses and the investor class in America, to promising tax increases in a nasty recession, to increasing spending by trillions of dollars, to being clueless about how to deal with the banking crisis and toxic assets. The performance of the market is evidence it has almost no confidence that President Obama and his Administration know what to do to help the American economy regain its footing. And why should it?

Beyond that, the notion that the stock market is “gyrating” (“to revolve around a point or axis; to oscillate with or as if with a circular or spiral motion”) is wrong. The market is plunging, not gyrating. And to compare it to a tracking poll in politics is foolish and somewhat callous. What we are witnessing are trillions of dollars of people’s savings evaporating. It is causing enormous fear in a lot of people, especially those nearing or in retirement, who are watching their life savings disappear. To cavalierly dismiss this concern, as Obama does, is a sign that he is already at the point of employing unserious arguments to explain a crisis he has, so far, not only been unable to reverse, but has made worse.

It’s amazing how quickly a formidable political figure, in the midst of a crisis he (so far) seems unable to confront, can go tone deaf. And, of course, the next step when you’re at sea is to attack Rush Limbaugh. Gosh, and to think we were told that we were through with petty politics and childish ways.

Yesterday President Obama said this:

What I ‘ m looking at is not the day-to-day gyrations of the stock market, but the long-term ability for the United States and the entire world economy to regain its footing. And, you know, the stock market is sort of like a tracking poll in politics. You know, it bobs up and down day to day. And if you spend all your time worrying about that, then you’re probably going to get the long-term strategy wrong.

Bill Kristol and Jennifer Rubin have commented on this matter quite well. I’d only add that Obama is playing a silly game. He is trying to frame this as if the cratering market is evidence that he is putting in place the pieces for the right long-term strategy. In fact, the market is collapsing precisely because Obama is doing almost everything wrong when it comes to putting in place a sound long-term strategy — from shaking the confidence of the market and the public, to targeting businesses and the investor class in America, to promising tax increases in a nasty recession, to increasing spending by trillions of dollars, to being clueless about how to deal with the banking crisis and toxic assets. The performance of the market is evidence it has almost no confidence that President Obama and his Administration know what to do to help the American economy regain its footing. And why should it?

Beyond that, the notion that the stock market is “gyrating” (“to revolve around a point or axis; to oscillate with or as if with a circular or spiral motion”) is wrong. The market is plunging, not gyrating. And to compare it to a tracking poll in politics is foolish and somewhat callous. What we are witnessing are trillions of dollars of people’s savings evaporating. It is causing enormous fear in a lot of people, especially those nearing or in retirement, who are watching their life savings disappear. To cavalierly dismiss this concern, as Obama does, is a sign that he is already at the point of employing unserious arguments to explain a crisis he has, so far, not only been unable to reverse, but has made worse.

It’s amazing how quickly a formidable political figure, in the midst of a crisis he (so far) seems unable to confront, can go tone deaf. And, of course, the next step when you’re at sea is to attack Rush Limbaugh. Gosh, and to think we were told that we were through with petty politics and childish ways.

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Walt Hearts Cohen

Here’s something that won’t surprise you: Stephen Walt loved Roger Cohen’s most recent Times op-ed on Iran’s Jews, in which Cohen repeats his bizarre claim that Jewish life in Tehran ain’t half bad; or, at the very least, Iran isn’t Nazi Germany. (Now there’s a compelling argument for Iran’s tolerance: it’s not as bad as the least tolerant regime in world history and, unlike the Nazis, it has never burned down its parliament. Cohen almost makes Iran seem cuddly.)

Of course, how could Walt not love this column? After all, Cohen borrows from Walt’s own playbook in making his argument, simplistically noting that a good number of American Jews disagreed with his earlier column on the same topic — as if this, in and of itself, proves his rightness. Moreover, Cohen’s op-ed perfectly satisfies Walt’s conception of intellectual “nuance”: it says something that few have been willing to say, though this is mostly because it is either deeply conspiratorial or profoundly asinine.  Indeed, how else can we read Cohen’s assertion that a banner reading “Congratulations on the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution from the Jewish community of Esfahan” represents Iranian Jews’ true feelings? (From having lived in Cairo, I can report that banners supporting non-democratic regimes — such as posters welcoming the dictator upon his visit to my neighborhood — don’t typically reflect authentic sentiments.)

