Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 12, 2009

Don’t Bother with Facts

As I wrote earlier, a major failing with the “Israel Lobby” conspiratorial mindset propagated by Chas Freeman, his lefty blogger friends (and now swallowed whole by Walter Pincus of the Washington Post and the “news” reporters at the New York Times) is that it pushes a line that is false. To believe that the Israel Lobby doomed Freeman one must not only ignore all of Freeman’s quackery, but the role played by Nancy Pelosi (who was motivated by the concern that we not have a key intelligence post filled by someone who’s ambivalent about the mowing down of human rights protesters.)

As detailed in The Hill, which took the time to talk to Congressmen (reporters do that sort of thing!), the influence of nefarious Jewish forces didn’t factor in. The retort will no doubt be: “Ah, that just proves how masterful the conspiracy is!” Yes, it’s that sort of argument to which Freeman and the Pro-Autocrat Lobby is now reduced. When no facts are available, one is left to spin plots not subject to proof or verification.

And why didn’t Pincus or the Times ask any lawmakers about their motives? You pick — laziness or bias? I suspect it is the same reason they used the religion of certain bloggers as a proxy for mind-reading the motives of those opposing Freeman. In short, they have become convinced of the existence of a nefarious Israel Lobby, so facts no longer matter.

This sort of shoddy thinking makes for poor journalism and poor intelligence work. We now are spared only from Freeman.

As I wrote earlier, a major failing with the “Israel Lobby” conspiratorial mindset propagated by Chas Freeman, his lefty blogger friends (and now swallowed whole by Walter Pincus of the Washington Post and the “news” reporters at the New York Times) is that it pushes a line that is false. To believe that the Israel Lobby doomed Freeman one must not only ignore all of Freeman’s quackery, but the role played by Nancy Pelosi (who was motivated by the concern that we not have a key intelligence post filled by someone who’s ambivalent about the mowing down of human rights protesters.)

As detailed in The Hill, which took the time to talk to Congressmen (reporters do that sort of thing!), the influence of nefarious Jewish forces didn’t factor in. The retort will no doubt be: “Ah, that just proves how masterful the conspiracy is!” Yes, it’s that sort of argument to which Freeman and the Pro-Autocrat Lobby is now reduced. When no facts are available, one is left to spin plots not subject to proof or verification.

And why didn’t Pincus or the Times ask any lawmakers about their motives? You pick — laziness or bias? I suspect it is the same reason they used the religion of certain bloggers as a proxy for mind-reading the motives of those opposing Freeman. In short, they have become convinced of the existence of a nefarious Israel Lobby, so facts no longer matter.

This sort of shoddy thinking makes for poor journalism and poor intelligence work. We now are spared only from Freeman.

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A New Low for The Nation

It’s always worth mentioning — and bears repeating — that The Nation magazine’s chief national security reporter, Robert Dreyfuss, was the former Middle East Editor of Executive Intelligence Review, the newspaper of fringe-movement leader and convicted tax felon Lyndon LaRouche. Now, youthful political dalliances should not prevent one from being taken seriously in the court of public opinion. But what makes Dreyfuss’s history relevant is that his contemporary writings are indistinguishable from the sort of bile you’d find in a LaRouchite tract.

Anyway, Dreyfuss sinks to a new low in the current issue of The Nation. There’s nothing wrong with using the phrase “Israel Lobby” to describe the constellation of organizations (all supported by American citizens, something that can’t be said of the Lobby whose pecuniary courtesies got Chas Freeman into so much trouble) committed to supporting strong U.S.-Israel ties. But use of “Zionist Lobby” is the sort of terminology that one finds only in the precincts of the isolationist Right, the Arab press and, apparently, within the pages of The Nation magazine. “The Zionist lobby roared–and President Obama blinked,” Dreyfuss writes. In certain circles — the ones Dreyfuss travels in — “Zionist” is a slur, an insult, not a term of pride. Stripped of its ulterior meanings, “Zionist Lobby” is such an imprecise term that it naturally includes the sorts of peacenik groups that The Nation loves (hey, even J Street claims to be Zionist).

Are we to believe that these groups are implicated in Dreyfuss’s attack? Dreyfuss is dog-whistling to his conspiratorial followers who believe Zionism itself to be a crime, and to Jews on the soft-left who are willing to believe that what he really means by “Zionist Lobby” is the collective influence of  right-wing Jewish organizations or AIPAC. But given Dreyfuss’s history in the  LaRouche movement there’s little question about what he’s doing. He’s consciously using the phrase as a slur.

The Nation wasn’t always this way. For more on the magazine’s history in regard to  Zionism, be sure to read Ron and Allis Radosh’s excellent piece from last summer’s World Affairs Journal.

It’s always worth mentioning — and bears repeating — that The Nation magazine’s chief national security reporter, Robert Dreyfuss, was the former Middle East Editor of Executive Intelligence Review, the newspaper of fringe-movement leader and convicted tax felon Lyndon LaRouche. Now, youthful political dalliances should not prevent one from being taken seriously in the court of public opinion. But what makes Dreyfuss’s history relevant is that his contemporary writings are indistinguishable from the sort of bile you’d find in a LaRouchite tract.

Anyway, Dreyfuss sinks to a new low in the current issue of The Nation. There’s nothing wrong with using the phrase “Israel Lobby” to describe the constellation of organizations (all supported by American citizens, something that can’t be said of the Lobby whose pecuniary courtesies got Chas Freeman into so much trouble) committed to supporting strong U.S.-Israel ties. But use of “Zionist Lobby” is the sort of terminology that one finds only in the precincts of the isolationist Right, the Arab press and, apparently, within the pages of The Nation magazine. “The Zionist lobby roared–and President Obama blinked,” Dreyfuss writes. In certain circles — the ones Dreyfuss travels in — “Zionist” is a slur, an insult, not a term of pride. Stripped of its ulterior meanings, “Zionist Lobby” is such an imprecise term that it naturally includes the sorts of peacenik groups that The Nation loves (hey, even J Street claims to be Zionist).

Are we to believe that these groups are implicated in Dreyfuss’s attack? Dreyfuss is dog-whistling to his conspiratorial followers who believe Zionism itself to be a crime, and to Jews on the soft-left who are willing to believe that what he really means by “Zionist Lobby” is the collective influence of  right-wing Jewish organizations or AIPAC. But given Dreyfuss’s history in the  LaRouche movement there’s little question about what he’s doing. He’s consciously using the phrase as a slur.

The Nation wasn’t always this way. For more on the magazine’s history in regard to  Zionism, be sure to read Ron and Allis Radosh’s excellent piece from last summer’s World Affairs Journal.

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Scott McClellan Revisited

Jake Tapper runs circles around Robert Gibbs almost every day. And sometimes he strikes comedy gold. Today he went after Gibbs’s assertion that the Republicans have no ideas. He pointed out that they had given him ideas (which were rejected out of hand, but that’s another story) on the stimulus. Then Tapper swoops in for the kill:

TAPPER:  If the president incorporated some of — if the Democrats on Capitol Hill and the president incorporated some of the Republican ideas, Why would the president say the Republican Party is a party of no — no ideas?

GIBBS:  Well, I — I do think you’ve heard, certainly, recently a lot more criticism than you’ve heard suggestions.  I think you’ve — I think the obligation of anybody involved — I’ll quote my friend, Warren Buffett, again, that he certainly made mention of the fact that Democrats and Republicans, because of the gravity of the situation and the many challenges that we face, should work together.  I think working together would include sharing ideas on — on both sides of the aisle about what has to be done. There’s, you know, co-equal branches of government.  I think it’s important that everybody be involved in a healthy debate about the solutions that might surround a recovery plan and how to get our economy growing for the long term.

Huh? That’s what passes for intellectual argument from the White House press briefing room these days. No wonder they decided to go after Rush Limbaugh.

