Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 12, 2009

Re: -Ization Nation

As an addendum to my earlier post, the AP is now reporting that the finances of both Social Security and Medicare, especially the latter, are in worse shape than recently thought. Medicare will pay out more money this year than it takes in and will be insolvent by 2017, a mere eight years from now.

Social Security — whose trust fund the federal government has been raiding for years to meet current expenses — will have a surplus of only $4 billion next year instead of the $86 billion projected last year and will begin running a deficit in 2016 as the tidal wave of retiring baby boomers crests. Assuming the government redeems its IOU’s, which constitutes the trust fund’s assets, the fund will be empty in 2037.

So the Obama administration wants to “reform” American healthcare by setting up a “public option” that would compete with private health insurance and would be modeled on . . . . Medicare!

That is like an engineer deliberately designing a bridge modeled on Galloping Gertie.

As an addendum to my earlier post, the AP is now reporting that the finances of both Social Security and Medicare, especially the latter, are in worse shape than recently thought. Medicare will pay out more money this year than it takes in and will be insolvent by 2017, a mere eight years from now.

Social Security — whose trust fund the federal government has been raiding for years to meet current expenses — will have a surplus of only $4 billion next year instead of the $86 billion projected last year and will begin running a deficit in 2016 as the tidal wave of retiring baby boomers crests. Assuming the government redeems its IOU’s, which constitutes the trust fund’s assets, the fund will be empty in 2037.

So the Obama administration wants to “reform” American healthcare by setting up a “public option” that would compete with private health insurance and would be modeled on . . . . Medicare!

That is like an engineer deliberately designing a bridge modeled on Galloping Gertie.

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Commentary of the Day

dostoyb, on Peter Wehner:

You who decry what the “MSM” decries, or fails to decry – you conservatives who complain that the liberal media is biased – you who believe in the free market to the exclusion of all other forms of distribution and exchange – please, please, start your own networks and news services, attract customers with your superior product, and stop moaning about the fact that the majority of those who watch and read the news choose sources that don’t comport with your agenda. You believe in the market – fight for customers!

dostoyb, on Peter Wehner:

You who decry what the “MSM” decries, or fails to decry – you conservatives who complain that the liberal media is biased – you who believe in the free market to the exclusion of all other forms of distribution and exchange – please, please, start your own networks and news services, attract customers with your superior product, and stop moaning about the fact that the majority of those who watch and read the news choose sources that don’t comport with your agenda. You believe in the market – fight for customers!

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No Need To Go Down with the Speakership

It’s no secret that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi don’t see eye to eye on a number of things. He’s been pushing for a bipartisan approach to entitlement reform; she is against it. But now Hoyer seems ready to toss Pelosi over the side of the leaky Democratic ship on the subject of enhanced interrogation techniques. This report explains:

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Tuesday that investigations into the Bush administration’s use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects should look into what congressional leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, knew about the methods that have been criticized as torture.
[. . .]

“Frankly, information about what was said, when it was said, who said it, that ought to be on the record so the American public knows,” Hoyer said.

Whoa. Well he did soften the blow a bit by suggesting that those mean Republicans are just trying to distract everyone:

Hoyer dismissed recent Republican focus on Democrats who were briefed about interrogation techniques. “The Republicans are simply trying to distract the American public with ‘who knew what when.’ My response to that is that the issue is not what was said or what was known, the focus ought to be on what was done,” he said. He said that if congressional hearings are held or if a commission calls witnesses, Pelosi and other members of Congress who were briefed wouldn’t be able to shed much light. “She was bound by requirements of secrecy as a condition of that briefing,” he said of Pelosi. “It’s a little bit of a conundrum.”

A conundrum indeed. But his point was crystal clear: let the chips fall where they may. (And as far as the “requirements of secrecy,” I think we’re in the process of waiving just about all of those.) It seems that Hoyer isn’t about to expend political energy defending his Speaker. And if he doesn’t, will other Democrats?

It’s no secret that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi don’t see eye to eye on a number of things. He’s been pushing for a bipartisan approach to entitlement reform; she is against it. But now Hoyer seems ready to toss Pelosi over the side of the leaky Democratic ship on the subject of enhanced interrogation techniques. This report explains:

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer said Tuesday that investigations into the Bush administration’s use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects should look into what congressional leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, knew about the methods that have been criticized as torture.
[. . .]

“Frankly, information about what was said, when it was said, who said it, that ought to be on the record so the American public knows,” Hoyer said.