But sloppy arguments rarely bother Stephen Walt. Actually, Walt thinks that the piece on Iran not being Nazi Germany is so brilliant that Cohen deserves a promotion:

Why doesn’t Cohen have a regular column on the Times op-ed page, especially now that William Kristol is gone? Cohen’s views are balanced, he writes well, and he is often willing to challenge prevailing orthodoxies, which is what a good columnist should do.

Just what we need: another regular Times columnist whose conception of “challenging orthodoxies” means printing blatant propaganda. My advice for Walt: read Gail Collins.

Here’s something that won’t surprise you: Stephen Walt loved Roger Cohen’s most recent Times op-ed on Iran’s Jews, in which Cohen repeats his bizarre claim that Jewish life in Tehran ain’t half bad; or, at the very least, Iran isn’t Nazi Germany. (Now there’s a compelling argument for Iran’s tolerance: it’s not as bad as the least tolerant regime in world history and, unlike the Nazis, it has never burned down its parliament. Cohen almost makes Iran seem cuddly.)

Of course, how could Walt not love this column? After all, Cohen borrows from Walt’s own playbook in making his argument, simplistically noting that a good number of American Jews disagreed with his earlier column on the same topic — as if this, in and of itself, proves his rightness. Moreover, Cohen’s op-ed perfectly satisfies Walt’s conception of intellectual “nuance”: it says something that few have been willing to say, though this is mostly because it is either deeply conspiratorial or profoundly asinine.  Indeed, how else can we read Cohen’s assertion that a banner reading “Congratulations on the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution from the Jewish community of Esfahan” represents Iranian Jews’ true feelings? (From having lived in Cairo, I can report that banners supporting non-democratic regimes — such as posters welcoming the dictator upon his visit to my neighborhood — don’t typically reflect authentic sentiments.)

But sloppy arguments rarely bother Stephen Walt. Actually, Walt thinks that the piece on Iran not being Nazi Germany is so brilliant that Cohen deserves a promotion:

Why doesn’t Cohen have a regular column on the Times op-ed page, especially now that William Kristol is gone? Cohen’s views are balanced, he writes well, and he is often willing to challenge prevailing orthodoxies, which is what a good columnist should do.

Just what we need: another regular Times columnist whose conception of “challenging orthodoxies” means printing blatant propaganda. My advice for Walt: read Gail Collins.

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The Syria Temptation — and Why Obama Must Resist It

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has just announced that the U.S. will begin talks with Syria. This makes Bret Stephens’s lead piece in COMMENTARY’s March issue, “The Syria Temptation—and Why Obama Must Resist It” all the more important.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has just announced that the U.S. will begin talks with Syria. This makes Bret Stephens’s lead piece in COMMENTARY’s March issue, “The Syria Temptation—and Why Obama Must Resist It” all the more important.

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Bye, Bayh

Barack Obama’s lurch to the left is costing him some support among centrist pundits, but now he’s lost a prominent Democratic Senator, Evan Bayh. Bayh writes in the Wall Street Journal:

This week, the United States Senate will vote on a spending package to fund the federal government for the remainder of this fiscal year. The Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 is a sprawling, $410 billion compilation of nine spending measures that lacks the slightest hint of austerity from the federal government or the recipients of its largess.

The Senate should reject this bill. If we do not, President Barack Obama should veto it.

Bayh rails against the excess in the omnibus spending and the lack of fiscal responsibility, but his attack is equally applicable to the president’s even less fiscally responsible effort, the 2010 budget. Bayh explains:

The omnibus debate is not merely a battle over last year’s unfinished business, but the first indication of how we will shape our fiscal future. Spending should be held in check before taxes are raised, even on the wealthy. Most people are willing to do their duty by paying taxes, but they want to know that their money is going toward important priorities and won’t be wasted.