Jake Tapper runs circles around Robert Gibbs almost every day. And sometimes he strikes comedy gold. Today he went after Gibbs’s assertion that the Republicans have no ideas. He pointed out that they had given him ideas (which were rejected out of hand, but that’s another story) on the stimulus. Then Tapper swoops in for the kill:

TAPPER:  If the president incorporated some of — if the Democrats on Capitol Hill and the president incorporated some of the Republican ideas, Why would the president say the Republican Party is a party of no — no ideas?

GIBBS:  Well, I — I do think you’ve heard, certainly, recently a lot more criticism than you’ve heard suggestions.  I think you’ve — I think the obligation of anybody involved — I’ll quote my friend, Warren Buffett, again, that he certainly made mention of the fact that Democrats and Republicans, because of the gravity of the situation and the many challenges that we face, should work together.  I think working together would include sharing ideas on — on both sides of the aisle about what has to be done. There’s, you know, co-equal branches of government.  I think it’s important that everybody be involved in a healthy debate about the solutions that might surround a recovery plan and how to get our economy growing for the long term.

Huh? That’s what passes for intellectual argument from the White House press briefing room these days. No wonder they decided to go after Rush Limbaugh.

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Commentary of the Day

Sophia, on Jennifer Rubin:

Empiricon, with respect, you are presenting straw man arguments.

1) People who support Israel’s right to exist are all over the map politically, socially, religiously, and have many diverse points of view.

2) Israeli schools teach their children about the Naqba, it’s hardly a secret so claiming that people ignore the suffering of the Palestinians either there or in Europe or in the US is baloney.

3) However, Holocaust denial is common in the Middle East where it is also mocked (go figure).

4) The Palestinians would have a state already except for the violence. It is impossible to convince people to cede more territory when doing so would be suicidal. That is simple common sense. It is absurd to argue that this is the same thing as “ignoring Palestinian suffering.” What about Israeli suffering? The children of Sderot now have a bomb-proof playground. Imagine growing up in a bomb-proof playground. Yet, what is reported 24/7 in the MSM all over the world is – the suffering of the Palestinians.

5) It most certainly is antisemitic to argue that Israel should be destroyed either militarily or demographically. There are dozens of Muslim and Christian states, there are Hindu states, one of them huge, there are Buddhist and Communist states; there isn’t room for Israel? Why not?

6) Property rights – what about all the property lost by Middle Eastern Jews or for that matter, those of the Jews on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem? That had been home to Jews for 3400 years before they were ethnically cleansed by the (British led) Arab Legion during the Israeli War of Independence. NOT. ONE. JEW. WAS. LEFT. THERE. This is real ethnic cleaning, deliberate and total. Not an accidental consequence of war.

Meanwhile it’s illegal to sell property to Jews in the PA and in Jordan for that matter and it’s foolish even to consider that Jews would be able to live safely in their old homes throughout the Arab world – a handful remain here and there, many under threat as in Yemen where about 200 Jews remain. There had been nearly one million Jews living throughout the Arab world. Most lost everything.

It is true that a fraction of the original large Iranian community – about 25,000 people – continues to live there. But, they lack real freedom, equality and political power. It is true, they are better off than the Bahai.

7) It is foolish and ahistorical to deny the thousands of years of Jewish history and pretend that somehow the existence of Israel is a threat to the huge Arab League, the Muslim or the Christian worlds or that room can’t be found for the Palestinian people as well. Yet somehow this is seen as a zero-sum game.

Why?

Sophia, on Jennifer Rubin:

Empiricon, with respect, you are presenting straw man arguments.

1) People who support Israel’s right to exist are all over the map politically, socially, religiously, and have many diverse points of view.

2) Israeli schools teach their children about the Naqba, it’s hardly a secret so claiming that people ignore the suffering of the Palestinians either there or in Europe or in the US is baloney.

3) However, Holocaust denial is common in the Middle East where it is also mocked (go figure).

4) The Palestinians would have a state already except for the violence. It is impossible to convince people to cede more territory when doing so would be suicidal. That is simple common sense. It is absurd to argue that this is the same thing as “ignoring Palestinian suffering.” What about Israeli suffering? The children of Sderot now have a bomb-proof playground. Imagine growing up in a bomb-proof playground. Yet, what is reported 24/7 in the MSM all over the world is – the suffering of the Palestinians.

5) It most certainly is antisemitic to argue that Israel should be destroyed either militarily or demographically. There are dozens of Muslim and Christian states, there are Hindu states, one of them huge, there are Buddhist and Communist states; there isn’t room for Israel? Why not?

6) Property rights – what about all the property lost by Middle Eastern Jews or for that matter, those of the Jews on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem? That had been home to Jews for 3400 years before they were ethnically cleansed by the (British led) Arab Legion during the Israeli War of Independence. NOT. ONE. JEW. WAS. LEFT. THERE. This is real ethnic cleaning, deliberate and total. Not an accidental consequence of war.

Meanwhile it’s illegal to sell property to Jews in the PA and in Jordan for that matter and it’s foolish even to consider that Jews would be able to live safely in their old homes throughout the Arab world – a handful remain here and there, many under threat as in Yemen where about 200 Jews remain. There had been nearly one million Jews living throughout the Arab world. Most lost everything.

It is true that a fraction of the original large Iranian community – about 25,000 people – continues to live there. But, they lack real freedom, equality and political power. It is true, they are better off than the Bahai.

7) It is foolish and ahistorical to deny the thousands of years of Jewish history and pretend that somehow the existence of Israel is a threat to the huge Arab League, the Muslim or the Christian worlds or that room can’t be found for the Palestinian people as well. Yet somehow this is seen as a zero-sum game.

Why?

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It’ll Never Die

Mickey Kaus worries that although support for card check is melting before our eyes like the Wicked Witch of the West, the Beltway pols, spin doctors, consultants, and press have an interest in keeping it alive. He, however, wants it to die “quickly.”

But if the pro-card check forces don’t have the votes now and won’t have them in a year or two, regardless of the appearance of Al Franken, what difference does it make how long the fight goes on? I can understand Democrats wanting it to go away for other reasons (e.g. the image of the party, the sheer embarrassment of James Hoffa in effect declaring secret ballots aren’t all that important). But if killing card check is the goal, it really doesn’t matter when the last rites are pronounced.

Come to think of it, what does it mean to “kill card check”? It never really goes away. There was a vote in 2007 and it is back now. If it loses again (and would there even be a vote if they don’t have 60 in the bag in the Senate?) nothing prevents it from coming back again as long as there are Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. In some sense, it will be around forever and no loss for the anti-secret ballot forces is a permanent setback.

That is why Republicans are falling in love with the issue. If it didn’t exist, Republicans would have to invent it. What else could keep Arlen Specter in line, terrify Red state senators, make Reid and Pelosi look hapless, remind voters that unions’ and workers’ interests are not congruous, and engender a measure of sympathy for corporate America? It is for fiscal conservatives what Roe v. Wade is for right-to-life advocates — a constant reminder to be vigilant and recruit new supporters.

Frankly, the best guarantee that it won’t come back soon is the pro-card check forces’ humiliating experience of watching their support vanish before their eyes.

Mickey Kaus worries that although support for card check is melting before our eyes like the Wicked Witch of the West, the Beltway pols, spin doctors, consultants, and press have an interest in keeping it alive. He, however, wants it to die “quickly.”

But if the pro-card check forces don’t have the votes now and won’t have them in a year or two, regardless of the appearance of Al Franken, what difference does it make how long the fight goes on? I can understand Democrats wanting it to go away for other reasons (e.g. the image of the party, the sheer embarrassment of James Hoffa in effect declaring secret ballots aren’t all that important). But if killing card check is the goal, it really doesn’t matter when the last rites are pronounced.