Whoa. Well he did soften the blow a bit by suggesting that those mean Republicans are just trying to distract everyone:

Hoyer dismissed recent Republican focus on Democrats who were briefed about interrogation techniques. “The Republicans are simply trying to distract the American public with ‘who knew what when.’ My response to that is that the issue is not what was said or what was known, the focus ought to be on what was done,” he said. He said that if congressional hearings are held or if a commission calls witnesses, Pelosi and other members of Congress who were briefed wouldn’t be able to shed much light. “She was bound by requirements of secrecy as a condition of that briefing,” he said of Pelosi. “It’s a little bit of a conundrum.”

A conundrum indeed. But his point was crystal clear: let the chips fall where they may. (And as far as the “requirements of secrecy,” I think we’re in the process of waiving just about all of those.) It seems that Hoyer isn’t about to expend political energy defending his Speaker. And if he doesn’t, will other Democrats?

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Sanity Returns?

At the Weekly Standard’s Blog, Bill Kristol writes, “Look for the Obama reversal on the photos as early as tomorrow.”

“The photos” are the detainee photos the Obama Justice Department had previously asked to have released. Robert Gibbs was more incomprehensibly elusive than usual when questions about the photos  came up at today’s White House press briefing. I think Kristol hits the nail on the head:

The release of photos is less justifiable than that of memos in terms of the public’s right to know, soldiers are more popular than lawyers, and this wouldn’t be a (however distasteful) assault on the actions of a previous administration–this would be a gratuitous assault on the well-being and the reputation of our fighting men and women.

It would also further aggravate a festering domestic wound and thereby weaken our resolve as a nation at war. The president must realize that as the country ramps up the fight against extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we cannot indulge in open-ended self-flagellation of this sort. The memo stunt has already taken its toll on morale and the Guantanamo stunt is proving to be more-or-less undoable. Perhaps Obama himself is finally putting aside childish things. If so, it’s not a moment too soon. We await tomorrow’s news.

At the Weekly Standard’s Blog, Bill Kristol writes, “Look for the Obama reversal on the photos as early as tomorrow.”

“The photos” are the detainee photos the Obama Justice Department had previously asked to have released. Robert Gibbs was more incomprehensibly elusive than usual when questions about the photos  came up at today’s White House press briefing. I think Kristol hits the nail on the head:

The release of photos is less justifiable than that of memos in terms of the public’s right to know, soldiers are more popular than lawyers, and this wouldn’t be a (however distasteful) assault on the actions of a previous administration–this would be a gratuitous assault on the well-being and the reputation of our fighting men and women.

It would also further aggravate a festering domestic wound and thereby weaken our resolve as a nation at war. The president must realize that as the country ramps up the fight against extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we cannot indulge in open-ended self-flagellation of this sort. The memo stunt has already taken its toll on morale and the Guantanamo stunt is proving to be more-or-less undoable. Perhaps Obama himself is finally putting aside childish things. If so, it’s not a moment too soon. We await tomorrow’s news.

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Passing the Buck

There’s an old joke that defines a liberal  as “someone who is generous with other people’s money.” By that definition, Barack Obama is a remarkably liberal man.

During the aborted attempt to save Chrysler from bankruptcy, Obama oversaw billions of dollars loaned out to the struggling automaker — and then saw those “loans” forgiven and converted into outright gifts.

Obama’s plan was thwarted  when some of Chrysler’s debtors — those not shackled by federal bailout money — realized they would do better with a bankruptcy judge than with Obama, who offered them 20 cents on the  dollar. That led to Obama angrily denouncing them for their greed.

It seems to escape Obama that these people who shot down his grand scheme are not protecting their own money. They are managers of other people’s money, and have a legal and moral obligation to protect those funds to the best of their ability.

Simply put, the money Obama wanted them to write off wasn’t theirs to give away. They had no more right to tell Chrysler to keep it than they had to insist that President Obama repay the debts out of his own checkbook.

Not that that would have been likely to happen. Back during the presidential campaign, President Obama released his tax returns for the years 2000-2006. He seemed to have had a pretty good grasp of the value of his own money — his charitable giving never broke 1.5% of his income until he started planning for his run for president.

It’s remarkably easy to be generous when other people ultimately pick up the tab. The tricky part is arranging things so that those other people will agree to cover your promises.

One good way to do this is to get elected president.

There’s an old joke that defines a liberal  as “someone who is generous with other people’s money.” By that definition, Barack Obama is a remarkably liberal man.

During the aborted attempt to save Chrysler from bankruptcy, Obama oversaw billions of dollars loaned out to the struggling automaker — and then saw those “loans” forgiven and converted into outright gifts.

