Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 27, 2009

Commentary of the Day

Lawrence Kramer, on Peter Wehner:

We Americans like to think of ourselves as people who not only do not torture, but don’t HAVE to torture. Most of us believe, or more important, feel that only the depraved torture needlessly, and only the weak torture out of need. And we prefer not to think of ourselves as either, thank you. And our internal torture-detector does not readily distinguish between the waterboard and the Tucker Telephone. (There’s a difference, and our interrogators are wise to observe it, but the national psyche is not assuaged by it.)

As it turns out, we are “weak” in the sense that we face dangers to which torture arguably, and perhaps demonstrably, offers a solution – if we are prepared to argue for it and demonstate it. But there’s the rub. Airing the utility of torture confesses the weakness that makes it useful, whereas not airing the utility of it leaves us vulnerable to a charge of depravity. It’s a hobson’s choice, made necessary by the admission that torture is national policy. That’s why I cannot get to the place where official disclosure of interrogation techniques is a salutary thing. It isn’t. Such dsiclosure makes us choose between depravity and weakness, and the more robust the defense, the more we tell our enemies about how we roll. Nothing good can come of it, at least nothing good that moves the needle against all the bad.

Lawrence Kramer, on Peter Wehner:

We Americans like to think of ourselves as people who not only do not torture, but don’t HAVE to torture. Most of us believe, or more important, feel that only the depraved torture needlessly, and only the weak torture out of need. And we prefer not to think of ourselves as either, thank you. And our internal torture-detector does not readily distinguish between the waterboard and the Tucker Telephone. (There’s a difference, and our interrogators are wise to observe it, but the national psyche is not assuaged by it.)

As it turns out, we are “weak” in the sense that we face dangers to which torture arguably, and perhaps demonstrably, offers a solution – if we are prepared to argue for it and demonstate it. But there’s the rub. Airing the utility of torture confesses the weakness that makes it useful, whereas not airing the utility of it leaves us vulnerable to a charge of depravity. It’s a hobson’s choice, made necessary by the admission that torture is national policy. That’s why I cannot get to the place where official disclosure of interrogation techniques is a salutary thing. It isn’t. Such dsiclosure makes us choose between depravity and weakness, and the more robust the defense, the more we tell our enemies about how we roll. Nothing good can come of it, at least nothing good that moves the needle against all the bad.

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Re: What a Tangled Web

Minority Leader John Boehner is asking the Obama administration to release the CIA’s notes briefing Nancy Pelosi. Whether the Obama team does so or not seems irrelevant. It is enough for the public now to know that Pelosi and others were briefed and that no meaningful objections and steps to halt the CIA (e.g. cutting off funding) were ever raised. The GOP, with moves like this and in interviews such as the one Sen. Kit Bond gave today, is trying to make Pelosi the story now. To the extent that “Pelosi Plays Defense on Torture” is the top story on Politico (for a good part of the day) they are succeeding. And what does that do?

Well, it might slow the witch hunt down a bit. But more importantly it reminds the voters that until it became politically expedient there was bipartisan consensus for enhanced interrogation techniques. The existence of those briefings (and the notes which will document them) suggest that everyone — the lawyers, Congress, and the CIA — were operating in good faith, as best they could, to prevent the unimaginable, namely another attack on America. That, it seems, goes to the heart of the “defense” of Bush officials who may be dragooned before a Truth Commission.

Minority Leader John Boehner is asking the Obama administration to release the CIA’s notes briefing Nancy Pelosi. Whether the Obama team does so or not seems irrelevant. It is enough for the public now to know that Pelosi and others were briefed and that no meaningful objections and steps to halt the CIA (e.g. cutting off funding) were ever raised. The GOP, with moves like this and in interviews such as the one Sen. Kit Bond gave today, is trying to make Pelosi the story now. To the extent that “Pelosi Plays Defense on Torture” is the top story on Politico (for a good part of the day) they are succeeding. And what does that do?

Well, it might slow the witch hunt down a bit. But more importantly it reminds the voters that until it became politically expedient there was bipartisan consensus for enhanced interrogation techniques. The existence of those briefings (and the notes which will document them) suggest that everyone — the lawyers, Congress, and the CIA — were operating in good faith, as best they could, to prevent the unimaginable, namely another attack on America. That, it seems, goes to the heart of the “defense” of Bush officials who may be dragooned before a Truth Commission.

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Far Too Sloppy

Christopher Hitchens doesn’t even show his readers the respect of attempting to slyly deceive them:

After all, in the case of Abu Ghraib, it was not even seriously argued that the gross maltreatment of our Iraqi detainees was motivated by a search for information. The foul images from that jail were of recreational and pornographic torture, undertaken by bored amateur sadists and third-raters. Since then, as Philip Zelikow of the 9/11 commission has mentioned, the military-run Joint Special Operations Command, confronting some truly tough al-Qaida characters in Iraq, has succeeded in turning many of them, as well as tracking down and killing many more, without any recourse to the methods that the CIA excused itself for adopting.

What has the CIA to do with the abuses at Abu Ghraib? Hitchens’s own description of the Abu Ghraib crimes rightly notes that Lynndie England and company were “bored amateur sadists and third-raters.” Moreover, they were not in the CIA, nor were they following official policy.

The conflation of Abu Ghraib with CIA interrogations has been hinted at or implied by the uninformed and unserious for some time. But for an observer of Hitchens’s comprehensive knowledge and intellectual gifts to draw such a crudely deceptive line between the two is flabbergasting. Once again, if we’re to have this debate then let’s do so in maximum sunlight, without innuendo or conspiracy mongering. If not, let’s cut our (incalculably vast) operational and PR losses, come down from our high horses, and figure out how to build on the defense successes of the past seven years — one way or another.

Christopher Hitchens doesn’t even show his readers the respect of attempting to slyly deceive them:

After all, in the case of Abu Ghraib, it was not even seriously argued that the gross maltreatment of our Iraqi detainees was motivated by a search for information. The foul images from that jail were of recreational and pornographic torture, undertaken by bored amateur sadists and third-raters. Since then, as Philip Zelikow of the 9/11 commission has mentioned, the military-run Joint Special Operations Command, confronting some truly tough al-Qaida characters in Iraq, has succeeded in turning many of them, as well as tracking down and killing many more, without any recourse to the methods that the CIA excused itself for adopting.

What has the CIA to do with the abuses at Abu Ghraib? Hitchens’s own description of the Abu Ghraib crimes rightly notes that Lynndie England and company were “bored amateur sadists and third-raters.” Moreover, they were not in the CIA, nor were they following official policy.

The conflation of Abu Ghraib with CIA interrogations has been hinted at or implied by the uninformed and unserious for some time. But for an observer of Hitchens’s comprehensive knowledge and intellectual gifts to draw such a crudely deceptive line between the two is flabbergasting. Once again, if we’re to have this debate then let’s do so in maximum sunlight, without innuendo or conspiracy mongering. If not, let’s cut our (incalculably vast) operational and PR losses, come down from our high horses, and figure out how to build on the defense successes of the past seven years — one way or another.