Come to think of it, what does it mean to “kill card check”? It never really goes away. There was a vote in 2007 and it is back now. If it loses again (and would there even be a vote if they don’t have 60 in the bag in the Senate?) nothing prevents it from coming back again as long as there are Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. In some sense, it will be around forever and no loss for the anti-secret ballot forces is a permanent setback.

That is why Republicans are falling in love with the issue. If it didn’t exist, Republicans would have to invent it. What else could keep Arlen Specter in line, terrify Red state senators, make Reid and Pelosi look hapless, remind voters that unions’ and workers’ interests are not congruous, and engender a measure of sympathy for corporate America? It is for fiscal conservatives what Roe v. Wade is for right-to-life advocates — a constant reminder to be vigilant and recruit new supporters.

Frankly, the best guarantee that it won’t come back soon is the pro-card check forces’ humiliating experience of watching their support vanish before their eyes.

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Was the Israel Lobby Behind This, Too?

While Friends of Freeman bemoan the muffling of dissent effectuated by “supporters of Israel,” others may be interested in seeing what religiously motivated censorship actually looks like:

A new U.N. resolution circulated today by Islamic states would define any questioning of Islamic dogma as a human rights violation, intimidate dissenting voices, and encourage the forced imposition of Sharia law.

UN Watch obtained a copy of the Pakistani-authored proposal after it was distributed today among Geneva diplomats attending the current session of the UN Human Rights Council. Entitled “Combating defamation of religions,” it mentions only Islam.

Of course, Freeman’s professional second home, Saudi Arabia has been working toward the introduction of this resolution for years now. It’s hard to call this “ironic” when exploitation of liberal hypocrisy is exactly what’s expected. But that doesn’t mean it ceases to be unsettling.

While Friends of Freeman bemoan the muffling of dissent effectuated by “supporters of Israel,” others may be interested in seeing what religiously motivated censorship actually looks like:

A new U.N. resolution circulated today by Islamic states would define any questioning of Islamic dogma as a human rights violation, intimidate dissenting voices, and encourage the forced imposition of Sharia law.

UN Watch obtained a copy of the Pakistani-authored proposal after it was distributed today among Geneva diplomats attending the current session of the UN Human Rights Council. Entitled “Combating defamation of religions,” it mentions only Islam.

Of course, Freeman’s professional second home, Saudi Arabia has been working toward the introduction of this resolution for years now. It’s hard to call this “ironic” when exploitation of liberal hypocrisy is exactly what’s expected. But that doesn’t mean it ceases to be unsettling.

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Re: The Agent of Cynicism

Pete, your rather masterful depiction of the Obama administration’s tumble from Olympian heights was proven deadly right once again today. Four examples validate your analysis:

First, the hypocrisy festival continues. The president offers another howler in his remarks on the economy today: “I don’t like the idea of spending more money, nor am I interested in expanding government’s role.” (The rest of his remarks explain why no recession is going to stand in the way of his grandiose plans.) At some point you wonder why there isn’t someone in the White House saying, “Guys, they’re goin’ to laugh.” Or cry.

And if that weren’t enough of a shortcoming on the fronts of intellectual honesty and political courage, we are reminded that a key policy point on which Obama bashed John McCain during the campaign — the taxability of employer-provided health benefits – may now be part of his own healthcare plan. What’s more, we hear “some congressional Democrats say the White House has signaled that Obama would accept a tax on employer benefits as long as he didn’t have to propose it himself.” How courageous of him!

Next, travel company execs met with the president to try to get government to stop bad-mouthing the travel industry. The complaint was likely prompted by Obama’s snarky put down of Las Vegas. (Perhaps a Summit On Travel. That would be just another day of president not attending to the economic recovery.) But this is, of course, the problem: an industry’s representatives have to meet with the president to tell him to stop bashing their livelihood. It’s stunning, really, that the president has to be told not to actively impede a key sector of our economy.

Finally, another Treasury Department pick drops out. Uniformly hailed as a “grown up” and highly knowledgeable about the banking industry, Rodgin Cohen’s failure to make it through the vetting process suggests something is very, very wrong with a system that lets Tom Daschle in and keeps him out.

This is all in a single day, mind you. Pete, unfortunately your analysis is proving more accurate by the moment.

Pete, your rather masterful depiction of the Obama administration’s tumble from Olympian heights was proven deadly right once again today. Four examples validate your analysis:

First, the hypocrisy festival continues. The president offers another howler in his remarks on the economy today: “I don’t like the idea of spending more money, nor am I interested in expanding government’s role.” (The rest of his remarks explain why no recession is going to stand in the way of his grandiose plans.) At some point you wonder why there isn’t someone in the White House saying, “Guys, they’re goin’ to laugh.” Or cry.

And if that weren’t enough of a shortcoming on the fronts of intellectual honesty and political courage, we are reminded that a key policy point on which Obama bashed John McCain during the campaign — the taxability of employer-provided health benefits – may now be part of his own healthcare plan. What’s more, we hear “some congressional Democrats say the White House has signaled that Obama would accept a tax on employer benefits as long as he didn’t have to propose it himself.” How courageous of him!

Next, travel company execs met with the president to try to get government to stop bad-mouthing the travel industry. The complaint was likely prompted by Obama’s snarky put down of Las Vegas. (Perhaps a Summit On Travel. That would be just another day of president not attending to the economic recovery.) But this is, of course, the problem: an industry’s representatives have to meet with the president to tell him to stop bashing their livelihood. It’s stunning, really, that the president has to be told not to actively impede a key sector of our economy.

Finally, another Treasury Department pick drops out. Uniformly hailed as a “grown up” and highly knowledgeable about the banking industry, Rodgin Cohen’s failure to make it through the vetting process suggests something is very, very wrong with a system that lets Tom Daschle in and keeps him out.

This is all in a single day, mind you. Pete, unfortunately your analysis is proving more accurate by the moment.

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Welcome Back, France

Forty-three years after Charles de Gaulle took France out of NATO’s military command structure, Nicolas Sarkozy — perhaps the French Republic’s most pro-American president ever — has returned to the fold. Any mention of France and the military in a single sentence is sure to raise hackles about supposed “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.” Who can forget all the bad jokes heard back in 2003 about the supposed French propensity to give up before even beginning to fight? I too was highly critical of the role France played in the lead-up to the Iraq War, but not because I ever questioned the fighting mettle of French soldiers. In the years since, I think the French bashing has gone too far. It is as unfair as it is unhelpful.

Why unfair? Because France, although it has lost more than its share of wars, actually has a proud military heritage stretching back to the days of Napoleon, Louis XIV, and beyond. Does anyone recall that, notwithstanding its defeats at Crecy (1346) and Poitiers (1356), France actually defeated England in the Hundred Years’ War? Or that, notwithstanding its quick collapse in the spring of 1940, France lost over 100,000 men resisting the Nazi invasion? In the immediate post-war years France was booted out of Vietnam and Algeria after bitter conflicts but it was not for want of combat skill and élan among its troops. France’s feared paras went too far in using torture to win the Battle of Algiers, but their desire to win and their willingness to suffer and inflict casualties was not in question.

Nor should it be today. France maintains perhaps the most formidable military in Europe; its only rival is the United Kingdom. And, along with the UK, France is one of the few European nations still willing to send its forces in harm’s way, as it has repeatedly demonstrated in Africa over the years. France is now proving the point anew in Afghanistan, where it has sent roughly 2,000 troops not bound by any of the restrictive caveats hobbling the combat effectiveness of most NATO contingents. The French, along with the Poles, are even happy to serve under American command in eastern Afghanistan. American officers I met on a recent visit to Afghanistan spoke highly of the professionalism of their French counterparts. The French thus stand in stark contrast to, among others, the Italians, who are said to pay the Taliban instead of attack them.

NATO will continue to be an unwieldy alliance with or without France but I, for one, am glad to see the soldats of France being given a greater opportunity to serve alongside the soldiers of America in the common defense of liberté.