Obama’s plan was thwarted  when some of Chrysler’s debtors — those not shackled by federal bailout money — realized they would do better with a bankruptcy judge than with Obama, who offered them 20 cents on the  dollar. That led to Obama angrily denouncing them for their greed.

It seems to escape Obama that these people who shot down his grand scheme are not protecting their own money. They are managers of other people’s money, and have a legal and moral obligation to protect those funds to the best of their ability.

Simply put, the money Obama wanted them to write off wasn’t theirs to give away. They had no more right to tell Chrysler to keep it than they had to insist that President Obama repay the debts out of his own checkbook.

Not that that would have been likely to happen. Back during the presidential campaign, President Obama released his tax returns for the years 2000-2006. He seemed to have had a pretty good grasp of the value of his own money — his charitable giving never broke 1.5% of his income until he started planning for his run for president.

It’s remarkably easy to be generous when other people ultimately pick up the tab. The tricky part is arranging things so that those other people will agree to cover your promises.

One good way to do this is to get elected president.

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-Ization Nation

The Obama Administration is bent on taking over healthcare in this country, and as Jennifer has pointed out, it is by no means above making claims that it will save money by doing so. How turning 17 percent of the American economy over to those wonderful folks who brought you Medicare is going to save money is a mystery to me.

I recently became eligible for Medicare and went online to sign up. Being logical by nature, I went to www.medicare.gov . No matter where I went on that website, however, I could not find how to sign up and was constantly asked for my Medicare number. Of course, not having yet signed up, I didn’t have one. I finally called Medicare and, having battled my way through the now-inevitable phone tree, at last got a live human being.

It turns out that you don’t sign up for Medicare by going to Medicare — silly me for thinking so. You sign up for Medicare by going to Social Security. (If you want to join the Army, do you call the Department of Agriculture?) I’m sure there is some reason for this that is bureaucratically logical, if you’ll pardon the oxymoron. But is it beyond the capacity of Medicare to put a prominent note on the opening page of its website saying, “If you want to sign up for Medicare, go here” and provide a link? Apparently it is.

All of this brought to mind a column I wrote for American Heritage a few years ago on the takeover of the phone system by the Wilson Administration. The “progressives” of that era thought that because AT&T was a monopoly, the phone system would be better and more cheaply run by the Post Office (no snickering, please). The idea was politically marketed under the name “postalization.”

Theodore Vail, the brilliant president of AT&T, cheerfully admitted that the company was, in large measure, a monopoly. But he noted that, “all monopolies should be regulated. Government ownership would be an unregulated monopoly.”

He was, of course, entirely correct. While a major reason for taking over the phone system had been to make lower rates possible, almost the very first thing the Post Office did was to raise rates, and sharply. AT&T, as a regulated utility, had had to obtain permission to raise rates. The government could just do so, and did. The Post Office also imposed a new service-connection fee.

The whole experiment lasted only slightly over a year, as public support evaporated in the face of the government’s high-handed ways and the phone system was returned to private hands. Thus the United States continued to have the best and cheapest phone system in the world for the next sixty years, until technological advances made the AT&T monopoly no longer necessary. Once AT&T was broken up, market competition quickly lowered prices dramatically.

Perhaps those who regard the nationalization of healthcare as a looming economic disaster — count me among them — need to come up with a word to describe what the Obama Administration has in mind, a word both accurate and scary.

How about “medicarization”?

The Obama Administration is bent on taking over healthcare in this country, and as Jennifer has pointed out, it is by no means above making claims that it will save money by doing so. How turning 17 percent of the American economy over to those wonderful folks who brought you Medicare is going to save money is a mystery to me.

I recently became eligible for Medicare and went online to sign up. Being logical by nature, I went to www.medicare.gov . No matter where I went on that website, however, I could not find how to sign up and was constantly asked for my Medicare number. Of course, not having yet signed up, I didn’t have one. I finally called Medicare and, having battled my way through the now-inevitable phone tree, at last got a live human being.

It turns out that you don’t sign up for Medicare by going to Medicare — silly me for thinking so. You sign up for Medicare by going to Social Security. (If you want to join the Army, do you call the Department of Agriculture?) I’m sure there is some reason for this that is bureaucratically logical, if you’ll pardon the oxymoron. But is it beyond the capacity of Medicare to put a prominent note on the opening page of its website saying, “If you want to sign up for Medicare, go here” and provide a link? Apparently it is.