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Abbas’s Outburst

On Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wondered aloud, “A Jewish state, what is that supposed to mean?” There may be several ways to spin that, but here’s Abbas’s own explanation:

[I]t’s not his job to define the state of Israel. “Name yourself, it’s not my business,” He said. “All I know is that there is the state of Israel, in the borders of 1967, not one centimeter more, not one centimeter less. Anything else, I don’t accept.”

His words will make it much easier for Netanyahu in the domestic arena. Most Israelis, I suspect, will find the response of Israel’s Foreign Ministry more than reasonable:

“Recognizing Israel as the sovereign state of the Jewish people is a crucial and necessary stage in the historical reconciliation process between Israelis and the Palestinians,” the ministry said in a statement. “The sooner the Palestinians internalize this basic fact, the sooner the peace between our nations will progress.”

And Israelis will find that response even more reasonable after they read this in Haaretz’s report on the controversy: “Palestinians fear recognition of Israel as a Jewish state could help Israeli leaders resist any return of Palestinian refugees.”

Abbas’s outburst will end up strengthening both Netanyahu the man and his policy of demanding “Jewish” recognition.

On Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wondered aloud, “A Jewish state, what is that supposed to mean?” There may be several ways to spin that, but here’s Abbas’s own explanation:

[I]t’s not his job to define the state of Israel. “Name yourself, it’s not my business,” He said. “All I know is that there is the state of Israel, in the borders of 1967, not one centimeter more, not one centimeter less. Anything else, I don’t accept.”

His words will make it much easier for Netanyahu in the domestic arena. Most Israelis, I suspect, will find the response of Israel’s Foreign Ministry more than reasonable:

“Recognizing Israel as the sovereign state of the Jewish people is a crucial and necessary stage in the historical reconciliation process between Israelis and the Palestinians,” the ministry said in a statement. “The sooner the Palestinians internalize this basic fact, the sooner the peace between our nations will progress.”

And Israelis will find that response even more reasonable after they read this in Haaretz’s report on the controversy: “Palestinians fear recognition of Israel as a Jewish state could help Israeli leaders resist any return of Palestinian refugees.”

Abbas’s outburst will end up strengthening both Netanyahu the man and his policy of demanding “Jewish” recognition.

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An Odd Sort of Moderation

In his column today, E. J. Dionne pens a fawning love letter to the president — praising every aspect of his being. It is however light on evidence to support his amorous assessment. And indeed it is a guide in some respect to the fallacies which hobble the president’s outlook for success.

Dionne contends that the president “loves to engage conservatives.” But he has not done so in any meaningful way. None of their ideas for the stimulus plan were embraced; the president is bent on ramming  home healthcare through the reconciliation process; and he regularly slams conservative policy ideas, no matter how innovative, as “stale” or non-existent. It is an odd form of engagement that governs strictly on party lines.

Dionne also contends that Obama sought a “middle ground” on tough interrogation. But in fact the president was cowed by the netroot contingent, kicking open the door to a truth commission, deciding to release inflammatory photos ,and hiding behind the attorney general’s skirts on the decision to prosecute former Bush officials. It is an odd form of moderation which requires the president employ verbal gymnastics to avoid offending the most extreme elements in his party.

Obama is an “non-ideologue” we are told. But there is little in his actions to suggest that is really the case. On domestic policy, even Dionne throws in the towel.

There can be no denying that if Obama succeeds, government will play a larger role in American life because access to health care will be guaranteed by Washington and the financial system will face much tougher rules. The federal government will be influencing education and its financing more than it does now and will push the country toward reliance on a new mix of energy sources. It’s equally clear that the financing for all this will depend more heavily on taxes paid by the wealthiest Americans and that assistance to the neediest Americans will grow.

Actually, no one is going to have enough to pay for a fraction of this, which is why every one from the opinion editors of Dionne’s own paper to the CBO have denounced the Obama budget as unsustainable and reckless. As a far more sober-minded liberal, Al Hunt, explains:

The context is a looming policy and fiscal clash: Obama’s economic, energy, health-care and education initiatives are expensive, and the U.S. faces trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see. . .  If it persists, this will produce one of two train wrecks: decimating his health-care and energy initiatives or imperiling a long term, fiscally sound economy.

Or both. And those “rich” people Dionne say will pay for all this include small businesses, “firms with the greatest capacity for job creation,” as his own paper points out. But Dionne’s central point is correct: Obama intends to vastly increase the size and scope of government in every aspect of our lives. Growing the share of our GDP devoted to government to historic highs and altering the relationship between government and its citizens are hardly moderate moves.

On the international front, Dionne repeats the argument that what we have is non-ideology at work, because what Obama is most concerned with is “winning friends.” (I am not sure even the Obama administration would welcome this infantile description of their approach to foreign policy.) But contrary to Dionne’s assertion, the consuming belief in his own ability to charm and cajole  foreign leaders, while ignoring their provocative actions, is the essence of ideology — the primacy of a belief system in the absence of historical evidence. This is personified in the announcement of Guantanamo’s closing — a decision made before Eric Holder visited the facility and before the Obama team figured out there is no second place to put these very dangerous terrorists.

The fixation on painting Obama as a moderate or non-ideologue, which is not unique to Dionne, is obviously grounded in his supporters’ underlying unease that he is far to the left of the American people. But actions speak louder than words. Obama will be judged not by what he or his spinners say, but what he does. And if his supporters feel compelled to shy away from a more candid defense of ultra-liberalism at home and American meekness abroad, perhaps they’ll reconsider Obama’s policy choices and honestly evaluate whether they are sustainable over time. Sooner or later the American people usually figure out what their president is up to.

In his column today, E. J. Dionne pens a fawning love letter to the president — praising every aspect of his being. It is however light on evidence to support his amorous assessment. And indeed it is a guide in some respect to the fallacies which hobble the president’s outlook for success.

Dionne contends that the president “loves to engage conservatives.” But he has not done so in any meaningful way. None of their ideas for the stimulus plan were embraced; the president is bent on ramming  home healthcare through the reconciliation process; and he regularly slams conservative policy ideas, no matter how innovative, as “stale” or non-existent. It is an odd form of engagement that governs strictly on party lines.

Dionne also contends that Obama sought a “middle ground” on tough interrogation. But in fact the president was cowed by the netroot contingent, kicking open the door to a truth commission, deciding to release inflammatory photos ,and hiding behind the attorney general’s skirts on the decision to prosecute former Bush officials. It is an odd form of moderation which requires the president employ verbal gymnastics to avoid offending the most extreme elements in his party.

Obama is an “non-ideologue” we are told. But there is little in his actions to suggest that is really the case. On domestic policy, even Dionne throws in the towel.