Forty-three years after Charles de Gaulle took France out of NATO’s military command structure, Nicolas Sarkozy — perhaps the French Republic’s most pro-American president ever — has returned to the fold. Any mention of France and the military in a single sentence is sure to raise hackles about supposed “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.” Who can forget all the bad jokes heard back in 2003 about the supposed French propensity to give up before even beginning to fight? I too was highly critical of the role France played in the lead-up to the Iraq War, but not because I ever questioned the fighting mettle of French soldiers. In the years since, I think the French bashing has gone too far. It is as unfair as it is unhelpful.

Why unfair? Because France, although it has lost more than its share of wars, actually has a proud military heritage stretching back to the days of Napoleon, Louis XIV, and beyond. Does anyone recall that, notwithstanding its defeats at Crecy (1346) and Poitiers (1356), France actually defeated England in the Hundred Years’ War? Or that, notwithstanding its quick collapse in the spring of 1940, France lost over 100,000 men resisting the Nazi invasion? In the immediate post-war years France was booted out of Vietnam and Algeria after bitter conflicts but it was not for want of combat skill and élan among its troops. France’s feared paras went too far in using torture to win the Battle of Algiers, but their desire to win and their willingness to suffer and inflict casualties was not in question.

Nor should it be today. France maintains perhaps the most formidable military in Europe; its only rival is the United Kingdom. And, along with the UK, France is one of the few European nations still willing to send its forces in harm’s way, as it has repeatedly demonstrated in Africa over the years. France is now proving the point anew in Afghanistan, where it has sent roughly 2,000 troops not bound by any of the restrictive caveats hobbling the combat effectiveness of most NATO contingents. The French, along with the Poles, are even happy to serve under American command in eastern Afghanistan. American officers I met on a recent visit to Afghanistan spoke highly of the professionalism of their French counterparts. The French thus stand in stark contrast to, among others, the Italians, who are said to pay the Taliban instead of attack them.

NATO will continue to be an unwieldy alliance with or without France but I, for one, am glad to see the soldats of France being given a greater opportunity to serve alongside the soldiers of America in the common defense of liberté.

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At Least the Request Was “Transparent”

In the season of the perpetual bailout it’s become almost impossible to tell what qualifies as “acting quickly to address the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression,” and what’s wildly beyond the pale. But I’m pretty sure this shouldn’t have happened:

Top banking regulators were taken aback late last year when a California congresswoman helped set up a meeting in which the chief executive of a bank with financial ties to her family asked them for up to $50 million in special bailout funds, Treasury officials said.

Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, requested the September meeting on behalf of executives at OneUnited, one of the nation’s largest black-owned banks. Ms. Water’s husband, Sidney Williams, had served on the bank’s board of directors until early last year and has owned at least $250,000 in stock in the institution. Treasury officials said the session with nearly a dozen senior banking regulators had been intended to allow minority-owned banks and their trade association to discuss the losses they had incurred from the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But Kevin Cohee, OneUnited’s chief executive, instead seized the opportunity to plead for special assistance for his bank, federal officials said.

Maybe Congress can rollover Cohee’s request to fit within the framework of the stimulus or the budget or the second stimulus that Nancy Pelosi says is “in the cards.”

In the season of the perpetual bailout it’s become almost impossible to tell what qualifies as “acting quickly to address the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression,” and what’s wildly beyond the pale. But I’m pretty sure this shouldn’t have happened:

Top banking regulators were taken aback late last year when a California congresswoman helped set up a meeting in which the chief executive of a bank with financial ties to her family asked them for up to $50 million in special bailout funds, Treasury officials said.

Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, requested the September meeting on behalf of executives at OneUnited, one of the nation’s largest black-owned banks. Ms. Water’s husband, Sidney Williams, had served on the bank’s board of directors until early last year and has owned at least $250,000 in stock in the institution. Treasury officials said the session with nearly a dozen senior banking regulators had been intended to allow minority-owned banks and their trade association to discuss the losses they had incurred from the federal takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. But Kevin Cohee, OneUnited’s chief executive, instead seized the opportunity to plead for special assistance for his bank, federal officials said.

Maybe Congress can rollover Cohee’s request to fit within the framework of the stimulus or the budget or the second stimulus that Nancy Pelosi says is “in the cards.”

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Besting His Predecessor Alright

The latest Obama nominee is a show-stopper. We learn:

The White House told urban czar Adolfo Carrión on Wednesday to pay the architect who did work on his Bronx home more than two years ago.

The Daily News reported that Carrión, the former Bronx borough president who is now the White House urban policy director, had the architect draw up renovations in early 2007. That work came as Carrión’s office was reviewing the architect’s plan for a housing project. Carrión still hasn’t paid for the work, raising questions about whether it was a freebie done to win approval of the project.

Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson’s office confirmed Wednesday night it was looking into the matter.

Oh and then the office of Obama’s Chief Technology Officer was just raided by the FBI. Really.

A Treasury Secretary who doesn’t pay his taxes. An urban czar who doesn’t pay his architect. An ethics policy full of waivers too numerous to count — and which couldn’t be counted since they are concealed from the public. At what point does the electorate conclude the New Politics is really the Chicago Way? No wonder the White House wants to talk about Rush Limbaugh.

But it’s not like we were not warned. We know Obama has never paid sufficient attention to his associates’ “shortcomings.” Perhaps voters thought he’d improve his hiring skills once in the Oval Office or place greater weight on the ethical standards of his underlings. He hasn’t. The time has come, I think, to dispense with the notion that George Bush and Jimmy Carter were the worst executive managers to occupy the White House.

The latest Obama nominee is a show-stopper. We learn:

The White House told urban czar Adolfo Carrión on Wednesday to pay the architect who did work on his Bronx home more than two years ago.

The Daily News reported that Carrión, the former Bronx borough president who is now the White House urban policy director, had the architect draw up renovations in early 2007. That work came as Carrión’s office was reviewing the architect’s plan for a housing project. Carrión still hasn’t paid for the work, raising questions about whether it was a freebie done to win approval of the project.

Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson’s office confirmed Wednesday night it was looking into the matter.

Oh and then the office of Obama’s Chief Technology Officer was just raided by the FBI. Really.

A Treasury Secretary who doesn’t pay his taxes. An urban czar who doesn’t pay his architect. An ethics policy full of waivers too numerous to count — and which couldn’t be counted since they are concealed from the public. At what point does the electorate conclude the New Politics is really the Chicago Way? No wonder the White House wants to talk about Rush Limbaugh.

But it’s not like we were not warned. We know Obama has never paid sufficient attention to his associates’ “shortcomings.” Perhaps voters thought he’d improve his hiring skills once in the Oval Office or place greater weight on the ethical standards of his underlings. He hasn’t. The time has come, I think, to dispense with the notion that George Bush and Jimmy Carter were the worst executive managers to occupy the White House.

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The Hamas Mess

If we take Hillary Clinton’s words at face value, friends of Israel have little to worry about in the near future in terms of a major shift in American policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians. In her visit to the region last week, Clinton reiterated America’s commitment to the “three principles” that must be honored for America to work with a Palestinian government: That any governing party must (i) recognize Israel, (ii) renounce terrorism, and (iii) remain committed to all previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

In practical terms, this means that a unity government between Fatah and Hamas would have to force Hamas to accept all three principles — which is something that Hamas is extremely unlikely to do officially, nominally, or even in a double-speak way that accepts them in English but not in Arabic. And since, in the absence of a unity government, it seems very unlikely that any kind of peace agreement can be reached, Clinton’s position appears to predict many more years of the status quo.

But is this really the case? There are two scenarios I can think of where the Obama Administration could still justify (in its own eyes) massively pressuring Israel to make further concessions to the Palestinians. One would be if a unity government were formed that somehow accepted the three principles publicly, but still allowed Hamas some measure of deniability, somehow fudging the gap between what the government says and what one of its biggest factions says. The other is if it turns out that we cannot take Clinton’s words at face value — and the administration chooses to recognize Hamas or a Hamas-inclusive coalition, dropping the three principles.