Last week I was pleased to attend the president’s White House Fiscal Responsibility Summit. It’s about time we had a leader committed to addressing the deficit, and Mr. Obama deserves great credit for doing so. But what ultimately matters are not meetings or words, but actions. Those who vote for the omnibus this week — after standing with the president and pledging to slice our deficit in half last week — jeopardize their credibility.

As Indiana’s governor, I balanced eight budgets, never raised taxes, and left the largest surplus in state history. It wasn’t always easy. Cuts had to be made and some initiatives deferred. Occasionally I had to say “no.”

Did he try to warn the White House and get rebuffed? Is that why he is going public? One thing is clear: he has others on board as well. Politico reports a meeting of fourteen centrist senate Democrats  (I didn’t know there were so many):

Asked when he’d reach his breaking point, Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, said: “Right now. I’m concerned about the amount that’s being offered in [Obama’s] budget.”

Another attendee, Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), said she expected the newly formed caucus to shape Obama’s budget proposal as it moves through Congress.

“We want to give the president a chance, but our concern is going to be on the budget, looking forward,” Landrieu said. She added that she agrees with Obama that there needs to be “fundamental change” in fiscal policy, but she said “we do have to keep our eye on the long term, on intermediate and long-term fiscal responsibility.”

Bayh and Nelson both pushed back against the idea of raising taxes in a recession. Presumably there are more legislators who are not ready for this lurch to the left.

This is potentially a turning point, as Democrats step forward willing to say, “Enough!” Whether they succeed in dragging the president back to a more centrist and sensible agenda remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: the center, at least in the Senate, is closer to the Republicans than to the Obama administration when it comes to fiscal sobriety and taxation.

Barack Obama’s lurch to the left is costing him some support among centrist pundits, but now he’s lost a prominent Democratic Senator, Evan Bayh. Bayh writes in the Wall Street Journal:

This week, the United States Senate will vote on a spending package to fund the federal government for the remainder of this fiscal year. The Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 is a sprawling, $410 billion compilation of nine spending measures that lacks the slightest hint of austerity from the federal government or the recipients of its largess.

The Senate should reject this bill. If we do not, President Barack Obama should veto it.

Bayh rails against the excess in the omnibus spending and the lack of fiscal responsibility, but his attack is equally applicable to the president’s even less fiscally responsible effort, the 2010 budget. Bayh explains:

The omnibus debate is not merely a battle over last year’s unfinished business, but the first indication of how we will shape our fiscal future. Spending should be held in check before taxes are raised, even on the wealthy. Most people are willing to do their duty by paying taxes, but they want to know that their money is going toward important priorities and won’t be wasted.

Last week I was pleased to attend the president’s White House Fiscal Responsibility Summit. It’s about time we had a leader committed to addressing the deficit, and Mr. Obama deserves great credit for doing so. But what ultimately matters are not meetings or words, but actions. Those who vote for the omnibus this week — after standing with the president and pledging to slice our deficit in half last week — jeopardize their credibility.

As Indiana’s governor, I balanced eight budgets, never raised taxes, and left the largest surplus in state history. It wasn’t always easy. Cuts had to be made and some initiatives deferred. Occasionally I had to say “no.”

Did he try to warn the White House and get rebuffed? Is that why he is going public? One thing is clear: he has others on board as well. Politico reports a meeting of fourteen centrist senate Democrats  (I didn’t know there were so many):

Asked when he’d reach his breaking point, Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, said: “Right now. I’m concerned about the amount that’s being offered in [Obama’s] budget.”

Another attendee, Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), said she expected the newly formed caucus to shape Obama’s budget proposal as it moves through Congress.

“We want to give the president a chance, but our concern is going to be on the budget, looking forward,” Landrieu said. She added that she agrees with Obama that there needs to be “fundamental change” in fiscal policy, but she said “we do have to keep our eye on the long term, on intermediate and long-term fiscal responsibility.”

Bayh and Nelson both pushed back against the idea of raising taxes in a recession. Presumably there are more legislators who are not ready for this lurch to the left.