All of this brought to mind a column I wrote for American Heritage a few years ago on the takeover of the phone system by the Wilson Administration. The “progressives” of that era thought that because AT&T was a monopoly, the phone system would be better and more cheaply run by the Post Office (no snickering, please). The idea was politically marketed under the name “postalization.”

Theodore Vail, the brilliant president of AT&T, cheerfully admitted that the company was, in large measure, a monopoly. But he noted that, “all monopolies should be regulated. Government ownership would be an unregulated monopoly.”

He was, of course, entirely correct. While a major reason for taking over the phone system had been to make lower rates possible, almost the very first thing the Post Office did was to raise rates, and sharply. AT&T, as a regulated utility, had had to obtain permission to raise rates. The government could just do so, and did. The Post Office also imposed a new service-connection fee.

The whole experiment lasted only slightly over a year, as public support evaporated in the face of the government’s high-handed ways and the phone system was returned to private hands. Thus the United States continued to have the best and cheapest phone system in the world for the next sixty years, until technological advances made the AT&T monopoly no longer necessary. Once AT&T was broken up, market competition quickly lowered prices dramatically.

Perhaps those who regard the nationalization of healthcare as a looming economic disaster — count me among them — need to come up with a word to describe what the Obama Administration has in mind, a word both accurate and scary.

How about “medicarization”?

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Fantasy Budgeting

This report tells us that economists have “scoffed” at Obama’s budget assumptions:

“If they keep playing this game, they’re going to have real credibility problems,” predicted Brian Bethune, the chief U.S. financial economist at IHS Global Insight, an economic research firm.

[ . . .]

The biggest discrepancy involves unemployment, which reached 8.9 percent last month. The White House sees the number declining to an average of 7.9 percent next year, well below the CBO’s 9 percent estimate and the blue chip 9.5 percent.’The (Obama) unemployment number is crazy,’ said Roberton Williams, senior fellow at the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center.

[. . .]

“Even using their . . . economic assumptions — which now appear to be out of date and overly optimistic — the administration never puts us on a stable path,” said Marc Goldwein, the policy director of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

When you look at these numbers and yesterday’s healthcare showmanship you get the sense that the Obama team has political plans — for attacking the other side, putting on press conferences and getting Democratic votes — but no substantive approach on the policy side to resolve the difficult problems we face. Frankly, these are smart people so they must understand that they haven’t begun to pay for any of this. And by being so extraordinarily dishonest with voters, they are only making the day of reckoning that much more difficult.

Rick Klein at The Note put it this way:

Can the game have really changed if we’re still playing the same game? The Obama White House has again shown it knows how to make a splash — even though we’re not sure yet exactly what’s in the pool at this watershed. (What’s better — a budget with no numbers, or a healthcare plan with no plans?) So far, President Obama has found perceptions to be easier to manage than realities. You want fiscal discipline? The deficit just grew by more than those proposed budget savings. Economic recovery? Jobs are already being created by the stimulus — still not nearly as fast as they’re being lost, mind you. Healthcare reform? We’ll always have that photo-op . . . (And if Team Obama really had much more than that right now, might we be getting it?)

I don’t know how the Obama team intends to avoid the inevitable math. It is one thing to convince huge Democratic majorities to vote for cotton candy budgets and fantasyland healthcare ( by saying it all pays for itself). But after the photo ops and dog-and-pony summits this will entail governing. You have to pay for it, and you have to eventually face the music. One senses the Obama team has no idea how and when they’re going to do all that.

This report tells us that economists have “scoffed” at Obama’s budget assumptions:

“If they keep playing this game, they’re going to have real credibility problems,” predicted Brian Bethune, the chief U.S. financial economist at IHS Global Insight, an economic research firm.

[ . . .]

The biggest discrepancy involves unemployment, which reached 8.9 percent last month. The White House sees the number declining to an average of 7.9 percent next year, well below the CBO’s 9 percent estimate and the blue chip 9.5 percent.’The (Obama) unemployment number is crazy,’ said Roberton Williams, senior fellow at the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center.

[. . .]

“Even using their . . . economic assumptions — which now appear to be out of date and overly optimistic — the administration never puts us on a stable path,” said Marc Goldwein, the policy director of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

When you look at these numbers and yesterday’s healthcare showmanship you get the sense that the Obama team has political plans — for attacking the other side, putting on press conferences and getting Democratic votes — but no substantive approach on the policy side to resolve the difficult problems we face. Frankly, these are smart people so they must understand that they haven’t begun to pay for any of this. And by being so extraordinarily dishonest with voters, they are only making the day of reckoning that much more difficult.