Ultimately, however, whether Obama and Clinton remain really dedicated to these three principles depends, I suspect, a lot more on Obama’s internal political calculus than on Hillary Clinton or the Middle East itself. The Chas Freeman affair has probably shown him how little room he has to maneuver in terms of radical changes in foreign policy. When midterm elections roll around in a year and a half, he will be judged more than anything else on the state of the economy and his success in forestalling its collapse. He has quickly discovered how rough American politics can be, even when you have majorities in both house of Congress. Capitulating to terror by giving up on the three principles would likely trigger a massive internal battle that he would rather do without.

If we take Hillary Clinton’s words at face value, friends of Israel have little to worry about in the near future in terms of a major shift in American policy vis-a-vis the Palestinians. In her visit to the region last week, Clinton reiterated America’s commitment to the “three principles” that must be honored for America to work with a Palestinian government: That any governing party must (i) recognize Israel, (ii) renounce terrorism, and (iii) remain committed to all previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

In practical terms, this means that a unity government between Fatah and Hamas would have to force Hamas to accept all three principles — which is something that Hamas is extremely unlikely to do officially, nominally, or even in a double-speak way that accepts them in English but not in Arabic. And since, in the absence of a unity government, it seems very unlikely that any kind of peace agreement can be reached, Clinton’s position appears to predict many more years of the status quo.

But is this really the case? There are two scenarios I can think of where the Obama Administration could still justify (in its own eyes) massively pressuring Israel to make further concessions to the Palestinians. One would be if a unity government were formed that somehow accepted the three principles publicly, but still allowed Hamas some measure of deniability, somehow fudging the gap between what the government says and what one of its biggest factions says. The other is if it turns out that we cannot take Clinton’s words at face value — and the administration chooses to recognize Hamas or a Hamas-inclusive coalition, dropping the three principles.

Ultimately, however, whether Obama and Clinton remain really dedicated to these three principles depends, I suspect, a lot more on Obama’s internal political calculus than on Hillary Clinton or the Middle East itself. The Chas Freeman affair has probably shown him how little room he has to maneuver in terms of radical changes in foreign policy. When midterm elections roll around in a year and a half, he will be judged more than anything else on the state of the economy and his success in forestalling its collapse. He has quickly discovered how rough American politics can be, even when you have majorities in both house of Congress. Capitulating to terror by giving up on the three principles would likely trigger a massive internal battle that he would rather do without.

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Only One Bar?

George Will joins the long list — including Howard Fineman, Camille Paglia, Tom Friedman, Jack Welch, Warren Buffet, and all of the CNBC broadcast staff — of people who have had enough of Barack Obama’s “throw in the kitchen sink” approach to governing. We’re only 50 or so days in and we’re already tired — exhausted really — from the sprint through the liberal agenda. Will explains:

The president’s confidence in his capacities is undermining confidence in his judgment. His way of correcting what he called the Bush administration’s “misplaced priorities” has been to have no priorities. Mature political leaders know that to govern is to choose — to choose what to do and thereby to choose what cannot be done. The administration insists that it really does have a single priority: Everything depends on fixing the economy. But it also says that everything depends on everything: Economic revival requires enactment of the entire liberal wish list of recent decades.

A competent treasury secretary would be of help in such a situation. A thoughtful address on private sector incentives to increase employment might be welcome. Something showing that the president understands what the country needs in order to recover would also be well-received. Yet the president is charging through his multi-faceted scheme for changing just about everything in America before the 2010 Congressional elections, seemingly unfazed by the economic dislocation resulting from his policies. Yes, as Will said, Obama is in perpetual campaign mode. But most of all, Obama is oblivious. Will notices:

One afternoon last week, cable news viewers saw, at the top of their screens, the president launching yet another magnificent intention — the disassembly and rearrangement of the 17 percent of the economy that is health care. The bottom of their screens showed the Dow plunging 281 points. Surely the top of the screen partially explained the bottom.

But Obama is in denial. He was supposed to have a Blackberry to prevent him from being trapped in the “bubble.” Well, perhaps his connection to reality doesn’t have enough bars.

George Will joins the long list — including Howard Fineman, Camille Paglia, Tom Friedman, Jack Welch, Warren Buffet, and all of the CNBC broadcast staff — of people who have had enough of Barack Obama’s “throw in the kitchen sink” approach to governing. We’re only 50 or so days in and we’re already tired — exhausted really — from the sprint through the liberal agenda. Will explains:

The president’s confidence in his capacities is undermining confidence in his judgment. His way of correcting what he called the Bush administration’s “misplaced priorities” has been to have no priorities. Mature political leaders know that to govern is to choose — to choose what to do and thereby to choose what cannot be done. The administration insists that it really does have a single priority: Everything depends on fixing the economy. But it also says that everything depends on everything: Economic revival requires enactment of the entire liberal wish list of recent decades.

A competent treasury secretary would be of help in such a situation. A thoughtful address on private sector incentives to increase employment might be welcome. Something showing that the president understands what the country needs in order to recover would also be well-received. Yet the president is charging through his multi-faceted scheme for changing just about everything in America before the 2010 Congressional elections, seemingly unfazed by the economic dislocation resulting from his policies. Yes, as Will said, Obama is in perpetual campaign mode. But most of all, Obama is oblivious. Will notices:

One afternoon last week, cable news viewers saw, at the top of their screens, the president launching yet another magnificent intention — the disassembly and rearrangement of the 17 percent of the economy that is health care. The bottom of their screens showed the Dow plunging 281 points. Surely the top of the screen partially explained the bottom.

But Obama is in denial. He was supposed to have a Blackberry to prevent him from being trapped in the “bubble.” Well, perhaps his connection to reality doesn’t have enough bars.

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An Agent of Cynicism

In the matter of just 50 days, a fissure has widened into a split; the split has become a gap; and the gap is becoming a gulf. I have in mind the extraordinary contradiction between what President Obama says and what he does.

Consider a partial list, starting with earmarks. During the campaign, Obama said, “the truth is, our earmark system — what’s called pork-barrel spending in Washington — is fraught with abuse.  It badly needs reform — which is why I didn’t request a single earmark last year, why I’ve released all my previous requests for the public to see, why I’ve pledged to slash earmarks by more than half when I am President of the United States.” And as ABC’s Jake Tapper pointed out, after John McCain picked Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, Obama criticized her for having been of two minds on earmarks. “When you have been taking all these earmarks when it is convenient and then suddenly you are the champion anti-earmark person,” Obama said, “that is not change, come on. I mean, words mean something.”

Yet yesterday, Obama signed rather than vetoed a massive, $410 billion omnibus spending bill — which contained more than 8,500 earmarks. Adding chutzpah to his hypocrisy, Obama told reporters, “The future demands that we operate in a different way than we have in the past. So let there be no doubt: this piece of legislation must mark an end to the old way of doing business and the beginning of a new era of responsibility and accountability that the American people have every right to expect and demand.” This is the fiscal version of St. Augustine’s prayer, “Lord, make me chaste — but not yet.”

Second, Obama made bi-partisanship a cornerstone of his campaign. It was he, we were told, who would repair the breach and “turn the page.” It is he who wrote that “genuine bipartisanship assumes an honest process of give-and-take” and that the majority must be constrained “by an exacting press corps and ultimately an informed electorate” to “negotiate in good faith.” Yet Republicans have been shut out from writing and offering substantive input into key legislation. Obama has so far demonstrated no interest in authentic bi-partisanship; he is allowing Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid to muscle through their agenda, even at the cost of losing almost every elected Republican in the United States Congress.

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

In the matter of just 50 days, a fissure has widened into a split; the split has become a gap; and the gap is becoming a gulf. I have in mind the extraordinary contradiction between what President Obama says and what he does.