This is potentially a turning point, as Democrats step forward willing to say, “Enough!” Whether they succeed in dragging the president back to a more centrist and sensible agenda remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: the center, at least in the Senate, is closer to the Republicans than to the Obama administration when it comes to fiscal sobriety and taxation.

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Hezbollah Scouts Out The Hague

A United Nations tribunal to investigate and put on trial the assassins of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri opened this week in The Hague, and Hezbollah has been caught running reconnaissance missions outside the grounds.

According to French newspaper Le Monde, Dutch police have caught individuals affiliated with Hezbollah taking photographs of the tribunal headquarters on three separate occasions. A Hezbollah spokesman denies the accusation, of course, and I might even believe him if the police didn’t insist it already happened three times. If one person were caught taking photographs, we might write this off as a fluke or a misunderstanding. Two separate incidents are harder to dismiss. Three make a pattern.

If anyone would have asked me a week ago if I thought Hezbollah might use or even threaten to use force against the tribunal I would have said no, and I would have said no with confidence. Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah desperately wants to be thought of as the leader of a “resistance” movement instead of a terrorist army. He spattered his own brand with blood when his fighters, along with armed men from Amal and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, seized West Beirut with automatic weapons last year. But still, in recent years, he has only pointed and fired his weapons at Lebanese and Israelis. Westerners, even Jewish Westerners, have been strictly off limits.

Never forget, though, that Hezbollah has, in the past, used violence against people who are not Lebanese and who are not Israeli.

Until September 11, 2001, Hezbollah was responsible for killing more Americans than any other terrorist organization in the world. A Hezbollah suicide truck bomber killed 241 Marines when he rammed his payload through the gate at the barracks near the airport in the suburbs south of Beirut. Fifty eight French soldiers were killed by another Hezbollah suicide truck bomber in West Beirut two minutes later.

In 1994 another Hezbollah suicide bomber exploded himself and his vehicle outside a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and killed 85 people two years after the same group ignited a car bomb in front of the Israeli embassy there and killed 29.

Hezbollah men armed with pistols and hand grenades hijacked TWA Flight 847 from Athens to Rome in 1985, and cells led by Hezbollah commander Imad Mugniyeh kidnapped 96 foreign civilians – mostly Westerners – between 1982 and 1992. After they kidnapped Beirut’s CIA station chief William Buckley, they tortured him to death, and they did it on video.

Hezbollah has been relatively restrained in recent years, but that’s not because the party has undergone a process of authentic transformation into something a bit more respectable. Hezbollah’s restraint is entirely practical and imposed from the outside. Its leaders and even some of its lower-rung supporters and members are the most paranoid people I have ever met in my life. They are deeply worried about an American assault or CIA-sponsored internal sabotage, and they’re rightly wary about what will happen to them if they start acting like Al Qaeda again. Hezbollah is barely tolerated while its fighters and rocket launch teams limit their violent attacks to their own countrymen and to the citizens of the “Zionist Entity,” but all that will change if Americans and Europeans are blown up or kidnapped again.

“Deduce the political conclusions you want,” Robin Vincent, Registrar of the Special Tribunal, said after the Dutch police filed their recent reports about Hezbollah’s suspicious behavior outside The Hague.

I don’t know what Hezbollah will do. For all I know it is only trying to throw its weight around by using empty threats and scare tactics. Non-violent menacing and harassment of Western journalists, for instance, is part of the job description of its “Media Relations” liaisons. An international tribunal, though, is a far graver threat to its patron and ally in Syria than anything the likes of me could ever write in an American magazine. It’s entirely possible that nothing will happen. It’s also possible that Hassan Nasrallah, for whatever reason, feels more emboldened or daring – or perhaps more dangerously desperate – these days.

A United Nations tribunal to investigate and put on trial the assassins of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri opened this week in The Hague, and Hezbollah has been caught running reconnaissance missions outside the grounds.