Rick Klein at The Note put it this way:

Can the game have really changed if we’re still playing the same game? The Obama White House has again shown it knows how to make a splash — even though we’re not sure yet exactly what’s in the pool at this watershed. (What’s better — a budget with no numbers, or a healthcare plan with no plans?) So far, President Obama has found perceptions to be easier to manage than realities. You want fiscal discipline? The deficit just grew by more than those proposed budget savings. Economic recovery? Jobs are already being created by the stimulus — still not nearly as fast as they’re being lost, mind you. Healthcare reform? We’ll always have that photo-op . . . (And if Team Obama really had much more than that right now, might we be getting it?)

I don’t know how the Obama team intends to avoid the inevitable math. It is one thing to convince huge Democratic majorities to vote for cotton candy budgets and fantasyland healthcare ( by saying it all pays for itself). But after the photo ops and dog-and-pony summits this will entail governing. You have to pay for it, and you have to eventually face the music. One senses the Obama team has no idea how and when they’re going to do all that.

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Cheney on Cheney on Obama

Liz Cheney is a bright, knowledgeable, and compelling voice on many issues – including in defense of her father. You can see for yourself here, in her appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Liz defends former Vice President Cheney decision to speak out and explains why the enhanced interrogation technique memos her father has asked to have declassified should be declassified. I’d add only one point to what she says. A lot of commentators are reacting with feigned horror that Dick Cheney is being vocal, as if this is plowing new and sacred ground. Of course it’s not. Al Gore spoke out repeatedly against the Bush Administration. The difference, of course, is that Cheney’s criticisms have been substantive rather than ad hominem, informed rather than deranged. During the Bush presidency Gore charged that Bush had brought “deep dishonor to our country” and had built a “durable reputation as the most dishonest President since Richard Nixon.” Gore said George W. Bush had “betrayed this country” and he called the president a “moral coward” and said that his Administration was allied with “digital brownshirts.”

Unlike Gore, who seems to have been consumed by bitterness over his loss to Bush in 2000, Cheney has acted as a responsible and knowledgeable public voice. One may disagree with Cheney’s views, but he has every right to express them and, in fact, the nation would be well-served all the way around if it engaged, in a serious manner, with the substance of his arguments.

Liz Cheney is a bright, knowledgeable, and compelling voice on many issues – including in defense of her father. You can see for yourself here, in her appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Liz defends former Vice President Cheney decision to speak out and explains why the enhanced interrogation technique memos her father has asked to have declassified should be declassified. I’d add only one point to what she says. A lot of commentators are reacting with feigned horror that Dick Cheney is being vocal, as if this is plowing new and sacred ground. Of course it’s not. Al Gore spoke out repeatedly against the Bush Administration. The difference, of course, is that Cheney’s criticisms have been substantive rather than ad hominem, informed rather than deranged. During the Bush presidency Gore charged that Bush had brought “deep dishonor to our country” and had built a “durable reputation as the most dishonest President since Richard Nixon.” Gore said George W. Bush had “betrayed this country” and he called the president a “moral coward” and said that his Administration was allied with “digital brownshirts.”

Unlike Gore, who seems to have been consumed by bitterness over his loss to Bush in 2000, Cheney has acted as a responsible and knowledgeable public voice. One may disagree with Cheney’s views, but he has every right to express them and, in fact, the nation would be well-served all the way around if it engaged, in a serious manner, with the substance of his arguments.

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Cohen, Cheney, and Doris Day

Richard Cohen, no fan of Dick Cheney, wants to know what’s in those two memos which Cheney claims bolster the case that enhanced interrogation techniques “paid off.” In perhaps two of his best paragraphs ever Cohen writes:

Cheney says he once had the memos in his files and has since asked that they be released. He’s got a point. After all, this is not merely some political catfight conducted by bloggers, although it is a bit of that, too. Inescapably, it is about life and death — not ideology, but people hurling themselves from the burning World Trade Center. If Cheney is right, then let the debate begin: What to do about enhanced interrogation methods? Should they be banned across the board, always and forever? Can we talk about what is and not just what ought to be?

In a similar vein, can we also find out what Nancy Pelosi knew and when she knew it? If she did indeed know about waterboarding back in 2003, that would hardly make her a war criminal. But if she knew and insists otherwise, that would make her one of those people who will not acknowledge that the immediate post-Sept. 11 atmosphere allowed for methods that now seem abhorrent. Certain Democratic politicians remind me of what Oscar Levant supposedly said of Doris Day: “I knew [her] before she was a virgin.” They have no memory of who they used to be.