Consider a partial list, starting with earmarks. During the campaign, Obama said, “the truth is, our earmark system — what’s called pork-barrel spending in Washington — is fraught with abuse.  It badly needs reform — which is why I didn’t request a single earmark last year, why I’ve released all my previous requests for the public to see, why I’ve pledged to slash earmarks by more than half when I am President of the United States.” And as ABC’s Jake Tapper pointed out, after John McCain picked Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, Obama criticized her for having been of two minds on earmarks. “When you have been taking all these earmarks when it is convenient and then suddenly you are the champion anti-earmark person,” Obama said, “that is not change, come on. I mean, words mean something.”

Yet yesterday, Obama signed rather than vetoed a massive, $410 billion omnibus spending bill — which contained more than 8,500 earmarks. Adding chutzpah to his hypocrisy, Obama told reporters, “The future demands that we operate in a different way than we have in the past. So let there be no doubt: this piece of legislation must mark an end to the old way of doing business and the beginning of a new era of responsibility and accountability that the American people have every right to expect and demand.” This is the fiscal version of St. Augustine’s prayer, “Lord, make me chaste — but not yet.”

Second, Obama made bi-partisanship a cornerstone of his campaign. It was he, we were told, who would repair the breach and “turn the page.” It is he who wrote that “genuine bipartisanship assumes an honest process of give-and-take” and that the majority must be constrained “by an exacting press corps and ultimately an informed electorate” to “negotiate in good faith.” Yet Republicans have been shut out from writing and offering substantive input into key legislation. Obama has so far demonstrated no interest in authentic bi-partisanship; he is allowing Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid to muscle through their agenda, even at the cost of losing almost every elected Republican in the United States Congress.

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

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The Real Story Isn’t in the Critics, Fellas

As Jamie notes, having now discovered the Chas Freeman story, the New York Times and Washington Post news sections are focusing not on how the pick was made, why he wasn’t vetted, whether Admiral Blair was duped, or on any other aspect of the Obama administration’s debacle. What excites them is explaining why all the Jews opposed the pick. No, really.

We almost filled a high-level security position with a man who thinks the responsibility for 9-11 goes both ways. We nearly gave classified information to someone who thinks Jews control all debate in America. But the story, according to those papers, isn’t about Freeman. Or Blair. Or the White House. It’s about the Jews.

Neither paper seems aware of Nancy Pelosi’s role. Neither mentions the letter from eighty-seven Chinese dissidents. Neither cites Freeman’s affectionate quotes about Mao or King Abdullah, nor his sympathy for the crackdown in Tienanmen Square.

Freeman was so obviously a “crackpot,” as multiple editorial boards have now discovered, that it is shocking Blair picked and defended him. The effort to turn the table on Freeman’s critics only works if the public remains ignorant of just how vile Freeman’s words were.

Walter Pincus’s tale in the Washington Post is especially noteworthy. While reciting the names of several Jewish bloggers who wrote critically of Freeman, he assumes — without interviewing them or quoting any of their work — that they were motivated solely because of Israel or some nefarious direction from former AIPAC lobbyist Steve Rosen. You see, Jews don’t have opinions or motivations apart from those connected to Israel. (And he omits mention of the Reason bloggers because they don’t really fit the profile of neocon Jews.) But Pincus can’t entirely conceal a glaring fact: this story raged for weeks with nary a word from him.

And for the real story — how a nominee this temperamentally ill-suited and intellectually warped would have gotten the nod — I suspect we will have to turn to other publications.

As Jamie notes, having now discovered the Chas Freeman story, the New York Times and Washington Post news sections are focusing not on how the pick was made, why he wasn’t vetted, whether Admiral Blair was duped, or on any other aspect of the Obama administration’s debacle. What excites them is explaining why all the Jews opposed the pick. No, really.

We almost filled a high-level security position with a man who thinks the responsibility for 9-11 goes both ways. We nearly gave classified information to someone who thinks Jews control all debate in America. But the story, according to those papers, isn’t about Freeman. Or Blair. Or the White House. It’s about the Jews.

Neither paper seems aware of Nancy Pelosi’s role. Neither mentions the letter from eighty-seven Chinese dissidents. Neither cites Freeman’s affectionate quotes about Mao or King Abdullah, nor his sympathy for the crackdown in Tienanmen Square.

Freeman was so obviously a “crackpot,” as multiple editorial boards have now discovered, that it is shocking Blair picked and defended him. The effort to turn the table on Freeman’s critics only works if the public remains ignorant of just how vile Freeman’s words were.

Walter Pincus’s tale in the Washington Post is especially noteworthy. While reciting the names of several Jewish bloggers who wrote critically of Freeman, he assumes — without interviewing them or quoting any of their work — that they were motivated solely because of Israel or some nefarious direction from former AIPAC lobbyist Steve Rosen. You see, Jews don’t have opinions or motivations apart from those connected to Israel. (And he omits mention of the Reason bloggers because they don’t really fit the profile of neocon Jews.) But Pincus can’t entirely conceal a glaring fact: this story raged for weeks with nary a word from him.

And for the real story — how a nominee this temperamentally ill-suited and intellectually warped would have gotten the nod — I suspect we will have to turn to other publications.

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The Post Editors Have Had Enough

The Washington Post editors have reached their limit with Chas Freeman and his supporters. They write:

Mr. Freeman headed a Saudi-funded Middle East advocacy group in Washington and served on the advisory board of a state-owned Chinese oil company. It was only reasonable to ask — as numerous members of Congress had begun to do — whether such an actor was the right person to oversee the preparation of National Intelligence Estimates.

It wasn’t until Mr. Freeman withdrew from consideration for the job, however, that it became clear just how bad a selection Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair had made.

Dubbing his departing screed “grotesque libel,” they, unlike their paper’s previous news reporting, do not spare their readers a sampling of his noxious missive. Nor do they, unlike the Freeman Lobby (are they the Saudi Lobby? the Pro-Autocrat Lobby? the 9-11 Apologist Lobby?), ignore the varied concerns of his critics or the central part played by Nancy Pelosi (enraged by Freeman’s infatuation with Chinese thuggery) in his withdrawal. And they end with this:

What’s striking about the charges by Mr. Freeman and like-minded conspiracy theorists is their blatant disregard for such established facts. Mr. Freeman darkly claims that “it is not permitted for anyone in the United States” to describe Israel’s nefarious influence. But several of his allies have made themselves famous (and advanced their careers) by making such charges — and no doubt Mr. Freeman himself will now win plenty of admiring attention. Crackpot tirades such as his have always had an eager audience here and around the world. The real question is why an administration that says it aims to depoliticize U.S. intelligence estimates would have chosen such a man to oversee them.

And that is where the story now leads us, they correctly note. How was it that Blair placed him in this role? And why should we now have confidence in his judgment?

The Washington Post editors have reached their limit with Chas Freeman and his supporters. They write:

Mr. Freeman headed a Saudi-funded Middle East advocacy group in Washington and served on the advisory board of a state-owned Chinese oil company. It was only reasonable to ask — as numerous members of Congress had begun to do — whether such an actor was the right person to oversee the preparation of National Intelligence Estimates.

It wasn’t until Mr. Freeman withdrew from consideration for the job, however, that it became clear just how bad a selection Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair had made.

Dubbing his departing screed “grotesque libel,” they, unlike their paper’s previous news reporting, do not spare their readers a sampling of his noxious missive. Nor do they, unlike the Freeman Lobby (are they the Saudi Lobby? the Pro-Autocrat Lobby? the 9-11 Apologist Lobby?), ignore the varied concerns of his critics or the central part played by Nancy Pelosi (enraged by Freeman’s infatuation with Chinese thuggery) in his withdrawal. And they end with this:

What’s striking about the charges by Mr. Freeman and like-minded conspiracy theorists is their blatant disregard for such established facts. Mr. Freeman darkly claims that “it is not permitted for anyone in the United States” to describe Israel’s nefarious influence. But several of his allies have made themselves famous (and advanced their careers) by making such charges — and no doubt Mr. Freeman himself will now win plenty of admiring attention. Crackpot tirades such as his have always had an eager audience here and around the world. The real question is why an administration that says it aims to depoliticize U.S. intelligence estimates would have chosen such a man to oversee them.

