Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 22, 2009

A Perfect Mess

ABC news reports the latest from Robert Gibbs:

“We’ve had a at least two-year policy disagreement with the Vice President of the United States of America. That policy disagreement is whether or not you can uphold the values in which this country was founded at the same time that you protect the citizens that live in that country,” said Gibbs.  “The President of the United States and this administration believes that you can. The Vice President has come to, in our opinion, a different conclusion.”

So now they have chosen to criminalize that policy disagreement. Is this really what Democrats want? Plenty of Democrats seem to be getting nervous. Josh Gerstein reports:

President Barack Obama’s attempt to project legal and moral clarity on coercive CIA interrogation methods has instead done the opposite — creating confusion and political vulnerability over an issue that has inflamed both the left and right.

And even if Democrats doubt the damage the disclosure has inflicted, they certainly can’t avoid the political risk that this will swamp their entire agenda. Gerstein again:

[W]ith Cheney joining those seeking the disclosure of even more information about the CIA anti-terror program, White House officials’ fears that a cascading series of disclosures will distract from Obama’s ambitious domestic agenda seem even more prescient than before.

Democrats may be indifferent to the wreckage left behind at CIA, but, gosh, if healthcare might be imperiled this could be serious! What is serious is the leap into the abyss of destructive investigation the president has made — within twenty-four hours of a damage-control visit to CIA. No campaign-style rally or triage visit can solve this now.

ABC news reports the latest from Robert Gibbs:

“We’ve had a at least two-year policy disagreement with the Vice President of the United States of America. That policy disagreement is whether or not you can uphold the values in which this country was founded at the same time that you protect the citizens that live in that country,” said Gibbs.  “The President of the United States and this administration believes that you can. The Vice President has come to, in our opinion, a different conclusion.”

So now they have chosen to criminalize that policy disagreement. Is this really what Democrats want? Plenty of Democrats seem to be getting nervous. Josh Gerstein reports:

President Barack Obama’s attempt to project legal and moral clarity on coercive CIA interrogation methods has instead done the opposite — creating confusion and political vulnerability over an issue that has inflamed both the left and right.

And even if Democrats doubt the damage the disclosure has inflicted, they certainly can’t avoid the political risk that this will swamp their entire agenda. Gerstein again:

[W]ith Cheney joining those seeking the disclosure of even more information about the CIA anti-terror program, White House officials’ fears that a cascading series of disclosures will distract from Obama’s ambitious domestic agenda seem even more prescient than before.

Democrats may be indifferent to the wreckage left behind at CIA, but, gosh, if healthcare might be imperiled this could be serious! What is serious is the leap into the abyss of destructive investigation the president has made — within twenty-four hours of a damage-control visit to CIA. No campaign-style rally or triage visit can solve this now.

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Commentary of the Day

Pogo, on John Podhoretz:

What has gotten into liberals/leftists in this country? Reading the comments here, I’m simply dumbfounded that they don’t seem to understand that under the next Republican administration, we can find just as many “violations of law” as they think they saw under Bush. If authoring a memo that outlines the boundaries of what constitutes permissible interrogation methods in a manner that you disagree with is now criminal conduct, why shouldn’t that same logic be applied to judgments that have been and will be made by members of the Obama administration?

It seems that liberals have come to the collective conclusion that any opposition to their beliefs is by definition illegitimate, and therefore they have a more or less free hand to act out in manners that would seriously damage or destroy long-standing institutions in this nation, one of the most important of which is that losing elections doesn’t mean losing your freedom or life.

One of the disturbing trends we see with liberalism in American today is the notion that there is no logic, no rules, no principles. Their only guidance is their own id, unrestrained by the notion that maybe, just maybe, their strongly-held beliefs can be disagreed with in good faith by their political opponents.

Pogo, on John Podhoretz:

What has gotten into liberals/leftists in this country? Reading the comments here, I’m simply dumbfounded that they don’t seem to understand that under the next Republican administration, we can find just as many “violations of law” as they think they saw under Bush. If authoring a memo that outlines the boundaries of what constitutes permissible interrogation methods in a manner that you disagree with is now criminal conduct, why shouldn’t that same logic be applied to judgments that have been and will be made by members of the Obama administration?

It seems that liberals have come to the collective conclusion that any opposition to their beliefs is by definition illegitimate, and therefore they have a more or less free hand to act out in manners that would seriously damage or destroy long-standing institutions in this nation, one of the most important of which is that losing elections doesn’t mean losing your freedom or life.

One of the disturbing trends we see with liberalism in American today is the notion that there is no logic, no rules, no principles. Their only guidance is their own id, unrestrained by the notion that maybe, just maybe, their strongly-held beliefs can be disagreed with in good faith by their political opponents.

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Speak Truth to Power

In a thoughtful post, Pete Wehner writes:

We also need some Republicans leaders who have the courage and wisdom to push back against the mob. President Obama—the post-partisan, uniquely unifying, let’s-look-forward-and-not-backward candidate of hope and change—has detonated a debate he may well lose control over and which may prove to be deeply divisive and embittering for America.

In truth, both Democratic and Republican leaders need to take a stand. Today Senate Leader Mitch McConnell  offered this at a press conference:

The president made big deal, after coming to office, about looking forward and not looking backward. And I wish there were as much focus in this administration on policies that will keep us safe here in the United States. I think it’s important to remember, from 9/11 until the end of the Bush administration, not another single attack on the U.S. homeland. We were obviously doing something right. It wasn’t just good luck. And to the extent that the president wants to alter the fundamental policies that have kept us safe for the last eight years since 9/11, it’s a matter of some concern.

Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Sen. Kit Bond added this today at a presser:

The President can’t go to the CIA with reassurances one day and then the next day, turn around and leave the door open to prosecutions. Our terror fighters need to know whether the President has their back or will stab them in the back. . .It is time for the President to quit looking back and start looking forward to keep Americans safe from attacks.

Sens. McCain, Graham and Lieberman have written a letter to the president imploring him not to prosecute officials and warning of the dangers of criminalizing prior administration’s efforts.

This should not be a partisan affair. Those of good will on both sides of the aisle should look at where we are and where the president proposes we take the country. Will there be leaders from both parties in Congress who have the will and the legislative prowess to stand up and defend those who defended us at a time of great peril? Trying to talk back to power can be risky, we are told. Now would be a good time to start.

In a thoughtful post, Pete Wehner writes:

We also need some Republicans leaders who have the courage and wisdom to push back against the mob. President Obama—the post-partisan, uniquely unifying, let’s-look-forward-and-not-backward candidate of hope and change—has detonated a debate he may well lose control over and which may prove to be deeply divisive and embittering for America.

In truth, both Democratic and Republican leaders need to take a stand. Today Senate Leader Mitch McConnell  offered this at a press conference:

The president made big deal, after coming to office, about looking forward and not looking backward. And I wish there were as much focus in this administration on policies that will keep us safe here in the United States. I think it’s important to remember, from 9/11 until the end of the Bush administration, not another single attack on the U.S. homeland. We were obviously doing something right. It wasn’t just good luck. And to the extent that the president wants to alter the fundamental policies that have kept us safe for the last eight years since 9/11, it’s a matter of some concern.

Vice Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Sen. Kit Bond added this today at a presser:

The President can’t go to the CIA with reassurances one day and then the next day, turn around and leave the door open to prosecutions. Our terror fighters need to know whether the President has their back or will stab them in the back. . .It is time for the President to quit looking back and start looking forward to keep Americans safe from attacks.

Sens. McCain, Graham and Lieberman have written a letter to the president imploring him not to prosecute officials and warning of the dangers of criminalizing prior administration’s efforts.

This should not be a partisan affair. Those of good will on both sides of the aisle should look at where we are and where the president proposes we take the country. Will there be leaders from both parties in Congress who have the will and the legislative prowess to stand up and defend those who defended us at a time of great peril? Trying to talk back to power can be risky, we are told. Now would be a good time to start.

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If They Really Think It’s All About Education . . .