There can be no denying that if Obama succeeds, government will play a larger role in American life because access to health care will be guaranteed by Washington and the financial system will face much tougher rules. The federal government will be influencing education and its financing more than it does now and will push the country toward reliance on a new mix of energy sources. It’s equally clear that the financing for all this will depend more heavily on taxes paid by the wealthiest Americans and that assistance to the neediest Americans will grow.

Actually, no one is going to have enough to pay for a fraction of this, which is why every one from the opinion editors of Dionne’s own paper to the CBO have denounced the Obama budget as unsustainable and reckless. As a far more sober-minded liberal, Al Hunt, explains:

The context is a looming policy and fiscal clash: Obama’s economic, energy, health-care and education initiatives are expensive, and the U.S. faces trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see. . .  If it persists, this will produce one of two train wrecks: decimating his health-care and energy initiatives or imperiling a long term, fiscally sound economy.

Or both. And those “rich” people Dionne say will pay for all this include small businesses, “firms with the greatest capacity for job creation,” as his own paper points out. But Dionne’s central point is correct: Obama intends to vastly increase the size and scope of government in every aspect of our lives. Growing the share of our GDP devoted to government to historic highs and altering the relationship between government and its citizens are hardly moderate moves.

On the international front, Dionne repeats the argument that what we have is non-ideology at work, because what Obama is most concerned with is “winning friends.” (I am not sure even the Obama administration would welcome this infantile description of their approach to foreign policy.) But contrary to Dionne’s assertion, the consuming belief in his own ability to charm and cajole  foreign leaders, while ignoring their provocative actions, is the essence of ideology — the primacy of a belief system in the absence of historical evidence. This is personified in the announcement of Guantanamo’s closing — a decision made before Eric Holder visited the facility and before the Obama team figured out there is no second place to put these very dangerous terrorists.

The fixation on painting Obama as a moderate or non-ideologue, which is not unique to Dionne, is obviously grounded in his supporters’ underlying unease that he is far to the left of the American people. But actions speak louder than words. Obama will be judged not by what he or his spinners say, but what he does. And if his supporters feel compelled to shy away from a more candid defense of ultra-liberalism at home and American meekness abroad, perhaps they’ll reconsider Obama’s policy choices and honestly evaluate whether they are sustainable over time. Sooner or later the American people usually figure out what their president is up to.

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Morality and Enhanced Interrogation Techniques

The issue of the Bush Administration’s enhanced interrogation techniques involve several inter-related questions.

There is, first of all, the matter of morality. Critics of enhanced interrogation techniques have taken to saying that Americans don’t torture, period – meaning in this instance that we do not engage in coercive interrogation techniques ranging from sleep deprivation to prolonged loud noise and/or bright lights to waterboarding. Anyone who holds the opposite view is a moral cretin and guilty of “arrant inhumanity.” Or so the argument goes.

But this posture begins to come apart under examination. For one thing, the issue of “torture” itself needs to be put in a moral context and on a moral continuum. Waterboarding is a very nasty technique for sure – but it is considerably different (particularly in the manner administered by the CIA) than, say, mutilation with electric drills, rape, splitting knees, or forcing a terrorist to watch his children suffer and die in order to try to elicit information from him. Waterboarding is a technique that has been routinely used in the training of some U.S. military personnel – and which the journalist Christopher Hitchens endured. I certainly wouldn’t want to undergo waterboarding – but while a very harsh technique, it is one that was applied in part because it would do far less damage to a person than other techniques. It is also surely relevant that waterboarding was not used randomly and promiscuously, but rather on three known terrorists. And of the thousands of unlawful combatants captured by the U.S., fewer than 100 were detained and questioned in the CIA program, according to Michael Hayden, President Bush’s last CIA director, and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey – and of those, fewer than one-third were subjected to any of the techniques discussed in the memos on enhanced interrogation.

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

The issue of the Bush Administration’s enhanced interrogation techniques involve several inter-related questions.

There is, first of all, the matter of morality. Critics of enhanced interrogation techniques have taken to saying that Americans don’t torture, period – meaning in this instance that we do not engage in coercive interrogation techniques ranging from sleep deprivation to prolonged loud noise and/or bright lights to waterboarding. Anyone who holds the opposite view is a moral cretin and guilty of “arrant inhumanity.” Or so the argument goes.

But this posture begins to come apart under examination. For one thing, the issue of “torture” itself needs to be put in a moral context and on a moral continuum. Waterboarding is a very nasty technique for sure – but it is considerably different (particularly in the manner administered by the CIA) than, say, mutilation with electric drills, rape, splitting knees, or forcing a terrorist to watch his children suffer and die in order to try to elicit information from him. Waterboarding is a technique that has been routinely used in the training of some U.S. military personnel – and which the journalist Christopher Hitchens endured. I certainly wouldn’t want to undergo waterboarding – but while a very harsh technique, it is one that was applied in part because it would do far less damage to a person than other techniques. It is also surely relevant that waterboarding was not used randomly and promiscuously, but rather on three known terrorists. And of the thousands of unlawful combatants captured by the U.S., fewer than 100 were detained and questioned in the CIA program, according to Michael Hayden, President Bush’s last CIA director, and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey – and of those, fewer than one-third were subjected to any of the techniques discussed in the memos on enhanced interrogation.

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

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What a Long, Safe Trip It’s Been

There was a low-plane scare in Manhattan this morning — something about an Air Force photo shoot. There’s not much of political or military relevance to the incident. But I did find the following passage in the New York Times’s coverage arresting:

Carlina Rivera, 25, who works at Kaplan K12 Learning Services, on the 22nd floor of 1 Liberty Plaza, said her co-workers were spooked in part because their offices are so close to the site of the 9/11 attack. “As soon as someone saw how close it got to the buildings, people literally ran out,” she said. “Probably about 80 percent of my office left within two minutes of seeing how close it got to our building.”

Ms. Rivera, who was a high school student in the East Village when the 9/11 attack occurred, added, “I did feel a little bit foolish for staying in the office while everyone left.”

The finger-tip math checks out. If you were Carlina Rivera, New York City high school student, on the day that changed everything, today you’re Ms. Rivera, 25-year-old working woman, who doesn’t think a low-flying airliner reason enough to leave your office. It’s a startling reality check on how much time has passed, how lives have slid through several phases since that day. It’s also an indication of how much post-9/11 vigilance has dissipated. It’s easy to recall in the immediate wake of the attacks all the talk of the young people whose lives would now be defined and haunted by that day. With all the talk today of the Bush “torture” regime, it’s probably worth noting that seeing Ms. Rivera safely through her college-age years and into her non-traumatized early adulthood was a remarkable, if thankless, accomplishment on the part of the last administration.

There was a low-plane scare in Manhattan this morning — something about an Air Force photo shoot. There’s not much of political or military relevance to the incident. But I did find the following passage in the New York Times’s coverage arresting:

Carlina Rivera, 25, who works at Kaplan K12 Learning Services, on the 22nd floor of 1 Liberty Plaza, said her co-workers were spooked in part because their offices are so close to the site of the 9/11 attack. “As soon as someone saw how close it got to the buildings, people literally ran out,” she said. “Probably about 80 percent of my office left within two minutes of seeing how close it got to our building.”