According to French newspaper Le Monde, Dutch police have caught individuals affiliated with Hezbollah taking photographs of the tribunal headquarters on three separate occasions. A Hezbollah spokesman denies the accusation, of course, and I might even believe him if the police didn’t insist it already happened three times. If one person were caught taking photographs, we might write this off as a fluke or a misunderstanding. Two separate incidents are harder to dismiss. Three make a pattern.

If anyone would have asked me a week ago if I thought Hezbollah might use or even threaten to use force against the tribunal I would have said no, and I would have said no with confidence. Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah desperately wants to be thought of as the leader of a “resistance” movement instead of a terrorist army. He spattered his own brand with blood when his fighters, along with armed men from Amal and the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, seized West Beirut with automatic weapons last year. But still, in recent years, he has only pointed and fired his weapons at Lebanese and Israelis. Westerners, even Jewish Westerners, have been strictly off limits.

Never forget, though, that Hezbollah has, in the past, used violence against people who are not Lebanese and who are not Israeli.

Until September 11, 2001, Hezbollah was responsible for killing more Americans than any other terrorist organization in the world. A Hezbollah suicide truck bomber killed 241 Marines when he rammed his payload through the gate at the barracks near the airport in the suburbs south of Beirut. Fifty eight French soldiers were killed by another Hezbollah suicide truck bomber in West Beirut two minutes later.

In 1994 another Hezbollah suicide bomber exploded himself and his vehicle outside a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and killed 85 people two years after the same group ignited a car bomb in front of the Israeli embassy there and killed 29.

Hezbollah men armed with pistols and hand grenades hijacked TWA Flight 847 from Athens to Rome in 1985, and cells led by Hezbollah commander Imad Mugniyeh kidnapped 96 foreign civilians – mostly Westerners – between 1982 and 1992. After they kidnapped Beirut’s CIA station chief William Buckley, they tortured him to death, and they did it on video.

Hezbollah has been relatively restrained in recent years, but that’s not because the party has undergone a process of authentic transformation into something a bit more respectable. Hezbollah’s restraint is entirely practical and imposed from the outside. Its leaders and even some of its lower-rung supporters and members are the most paranoid people I have ever met in my life. They are deeply worried about an American assault or CIA-sponsored internal sabotage, and they’re rightly wary about what will happen to them if they start acting like Al Qaeda again. Hezbollah is barely tolerated while its fighters and rocket launch teams limit their violent attacks to their own countrymen and to the citizens of the “Zionist Entity,” but all that will change if Americans and Europeans are blown up or kidnapped again.

“Deduce the political conclusions you want,” Robin Vincent, Registrar of the Special Tribunal, said after the Dutch police filed their recent reports about Hezbollah’s suspicious behavior outside The Hague.

I don’t know what Hezbollah will do. For all I know it is only trying to throw its weight around by using empty threats and scare tactics. Non-violent menacing and harassment of Western journalists, for instance, is part of the job description of its “Media Relations” liaisons. An international tribunal, though, is a far graver threat to its patron and ally in Syria than anything the likes of me could ever write in an American magazine. It’s entirely possible that nothing will happen. It’s also possible that Hassan Nasrallah, for whatever reason, feels more emboldened or daring – or perhaps more dangerously desperate – these days.

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Now Dowd?

Dropping like flies, they are. David Brooks, David Gergen, Chris Buckley and now Maureen Dowd are all falling off the Obama bandwagon. The idealized and idolized figure who they imagined would transform the presidency and the country isn’t living up to their expectations. What’s Dowd’s beef? She also sounds like a CPAC speaker:

In one of his disturbing spells of passivity, President Obama decided not to fight Congress and live up to his own no-earmark pledge from the campaign.

He’s been lecturing us on the need to prune away frills while the economy fizzles. He was slated to make a speech on “wasteful spending” on Wednesday.

“You know, there are times where you can afford to redecorate your house and there are times where you need to focus on rebuilding its foundation,” he said recently about the “hard choices” we must make. Yet he did not ask Congress to sacrifice and make hard choices; he let it do a lot of frivolous redecorating in its budget.