The time is passed when the administration and the Democratic Congress can selectively declassify documents and steer the outrage to just the “culprits” they desire.  If the objectives now are to “learn lessons,” hold everyone accountable for what they did, and explore whether circumstances justified their behavior I suppose we should have at it. And if Cheney is correct — and those memos provide evidence of the efficacy of these interrogation methods — then the president, who chose not to release them, has some explaining to do as well.

Cheney may be politically unpopular, but he’s been remarkably successfully in demanding that more than a partisan slice of the story be told. Forcing a public debate about the hard and very real choices in war, and reminding the country of the circumstances in which the Bush administration labored after 9-11 are no small things.

Notwithstanding his swipes at the former VP, Cohen is right about one thing: “this could be Cheney’s time.”

Richard Cohen, no fan of Dick Cheney, wants to know what’s in those two memos which Cheney claims bolster the case that enhanced interrogation techniques “paid off.” In perhaps two of his best paragraphs ever Cohen writes:

Cheney says he once had the memos in his files and has since asked that they be released. He’s got a point. After all, this is not merely some political catfight conducted by bloggers, although it is a bit of that, too. Inescapably, it is about life and death — not ideology, but people hurling themselves from the burning World Trade Center. If Cheney is right, then let the debate begin: What to do about enhanced interrogation methods? Should they be banned across the board, always and forever? Can we talk about what is and not just what ought to be?

In a similar vein, can we also find out what Nancy Pelosi knew and when she knew it? If she did indeed know about waterboarding back in 2003, that would hardly make her a war criminal. But if she knew and insists otherwise, that would make her one of those people who will not acknowledge that the immediate post-Sept. 11 atmosphere allowed for methods that now seem abhorrent. Certain Democratic politicians remind me of what Oscar Levant supposedly said of Doris Day: “I knew [her] before she was a virgin.” They have no memory of who they used to be.

The time is passed when the administration and the Democratic Congress can selectively declassify documents and steer the outrage to just the “culprits” they desire.  If the objectives now are to “learn lessons,” hold everyone accountable for what they did, and explore whether circumstances justified their behavior I suppose we should have at it. And if Cheney is correct — and those memos provide evidence of the efficacy of these interrogation methods — then the president, who chose not to release them, has some explaining to do as well.

Cheney may be politically unpopular, but he’s been remarkably successfully in demanding that more than a partisan slice of the story be told. Forcing a public debate about the hard and very real choices in war, and reminding the country of the circumstances in which the Bush administration labored after 9-11 are no small things.

Notwithstanding his swipes at the former VP, Cohen is right about one thing: “this could be Cheney’s time.”

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Extreme Makeover: Saudi Edition

In an interview with the Times of London, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah identifies the most stubborn obstacle to Middle East peace:

So it’s the work that needs to be done over the next couple of months that has a regional answer to this — that is not a two-state solution, it is a 57-state solution. That is the tipping point that shakes up Israeli politicians and the Israeli public.

[ . . .]

Here is one final opportunity. If the only player in this equation between the West, the Arabs and the Muslims that is not being helpful and is against peace is Israel, then let’s call it for what it is. Let Israel understand that the world sees Israeli policy for what it is.

Does the world no longer see Saudi policy for what it is? A very dangerous paradigm shift is underway, and now we are all bowing before his majesty. King Abdullah — monarch, theocrat, benefactor of Islamism — has been cast as the region’s cool-headed reformer, while the new democratically elected government of Israel is demonized as the region’s fanatical throwback. It matters not that Saudi Arabia doesn’t permit its citizens to practice any religion but Islam, that its religious police break into homes and confiscate symbols of Christianity, that women are sentenced to gang rapes for being insufficiently modest, or that Riyadh is the chief exporter of Wahhabist Islam. It doesn’t even matter that the Kingdon has now succesfulluy internationalized Qur’anic blasphemy laws by sponsoring a ban on criticism of religions in the UN Human Rights Council.

All that matters is that during his first interview as president, Barack Obama praised King Abdullah’s “bravery” and has embraced the Saudi Peace Initiative. With little more than Obama’s blessing, the Saudis are experiencing the world’s embrace.

When George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq (against the wishes of Riyadh, by the way) it was seen as evidence of America’s unsavory relationship with the House of Saud, and it launched a cottage industry of paranoid books and films about Bush the Saudi stooge. When Barack Obama virtually hands over our Middle East policy to King Abdullah “60 Minutes” does stories on how hard the Saudis are working to fight Islamic extremism.

One of the few things that the American Right and Left agreed on in recent years was that coziness with a regime like the one in Riyadh was both a moral failing and a strategic liability. These days Riyadh lectures democracies on cooperation and we all applaud.