Gilbert Sewall of the American Textbook Council conducted a study of the nation’s most popular junior and senior high-school history textbooks. Here are his disturbing results:

[I]n the 1990s, “jihad” – which has many meanings, among them “sacred” or “holy” struggle but also “holy war” – was defined in the Houghton Mifflin junior high school book only as a struggle “to do one’s best to resist temptation and overcome evil.”  . . . Yet, as ATC notes, “by 2005, Houghton Mifflin apparently had removed jihad from its entire series of social studies textbooks.” . . . Holt Rinehart Winston’s 2006 “Medieval to Early Modern Times” junior high textbook states simply, “[Sharia] sets rewards for good behavior and punishments for crimes.” Another popular history textbook states, “Muslim law requires that Muslim leaders offer religious toleration.”  . . . Descriptions of Islam since 9/11 are particularly disturbing. Though Islamic extremism has become a fact of life throughout much of the world, most of the reviewed textbooks suggest instead that poverty, ignorance, and the existence of Israel are at the root of terrorism. . . One book describes the Crusades as “religious wars launched against Muslims by European Christians.” But when Muslims attacked Christians and took their land, the process is referred to as “building” an empire. . . A McDougal Littell volume claims that non-Muslims in Muslim-ruled territories converted to Islam because “they were attracted by Islam’s message of equality and hope for salvation.”

Does it strike anyone as funny that the same American Left that cites poor education as the root cause of terrorism promotes Islamist propaganda in American textbooks? Kind of makes you wonder what that crowd would do if they ever got their way and combated jihad by changing school curricula in Muslim countries. We’re probably getting off easy among the youth of Yemen compared to what the California Board of Education would wean them on.

Gilbert Sewall of the American Textbook Council conducted a study of the nation’s most popular junior and senior high-school history textbooks. Here are his disturbing results:

[I]n the 1990s, “jihad” – which has many meanings, among them “sacred” or “holy” struggle but also “holy war” – was defined in the Houghton Mifflin junior high school book only as a struggle “to do one’s best to resist temptation and overcome evil.”  . . . Yet, as ATC notes, “by 2005, Houghton Mifflin apparently had removed jihad from its entire series of social studies textbooks.” . . . Holt Rinehart Winston’s 2006 “Medieval to Early Modern Times” junior high textbook states simply, “[Sharia] sets rewards for good behavior and punishments for crimes.” Another popular history textbook states, “Muslim law requires that Muslim leaders offer religious toleration.”  . . . Descriptions of Islam since 9/11 are particularly disturbing. Though Islamic extremism has become a fact of life throughout much of the world, most of the reviewed textbooks suggest instead that poverty, ignorance, and the existence of Israel are at the root of terrorism. . . One book describes the Crusades as “religious wars launched against Muslims by European Christians.” But when Muslims attacked Christians and took their land, the process is referred to as “building” an empire. . . A McDougal Littell volume claims that non-Muslims in Muslim-ruled territories converted to Islam because “they were attracted by Islam’s message of equality and hope for salvation.”

Does it strike anyone as funny that the same American Left that cites poor education as the root cause of terrorism promotes Islamist propaganda in American textbooks? Kind of makes you wonder what that crowd would do if they ever got their way and combated jihad by changing school curricula in Muslim countries. We’re probably getting off easy among the youth of Yemen compared to what the California Board of Education would wean them on.

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“Odd” and Much, Much More

Stephen Hayes reviews the selective leaking of the memos on enhanced interrogation techniques and the comments from Vice President Cheney that there is more evidence out there of benefits we derived from them than the Obama team is revealing. Hayes writes:

It is possible, I suppose, that a series of fortunate coincidences has resulted in the public disclosure of only that information that will be politically helpful to the Obama administration. It is also possible that Dick Cheney has taken up synchronized swimming in his retirement.

The danger here for the Obama administration is three-fold. First, the press has begun a feeding frenzy: Why did the administration change position on prosecution? Why the selective leaks? Even if sympathetic to the decision itself, nothing gets the White House press corps going like a game-playing bit of media deception. And they now have a big juicy story on that front.

Second, a high stakes hyper-partisan battle complete with leaking memos and an aggrieved CIA contingent is likely the last thing the Obama administration needs. This is the Church Committee on steroids — a national angst festival where one side will make the case that by lighting the match the president has hobbled our national security apparatus. So much for No-Drama Obama.

Finally, it is hard not to conclude that the Bush administration will come out looking better at the end of this, and its critics, worse. A planned attack on Los Angeles — what would you do? A congressional contingent visits the detention center, queries the officials to make sure we’re doing “enough” and now convenes the witch hunt. How’s that going to look?

This is, as Hayes writes in understated terms, one “odd” episode in American history. The oddest perhaps yet. No administration before has declared war on its predecessor, and for good reason: you can’t do it without tearing the country and our national security apparatus apart. For someone pledging to be post-partisan and to avoid destructive recriminations, Obama has chosen a very “odd” course. He has done more to criminalize politics than any single figure in American history — no easy feat for someone in office less than one hundred days.

Stephen Hayes reviews the selective leaking of the memos on enhanced interrogation techniques and the comments from Vice President Cheney that there is more evidence out there of benefits we derived from them than the Obama team is revealing. Hayes writes:

It is possible, I suppose, that a series of fortunate coincidences has resulted in the public disclosure of only that information that will be politically helpful to the Obama administration. It is also possible that Dick Cheney has taken up synchronized swimming in his retirement.

The danger here for the Obama administration is three-fold. First, the press has begun a feeding frenzy: Why did the administration change position on prosecution? Why the selective leaks? Even if sympathetic to the decision itself, nothing gets the White House press corps going like a game-playing bit of media deception. And they now have a big juicy story on that front.

Second, a high stakes hyper-partisan battle complete with leaking memos and an aggrieved CIA contingent is likely the last thing the Obama administration needs. This is the Church Committee on steroids — a national angst festival where one side will make the case that by lighting the match the president has hobbled our national security apparatus. So much for No-Drama Obama.

Finally, it is hard not to conclude that the Bush administration will come out looking better at the end of this, and its critics, worse. A planned attack on Los Angeles — what would you do? A congressional contingent visits the detention center, queries the officials to make sure we’re doing “enough” and now convenes the witch hunt. How’s that going to look?

This is, as Hayes writes in understated terms, one “odd” episode in American history. The oddest perhaps yet. No administration before has declared war on its predecessor, and for good reason: you can’t do it without tearing the country and our national security apparatus apart. For someone pledging to be post-partisan and to avoid destructive recriminations, Obama has chosen a very “odd” course. He has done more to criminalize politics than any single figure in American history — no easy feat for someone in office less than one hundred days.

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Take Me to Your Someone

Yet another Republican has fallen into the trap of discussing whether or not Rush Limbaugh is the head of the Republican party.

This is a fun little game, apparently concocted in daily conference calls between White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Democratic operatives James Carville and Paul Begala, and ABC News’ George Stephanopolous. It involves finding some Republican and buttonholing him on whether or not Rush Limbaugh is the head of the GOP, as the fur flies over the answer.

It’s a clever move: Right now the Republican party doesn’t have a clear leader. Michael Steele is the party chairman and John McCain was the party’s most recent nominee for president, but neither has a solid lock on the position of “leader.” There’s a strong case to be made that the GOP doesn’t have any veritable “leader” at the moment.

This shouldn’t be an urgent problem for them. The next election isn’t scheduled until a year and a half from now. The party can take a little time to step back, regroup, and rethink matters a bit.

Yet like nature, politics abhors a vacuum. With no prominent Republican to step forward and assume the leadership role, these leading Democrats (using the resources of their party — the White House, and ABC News) are pushing a scheme to turn Rush Limbaugh into the “face” of the GOP. So far they have been successful at stirring up fights between those Republican politicians they’ve managed to entangle in this debate.

By affirming that Limbaugh is their leader, Republicans would be slighting Steele. If they deny Limbaugh as their leader, they would be alienating his millions of fans. If in the course of their renunciation of Limbaugh’s leadership they get baited into making any less-than-flattering statement about him (no matter how trivial), they can be goaded into backpedaling and apologizing — an implicit acknowledgment of Limbaugh’s supremacy.