He reckons he’ll need Congress for more ambitious projects, like health care, and when he goes back to wheedle more bailout billions, given that A.I.G. and G.M. and our other corporate protectorates are burning through our money faster than we can print it and borrow it from the ever-more-alarmed Chinese.

Team Obama sounds hollow, chanting that “the status quo is not acceptable,” even while conceding that the president is accepting the status quo by signing a budget festooned with pork.

Obama spinners insist it was “a leftover budget.” But Iraq was leftover, too, and the president’s trying to end that. This is the first pork-filled budget from a new president who promised to go through the budget “line by line” and cut pork.

Well, maybe the Iraq part wouldn’t have been there, but just about everything else comes from the list of conservative complaints about the president (e.g. hypocrisy, irresponsibility, fiscal sloth). So do Dowd and all the other critics now get the White House back-of-the-hand, “you’re peddling failed ideas” treatment? It gets harder for Robert Gibbs to spit out the ad hominem attacks when the critics increase in number and political diversity.

I don’t think it’s realistic to expect any president to retain the level of approval and devotion with which he begins his presidency. Sometimes that popularity, or political capital, is lost by making distinct choices and obtaining certain legislative goals that offend or disappoint one group of voters or another. But, here, the goodwill is being lost for no good reason — out of laziness or lack of courage to take on the old bulls in Congress. Obama is not getting anything in return and he’s losing friends and emboldening opponents.

When combined with the gigantic and overreaching budget, his support for the omnibus travesty leaves the impression there is simply nothing he won’t spend money on — for important or unimportant items. And, more critically, it shows he lacks the political will or muscle to resist the Washington inertia which was the target of candidate Obama’s campaign. Dowd and other starry-eyed followers must be asking, “What was the point?” Meanwhile the fiscal conservatives from both parties are in revolt. All in all, that $410B is proving awfully costly.

Dropping like flies, they are. David Brooks, David Gergen, Chris Buckley and now Maureen Dowd are all falling off the Obama bandwagon. The idealized and idolized figure who they imagined would transform the presidency and the country isn’t living up to their expectations. What’s Dowd’s beef? She also sounds like a CPAC speaker:

In one of his disturbing spells of passivity, President Obama decided not to fight Congress and live up to his own no-earmark pledge from the campaign.

He’s been lecturing us on the need to prune away frills while the economy fizzles. He was slated to make a speech on “wasteful spending” on Wednesday.

“You know, there are times where you can afford to redecorate your house and there are times where you need to focus on rebuilding its foundation,” he said recently about the “hard choices” we must make. Yet he did not ask Congress to sacrifice and make hard choices; he let it do a lot of frivolous redecorating in its budget.

He reckons he’ll need Congress for more ambitious projects, like health care, and when he goes back to wheedle more bailout billions, given that A.I.G. and G.M. and our other corporate protectorates are burning through our money faster than we can print it and borrow it from the ever-more-alarmed Chinese.

Team Obama sounds hollow, chanting that “the status quo is not acceptable,” even while conceding that the president is accepting the status quo by signing a budget festooned with pork.

Obama spinners insist it was “a leftover budget.” But Iraq was leftover, too, and the president’s trying to end that. This is the first pork-filled budget from a new president who promised to go through the budget “line by line” and cut pork.

Well, maybe the Iraq part wouldn’t have been there, but just about everything else comes from the list of conservative complaints about the president (e.g. hypocrisy, irresponsibility, fiscal sloth). So do Dowd and all the other critics now get the White House back-of-the-hand, “you’re peddling failed ideas” treatment? It gets harder for Robert Gibbs to spit out the ad hominem attacks when the critics increase in number and political diversity.

I don’t think it’s realistic to expect any president to retain the level of approval and devotion with which he begins his presidency. Sometimes that popularity, or political capital, is lost by making distinct choices and obtaining certain legislative goals that offend or disappoint one group of voters or another. But, here, the goodwill is being lost for no good reason — out of laziness or lack of courage to take on the old bulls in Congress. Obama is not getting anything in return and he’s losing friends and emboldening opponents.