UPDATE: Nowhere in the interview is the interviewee referred to or addressed as King Abdullah II or as King Abdullah of Jordan. Additionally, interviewer Richard Beeston refers to the peace initiative as “your peace plans”  and says to the interviewee, “the Americans have asked you to clarify certain parts of the Arab initiative . . .” All of which led me to believe that the interviewee was King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. However, there is a reference in brackets to the late King Hussein that I missed, and that makes it all but certain that commenter Norm Cone is correct:this was King Abdullah II, of Jordan. Sorry for the mistake. I contend that the larger points still stand, but they cannot be supported by anything in this interview.

In an interview with the Times of London, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah identifies the most stubborn obstacle to Middle East peace:

So it’s the work that needs to be done over the next couple of months that has a regional answer to this — that is not a two-state solution, it is a 57-state solution. That is the tipping point that shakes up Israeli politicians and the Israeli public.

[ . . .]

Here is one final opportunity. If the only player in this equation between the West, the Arabs and the Muslims that is not being helpful and is against peace is Israel, then let’s call it for what it is. Let Israel understand that the world sees Israeli policy for what it is.

Does the world no longer see Saudi policy for what it is? A very dangerous paradigm shift is underway, and now we are all bowing before his majesty. King Abdullah — monarch, theocrat, benefactor of Islamism — has been cast as the region’s cool-headed reformer, while the new democratically elected government of Israel is demonized as the region’s fanatical throwback. It matters not that Saudi Arabia doesn’t permit its citizens to practice any religion but Islam, that its religious police break into homes and confiscate symbols of Christianity, that women are sentenced to gang rapes for being insufficiently modest, or that Riyadh is the chief exporter of Wahhabist Islam. It doesn’t even matter that the Kingdon has now succesfulluy internationalized Qur’anic blasphemy laws by sponsoring a ban on criticism of religions in the UN Human Rights Council.

All that matters is that during his first interview as president, Barack Obama praised King Abdullah’s “bravery” and has embraced the Saudi Peace Initiative. With little more than Obama’s blessing, the Saudis are experiencing the world’s embrace.

When George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq (against the wishes of Riyadh, by the way) it was seen as evidence of America’s unsavory relationship with the House of Saud, and it launched a cottage industry of paranoid books and films about Bush the Saudi stooge. When Barack Obama virtually hands over our Middle East policy to King Abdullah “60 Minutes” does stories on how hard the Saudis are working to fight Islamic extremism.

One of the few things that the American Right and Left agreed on in recent years was that coziness with a regime like the one in Riyadh was both a moral failing and a strategic liability. These days Riyadh lectures democracies on cooperation and we all applaud.

UPDATE: Nowhere in the interview is the interviewee referred to or addressed as King Abdullah II or as King Abdullah of Jordan. Additionally, interviewer Richard Beeston refers to the peace initiative as “your peace plans”  and says to the interviewee, “the Americans have asked you to clarify certain parts of the Arab initiative . . .” All of which led me to believe that the interviewee was King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. However, there is a reference in brackets to the late King Hussein that I missed, and that makes it all but certain that commenter Norm Cone is correct:this was King Abdullah II, of Jordan. Sorry for the mistake. I contend that the larger points still stand, but they cannot be supported by anything in this interview.

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Reform Judaism Takes Stance in the Schoolhouse Door

President Obama’s “compromise” solution for the de-funding of the school choice program for residents of the District of Columbia has rightly drawn fire from those who see this as a disgraceful way to treat children in need. The program allowed 1,716 students from low-income families in our nation’s capital to attend private and parochial schools instead of the failing public schools to which they would otherwise be condemned. The Democratic Congress with the approval of President Obama has cut off funding for the programming to the cheers of the teachers unions and other advocates of a government school monopoly.

But following through on this despicable betrayal of minority children did pose a problem for the president. The kids in question are almost all African-American and their families and churches are very unhappy that their children will be evicted from the private schools where they have been studying. Even worse, some of them are attending the Sidwell Friends School where Obama’s own daughters are students. The D.C. public schools are good enough for other black kids but not for the progeny of the president. No reporter has yet taken me up on the challenge that I posed a couple of months ago, here, when I wondered if anyone would have the guts to ask Obama about his refusal to offer other black kids the quality education he deems essential for his own children.

But rather than face the bad publicity for turning away his own children’s classmates, Obama wants to keep the students who are currently benefiting from the vouchers program in place while denying the program to future generations. By “grandfathering” in the current beneficiaries, Obama gets to play the philanthropist for the 1,716 children now in the program while still paying off his campaign debts to liberal interest groups.