Limbaugh himself is largely ignoring this stunt. He’s more adept at countering direct attacks — such as when Media Matters conned every single Democrat in the Senate into signing a condemning letter to Limbaugh’s syndicator — he took that letter and spun it into a multimillion-dollar auction (matched by his own funds) for a charity, garnered a ton of good publicity for himself, and put the Democratic signatories on the defensive.

Rush Limbaugh is not the leader of the Republican Party. Michael Steele is its chairman, but the GOP is still working out precisely who its strategic leader will be, going forward.

Yet another Republican has fallen into the trap of discussing whether or not Rush Limbaugh is the head of the Republican party.

This is a fun little game, apparently concocted in daily conference calls between White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Democratic operatives James Carville and Paul Begala, and ABC News’ George Stephanopolous. It involves finding some Republican and buttonholing him on whether or not Rush Limbaugh is the head of the GOP, as the fur flies over the answer.

It’s a clever move: Right now the Republican party doesn’t have a clear leader. Michael Steele is the party chairman and John McCain was the party’s most recent nominee for president, but neither has a solid lock on the position of “leader.” There’s a strong case to be made that the GOP doesn’t have any veritable “leader” at the moment.

This shouldn’t be an urgent problem for them. The next election isn’t scheduled until a year and a half from now. The party can take a little time to step back, regroup, and rethink matters a bit.

Yet like nature, politics abhors a vacuum. With no prominent Republican to step forward and assume the leadership role, these leading Democrats (using the resources of their party — the White House, and ABC News) are pushing a scheme to turn Rush Limbaugh into the “face” of the GOP. So far they have been successful at stirring up fights between those Republican politicians they’ve managed to entangle in this debate.

By affirming that Limbaugh is their leader, Republicans would be slighting Steele. If they deny Limbaugh as their leader, they would be alienating his millions of fans. If in the course of their renunciation of Limbaugh’s leadership they get baited into making any less-than-flattering statement about him (no matter how trivial), they can be goaded into backpedaling and apologizing — an implicit acknowledgment of Limbaugh’s supremacy.

Limbaugh himself is largely ignoring this stunt. He’s more adept at countering direct attacks — such as when Media Matters conned every single Democrat in the Senate into signing a condemning letter to Limbaugh’s syndicator — he took that letter and spun it into a multimillion-dollar auction (matched by his own funds) for a charity, garnered a ton of good publicity for himself, and put the Democratic signatories on the defensive.

Rush Limbaugh is not the leader of the Republican Party. Michael Steele is its chairman, but the GOP is still working out precisely who its strategic leader will be, going forward.

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Humiliating Indeed

The Washington Post editors observe the Iranians’ nabbing of Roxana Saberi and incarceration of ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson, the brazen advancement of their nuclear program, and Ahmadinejad’s performance at Durban II. They conclude:

What Iran is doing is inviting Mr. Obama to humiliate his new administration by launching talks with the regime even while it is conspicuously expanding its nuclear program, campaigning to delegitimize and destroy Israel and imprisoning innocent Americans. Mr. Ahmadinejad’s unlikely concern for Ms. Saberi’s defense, along with other regime statements suggesting her sentence could be reduced, sound like an offer to make her a bargaining chip — to be exchanged, perhaps, for members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps who are in U.S. custody in Iraq.

Mr. Obama has always said that talks with Iran must be conducted under the right circumstances and in a way that advances U.S. interests. The administration won’t meet that test if it allows negotiations to become a means of vindicating Mr. Ahmadinejad’s radical agenda. It should postpone any contact until after the Iranian election in June — and it should look for clear signs that Iran is acting in good faith before talks begin. The unconditional release of Ms. Saberi and Mr. Levinson would be one.

That is entirely sound advice, but is the president moved by the notion that it is bad to humiliate his administration and country? The answer isn’t at all clear. He was the one who went on TV to apologize for imagined slights inflicted by the U.S. on the Muslim world. It is his administration that gave up the precondition of abiding by the UN resolution (barring Iran from progressing with its nuclear program) before talks commence.

In other words, Obama has invited this by humbling himself before the mullahs. That is the game: he ingratiates and they slap back. He goes the next step to further ingratiate himself even more and they insult more loudly. And soon they have established that they are calling the shots. And they make clear that they have cowed him into accepting any behavior so as not to disrupt hope for “progress.” Because the president is persistent, you see, he won’t give up.

This, of course, makes it infinitely harder, if not impossible, to convince the Iranians later on that we do have limits (we do, right?) and that they will be ill-served by continuing to test American resolve. Why shouldn’t they keep it up, after all? Look what’s it’s getting them.

The Washington Post editors observe the Iranians’ nabbing of Roxana Saberi and incarceration of ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson, the brazen advancement of their nuclear program, and Ahmadinejad’s performance at Durban II. They conclude:

What Iran is doing is inviting Mr. Obama to humiliate his new administration by launching talks with the regime even while it is conspicuously expanding its nuclear program, campaigning to delegitimize and destroy Israel and imprisoning innocent Americans. Mr. Ahmadinejad’s unlikely concern for Ms. Saberi’s defense, along with other regime statements suggesting her sentence could be reduced, sound like an offer to make her a bargaining chip — to be exchanged, perhaps, for members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps who are in U.S. custody in Iraq.

Mr. Obama has always said that talks with Iran must be conducted under the right circumstances and in a way that advances U.S. interests. The administration won’t meet that test if it allows negotiations to become a means of vindicating Mr. Ahmadinejad’s radical agenda. It should postpone any contact until after the Iranian election in June — and it should look for clear signs that Iran is acting in good faith before talks begin. The unconditional release of Ms. Saberi and Mr. Levinson would be one.

That is entirely sound advice, but is the president moved by the notion that it is bad to humiliate his administration and country? The answer isn’t at all clear. He was the one who went on TV to apologize for imagined slights inflicted by the U.S. on the Muslim world. It is his administration that gave up the precondition of abiding by the UN resolution (barring Iran from progressing with its nuclear program) before talks commence.

In other words, Obama has invited this by humbling himself before the mullahs. That is the game: he ingratiates and they slap back. He goes the next step to further ingratiate himself even more and they insult more loudly. And soon they have established that they are calling the shots. And they make clear that they have cowed him into accepting any behavior so as not to disrupt hope for “progress.” Because the president is persistent, you see, he won’t give up.

This, of course, makes it infinitely harder, if not impossible, to convince the Iranians later on that we do have limits (we do, right?) and that they will be ill-served by continuing to test American resolve. Why shouldn’t they keep it up, after all? Look what’s it’s getting them.

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The Pursuit of Officials Now Out of Office

David Frum makes an important point today about the innovative approach on policy differences unveiled this week in Washington by the Obama Administration and the Senate Intelligence Committee: It appears that winning an election and taking control of Congress will no longer be sufficient for the political mob. Rather, those now out of office will have to spend their time as private citizens being pursued by committees and possibly prosecutors for the views they expressed and actions they took when they were serving in the executive branch under different political management. Frum:

Now Obama is musing about extending the political reach of the criminal law. If he does so, he will find he has opened a new front of political warfare that will not soon end.

After the 9/11 attacks, President Bush drew a curtain of oblivion against all the errors and mistakes that had led up to the attacks. There was accusation and counter-accusation in the media, but at the official level there was no recrimination against President Clinton’s decision not to kill bin Laden when he had the chance, no action against those who had failed to stop the 9/11 hijackers from entering the country.

If Obama proceeds to take legal action against those who did what they thought was right to defend the country, all that will change. Prosecutions launched by Obama will not stop when Obama declares “game over.” If overzealousness under Bush becomes a crime under Obama, underzealousness under Obama will become a crime under the next Republican president.

Revenge will be exacted for revenge, the costs of government service will escalate, mobilizing cross-party support will become practically impossible for any important action, and the political life of the American republic will take another step toward the play-for-keeps destructiveness of the last days of the Roman republic.

It’s a nightmare future. Let’s banish the possibility now.