When combined with the gigantic and overreaching budget, his support for the omnibus travesty leaves the impression there is simply nothing he won’t spend money on — for important or unimportant items. And, more critically, it shows he lacks the political will or muscle to resist the Washington inertia which was the target of candidate Obama’s campaign. Dowd and other starry-eyed followers must be asking, “What was the point?” Meanwhile the fiscal conservatives from both parties are in revolt. All in all, that $410B is proving awfully costly.

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Pelosi: Then and Now

On January 4, 2007, Nancy Pelosi was elected Speaker of House of Representatives, whereupon she delivered these words:

I accept this gavel in the spirit of partnership, not partisanship, and I look forward to working with you Mr. Boehner and the Republicans in the Congress on behalf of the American people.

[…]

And the American people told us they expected us to work together for fiscal responsibility, with the highest ethical standards and with civility and bipartisanship.

After years of historic deficits, this 110th Congress will commit itself to a higher standard: pay as you go, no new deficit spending. Our new America will provide unlimited opportunity for future generations, not burden them with mountains of debt.

But that was then;  Ryan Grim at the Huffington Post brings us Nancy Pelosi now:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a message for House Republicans who think they weren’t given enough time to debate or amend the stimulus package that moved through Congress over an eight-day period earlier this session: You could have had much less.

[…]

Republican objections that they were not included and didn’t approve of the process through which the stimulus was passed, said Pelosi, only mask ideological differences that they had with the bill. “We gave them the regular order,” said Pelosi. “We were not going to go backward and adopt their economic failed policies and that’s what they’re upset about.”

No word on whether she’s giving the gavel back.

On January 4, 2007, Nancy Pelosi was elected Speaker of House of Representatives, whereupon she delivered these words:

I accept this gavel in the spirit of partnership, not partisanship, and I look forward to working with you Mr. Boehner and the Republicans in the Congress on behalf of the American people.

[…]

And the American people told us they expected us to work together for fiscal responsibility, with the highest ethical standards and with civility and bipartisanship.

After years of historic deficits, this 110th Congress will commit itself to a higher standard: pay as you go, no new deficit spending. Our new America will provide unlimited opportunity for future generations, not burden them with mountains of debt.

But that was then;  Ryan Grim at the Huffington Post brings us Nancy Pelosi now:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a message for House Republicans who think they weren’t given enough time to debate or amend the stimulus package that moved through Congress over an eight-day period earlier this session: You could have had much less.

[…]

Republican objections that they were not included and didn’t approve of the process through which the stimulus was passed, said Pelosi, only mask ideological differences that they had with the bill. “We gave them the regular order,” said Pelosi. “We were not going to go backward and adopt their economic failed policies and that’s what they’re upset about.”

No word on whether she’s giving the gavel back.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

What do you get for a trillion dollar stimulus bill? Not much, according to the Congressional Budget Office. But “the long-run effect on GDP may be slightly negative due to crowding out. As for employment, the CBO estimates the bill will create 1.2 to 3.3 million jobs at the end of 2010. By the end of the President’s first term, the projected impact of the bill falls to 0.3 to 0.7 million jobs.”

Club for Growth gives an award to Sens. Specter, Collins and Snowe. Well, it’s more like a booby prize.

How do you raise a trillion dollars in new taxes? This is a handy guide to how Obama proposes we do it. Just when you think “taxes aren’t a big issue anymore,” they are.

Larry Kudlow calls Tim Geither’s appearance on the Hill preaching taxes in a bear market an ”extraordinary,” “virtually stupid,” ”mistaken” and “unseemly” performance.”

Robert Barro writes: “Given our situation, it is right that radical government policies should be considered if they promise to lower the probability and likely size of a depression. However, many governmental actions — including several pursued by Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression — can make things worse. I wish I could be confident that the array of U.S. policies already in place and those likely forthcoming will be helpful. But I think it more likely that the economy will eventually recover despite these policies, rather than because of them.”

Phil Klein reports that the healthcare czarina made a fortune on boards of companies which will now come under her purview. Not very changey.

James Antle asks some good questions about Specter and his seat.

Steny Hoyer says the president can’t do anything about earmarks. “Won’t” is more accurate. There is this veto thing.