Ms. Rivera, who was a high school student in the East Village when the 9/11 attack occurred, added, “I did feel a little bit foolish for staying in the office while everyone left.”

The finger-tip math checks out. If you were Carlina Rivera, New York City high school student, on the day that changed everything, today you’re Ms. Rivera, 25-year-old working woman, who doesn’t think a low-flying airliner reason enough to leave your office. It’s a startling reality check on how much time has passed, how lives have slid through several phases since that day. It’s also an indication of how much post-9/11 vigilance has dissipated. It’s easy to recall in the immediate wake of the attacks all the talk of the young people whose lives would now be defined and haunted by that day. With all the talk today of the Bush “torture” regime, it’s probably worth noting that seeing Ms. Rivera safely through her college-age years and into her non-traumatized early adulthood was a remarkable, if thankless, accomplishment on the part of the last administration.

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What a Tangled Web She Weaves

The only person who had a rougher week than the president on the meandering approach to the interrogation memos and potential prosecution of Bush administration officials was Nancy Pelosi. As Politico points out, Pelosi “didn’t cry foul” when she was briefed as early as 2002 on the interrogation techniques. And she made things worse last week:

Pelosi’s allies were less prepared to confront the fallout from her convoluted answers during three sessions with reporters last week — answers that raised new questions and handed Republicans a fresh line of attack on a speaker at the height of her power.

“I’m puzzled, I don’t understand what she’s trying to say,” said Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), former chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and currently the committee’s ranking minority member.

“I don’t have any sympathy for her — she’s the speaker of the House; there should be some accountability. She shouldn’t be given a pass,” added Hoekstra.

And so there is plenty of fodder for Pelosi’s critics — and plenty to distract her as she tries to push through Obama’s already controversial agenda. It is unclear whether the tempest will be enough to dissuade her from pressing forward with her witch hunt.

She has become the symbol of Congressional hypocrisy — the leader of those whose moral preening knows no bounds but who understood and acknowledged at one time that these techniques were necessary. And she presents quite clearly the dilemma for those calling for a public inquisition: where is this all leading? The Left would like Bush era officials indicted, banished, imprisoned, and impeached for their supposed moral obtuseness, provided someone can find some statute under which to prosecute them. But if a lawyer who drafted the interrogation memos in good faith should be impeached according to the howling Left, why should Pelosi continue to reign supreme?

Well perhaps she can clear it up in the Truth Commission. Her Republican colleagues certainly would be pleased to hear her spell out her views. And there are, we now know, plenty of witnesses and a good deal of documentation to help refresh her memory.

The only person who had a rougher week than the president on the meandering approach to the interrogation memos and potential prosecution of Bush administration officials was Nancy Pelosi. As Politico points out, Pelosi “didn’t cry foul” when she was briefed as early as 2002 on the interrogation techniques. And she made things worse last week:

Pelosi’s allies were less prepared to confront the fallout from her convoluted answers during three sessions with reporters last week — answers that raised new questions and handed Republicans a fresh line of attack on a speaker at the height of her power.

“I’m puzzled, I don’t understand what she’s trying to say,” said Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.), former chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and currently the committee’s ranking minority member.

“I don’t have any sympathy for her — she’s the speaker of the House; there should be some accountability. She shouldn’t be given a pass,” added Hoekstra.

And so there is plenty of fodder for Pelosi’s critics — and plenty to distract her as she tries to push through Obama’s already controversial agenda. It is unclear whether the tempest will be enough to dissuade her from pressing forward with her witch hunt.

She has become the symbol of Congressional hypocrisy — the leader of those whose moral preening knows no bounds but who understood and acknowledged at one time that these techniques were necessary. And she presents quite clearly the dilemma for those calling for a public inquisition: where is this all leading? The Left would like Bush era officials indicted, banished, imprisoned, and impeached for their supposed moral obtuseness, provided someone can find some statute under which to prosecute them. But if a lawyer who drafted the interrogation memos in good faith should be impeached according to the howling Left, why should Pelosi continue to reign supreme?

Well perhaps she can clear it up in the Truth Commission. Her Republican colleagues certainly would be pleased to hear her spell out her views. And there are, we now know, plenty of witnesses and a good deal of documentation to help refresh her memory.

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This Way Lies MADDness

It’s becoming clearer, with each appointment President Obama makes, that his agenda is a simple one: control. The latest example is the naming of Chuck Hurley as the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Hurley is currently the CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

While it’s encouraging that a group with “Mothers” in its name would allow a man to be its CEO, that brief amusement is dwarfed by the realization of just what MADD has become: a profound exemplar of the “nanny state” mentality.

MADD started with a truly  noble cause: to fight drunk driving. At the time, DWI was viewed largely as a minor offense, and a bit of a joke. They set out to change the public’s perception, to make everyone aware of just how great a scourge the phenomenon was. They wanted to turn the drunk driver from a laughingstock to a pariah.

And they succeeded.

But then they ran into the same problems that most successful advocacy groups have: what do you do after you’ve won? In most cases (see the March of Dimes, which was started to fight polio — and is still going strong decades after the disease was pretty much eradicated), they repurpose themselves and find some related causes to keep their momentum going.

In MADD’s case, once enough people came around to seeing drunk driving the way they do, they decided to dedicate themselves to other forms of highway safety. And they brought the same crusading, sanctimonious moral high dudgeon with them.

In recent years, MADD has  come out in favor of mandatory seat belt laws, they’ve shown up to sobriety checkpoints (presumably, to make sure the offenders are properly scolded), they’ve called for the legal limit for blood alcohol to be cut in half, and they’ve argued for ALL cars to have mandatory alcohol-testing interlock devices installed on them. And Hurley himself has been a strong advocate of “red light cameras” which have been shown to actually increase accidents under some circumstances.

With Hurley heading up NHTSA, we can rest assured that the government will do everything it can to keep us from taking silly, foolish chances or thinking for ourselves. All we have to do is just sit back, relax, and let them do our thinking for us.

It’s becoming clearer, with each appointment President Obama makes, that his agenda is a simple one: control. The latest example is the naming of Chuck Hurley as the head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Hurley is currently the CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

While it’s encouraging that a group with “Mothers” in its name would allow a man to be its CEO, that brief amusement is dwarfed by the realization of just what MADD has become: a profound exemplar of the “nanny state” mentality.

MADD started with a truly  noble cause: to fight drunk driving. At the time, DWI was viewed largely as a minor offense, and a bit of a joke. They set out to change the public’s perception, to make everyone aware of just how great a scourge the phenomenon was. They wanted to turn the drunk driver from a laughingstock to a pariah.

And they succeeded.