And that is where the story now leads us, they correctly note. How was it that Blair placed him in this role? And why should we now have confidence in his judgment?

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Biden Was Right?

Last October, vice presidential candidate Joe Biden made a bold prediction on the campaign trail: Within the first six months of the new president’s administration, America’s enemies would engineer some kind of crisis to test the new commander in chief’s mettle.

His running mate, Barack Obama, downplayed his veep’s rhetoric. “Joe sometimes engages in rhetorical flourishes, but I think that his core point is that the next administration’s going to be tested regardless of who it is.”

Well, it’s starting to look as if Biden was not only correct (an astonishing thing in and of itself), but he was actually optimistic. The tests have already begun, with variations on familiar themes.

  • North Korea, having already kinda-sorta demonstrated its nuclear program, is now showing off its ability to deliver weapons via ballistic missile — but, naturally, they’re calling it a “satellite launch test.”
  • China is throwing its weight around on the high seas, harassing an unarmed Naval research vessel in international waters off China’s coast.

So far, the Obama administration’s response to each provocation seems to be entirely in character with Obama’s history: he’s “voting present.”

On North Korea, we’ve expressed concern. With China, we’ve issued pro forma protests.  As to Russia, Obama is busily denying the details of the letter (selling out Eastern Europe’s missile protection in exchange for Russia’s help in keeping Iran from gaining nuclear weapons).

Yes, our enemies are testing us. And so far, we’re not passing.

Last October, vice presidential candidate Joe Biden made a bold prediction on the campaign trail: Within the first six months of the new president’s administration, America’s enemies would engineer some kind of crisis to test the new commander in chief’s mettle.

His running mate, Barack Obama, downplayed his veep’s rhetoric. “Joe sometimes engages in rhetorical flourishes, but I think that his core point is that the next administration’s going to be tested regardless of who it is.”

Well, it’s starting to look as if Biden was not only correct (an astonishing thing in and of itself), but he was actually optimistic. The tests have already begun, with variations on familiar themes.

  • North Korea, having already kinda-sorta demonstrated its nuclear program, is now showing off its ability to deliver weapons via ballistic missile — but, naturally, they’re calling it a “satellite launch test.”
  • China is throwing its weight around on the high seas, harassing an unarmed Naval research vessel in international waters off China’s coast.

So far, the Obama administration’s response to each provocation seems to be entirely in character with Obama’s history: he’s “voting present.”

On North Korea, we’ve expressed concern. With China, we’ve issued pro forma protests.  As to Russia, Obama is busily denying the details of the letter (selling out Eastern Europe’s missile protection in exchange for Russia’s help in keeping Iran from gaining nuclear weapons).

Yes, our enemies are testing us. And so far, we’re not passing.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

From the file marked “reasons why unions don’t want secret ballots,” we see this Los Angeles Times story: “A Bay Area officer of the scandal-clouded Service Employees International Union has collected double salaries, one as a city transit worker and the other from a charity that receives much of its funding from the labor organization and corporate interests, records show. In addition, the nonprofit paid more than $16,000 in rent for the officer’s home in 2007, the most recent year for which the charity’s tax return is available, according to his son, who is also on the charity’s payroll.”

Next time someone tells you the tax system in America is unfair you should agree. And show them this chart.

Can we save $80B a year by converting to electronic health records, as the president claims? No. It’s a made up number. We’re getting “politics out of science” but not out of math apparently.

And with the disastrous roll out of card check, maybe the unions should ask for their money back: “The nonpartisan watchdog Center for Responsive Politics reports that the main Democratic sponsors of the Employee Free Choice Act — Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) — both collected over $1.7 million in union contributions over the last two decades.”

This takes the cake: “Delaware Sen. Tom Carper backs the bill but doesn’t want to get rid of the secret ballot. ‘I think that invites intimidation,’ he said.” So what exactly is he for? Scary that these people are running the country, isn’t it?

It is not just Republicans who are grousing about the administration: there is “a growing number of nervous Democrats on edge or at odds with some of the Obama’s administration’s plans on the economy.”

And economists don’t like Obama or Geithner: “President Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner received failing grades for their efforts to revive the economy from participants in the latest Wall Street Journal forecasting survey.”

Earmark hypocrisy? As John McCain explains, it’s very easy to get rid of earmarks — if you want to.

The headline says it all: “Obama decries earmarks, signs law with 9,000 of them.” Which explains why he signed it in private.

The Republicans and the New York Times  are both giving Obama a hard time for signing the omnibus spending bill. I guess New Politics means to do something outrageously irresponsible (e.g. the stimulus, the omnibus bill) and then have a dog-and-pony show (e.g. fiscal responsibility summit) promising not to do it again.

A vast “co-ordinated echo chamber.” It is apparently cooked up in an 8:45 a.m. call each day. (Maybe conservatives should get up early and do lots of whacky stuff before 7 a.m., confounding their opponents who haven’t yet figured out the line of the day.)

Jeffrey Goldberg, in the nicest way possible, says Chas Freeman and his supporters hanged themselves with their own whacked-out rhetoric.

A Republican wins the open seat on the quite powerful Fairfax Board of Supervisors in Northern Virginia. In Blue Virginia, land of Obama where Republicans are has-beens? Hmm.

David Broder thinks Freeman is low key. Plus he speaks Chinese. What a loss, Broder moans. (Where will the viewpoint of a raving paranoid come from without him?) But Broder makes clear: the White House wanted no part of Freeman. Someone there has more sense than Broder.

The problem with Obama’s Rush Limbaugh gambit, says Karl Rove: “Misdirection never lasts long. Team Obama can at best only temporarily distract the public; within days, attention will return to issues that clearly should worry the White House.” Crisis time will really hit when they run out of things to have summits about. (A “Summit On The Impact Of Summits”). This is why they put off the puppy purchase until spring — better be one cute pooch.

From the file marked “reasons why unions don’t want secret ballots,” we see this Los Angeles Times story: “A Bay Area officer of the scandal-clouded Service Employees International Union has collected double salaries, one as a city transit worker and the other from a charity that receives much of its funding from the labor organization and corporate interests, records show. In addition, the nonprofit paid more than $16,000 in rent for the officer’s home in 2007, the most recent year for which the charity’s tax return is available, according to his son, who is also on the charity’s payroll.”

Next time someone tells you the tax system in America is unfair you should agree. And show them this chart.

Can we save $80B a year by converting to electronic health records, as the president claims? No. It’s a made up number. We’re getting “politics out of science” but not out of math apparently.

And with the disastrous roll out of card check, maybe the unions should ask for their money back: “The nonpartisan watchdog Center for Responsive Politics reports that the main Democratic sponsors of the Employee Free Choice Act — Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) — both collected over $1.7 million in union contributions over the last two decades.”

This takes the cake: “Delaware Sen. Tom Carper backs the bill but doesn’t want to get rid of the secret ballot. ‘I think that invites intimidation,’ he said.” So what exactly is he for? Scary that these people are running the country, isn’t it?

It is not just Republicans who are grousing about the administration: there is “a growing number of nervous Democrats on edge or at odds with some of the Obama’s administration’s plans on the economy.”

And economists don’t like Obama or Geithner: “President Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner received failing grades for their efforts to revive the economy from participants in the latest Wall Street Journal forecasting survey.”

Earmark hypocrisy? As John McCain explains, it’s very easy to get rid of earmarks — if you want to.

The headline says it all: “Obama decries earmarks, signs law with 9,000 of them.” Which explains why he signed it in private.