A few years ago, when Scooter Libby was indicted for the crime of — I’m still not sure what, exactly — oh, yes, supposedly leaking information to journalists who did not actually publish anything on the subject at hand and then lying about it to a grand jury when no one could actually make sense of the chronology being offered up by the Savoranola who was pursuing him, it occurred to be that a Rubicon really had been crossed. To wit: You should have your head examined if you go work in a senior job in the executive branch of the United States government.

Since the Reagan years, every administration has had senior officials hauled before special prosecutors, prosecutors, and Congressional committees. It would appear, based on these records, that there is a measurable risk that if you take a job, you will at the very least be pursued by someone who wishes to charge you with a crime or get you to nail someone else who they think has committed a crime. That risk is somewhere between 10 and 20 percent, and rises the closer you get to the president.

Now, think of what this means. Forget being indicted or convicted — obviously, those are horrifying possibilities. Just think about getting called before a Senate investigating committee. Or a grand jury. Every time a question is asked, a lawyer needs to be engaged. Every time a lawyer is involved, a bill is generated.  Maggie Williams, who was Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff when Mrs. Clinton was First Lady, found herself saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees owing to investigations of Whitewater. She is not a wealthy woman. She went to work as a public servant at a very respectable but hardly rich-person’s salary, and found herself poverty-stricken by a political investigation of which she was not even the focus.

Now, it appears, John Yoo and Steven Bradbury and others will find themselves similarly under vicious financial pressure, and why? For offering advice and counsel that was requested of them as part of their ongoing fulfillment of their public responsibilities. It was one thing when their names were being dragged through the mud — now their lives are going to be dragged through the mud.

If this goes forward, and I mean this seriously, anyone reading this blog post who is a friend of or a relative of someone working in high precincts in the Obama administration had better strongly advise their loved one to quit and get the hell out of Washington. Because it won’t end here. Because it is all political, in the end. Because one day, they will be caught in the vise just as surely.

David Frum makes an important point today about the innovative approach on policy differences unveiled this week in Washington by the Obama Administration and the Senate Intelligence Committee: It appears that winning an election and taking control of Congress will no longer be sufficient for the political mob. Rather, those now out of office will have to spend their time as private citizens being pursued by committees and possibly prosecutors for the views they expressed and actions they took when they were serving in the executive branch under different political management. Frum:

Now Obama is musing about extending the political reach of the criminal law. If he does so, he will find he has opened a new front of political warfare that will not soon end.

After the 9/11 attacks, President Bush drew a curtain of oblivion against all the errors and mistakes that had led up to the attacks. There was accusation and counter-accusation in the media, but at the official level there was no recrimination against President Clinton’s decision not to kill bin Laden when he had the chance, no action against those who had failed to stop the 9/11 hijackers from entering the country.

If Obama proceeds to take legal action against those who did what they thought was right to defend the country, all that will change. Prosecutions launched by Obama will not stop when Obama declares “game over.” If overzealousness under Bush becomes a crime under Obama, underzealousness under Obama will become a crime under the next Republican president.

Revenge will be exacted for revenge, the costs of government service will escalate, mobilizing cross-party support will become practically impossible for any important action, and the political life of the American republic will take another step toward the play-for-keeps destructiveness of the last days of the Roman republic.

It’s a nightmare future. Let’s banish the possibility now.

A few years ago, when Scooter Libby was indicted for the crime of — I’m still not sure what, exactly — oh, yes, supposedly leaking information to journalists who did not actually publish anything on the subject at hand and then lying about it to a grand jury when no one could actually make sense of the chronology being offered up by the Savoranola who was pursuing him, it occurred to be that a Rubicon really had been crossed. To wit: You should have your head examined if you go work in a senior job in the executive branch of the United States government.

Since the Reagan years, every administration has had senior officials hauled before special prosecutors, prosecutors, and Congressional committees. It would appear, based on these records, that there is a measurable risk that if you take a job, you will at the very least be pursued by someone who wishes to charge you with a crime or get you to nail someone else who they think has committed a crime. That risk is somewhere between 10 and 20 percent, and rises the closer you get to the president.

Now, think of what this means. Forget being indicted or convicted — obviously, those are horrifying possibilities. Just think about getting called before a Senate investigating committee. Or a grand jury. Every time a question is asked, a lawyer needs to be engaged. Every time a lawyer is involved, a bill is generated.  Maggie Williams, who was Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff when Mrs. Clinton was First Lady, found herself saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees owing to investigations of Whitewater. She is not a wealthy woman. She went to work as a public servant at a very respectable but hardly rich-person’s salary, and found herself poverty-stricken by a political investigation of which she was not even the focus.

Now, it appears, John Yoo and Steven Bradbury and others will find themselves similarly under vicious financial pressure, and why? For offering advice and counsel that was requested of them as part of their ongoing fulfillment of their public responsibilities. It was one thing when their names were being dragged through the mud — now their lives are going to be dragged through the mud.

If this goes forward, and I mean this seriously, anyone reading this blog post who is a friend of or a relative of someone working in high precincts in the Obama administration had better strongly advise their loved one to quit and get the hell out of Washington. Because it won’t end here. Because it is all political, in the end. Because one day, they will be caught in the vise just as surely.

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“Yes, but” or “No”

Israel’s mainstream media is shocked and amazed at Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s comments that the Arab Initiative “is a dangerous plan, a recipe for Israel’s destruction.” Labor Party members still opposed to Ehud Barak joining Netanyahu’s government immediately seized this opportunity to illustrate why joining the coalition was a wrong move. After all, just three days ago Barak was urging the government “to offer the Palestinians an Israeli peace initiative based on the Arab Peace Initiative.”

Lieberman’s comments have reignited the debate regarding possible clashes between the U.S. and Israel over the peace process. This controversy erupted just days after the Obama administration referred to the Arab Initiative positively.

However, examining the historical record would pour cold water over the outrage at Lieberman’s comments. No Israeli government has accepted the Arab offer so far, and I do not expect any future government to accept it — unless the Initiative is fundamentally altered. When Lieberman claims the Initiative is dangerous, he refers to the version presented in the past — one that includes Israeli withdrawal to the ’67 border with no land-swaps and no recognition of “new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, [that makes it] unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.” Bush’s 2004 letter to Ariel Sharon clearly validates these concerns.

Thus, the difference between Lieberman’s position and Barak’s seems to be one of tone rather than of substance. According to a report regarding the next round of negotiations — which are coming up soon, “The United States is interested in promoting the peace process through a series of confidence-building gestures between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Arab states.”

In the dialogue about “confidence-building,” Barak believes Israel should say “yes, but,” while Lieberman believes in saying “no.” This seeming discrepancy could be interpreted as little more than diplomatic role-playing: Barak is the good cop, Lieberman the bad cop — which leaves Netanyahu right at the center of his coalition, where he wants to be.

Israel’s mainstream media is shocked and amazed at Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s comments that the Arab Initiative “is a dangerous plan, a recipe for Israel’s destruction.” Labor Party members still opposed to Ehud Barak joining Netanyahu’s government immediately seized this opportunity to illustrate why joining the coalition was a wrong move. After all, just three days ago Barak was urging the government “to offer the Palestinians an Israeli peace initiative based on the Arab Peace Initiative.”

Lieberman’s comments have reignited the debate regarding possible clashes between the U.S. and Israel over the peace process. This controversy erupted just days after the Obama administration referred to the Arab Initiative positively.

However, examining the historical record would pour cold water over the outrage at Lieberman’s comments. No Israeli government has accepted the Arab offer so far, and I do not expect any future government to accept it — unless the Initiative is fundamentally altered. When Lieberman claims the Initiative is dangerous, he refers to the version presented in the past — one that includes Israeli withdrawal to the ’67 border with no land-swaps and no recognition of “new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, [that makes it] unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.” Bush’s 2004 letter to Ariel Sharon clearly validates these concerns.

Thus, the difference between Lieberman’s position and Barak’s seems to be one of tone rather than of substance. According to a report regarding the next round of negotiations — which are coming up soon, “The United States is interested in promoting the peace process through a series of confidence-building gestures between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Arab states.”