Chris Buckley, David Brooks and now Jim Cramer. Soon they’ll need support groups for “Duped By Obama” victims.

Now this is a rant.

Snubbing our best ally? I thought we were supposed to be “repairing” our image around the world.

Is Governor David Paterson toast? Andrew Cuomo is having the last laugh. But if Paterson doesn’t go quietly there will be a nasty primary. In which case the Republicans get the last laugh.

Norm Coleman’s lawyers now want to have the entire election voided? That would make Al Franken seem like the reasonable one. But maybe the ultra-liberal Star Tribune got the story wrong. Whoops.

Despite his millions, Terry McAuliffe is still essentially deadlocked in his Democratic primary and his unfavorable ratings are twice that of his competitors. If his unfavorables are high now, wait until the ads on Global Crossing start running.

Gallup has consumer confidence at 3%. It seems that the entire premise of the Keynesian spend-a-thon falters unless people are confident enough to start hiring, buying and investing. Perhaps the Obama team has a Plan B.

Ben Smith reports on a letter to the Inspector General of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Chas Freeman’s associations with the Saudis. But it’s not correct to characterize the opposition to Freeman as from the “pro-Israel right.” Somehow I think Marty Peretz, Jonathan Chait and Jeffrey Goldberg would object.

What do you get for a trillion dollar stimulus bill? Not much, according to the Congressional Budget Office. But “the long-run effect on GDP may be slightly negative due to crowding out. As for employment, the CBO estimates the bill will create 1.2 to 3.3 million jobs at the end of 2010. By the end of the President’s first term, the projected impact of the bill falls to 0.3 to 0.7 million jobs.”

Club for Growth gives an award to Sens. Specter, Collins and Snowe. Well, it’s more like a booby prize.

How do you raise a trillion dollars in new taxes? This is a handy guide to how Obama proposes we do it. Just when you think “taxes aren’t a big issue anymore,” they are.

Larry Kudlow calls Tim Geither’s appearance on the Hill preaching taxes in a bear market an ”extraordinary,” “virtually stupid,” ”mistaken” and “unseemly” performance.”

Robert Barro writes: “Given our situation, it is right that radical government policies should be considered if they promise to lower the probability and likely size of a depression. However, many governmental actions — including several pursued by Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression — can make things worse. I wish I could be confident that the array of U.S. policies already in place and those likely forthcoming will be helpful. But I think it more likely that the economy will eventually recover despite these policies, rather than because of them.”

Phil Klein reports that the healthcare czarina made a fortune on boards of companies which will now come under her purview. Not very changey.

James Antle asks some good questions about Specter and his seat.

Steny Hoyer says the president can’t do anything about earmarks. “Won’t” is more accurate. There is this veto thing.

Chris Buckley, David Brooks and now Jim Cramer. Soon they’ll need support groups for “Duped By Obama” victims.

Now this is a rant.

Snubbing our best ally? I thought we were supposed to be “repairing” our image around the world.

Is Governor David Paterson toast? Andrew Cuomo is having the last laugh. But if Paterson doesn’t go quietly there will be a nasty primary. In which case the Republicans get the last laugh.

Norm Coleman’s lawyers now want to have the entire election voided? That would make Al Franken seem like the reasonable one. But maybe the ultra-liberal Star Tribune got the story wrong. Whoops.

Despite his millions, Terry McAuliffe is still essentially deadlocked in his Democratic primary and his unfavorable ratings are twice that of his competitors. If his unfavorables are high now, wait until the ads on Global Crossing start running.

Gallup has consumer confidence at 3%. It seems that the entire premise of the Keynesian spend-a-thon falters unless people are confident enough to start hiring, buying and investing. Perhaps the Obama team has a Plan B.

Ben Smith reports on a letter to the Inspector General of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Chas Freeman’s associations with the Saudis. But it’s not correct to characterize the opposition to Freeman as from the “pro-Israel right.” Somehow I think Marty Peretz, Jonathan Chait and Jeffrey Goldberg would object.

Read Less