The Republicans and the New York Times  are both giving Obama a hard time for signing the omnibus spending bill. I guess New Politics means to do something outrageously irresponsible (e.g. the stimulus, the omnibus bill) and then have a dog-and-pony show (e.g. fiscal responsibility summit) promising not to do it again.

A vast “co-ordinated echo chamber.” It is apparently cooked up in an 8:45 a.m. call each day. (Maybe conservatives should get up early and do lots of whacky stuff before 7 a.m., confounding their opponents who haven’t yet figured out the line of the day.)

Jeffrey Goldberg, in the nicest way possible, says Chas Freeman and his supporters hanged themselves with their own whacked-out rhetoric.

A Republican wins the open seat on the quite powerful Fairfax Board of Supervisors in Northern Virginia. In Blue Virginia, land of Obama where Republicans are has-beens? Hmm.

David Broder thinks Freeman is low key. Plus he speaks Chinese. What a loss, Broder moans. (Where will the viewpoint of a raving paranoid come from without him?) But Broder makes clear: the White House wanted no part of Freeman. Someone there has more sense than Broder.

The problem with Obama’s Rush Limbaugh gambit, says Karl Rove: “Misdirection never lasts long. Team Obama can at best only temporarily distract the public; within days, attention will return to issues that clearly should worry the White House.” Crisis time will really hit when they run out of things to have summits about. (A “Summit On The Impact Of Summits”). This is why they put off the puppy purchase until spring — better be one cute pooch.

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Democracy, Shmemocracy

As the Orwellian-named “Employee Free Choice Act” — and its provision stripping workers of the right to a secret ballot on whether or not to accept a union — draws closer to a vote, the masks are finally slipping from its advocates. Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa Jr. has put out a press release lambasting the institution.

“This business about the Employee Free Choice Act taking away the secret ballot is nonsense spread by front groups for corporate fat cats who don’t want to give up their $16,000 wastebaskets,” Hoffa said.

“Since when is the secret ballot a basic tenet of democracy?” Hoffa said. “Town meetings in New England are as democratic as they come, and they don’t use the secret ballot. Elections in the Soviet Union were by secret ballot, but those weren’t democratic.”

Speaking as a lifetime New Englander who’s probably attended more town meetings than Mr. Hoffa, I can attest that they are, indeed, purest democracy. They are also a fading institution, with more and more towns moving towards actual secret ballots as the towns grow larger and the residents too busy to set aside an evening for civic affairs — and would prefer to take five to ten minutes to cast a ballot.

There is also a serious lack of historical intimidation — on either side — in town meetings. Special interests tend to do poorly in such contests. Indeed, they often tend to get the shaft, as a bit of “mob mentality” often takes hold and the townspeople tend to rally against being pushed around.

As to Mr. Hoffa’s other comparison, citing the Soviet Union — the late, little-lamented “worker’s paradise” that sang the praises of trade unions — is also inappropriate. In such cases as the Soviet Union, Cuba, and Saddam’s Iraq, the so-called “secret ballot” often contained a single candidate or party, leaving the voters the choice of voting for that person or group or leaving their ballot blank.

Further, there was seldom a truly “secret” ballot — tactics such as separate ballot boxes for different parties or blank ballots being rejected tended to make election results despairingly predictable.

But speaking of the Soviet Union, Josef Stalin famously said “it doesn’t matter who casts the ballots. What matters is who counts the ballots.” Stalin might be amused by the EFCA, which mandates that  unions not only get to make the ballots, but also get the electorate to cast their ballots in front of them.

As the Orwellian-named “Employee Free Choice Act” — and its provision stripping workers of the right to a secret ballot on whether or not to accept a union — draws closer to a vote, the masks are finally slipping from its advocates. Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa Jr. has put out a press release lambasting the institution.

“This business about the Employee Free Choice Act taking away the secret ballot is nonsense spread by front groups for corporate fat cats who don’t want to give up their $16,000 wastebaskets,” Hoffa said.

“Since when is the secret ballot a basic tenet of democracy?” Hoffa said. “Town meetings in New England are as democratic as they come, and they don’t use the secret ballot. Elections in the Soviet Union were by secret ballot, but those weren’t democratic.”

Speaking as a lifetime New Englander who’s probably attended more town meetings than Mr. Hoffa, I can attest that they are, indeed, purest democracy. They are also a fading institution, with more and more towns moving towards actual secret ballots as the towns grow larger and the residents too busy to set aside an evening for civic affairs — and would prefer to take five to ten minutes to cast a ballot.

There is also a serious lack of historical intimidation — on either side — in town meetings. Special interests tend to do poorly in such contests. Indeed, they often tend to get the shaft, as a bit of “mob mentality” often takes hold and the townspeople tend to rally against being pushed around.

As to Mr. Hoffa’s other comparison, citing the Soviet Union — the late, little-lamented “worker’s paradise” that sang the praises of trade unions — is also inappropriate. In such cases as the Soviet Union, Cuba, and Saddam’s Iraq, the so-called “secret ballot” often contained a single candidate or party, leaving the voters the choice of voting for that person or group or leaving their ballot blank.

Further, there was seldom a truly “secret” ballot — tactics such as separate ballot boxes for different parties or blank ballots being rejected tended to make election results despairingly predictable.

But speaking of the Soviet Union, Josef Stalin famously said “it doesn’t matter who casts the ballots. What matters is who counts the ballots.” Stalin might be amused by the EFCA, which mandates that  unions not only get to make the ballots, but also get the electorate to cast their ballots in front of them.

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Reporters, Conspiring with Freeman

The New York Times today essentially reprints Chas Freeman’s conspiratorial view of how his appointment as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council went down, in a story headlined “Israel Stance Was Undoing of Nominee for Intelligence Post.” There is no mention of Nancy Pelosi’s anger at Freeman’s support for the Tiananmen Square Massacre or the 87 Chinese dissidents and human rights activists who signed a letter in protest of his appointment. No mention of Frank Wolf’s angry package. “The reality of Washington is that our political landscape finds it difficult to assimilate any criticism of any segment of the Israeli leadership,” the Times quotes Robert W. Jordan. Who’s he? Like Freeman, a former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, one who now works in the Middle East practice of Baker Botts. Go figure. Having largely ignored this story for the past two weeks, the Times now puts this misleading piece on page 1.

A Washington Post story by Walter Pincus, meanwhile, is no better. Pincus, like the Timesmen, makes no effort to look past Freeman’s claims that he was done in by the “Israel Lobby,” ignoring the China angle. In this sense, both the Post and the Times were scooped and outshone by Newsweek, whose Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball discovered the real story, which is not as simplistic as Freeman or his defenders in the Juicebox Mafia would have us believe.

The New York Times today essentially reprints Chas Freeman’s conspiratorial view of how his appointment as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council went down, in a story headlined “Israel Stance Was Undoing of Nominee for Intelligence Post.” There is no mention of Nancy Pelosi’s anger at Freeman’s support for the Tiananmen Square Massacre or the 87 Chinese dissidents and human rights activists who signed a letter in protest of his appointment. No mention of Frank Wolf’s angry package. “The reality of Washington is that our political landscape finds it difficult to assimilate any criticism of any segment of the Israeli leadership,” the Times quotes Robert W. Jordan. Who’s he? Like Freeman, a former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, one who now works in the Middle East practice of Baker Botts. Go figure. Having largely ignored this story for the past two weeks, the Times now puts this misleading piece on page 1.

A Washington Post story by Walter Pincus, meanwhile, is no better. Pincus, like the Timesmen, makes no effort to look past Freeman’s claims that he was done in by the “Israel Lobby,” ignoring the China angle. In this sense, both the Post and the Times were scooped and outshone by Newsweek, whose Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball discovered the real story, which is not as simplistic as Freeman or his defenders in the Juicebox Mafia would have us believe.

Read Less




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