In the dialogue about “confidence-building,” Barak believes Israel should say “yes, but,” while Lieberman believes in saying “no.” This seeming discrepancy could be interpreted as little more than diplomatic role-playing: Barak is the good cop, Lieberman the bad cop — which leaves Netanyahu right at the center of his coalition, where he wants to be.

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The Damage Done

David Ignatius thinks release of the interrogation memos serves the purpose of improving America’s image. I disagree, but at least he is honest enough to admit the damage done:

Obama seems to think he can have it both ways — authorizing an unprecedented disclosure of CIA operational methods and at the same time galvanizing a clandestine service whose best days, he told them Monday, are “yet to come.” Life doesn’t work that way — even for charismatic politicians. Disclosure of the torture memos may have been necessary, as part of an overdue campaign to change America’s image in the world. But nobody should pretend that the disclosures weren’t costly to CIA morale and effectiveness.

As a result of the disclosure,  Ignatius explains, we see that agents are more cautious, the CIA doesn’t want to interrogate anyone under any rules, and we now have a group of “broken and bewildered” operatives who foolishly believed one administration wouldn’t pull the rug out from under those who acted on legal advice from another. Ignatius wants Obama now to tell the howling  crowds to pipe down and put any “truth commission” behind closed doors.

So we are back to good old fashioned secrecy because we’ve learned. . . what exactly? That “unburdening ourselves” entails human costs we cannot calculate; that in the great “moral” act of disclosure (well, not disclosing everything, we learn from the Gray Lady) we have to weigh the great immorality of empowering our enemies and betraying our own officials; and that starting a national feeding frenzy is destructive and threatens to engulf most of the political oxygen, perhaps endangering the new administration’s broader agenda. (Think of the parallel history in which Ford didn’t pardon Nixon and the trial went on for months.)

It is very hard for those on the Left to give up the notion that all this revelation was “necessary.” But if they now have had quite enough and see what they have wrought that is progress, I suppose. They may be learning that there are higher values than displaying our past deeds for the sake of currying applause, as if we were a washed up celebrity on Oprah. The damage however can’t be undone and the mob, I strongly suspect, won’t stand for putting this behind closed doors. Ignatius  expects the president to stand up to those crying for more blood. Good luck with that. Standing up to the crowd has not been his strong suit.

David Ignatius thinks release of the interrogation memos serves the purpose of improving America’s image. I disagree, but at least he is honest enough to admit the damage done:

Obama seems to think he can have it both ways — authorizing an unprecedented disclosure of CIA operational methods and at the same time galvanizing a clandestine service whose best days, he told them Monday, are “yet to come.” Life doesn’t work that way — even for charismatic politicians. Disclosure of the torture memos may have been necessary, as part of an overdue campaign to change America’s image in the world. But nobody should pretend that the disclosures weren’t costly to CIA morale and effectiveness.

As a result of the disclosure,  Ignatius explains, we see that agents are more cautious, the CIA doesn’t want to interrogate anyone under any rules, and we now have a group of “broken and bewildered” operatives who foolishly believed one administration wouldn’t pull the rug out from under those who acted on legal advice from another. Ignatius wants Obama now to tell the howling  crowds to pipe down and put any “truth commission” behind closed doors.

So we are back to good old fashioned secrecy because we’ve learned. . . what exactly? That “unburdening ourselves” entails human costs we cannot calculate; that in the great “moral” act of disclosure (well, not disclosing everything, we learn from the Gray Lady) we have to weigh the great immorality of empowering our enemies and betraying our own officials; and that starting a national feeding frenzy is destructive and threatens to engulf most of the political oxygen, perhaps endangering the new administration’s broader agenda. (Think of the parallel history in which Ford didn’t pardon Nixon and the trial went on for months.)

It is very hard for those on the Left to give up the notion that all this revelation was “necessary.” But if they now have had quite enough and see what they have wrought that is progress, I suppose. They may be learning that there are higher values than displaying our past deeds for the sake of currying applause, as if we were a washed up celebrity on Oprah. The damage however can’t be undone and the mob, I strongly suspect, won’t stand for putting this behind closed doors. Ignatius  expects the president to stand up to those crying for more blood. Good luck with that. Standing up to the crowd has not been his strong suit.

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Talking it Through

A breakthrough in the “Islamic Republic of Iran”:

Iran welcomes a “constructive” dialogue with world powers over its nuclear program — but insisted that it won’t halt its uranium enrichment activities, the official IRNA news agency reported Wednesday.

We can forget about the whole pre-conditions scuttlebutt. Post-conditions are out the window. Tehran is signaling in advance that any talks between Iran and other nations will not work. Of course, Barack Obama claims his apologetic ever-engaged approach will elicit cooperation “at the margins” of larger differences. Let’s be absurdly generous and say he’s right. There are no margins here. It’s a binary proposal: Iran goes nuclear or it doesn’t — and we already know we’re heading for a one, not a zero.

We’re down to talking about talking, touting the virtues of the very act itself apart from any effect on matters outside the realm of conversation. The White House mentions the benefits of dialogue and Tehran does the same. The White House says it wishes to talk to Iran “with respect,” and Tehran says it looks forward to being talked to “with respect.” The White House says it will not invoke threats when talking to Iran, and Iran says it will not be threatened in talks with the U.S. But after all the faux niceties and the pop-psychology affirmations are in place, what’s left to say constructively, respectfully, unthreateningly, and with a cherry on top?

“Nice centrifuges.”

A breakthrough in the “Islamic Republic of Iran”:

Iran welcomes a “constructive” dialogue with world powers over its nuclear program — but insisted that it won’t halt its uranium enrichment activities, the official IRNA news agency reported Wednesday.

We can forget about the whole pre-conditions scuttlebutt. Post-conditions are out the window. Tehran is signaling in advance that any talks between Iran and other nations will not work. Of course, Barack Obama claims his apologetic ever-engaged approach will elicit cooperation “at the margins” of larger differences. Let’s be absurdly generous and say he’s right. There are no margins here. It’s a binary proposal: Iran goes nuclear or it doesn’t — and we already know we’re heading for a one, not a zero.

We’re down to talking about talking, touting the virtues of the very act itself apart from any effect on matters outside the realm of conversation. The White House mentions the benefits of dialogue and Tehran does the same. The White House says it wishes to talk to Iran “with respect,” and Tehran says it looks forward to being talked to “with respect.” The White House says it will not invoke threats when talking to Iran, and Iran says it will not be threatened in talks with the U.S. But after all the faux niceties and the pop-psychology affirmations are in place, what’s left to say constructively, respectfully, unthreateningly, and with a cherry on top?

“Nice centrifuges.”

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Above It All — Still

Dorothy Rabinowitz, in a brilliant must-read column, adds this important observation regarding the Obama apology tour:

No sitting American president had ever delivered indictments of this kind while abroad, or for that matter at home, or been so ostentatiously modest about the character and accomplishment of the nation he led. He was mediator, an agent of change, a judge, apportioning blame — and he was above the battle.

[ . . .]Since that bridge too far to Europe, ordinary Americans, including some who voted for Mr. Obama, have shown evidence of a quiet but durable resentment over the list of grievances against the United States that the president brought to the world’s attention while overseas. There are certain things that can’t be taken back. There are images that are hard to forget. Anger of this kind has an enduring power that could, in the end, haunt this presidency.

Rabinowitz suggests that Obama is forfeiting his moral standing with ordinary citizens (Americans, that is). We expect our president to defend and explain our country to the world; in failing to do so he has, in a sense, abdicated his role as the chief spokesman his voters. The danger, as Rabinowitz argues, is that ordinary Americans will become angered at what is perceived to be a betrayal of them. To paraphrase the Godfather, Part II (from which much wisdom can be extracted), presidents should not take take sides with any other nation, against their country . .  . ever. It is perceived as unseemly, at the very least.