But then they ran into the same problems that most successful advocacy groups have: what do you do after you’ve won? In most cases (see the March of Dimes, which was started to fight polio — and is still going strong decades after the disease was pretty much eradicated), they repurpose themselves and find some related causes to keep their momentum going.

In MADD’s case, once enough people came around to seeing drunk driving the way they do, they decided to dedicate themselves to other forms of highway safety. And they brought the same crusading, sanctimonious moral high dudgeon with them.

In recent years, MADD has  come out in favor of mandatory seat belt laws, they’ve shown up to sobriety checkpoints (presumably, to make sure the offenders are properly scolded), they’ve called for the legal limit for blood alcohol to be cut in half, and they’ve argued for ALL cars to have mandatory alcohol-testing interlock devices installed on them. And Hurley himself has been a strong advocate of “red light cameras” which have been shown to actually increase accidents under some circumstances.

With Hurley heading up NHTSA, we can rest assured that the government will do everything it can to keep us from taking silly, foolish chances or thinking for ourselves. All we have to do is just sit back, relax, and let them do our thinking for us.

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Who’s the Problem?

Just last week Hillary Clinton was lecturing Congress (and thereby Israel) that unless Israel made progress with the Palestinians the Arab states would not support Israel with regard to Iran. Well, lo and behold, it seems the Arab states are indeed concerned — but with the Obama “engagement” strategy with Iran. Dennis Ross (who hasn’t been seen or heard from in weeks) is being dispatched to the Middle East, and we learn:

Arab governments have been seeking assurances from Mr. Ross and other U.S. officials that Washington’s overtures toward Iran won’t undercut their security interests, U.S. and Arab diplomats said. The Arab governments are asking the U.S. to consult regularly with them as President Barack Obama seeks to hold high-level negotiations with Tehran aimed at ending its nuclear activities.

“The discomfort among the Arabs is quite real. They have deep anxieties about Iran,” said a senior U.S. official working on the country. “The first thing is to be in the position of consulting with them, and taking into effect their concerns.”

So it’s not Israel’s approach to the Palestinians or lack thereof which has friendly Arab states in a tizzy, but Obama’s Iran policy. This is rich, indeed. And the Arab states have good reason to be concerned:

 Morocco severed diplomatic ties with Tehran last month, alleging Iranian diplomats were seeking to convert Moroccan citizens to Shiism, Iran’s predominant religion. Egypt this month arrested 50 members of Iranian-backed Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia and political party, for allegedly seeking to undermine President Hosni Mubarak’s government while transferring arms to the Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Yes, the Arab states would like Ross to repeat the mantra that Israel must engage in “negotiations” with Palestinians (with whom exactly and to what end is unclear), but the gravamen of the Arab states’ concern is that Obama is engaged in an open-ended and foolhardy “talk” strategy with Iran while Iran pursues regional hegemony. Ross will try to convince them otherwise.

The bottom line: the Clintonian spin that Israel needs to shape up before Arab help on Iran is forthcoming is hogwash. If there is cause for concern among the Arab states it is Clinton’s boss and his penchant for denial about the intentions and behavior of rogue states.

Just last week Hillary Clinton was lecturing Congress (and thereby Israel) that unless Israel made progress with the Palestinians the Arab states would not support Israel with regard to Iran. Well, lo and behold, it seems the Arab states are indeed concerned — but with the Obama “engagement” strategy with Iran. Dennis Ross (who hasn’t been seen or heard from in weeks) is being dispatched to the Middle East, and we learn:

Arab governments have been seeking assurances from Mr. Ross and other U.S. officials that Washington’s overtures toward Iran won’t undercut their security interests, U.S. and Arab diplomats said. The Arab governments are asking the U.S. to consult regularly with them as President Barack Obama seeks to hold high-level negotiations with Tehran aimed at ending its nuclear activities.

“The discomfort among the Arabs is quite real. They have deep anxieties about Iran,” said a senior U.S. official working on the country. “The first thing is to be in the position of consulting with them, and taking into effect their concerns.”

So it’s not Israel’s approach to the Palestinians or lack thereof which has friendly Arab states in a tizzy, but Obama’s Iran policy. This is rich, indeed. And the Arab states have good reason to be concerned:

 Morocco severed diplomatic ties with Tehran last month, alleging Iranian diplomats were seeking to convert Moroccan citizens to Shiism, Iran’s predominant religion. Egypt this month arrested 50 members of Iranian-backed Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia and political party, for allegedly seeking to undermine President Hosni Mubarak’s government while transferring arms to the Palestinian militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Yes, the Arab states would like Ross to repeat the mantra that Israel must engage in “negotiations” with Palestinians (with whom exactly and to what end is unclear), but the gravamen of the Arab states’ concern is that Obama is engaged in an open-ended and foolhardy “talk” strategy with Iran while Iran pursues regional hegemony. Ross will try to convince them otherwise.

The bottom line: the Clintonian spin that Israel needs to shape up before Arab help on Iran is forthcoming is hogwash. If there is cause for concern among the Arab states it is Clinton’s boss and his penchant for denial about the intentions and behavior of rogue states.

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Roxana Saberi . . .

. . . is on a hunger strike. Mr. President, will you let her starve to death for the sake of engagement?

. . . is on a hunger strike. Mr. President, will you let her starve to death for the sake of engagement?

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Truth Indeed

William McSwain, executive editor of the 2005 Review of Department of Defense Detention Operations and Detainee Interrogation Techniques (The Church Report), goes after much of the inaccurate or incomplete rhetoric coming out of the Obama administration on enhanced interrogation techniques. He echoes what former Vice President Cheney has said about the effectiveness of these techniques:

Fortunately, aggressive interrogation techniques like those outlined in the memos to the CIA are effective. As the memos explain, high-value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the mastermind of 9/11, and Abu Zubaydah, one of Osama bin Laden’s key lieutenants, provided no actionable intelligence when facing traditional U.S. methods. It is doubtful that any high-level al Qaeda operative would ever provide useful intelligence in response to traditional methods.

Yet KSM and Zubaydah provided critical information after being waterboarded — information that, among other things, helped to prevent a “Second Wave” attack in Los Angeles, according to the memos. Similarly, the 2005 report by Vice Adm. Albert Church on Defense Department interrogation policies, the “Church Report” — of which I served as the executive editor — documented the success of aggressive techniques against high-value detainees like Mohamed al Kahtani, 9/11′s “20th hijacker.”

Nor does he buy into the notion that these techniques are “torture,” as that term is commonly understood:

I have personally been waterboarded, put into stress positions, sleep deprived, slapped in the face. While none of this was enjoyable, I am none the worse for wear.

So if we are to set up some sort of  “truth commission” the testimony of McSwain and the documentation he refers to will be illuminating. A young army captain in Afghanistan e-mails to a friend of mine:

The decision to release those memos was disappointing, but now that they are released. . . let’s lay it all out and have a full debate.  And, while we’re at it, let’s look too at rendition and other Clinton-era policies.  Maybe we lost our “moral bearings” then, too, and maybe some of those folks should worry about partisan witch hunts and criminal prosecutions.