We’ve seen this before from Obama – as he condescendingly described the gun and Bible clingers during the campaign. He is, he tells his posh friends, quite above that sort of thing and is intellectually sophisticated enough to explain what the little people are up to. His high-brow analysis of American faults does not stop at the water’s edge. Indeed, he fancies himself such a cosmopolitan that he believes he can bond with foreign leaders outside the confines of nationalism and thereby “get along.” He takes no offense to the anti-American book Chavez gives him because he’s a reader — even Leftist vitriol can make it onto his nightstand. (Stop and think: if this had occurred before the election, could Obama have won?)

It remains to be seen what lasting impact, if any, this trip will have. Is Obama smart enough to change course, as he did when a chorus of both supporters and critics told him to stop the gloom-and-doom routine about the economy? One hopes he will recognize that he is not simply president but our president — and begin to sound like this is a source of infinite pride.

Dorothy Rabinowitz, in a brilliant must-read column, adds this important observation regarding the Obama apology tour:

No sitting American president had ever delivered indictments of this kind while abroad, or for that matter at home, or been so ostentatiously modest about the character and accomplishment of the nation he led. He was mediator, an agent of change, a judge, apportioning blame — and he was above the battle.

[ . . .]Since that bridge too far to Europe, ordinary Americans, including some who voted for Mr. Obama, have shown evidence of a quiet but durable resentment over the list of grievances against the United States that the president brought to the world’s attention while overseas. There are certain things that can’t be taken back. There are images that are hard to forget. Anger of this kind has an enduring power that could, in the end, haunt this presidency.

Rabinowitz suggests that Obama is forfeiting his moral standing with ordinary citizens (Americans, that is). We expect our president to defend and explain our country to the world; in failing to do so he has, in a sense, abdicated his role as the chief spokesman his voters. The danger, as Rabinowitz argues, is that ordinary Americans will become angered at what is perceived to be a betrayal of them. To paraphrase the Godfather, Part II (from which much wisdom can be extracted), presidents should not take take sides with any other nation, against their country . .  . ever. It is perceived as unseemly, at the very least.

We’ve seen this before from Obama – as he condescendingly described the gun and Bible clingers during the campaign. He is, he tells his posh friends, quite above that sort of thing and is intellectually sophisticated enough to explain what the little people are up to. His high-brow analysis of American faults does not stop at the water’s edge. Indeed, he fancies himself such a cosmopolitan that he believes he can bond with foreign leaders outside the confines of nationalism and thereby “get along.” He takes no offense to the anti-American book Chavez gives him because he’s a reader — even Leftist vitriol can make it onto his nightstand. (Stop and think: if this had occurred before the election, could Obama have won?)

It remains to be seen what lasting impact, if any, this trip will have. Is Obama smart enough to change course, as he did when a chorus of both supporters and critics told him to stop the gloom-and-doom routine about the economy? One hopes he will recognize that he is not simply president but our president — and begin to sound like this is a source of infinite pride.

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Ahmadinejad Stinks Up Geneva

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a blistering tirade against Israel on Monday at the supposedly “anti-racist” Durban II conference in Geneva, Switzerland, and dozens of national delegates from Europe walked out in disgust. The sheer number of people who refused to sit there and listen to him must be seen to be believed. His bad reception didn’t end there. Hundreds of protesters followed him as he delivered a press conference and shouted “Shame! Shame! Shame!” as they held up signs reminding all who could see them that “Iran Funds Hamas and Hezbollah.”

U.S. President Barack Obama said Ahmadinejad’s remarks were “appalling.” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a man hardly known as a defender of Israel, said “I deplore the use of this platform by the Iranian president to accuse, divide and even incite.” Delegates from the Czech Republic didn’t only storm out. They refused to come back and listen to any other tyrant who came to Europe to lecture his betters.

Everyone who walked out on camera was right to do so. Most, if not all, were from Europe. It’s strange, then, that a European country is hosting this hate-fest in the first place. They had no reason to expect anything different. This second “Durban” conference held in Geneva is just a rerun of the first one held in Durban, South Africa, which also was little more than a bigoted group-scream against Israel and the United States. It was obvious years ago when the conference was planned what would be on the agenda. A representative from Libya, one of the most brutally oppressive countries on earth, was chairman of the preparatory committee. Its vice chairman included representatives from Cuba, Iran, Pakistan, and Russia. None of these countries can teach Western democracies about racism or human rights. The Obama administration was right to boycott this fiasco before it even began.

Surely European countries that sent delegates knew well in advance what they were getting themselves into. Perhaps they even planned to walk out in advance. Even so, allowing a belligerent bigot to deliver a speech at an anti-racist conference is offensive to decent human beings everywhere. Among other things, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust even happened – a crime in Germany. Would Europe send delegates to an “anti-racism” conference if the head of the Aryan Nations was giving a speech? And what if Slobodan Milosevic was still alive and ruler of Serbia? Would they agree to show up and listen to even the first two minutes of what he’d have to say?

Ahmadinejad is self-marginalizing. That he is a social and political retrograde could not be more obvious. It isn’t necessary to argue with him or dissect what he says. His words must merely be cited or heard. I’d like to say one thing, nevertheless. Singling out Israel for racism is obscene. It may not be the least racist country in the world, but it’s by far the least racist country in the Middle East. Representatives from Iran, Libya, and Pakistan have a lot to learn from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

While Israel is at the top of Ahmadinejad’s long list of villains, it isn’t alone. “Western liberalism and capitalism,” he said, “like communism, has reached its end.”

A poll published in 2006 showed that more people in Britain saw President George W. Bush as a threat to world peace than Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il of North Korea. Public opinion in Europe may be hysterical – or at least it was then – but this “Durban II” walkout reveals something important that is lost in the data. As far as I know, no European diplomat ever stormed out in disgust when President Bush gave a speech. There certainly was never a mass walkout on the American president at the United Nations. Hyperbolic anti-Americanism may be fun and emotionally satisfying to some, but, at the end of the day, it’s a lot less serious than the visceral revulsion elicited by the state sponsor of terrorism who wants a nuclear bomb.

It would be a mistake if President Obama decides to meet with this man. I doubt, though, that he will ever actually do it. Unlike most of his European counterparts, he knew better than to send anyone to “Durban II” to listen to the ravings of a fascist in the first place.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a blistering tirade against Israel on Monday at the supposedly “anti-racist” Durban II conference in Geneva, Switzerland, and dozens of national delegates from Europe walked out in disgust. The sheer number of people who refused to sit there and listen to him must be seen to be believed. His bad reception didn’t end there. Hundreds of protesters followed him as he delivered a press conference and shouted “Shame! Shame! Shame!” as they held up signs reminding all who could see them that “Iran Funds Hamas and Hezbollah.”

U.S. President Barack Obama said Ahmadinejad’s remarks were “appalling.” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a man hardly known as a defender of Israel, said “I deplore the use of this platform by the Iranian president to accuse, divide and even incite.” Delegates from the Czech Republic didn’t only storm out. They refused to come back and listen to any other tyrant who came to Europe to lecture his betters.

Everyone who walked out on camera was right to do so. Most, if not all, were from Europe. It’s strange, then, that a European country is hosting this hate-fest in the first place. They had no reason to expect anything different. This second “Durban” conference held in Geneva is just a rerun of the first one held in Durban, South Africa, which also was little more than a bigoted group-scream against Israel and the United States. It was obvious years ago when the conference was planned what would be on the agenda. A representative from Libya, one of the most brutally oppressive countries on earth, was chairman of the preparatory committee. Its vice chairman included representatives from Cuba, Iran, Pakistan, and Russia. None of these countries can teach Western democracies about racism or human rights. The Obama administration was right to boycott this fiasco before it even began.

Surely European countries that sent delegates knew well in advance what they were getting themselves into. Perhaps they even planned to walk out in advance. Even so, allowing a belligerent bigot to deliver a speech at an anti-racist conference is offensive to decent human beings everywhere. Among other things, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust even happened – a crime in Germany. Would Europe send delegates to an “anti-racism” conference if the head of the Aryan Nations was giving a speech? And what if Slobodan Milosevic was still alive and ruler of Serbia? Would they agree to show up and listen to even the first two minutes of what he’d have to say?

Ahmadinejad is self-marginalizing. That he is a social and political retrograde could not be more obvious. It isn’t necessary to argue with him or dissect what he says. His words must merely be cited or heard. I’d like to say one thing, nevertheless. Singling out Israel for racism is obscene. It may not be the least racist country in the world, but it’s by far the least racist country in the Middle East. Representatives from Iran, Libya, and Pakistan have a lot to learn from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

While Israel is at the top of Ahmadinejad’s long list of villains, it isn’t alone. “Western liberalism and capitalism,” he said, “like communism, has reached its end.”

A poll published in 2006 showed that more people in Britain saw President George W. Bush as a threat to world peace than Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il of North Korea. Public opinion in Europe may be hysterical – or at least it was then – but this “Durban II” walkout reveals something important that is lost in the data. As far as I know, no European diplomat ever stormed out in disgust when President Bush gave a speech. There certainly was never a mass walkout on the American president at the United Nations. Hyperbolic anti-Americanism may be fun and emotionally satisfying to some, but, at the end of the day, it’s a lot less serious than the visceral revulsion elicited by the state sponsor of terrorism who wants a nuclear bomb.

It would be a mistake if President Obama decides to meet with this man. I doubt, though, that he will ever actually do it. Unlike most of his European counterparts, he knew better than to send anyone to “Durban II” to listen to the ravings of a fascist in the first place.

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Who’s Trying To Fool Americans?

The New York Times reports that Dennis Blair issued a memo last week confirming that the interrogation techniques banned by the the president resulted in “significant information that helped the nation in its struggle with terrorists.”

“High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country,” Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the intelligence director, wrote in a memo to his staff last Thursday.

Admiral Blair sent his memo on the same day the administration publicly released secret Bush administration legal memos authorizing the use of interrogation methods that the Obama White House has deemed to be illegal torture. Among other things, the Bush administration memos revealed that two captured Qaeda operatives were subjected to a form of near-drowning known as waterboarding a total of 266 times.

Admiral Blair’s assessment that the interrogation methods did produce important information was deleted from a condensed version of his memo released to the media last Thursday. Also deleted was a line in which he empathized with his predecessors who originally approved some of the harsh tactics after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

One wonders how the administration thought it was going to get away with this bit of deceit — revealing the interrogation techniques yet concealing their benefit from the American people. It is bad enough to have provided terrorists with a road map to our methods and to have thrown our own national security officials to the “truth commission” wolves; it is quite another to mislead all concerned that we did this “for nothing.”

This has been at the heart of the public argument raging for some time now. Most recently, Vice President Cheney, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former CIA chief Michael Hayden made the case that very tough methods were used, but for the noble and successful end of saving lives. At this, the White House spinners rolled their eyes. Well, Admiral Blair says Cheney, Mukasey, and Hayden were right on this. But his words didn’t see the light of day – until someone could bear the charade no longer and leaked them to the Times. (I wonder if one of the targets of Obama’s CIA damage control visit on Monday did it; if so, it would be worst rebuke of the president since the North Korean missile launch on disarmament speech day.)

Which group — Cheney/Mukasey/Hayden or the Obama administration has more credibility now? And which is acting like truth-skirting ideologues? Let the public judge. Let the truth hearings commence, if they must. Let it all come out. The first witness I would suggest: Admiral Blair.

The New York Times reports that Dennis Blair issued a memo last week confirming that the interrogation techniques banned by the the president resulted in “significant information that helped the nation in its struggle with terrorists.”

“High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country,” Adm. Dennis C. Blair, the intelligence director, wrote in a memo to his staff last Thursday.

Admiral Blair sent his memo on the same day the administration publicly released secret Bush administration legal memos authorizing the use of interrogation methods that the Obama White House has deemed to be illegal torture. Among other things, the Bush administration memos revealed that two captured Qaeda operatives were subjected to a form of near-drowning known as waterboarding a total of 266 times.

Admiral Blair’s assessment that the interrogation methods did produce important information was deleted from a condensed version of his memo released to the media last Thursday. Also deleted was a line in which he empathized with his predecessors who originally approved some of the harsh tactics after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

One wonders how the administration thought it was going to get away with this bit of deceit — revealing the interrogation techniques yet concealing their benefit from the American people. It is bad enough to have provided terrorists with a road map to our methods and to have thrown our own national security officials to the “truth commission” wolves; it is quite another to mislead all concerned that we did this “for nothing.”

This has been at the heart of the public argument raging for some time now. Most recently, Vice President Cheney, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former CIA chief Michael Hayden made the case that very tough methods were used, but for the noble and successful end of saving lives. At this, the White House spinners rolled their eyes. Well, Admiral Blair says Cheney, Mukasey, and Hayden were right on this. But his words didn’t see the light of day – until someone could bear the charade no longer and leaked them to the Times. (I wonder if one of the targets of Obama’s CIA damage control visit on Monday did it; if so, it would be worst rebuke of the president since the North Korean missile launch on disarmament speech day.)

Which group — Cheney/Mukasey/Hayden or the Obama administration has more credibility now? And which is acting like truth-skirting ideologues? Let the public judge. Let the truth hearings commence, if they must. Let it all come out. The first witness I would suggest: Admiral Blair.

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Decision Time for Israel

Robert O. Freedman has published a useful paper at Middle East Strategy at Harvard (MESH) entitled “Decision Time for Israel on Iran?”  He notes Iran’s recent conduct has heightened the prospect of an Israeli attack:

Iran has increased the number of its nuclear enriching centrifuges to 7,000 (only 4,000 are needed to enrich Uranium 238 to bomb-grade Uranium 235), has tested increasingly sophisticated long-range missiles, and has put satellites in orbit.  It continues to refuse to provide information to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about its suspected nuclear weaponization program.

Add to that the relentless rhetoric about the destruction of Israel; the incessant Holocaust-denial (intended to render Israel an illegitimate colony); the fact that Ahmadinejad’s election opponent is as committed to the nuclear program as he is; the unlikelihood of effective UN sanctions (given Russian and Chinese economic interests and strategic goals in Iran); and an American administration unable to persuade even its allies to provide meaningful help in Afghanistan, and the prospects for an attack seem even higher.

Moreover, by the time it becomes clear that Iran’s nuclear program will not be slowed — much less ended — by friendly videos, new year’s greetings, expressions of respect, calls for “talks,” public warnings to an ally not to take action (lest the friendly, respectful atmosphere end), and making ever more generous offers (demonstrating that the more the nuclear program proceeds, the better the offers get), it may be too late for Israel to act.

So why does Freedman put a question mark in his title?  Is it not clear that the decision time is imminent?  The answer may be “not necessarily.”

Freedman speculates Obama’s “charm offensive” is intended to get Iranian assistance or acquiescence as American troops leave Iraq and seek to stabilize Afghanistan.  He suggests the Bush administration declined Israel’s request for bunker-busting bombs and overflight rights out of concern about a new Middle East conflict while U.S. troops were exposed there (and because of Donald Rumsfeld’s replacement by an opponent of Israeli military action).

But conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan may be better in a year; Robert Gates may retire in a year; new Israeli anti-missile systems should be in place by then; Obama and Netanyahu may have established a working relationship over that period; and (according to Freedman) “most observers think Iran is still at least a year away from constructing a nuclear weapon.”  If all this is true, next year may be the decision time for Israel, not now.

When he meets Obama next month, Netanyahu will know from Israeli intelligence how long he can wait before having no choice but to act.  Obama will know how long the U.S. is prepared to follow an unsuccessful engagement policy or an ineffective sanctions program before using the remaining option (he has repeatedly said Iranian nuclear weapons would be a “game changer” that is “unacceptable,” and that he “will always keep the threat of military action on the table”).  In the meeting, a key goal for each side will be to reach an understanding on how long is long.

In reaching that understanding, Obama would be committing himself only to what he has already promised, in one of his most important speeches last year:

The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race, and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists. . . The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat. . . .

We will also use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything.

An understanding on what “everything” means, and when it would become applicable, may be the key to determining if it is decision time for Israel.