Well, this will be one huge seminar in national security and morality, I suppose. If the administration and the rest of the Bush critics contend that enhanced techniques were unnecessary they will have the chance to make that case. But so too will others armed with first-hand recollections and documentary evidence concerning what measures were taken, who in Congress fully approved of them and what intelligence was gained from them. And the public, which already is sympathetic to the notion that even real torture would be justified to save American lives, can judge the results.

William McSwain, executive editor of the 2005 Review of Department of Defense Detention Operations and Detainee Interrogation Techniques (The Church Report), goes after much of the inaccurate or incomplete rhetoric coming out of the Obama administration on enhanced interrogation techniques. He echoes what former Vice President Cheney has said about the effectiveness of these techniques:

Fortunately, aggressive interrogation techniques like those outlined in the memos to the CIA are effective. As the memos explain, high-value detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the mastermind of 9/11, and Abu Zubaydah, one of Osama bin Laden’s key lieutenants, provided no actionable intelligence when facing traditional U.S. methods. It is doubtful that any high-level al Qaeda operative would ever provide useful intelligence in response to traditional methods.

Yet KSM and Zubaydah provided critical information after being waterboarded — information that, among other things, helped to prevent a “Second Wave” attack in Los Angeles, according to the memos. Similarly, the 2005 report by Vice Adm. Albert Church on Defense Department interrogation policies, the “Church Report” — of which I served as the executive editor — documented the success of aggressive techniques against high-value detainees like Mohamed al Kahtani, 9/11′s “20th hijacker.”

Nor does he buy into the notion that these techniques are “torture,” as that term is commonly understood:

I have personally been waterboarded, put into stress positions, sleep deprived, slapped in the face. While none of this was enjoyable, I am none the worse for wear.

So if we are to set up some sort of  “truth commission” the testimony of McSwain and the documentation he refers to will be illuminating. A young army captain in Afghanistan e-mails to a friend of mine:

The decision to release those memos was disappointing, but now that they are released. . . let’s lay it all out and have a full debate.  And, while we’re at it, let’s look too at rendition and other Clinton-era policies.  Maybe we lost our “moral bearings” then, too, and maybe some of those folks should worry about partisan witch hunts and criminal prosecutions.

Well, this will be one huge seminar in national security and morality, I suppose. If the administration and the rest of the Bush critics contend that enhanced techniques were unnecessary they will have the chance to make that case. But so too will others armed with first-hand recollections and documentary evidence concerning what measures were taken, who in Congress fully approved of them and what intelligence was gained from them. And the public, which already is sympathetic to the notion that even real torture would be justified to save American lives, can judge the results.

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Re: Appeasement in Pakistan

Abe, it may not only be appeasement in Pakistan, but the narrow U.S. plan in Afghanistan, that accounts for the moves by the Taliban.  J. E. Dyer says in her post today that the U.S. plan created an exploitable weakness:

My own assessment is that the Taliban were emboldened, in their push into [Northwest Pakistan] over the last several weeks, by the narrow focus of the US plan for beefing up force in Afghanistan – a plan that has accounted less, in my view, than it should, for the issues of logistics routes into and out of Afghanistan (for both insurgent factions and NATO), and for the likelihood of the Taliban seeking more urgently to consolidate a base in Pakistan.

The problem may also be that a broader perception of U.S. weakness is taking hold, resulting from a combination of  (1) setting a fixed date for the withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq next year, (2) a narrowly focused plan in Afghanistan, (3) the inability of Obama to convert a European apology tour into European troop commitments, (4) an Iran policy that consists largely of an invitation to talk, with apparently no time limit for accepting the invitation (much less completing the talks) and no credible Plan B, and (5) indications the U.S. plans to spend its strategic energy instead leaning on Israel (if Roger Cohen’s quotation of Lee Hamilton today is correct).

All of this sends a signal that adversaries and allies alike are beginning to perceive.  They are making their own evaluations of the first 100 days.

Abe, it may not only be appeasement in Pakistan, but the narrow U.S. plan in Afghanistan, that accounts for the moves by the Taliban.  J. E. Dyer says in her post today that the U.S. plan created an exploitable weakness:

My own assessment is that the Taliban were emboldened, in their push into [Northwest Pakistan] over the last several weeks, by the narrow focus of the US plan for beefing up force in Afghanistan – a plan that has accounted less, in my view, than it should, for the issues of logistics routes into and out of Afghanistan (for both insurgent factions and NATO), and for the likelihood of the Taliban seeking more urgently to consolidate a base in Pakistan.

The problem may also be that a broader perception of U.S. weakness is taking hold, resulting from a combination of  (1) setting a fixed date for the withdrawal of combat forces from Iraq next year, (2) a narrowly focused plan in Afghanistan, (3) the inability of Obama to convert a European apology tour into European troop commitments, (4) an Iran policy that consists largely of an invitation to talk, with apparently no time limit for accepting the invitation (much less completing the talks) and no credible Plan B, and (5) indications the U.S. plans to spend its strategic energy instead leaning on Israel (if Roger Cohen’s quotation of Lee Hamilton today is correct).

All of this sends a signal that adversaries and allies alike are beginning to perceive.  They are making their own evaluations of the first 100 days.

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Reality Knocks

Whether he intended it or not, the president has jump-started a national discussion which critics of the Bush administration might have preferred we all avoid. We are now engaged in a great debate about what our government must do to protect our fellow citizens against merciless foes. The Left has tried mightily to rule out any discussion of real world scenarios. They would like the discussion to transpire in a morally pristine world with no “what ifs.” They rely on the fantasy paradigm in which terrorists give up information with no psychological or physical pressure and in which we no longer will face real and immediate threats to our citizens.

But they have, it seems, trespassed into reality by insisting on release of the memos and raising the spectacle of a truth commission. Now the conversation is firmly grounded in the real world — as it was in 2001 and as it may be if another key terrorist is grabbed.

The public does not share the Left’s indifference to real world dilemmas or their inclination to give the back of the hand to “what ifs.” As the latest ABC/Washington Post poll shows, the president is quite popular but his policies are far less so. In a nutshell:

About half of all Americans, and 52 percent of independents, said there are circumstances in which the United States should consider employing torture against such suspects.

And that asks about “torture” — not a slap and a caterpillar. (I am waiting for the poll asking if a slap to the chin with fingers spread is “torture.”)

And it appears that the critics of the administration must be making progress since Robert Gibbs attempted to counter the “did it make us safer argument” on Sunday:

Robert Gibbs said the continued use of Bush-era harsh interrogation tactics threatened the lives of American troops who may face retribution from the country’s enemies.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the White House press secretary cited comments from National Security Adviser and former Marine General Jim Jones that, ”It is difficult to keep the men and women in uniform defending our country safe because of the use of these enhanced interrogation techniques.”