Robert O. Freedman has published a useful paper at Middle East Strategy at Harvard (MESH) entitled “Decision Time for Israel on Iran?”  He notes Iran’s recent conduct has heightened the prospect of an Israeli attack:

Iran has increased the number of its nuclear enriching centrifuges to 7,000 (only 4,000 are needed to enrich Uranium 238 to bomb-grade Uranium 235), has tested increasingly sophisticated long-range missiles, and has put satellites in orbit.  It continues to refuse to provide information to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about its suspected nuclear weaponization program.

Add to that the relentless rhetoric about the destruction of Israel; the incessant Holocaust-denial (intended to render Israel an illegitimate colony); the fact that Ahmadinejad’s election opponent is as committed to the nuclear program as he is; the unlikelihood of effective UN sanctions (given Russian and Chinese economic interests and strategic goals in Iran); and an American administration unable to persuade even its allies to provide meaningful help in Afghanistan, and the prospects for an attack seem even higher.

Moreover, by the time it becomes clear that Iran’s nuclear program will not be slowed — much less ended — by friendly videos, new year’s greetings, expressions of respect, calls for “talks,” public warnings to an ally not to take action (lest the friendly, respectful atmosphere end), and making ever more generous offers (demonstrating that the more the nuclear program proceeds, the better the offers get), it may be too late for Israel to act.

So why does Freedman put a question mark in his title?  Is it not clear that the decision time is imminent?  The answer may be “not necessarily.”

Freedman speculates Obama’s “charm offensive” is intended to get Iranian assistance or acquiescence as American troops leave Iraq and seek to stabilize Afghanistan.  He suggests the Bush administration declined Israel’s request for bunker-busting bombs and overflight rights out of concern about a new Middle East conflict while U.S. troops were exposed there (and because of Donald Rumsfeld’s replacement by an opponent of Israeli military action).

But conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan may be better in a year; Robert Gates may retire in a year; new Israeli anti-missile systems should be in place by then; Obama and Netanyahu may have established a working relationship over that period; and (according to Freedman) “most observers think Iran is still at least a year away from constructing a nuclear weapon.”  If all this is true, next year may be the decision time for Israel, not now.

When he meets Obama next month, Netanyahu will know from Israeli intelligence how long he can wait before having no choice but to act.  Obama will know how long the U.S. is prepared to follow an unsuccessful engagement policy or an ineffective sanctions program before using the remaining option (he has repeatedly said Iranian nuclear weapons would be a “game changer” that is “unacceptable,” and that he “will always keep the threat of military action on the table”).  In the meeting, a key goal for each side will be to reach an understanding on how long is long.

In reaching that understanding, Obama would be committing himself only to what he has already promised, in one of his most important speeches last year:

The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race, and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists. . . The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat. . . .

We will also use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything.

An understanding on what “everything” means, and when it would become applicable, may be the key to determining if it is decision time for Israel.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Whoops: “Caterpillar Inc., the bulldozer manufacturer President Barack Obama used to help push his $787 billion stimulus plan, called the program disappointing and less effective than measures approved by China. ‘The infrastructure portion of the stimulus package was disappointing in that it was less aggressive than other countries and missed an opportunity to correct past underinvestment in U.S. infrastructure,’ Caterpillar said in economic commentary with today’s first-quarter earnings report.”

Pro-Big Labor Thomas Frank fesses up: card check is dead.

Perhaps it’s a fluke or perhaps that photo with Hugo Chavez is rubbing people the wrong way, but Rasmussen’s poll shows: “Overall, 54% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President’s performance so far. That’s his lowest total approval rating to date.”

Well maybe there is something going on: “Barack Obama and Mark Udall each won their elections in Colorado last year by pretty solid margins, but Public Policy Polling’s first look at their approval numbers since taking office finds relatively weak numbers for them in the state. Obama receives approval from 49% of voters with 45% dissenting. For Udall it’s just 41% approval and 46% disapproving.” The numbers for independent voters are even worse.

Congressional Democrats are losing ground in polling too, especially with young voters. Do you think the under-35 set has figured out who’s getting stuck with the bill for all the spending?

Should we be surprised that”special interest groups descend on Washington like locusts?” Dan Mitchell says: not as long as government is as huge as it is and redistributes trillions around the economy.

And, almost on cue, we have this report: “The banking industry is aggressively lobbying the Treasury Department to make it less costly for financial institutions to get out of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.” To be clear: in order for banks to return federal money to taxpayers they have to lobby to get their “exit fee” lowered. If it wasn’t the government there’d be a RICO claim here.

One way to stop the administration from closing Guantanamo would be if Congress refused to pay for it. That’s Mitch McConnell’s idea.

The Justice Department considers dropping the espionage case against two former AIPAC officials just after the Jane Harman wiretap leak. Perhaps someone didn’t like the idea of dropping the case and decided to leak the Harman tape. In any event, there’s a case of misconduct to investigate.

A historian may become Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Well, that’s a good idea since the president is a reader, you know.

The Wall Street Journal on the release of the interrogation memos: “One major concern here is what Mr. Obama’s decision to release these memos says about his own political leadership. He claims that one of his goals as President is to restore more comity to our politics, especially concerning national security. He also knows he needs a CIA willing to take risks to keep the country safe. Yet Mr. Obama seems more than willing to indulge the revenge fantasies of the left, as long as its potential victims served a different President. And while he is willing to release classified documents about interrogation techniques, Mr. Obama refuses to release documents that more fully discuss their results.”

Well, with the New York Times leak, Obama’s deceptively selective release of information will likely be for naught.

Whoops: “Caterpillar Inc., the bulldozer manufacturer President Barack Obama used to help push his $787 billion stimulus plan, called the program disappointing and less effective than measures approved by China. ‘The infrastructure portion of the stimulus package was disappointing in that it was less aggressive than other countries and missed an opportunity to correct past underinvestment in U.S. infrastructure,’ Caterpillar said in economic commentary with today’s first-quarter earnings report.”

Pro-Big Labor Thomas Frank fesses up: card check is dead.

Perhaps it’s a fluke or perhaps that photo with Hugo Chavez is rubbing people the wrong way, but Rasmussen’s poll shows: “Overall, 54% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President’s performance so far. That’s his lowest total approval rating to date.”

Well maybe there is something going on: “Barack Obama and Mark Udall each won their elections in Colorado last year by pretty solid margins, but Public Policy Polling’s first look at their approval numbers since taking office finds relatively weak numbers for them in the state. Obama receives approval from 49% of voters with 45% dissenting. For Udall it’s just 41% approval and 46% disapproving.” The numbers for independent voters are even worse.

Congressional Democrats are losing ground in polling too, especially with young voters. Do you think the under-35 set has figured out who’s getting stuck with the bill for all the spending?

Should we be surprised that”special interest groups descend on Washington like locusts?” Dan Mitchell says: not as long as government is as huge as it is and redistributes trillions around the economy.

And, almost on cue, we have this report: “The banking industry is aggressively lobbying the Treasury Department to make it less costly for financial institutions to get out of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.” To be clear: in order for banks to return federal money to taxpayers they have to lobby to get their “exit fee” lowered. If it wasn’t the government there’d be a RICO claim here.

One way to stop the administration from closing Guantanamo would be if Congress refused to pay for it. That’s Mitch McConnell’s idea.

The Justice Department considers dropping the espionage case against two former AIPAC officials just after the Jane Harman wiretap leak. Perhaps someone didn’t like the idea of dropping the case and decided to leak the Harman tape. In any event, there’s a case of misconduct to investigate.

A historian may become Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Well, that’s a good idea since the president is a reader, you know.

The Wall Street Journal on the release of the interrogation memos: “One major concern here is what Mr. Obama’s decision to release these memos says about his own political leadership. He claims that one of his goals as President is to restore more comity to our politics, especially concerning national security. He also knows he needs a CIA willing to take risks to keep the country safe. Yet Mr. Obama seems more than willing to indulge the revenge fantasies of the left, as long as its potential victims served a different President. And while he is willing to release classified documents about interrogation techniques, Mr. Obama refuses to release documents that more fully discuss their results.”

Well, with the New York Times leak, Obama’s deceptively selective release of information will likely be for naught.

Read Less




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