But this is silliness squared. When Americans are captured by terrorists they are beheaded. And terrorists had no problem recruiting jihadists well before any of this was known. Marty Peretz states and summarily dismisses this sort of argument:

America’s enemies, the enemies of the West bore no antagonism to the United States and its allies until they showed their indifference to their own values. This is nonsense…and ahistorical besides.

Saying unsupported piffle is the stuff of campaigns, but the current occupants of the White House seem unaware of their higher obligation to provide complete and unspun information to the American people. While they may be determined to throw out whatever hits them as an available political counterattack,  neither their own intelligence officials or the previous ones support the view that a single American was harmed because of interrogation tactics. The available information suggests the contrary is true.

The public has a reservoir of common sense. They see nothing wrong with harsh measures to save a hundred or a thousand or more Americans. Whether the administration does remains to be seen. The Left clearly does — and that is their Achilles heel in all this. Try as they might, they are unlikely to win the argument that ensuring the comfort of our most vicious enemies takes precedence over preventing the possible death of Americans.

Whether he intended it or not, the president has jump-started a national discussion which critics of the Bush administration might have preferred we all avoid. We are now engaged in a great debate about what our government must do to protect our fellow citizens against merciless foes. The Left has tried mightily to rule out any discussion of real world scenarios. They would like the discussion to transpire in a morally pristine world with no “what ifs.” They rely on the fantasy paradigm in which terrorists give up information with no psychological or physical pressure and in which we no longer will face real and immediate threats to our citizens.

But they have, it seems, trespassed into reality by insisting on release of the memos and raising the spectacle of a truth commission. Now the conversation is firmly grounded in the real world — as it was in 2001 and as it may be if another key terrorist is grabbed.

The public does not share the Left’s indifference to real world dilemmas or their inclination to give the back of the hand to “what ifs.” As the latest ABC/Washington Post poll shows, the president is quite popular but his policies are far less so. In a nutshell:

About half of all Americans, and 52 percent of independents, said there are circumstances in which the United States should consider employing torture against such suspects.

And that asks about “torture” — not a slap and a caterpillar. (I am waiting for the poll asking if a slap to the chin with fingers spread is “torture.”)

And it appears that the critics of the administration must be making progress since Robert Gibbs attempted to counter the “did it make us safer argument” on Sunday:

Robert Gibbs said the continued use of Bush-era harsh interrogation tactics threatened the lives of American troops who may face retribution from the country’s enemies.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” the White House press secretary cited comments from National Security Adviser and former Marine General Jim Jones that, ”It is difficult to keep the men and women in uniform defending our country safe because of the use of these enhanced interrogation techniques.”

But this is silliness squared. When Americans are captured by terrorists they are beheaded. And terrorists had no problem recruiting jihadists well before any of this was known. Marty Peretz states and summarily dismisses this sort of argument:

America’s enemies, the enemies of the West bore no antagonism to the United States and its allies until they showed their indifference to their own values. This is nonsense…and ahistorical besides.

Saying unsupported piffle is the stuff of campaigns, but the current occupants of the White House seem unaware of their higher obligation to provide complete and unspun information to the American people. While they may be determined to throw out whatever hits them as an available political counterattack,  neither their own intelligence officials or the previous ones support the view that a single American was harmed because of interrogation tactics. The available information suggests the contrary is true.

The public has a reservoir of common sense. They see nothing wrong with harsh measures to save a hundred or a thousand or more Americans. Whether the administration does remains to be seen. The Left clearly does — and that is their Achilles heel in all this. Try as they might, they are unlikely to win the argument that ensuring the comfort of our most vicious enemies takes precedence over preventing the possible death of Americans.

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Convenient Lapses of Memory

Last week, Porter Goss blistered the Democratic congressional leadership for their revision of their involvement in the “enhanced interrogation techniques” used against captured Al Qaeda members. And Goss certainly has the resume to make such statements — a former CIA officer, former chairman of House Intelligence Committee, and former Director of the CIA.

Goss points out that the Congressional leadership — including Nancy Pelosi and Jay Rockefeller, though Goss doesn’t call them out by name — was thoroughly briefed on the techniques before they were used. And now they are shocked — shocked! — to hear that they were actually applied, and are entertaining the notion of putting those people who were involved in the interrogations (from actually carrying them out to researching their legality) on trial.

For years, Democrats have practiced a particular form of amnesia that lets them forget inconvenient statements, briefings, even votes that later might prove embarrassing.

The classic example has to be the Congressional authorization  for the invasion of Iraq. It passed the House with 126 Democratic votes and the Senate with 29, but nowadays trying to find a single Democrat who will admit and stand by that vote is almost impossible. (Joe Lieberman doesn’t count — he was essentially drummed out of the party for doing just that.) Instead, they stumble all over themselves with excuses (Hillary Clinton’s is particularly entertaining — “I was voting for a bluff; I didn’t think Bush would actually do what he said he’d do!”) and rationales. It’s fun to see the same people who talk about how dumb George W. Bush is claim that they were hornswoggled by him.

Barney Frank is another example. He spent years carrying water for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, protecting them from tightened regulations and denying that they were in any kind of trouble whatsoever — right up until they fell apart and left the taxpayers holding the bag.

Unfortunately for them, all of these instances are readily retrievable on the Internet — which never forgets anything.

Last week, Porter Goss blistered the Democratic congressional leadership for their revision of their involvement in the “enhanced interrogation techniques” used against captured Al Qaeda members. And Goss certainly has the resume to make such statements — a former CIA officer, former chairman of House Intelligence Committee, and former Director of the CIA.

Goss points out that the Congressional leadership — including Nancy Pelosi and Jay Rockefeller, though Goss doesn’t call them out by name — was thoroughly briefed on the techniques before they were used. And now they are shocked — shocked! — to hear that they were actually applied, and are entertaining the notion of putting those people who were involved in the interrogations (from actually carrying them out to researching their legality) on trial.

For years, Democrats have practiced a particular form of amnesia that lets them forget inconvenient statements, briefings, even votes that later might prove embarrassing.

The classic example has to be the Congressional authorization  for the invasion of Iraq. It passed the House with 126 Democratic votes and the Senate with 29, but nowadays trying to find a single Democrat who will admit and stand by that vote is almost impossible. (Joe Lieberman doesn’t count — he was essentially drummed out of the party for doing just that.) Instead, they stumble all over themselves with excuses (Hillary Clinton’s is particularly entertaining — “I was voting for a bluff; I didn’t think Bush would actually do what he said he’d do!”) and rationales. It’s fun to see the same people who talk about how dumb George W. Bush is claim that they were hornswoggled by him.

Barney Frank is another example. He spent years carrying water for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, protecting them from tightened regulations and denying that they were in any kind of trouble whatsoever — right up until they fell apart and left the taxpayers holding the bag.

Unfortunately for them, all of these instances are readily retrievable on the Internet — which never forgets anything.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sen. Kit Bond calls release of the interrogation memos a “stab in the back.” And he adds that “if Speaker Pelosi and Jay Rockefeller thought they were excessive, or should not have been done, they should have said something then. There was plenty of opportunity to do it, and they didn’t. That’s why we have continuing ongoing oversight by Congress.”

Lots more tea parties scheduled for July 4. At a clip of $65 billion of new debt for each of the First 100 days there will be plenty to talk about.

Robert J. Samuelson isn’t buy the environmentalists’ promise of a cost-free solution to greenhouse gas restriction: “The selling of the green economy involves much economic make-believe. Environmentalists not only maximize the dangers of global warming — from rising sea levels to advancing tropical diseases — they also minimize the costs of dealing with it. Actually, no one involved in this debate really knows what the consequences or costs might be. All are inferred from models of uncertain reliability. Great schemes of economic and social engineering are proposed on shaky foundations of knowledge. Candor and common sense are in scarce supply.”

I’m not sure which is more compelling in this interview: Liz Cheney’s calm defense of the enhanced interrogation tactics or the degree to which Nora O’Donnell is both ill-informed as to the underlying facts and emotionally invested in her position. If she is going to so obviously discard her “impartial reporter” role she’d do well to brush up on the primary source material.

Larry Summers is madly trying to lower expectations, calling for a “long road” to recovery. So what exactly did the stimulus plan get us?

The mainstream media discovers the Obama tax policies are going to whack small businesses.

The Congressional Black Caucus is steamed that Obama is backtracking on his position involving ongoing discrimination litigation by African-American farmers against the Agriculture Department. They are right that Obama has flip-flopped, but he is right to do so. A while back I looked into just how frivolous this litigation is.

Too bad this didn’t come up during Ahmadinejad’s appearance on This Week: “An Iranian vessel en route to Sudan in order to deliver weapons to Hamas in the Gaza Strip was attacked by an Israeli or American ship and destroyed, according to a report Sunday in the Egyptian weekly Al-Usbua.” Nor did the story about shipment of enriched uranium to North Korea come up. Or the shipment of IEDs into Iraq to kill Americans. Or Iran’s support of Hamas and Hezbollah. Or the treatment of gays in Iran.

Here is an interesting account of George Stephanopoulos’ efforts to gain access to Roxana Saberi. Saberi is now on a hunger strike. And Iran’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, who agreed to represent her, was denied access to Saberi on Sunday.

An unexpected and positive development: “Democrats in Congress are joining Republicans in calling for tough new sanctions on Iran and warning the Obama administration that its policy of engagement shouldn’t last too long before turning to harsher steps aimed at halting Tehran’s nuclear program.” Perhaps the rest of his party is not so certain that Obama’s charms alone will affect Iran’s behavior.

Also unexpected and positive: the Washington Post editors present a compelling argument against a “public option” in healthcare reform. Read the whole thing.

A case study in governmental abuse of power: “The cavalier use of brute government force has become routine, but the emerging story of how Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke forced CEO Ken Lewis to blow up Bank of America is still shocking. It’s a case study in the ways that panicky regulators have so often botched the bailout and made the financial crisis worse.”

While opposing “harsh interrogation techniques” Michael Gerson nevertheless asks: “Historically, did America ever give such exhaustive consideration to the consequences of its actions in safeguarding the homeland? To the rights of children incinerated during the firebombing of Dresden? To the long-term mental and physical health of the elderly of Hiroshima? Even the most questionable techniques employed in the war on terror bear no comparison to methods common in past American wars.”

Sen. Kit Bond calls release of the interrogation memos a “stab in the back.” And he adds that “if Speaker Pelosi and Jay Rockefeller thought they were excessive, or should not have been done, they should have said something then. There was plenty of opportunity to do it, and they didn’t. That’s why we have continuing ongoing oversight by Congress.”

Lots more tea parties scheduled for July 4. At a clip of $65 billion of new debt for each of the First 100 days there will be plenty to talk about.

Robert J. Samuelson isn’t buy the environmentalists’ promise of a cost-free solution to greenhouse gas restriction: “The selling of the green economy involves much economic make-believe. Environmentalists not only maximize the dangers of global warming — from rising sea levels to advancing tropical diseases — they also minimize the costs of dealing with it. Actually, no one involved in this debate really knows what the consequences or costs might be. All are inferred from models of uncertain reliability. Great schemes of economic and social engineering are proposed on shaky foundations of knowledge. Candor and common sense are in scarce supply.”

I’m not sure which is more compelling in this interview: Liz Cheney’s calm defense of the enhanced interrogation tactics or the degree to which Nora O’Donnell is both ill-informed as to the underlying facts and emotionally invested in her position. If she is going to so obviously discard her “impartial reporter” role she’d do well to brush up on the primary source material.

Larry Summers is madly trying to lower expectations, calling for a “long road” to recovery. So what exactly did the stimulus plan get us?

The mainstream media discovers the Obama tax policies are going to whack small businesses.

The Congressional Black Caucus is steamed that Obama is backtracking on his position involving ongoing discrimination litigation by African-American farmers against the Agriculture Department. They are right that Obama has flip-flopped, but he is right to do so. A while back I looked into just how frivolous this litigation is.

Too bad this didn’t come up during Ahmadinejad’s appearance on This Week: “An Iranian vessel en route to Sudan in order to deliver weapons to Hamas in the Gaza Strip was attacked by an Israeli or American ship and destroyed, according to a report Sunday in the Egyptian weekly Al-Usbua.” Nor did the story about shipment of enriched uranium to North Korea come up. Or the shipment of IEDs into Iraq to kill Americans. Or Iran’s support of Hamas and Hezbollah. Or the treatment of gays in Iran.

Here is an interesting account of George Stephanopoulos’ efforts to gain access to Roxana Saberi. Saberi is now on a hunger strike. And Iran’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, who agreed to represent her, was denied access to Saberi on Sunday.

An unexpected and positive development: “Democrats in Congress are joining Republicans in calling for tough new sanctions on Iran and warning the Obama administration that its policy of engagement shouldn’t last too long before turning to harsher steps aimed at halting Tehran’s nuclear program.” Perhaps the rest of his party is not so certain that Obama’s charms alone will affect Iran’s behavior.

Also unexpected and positive: the Washington Post editors present a compelling argument against a “public option” in healthcare reform. Read the whole thing.

A case study in governmental abuse of power: “The cavalier use of brute government force has become routine, but the emerging story of how Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke forced CEO Ken Lewis to blow up Bank of America is still shocking. It’s a case study in the ways that panicky regulators have so often botched the bailout and made the financial crisis worse.”

While opposing “harsh interrogation techniques” Michael Gerson nevertheless asks: “Historically, did America ever give such exhaustive consideration to the consequences of its actions in safeguarding the homeland? To the rights of children incinerated during the firebombing of Dresden? To the long-term mental and physical health of the elderly of Hiroshima? Even the most questionable techniques employed in the war on terror bear no comparison to methods common in past American wars.”

Read Less