But that’s not good enough for one such group: the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. For the political arm of Reform Judaism, any compromise on the issue that allows even a single poor student to attend a school that is otherwise reserved for their economic betters, is outrageous. According to James Besser in the New York Jewish Week:

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, a strong opponent of voucher programs, was unhappy that the administration wants continued funding for those already in the DC program.

“Although we share the President’s determination to improve the education and well-being of our nation’s youth, we are disappointed by the extension of funding for the Washington D.C. private school vouchers pilot program,” said RAC associate director Mark Pelavin. “Vouchers detract from efforts to address underlying failures in our public school system and raise significant constitutional concerns about the spending of public tax dollars on sectarian education.”

What this does is put Pelavin, a representative of the largest synagogue movement in the country, figuratively at the schoolhouse door, much like George Wallace at the University of Alabama in 1962, attempting to stop poor African-American children from going to a school alongside other kids from more prosperous families, including that of the president of the United States.

This is exactly where extremism on the question of separation of religion and state can lead a movement that is otherwise dedicated to advancing the cause of racial equality in this country. Reform’s spokesmen have plunged into this controversy, placing their ideology above the well being of the most vulnerable members of our society.

I would again pose this question to the Religious Action Center and the many well-meaning Reform Jews who give their knee-jerk approval on this issue: Are the inner-city minority children who benefit from vouchers worthy of a chance for a decent future? Are they not created in the image of God, as are our own children?

President Obama’s “compromise” solution for the de-funding of the school choice program for residents of the District of Columbia has rightly drawn fire from those who see this as a disgraceful way to treat children in need. The program allowed 1,716 students from low-income families in our nation’s capital to attend private and parochial schools instead of the failing public schools to which they would otherwise be condemned. The Democratic Congress with the approval of President Obama has cut off funding for the programming to the cheers of the teachers unions and other advocates of a government school monopoly.

But following through on this despicable betrayal of minority children did pose a problem for the president. The kids in question are almost all African-American and their families and churches are very unhappy that their children will be evicted from the private schools where they have been studying. Even worse, some of them are attending the Sidwell Friends School where Obama’s own daughters are students. The D.C. public schools are good enough for other black kids but not for the progeny of the president. No reporter has yet taken me up on the challenge that I posed a couple of months ago, here, when I wondered if anyone would have the guts to ask Obama about his refusal to offer other black kids the quality education he deems essential for his own children.

But rather than face the bad publicity for turning away his own children’s classmates, Obama wants to keep the students who are currently benefiting from the vouchers program in place while denying the program to future generations. By “grandfathering” in the current beneficiaries, Obama gets to play the philanthropist for the 1,716 children now in the program while still paying off his campaign debts to liberal interest groups.

But that’s not good enough for one such group: the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. For the political arm of Reform Judaism, any compromise on the issue that allows even a single poor student to attend a school that is otherwise reserved for their economic betters, is outrageous. According to James Besser in the New York Jewish Week:

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, a strong opponent of voucher programs, was unhappy that the administration wants continued funding for those already in the DC program.

“Although we share the President’s determination to improve the education and well-being of our nation’s youth, we are disappointed by the extension of funding for the Washington D.C. private school vouchers pilot program,” said RAC associate director Mark Pelavin. “Vouchers detract from efforts to address underlying failures in our public school system and raise significant constitutional concerns about the spending of public tax dollars on sectarian education.”

What this does is put Pelavin, a representative of the largest synagogue movement in the country, figuratively at the schoolhouse door, much like George Wallace at the University of Alabama in 1962, attempting to stop poor African-American children from going to a school alongside other kids from more prosperous families, including that of the president of the United States.

This is exactly where extremism on the question of separation of religion and state can lead a movement that is otherwise dedicated to advancing the cause of racial equality in this country. Reform’s spokesmen have plunged into this controversy, placing their ideology above the well being of the most vulnerable members of our society.

I would again pose this question to the Religious Action Center and the many well-meaning Reform Jews who give their knee-jerk approval on this issue: Are the inner-city minority children who benefit from vouchers worthy of a chance for a decent future? Are they not created in the image of God, as are our own children?

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Sometimes You Just Need to Leave

The Jerusalem Post reports:

Chief Islamic Judge of the Palestinian Authority, Sheikh Tayseer Rajab Tamimi, launched a poisonous verbal attack on Israel at a Monday night gathering attended by Pope Benedict XVI.

In a meeting with organizations involved in inter-religious dialogue at the Notre Dame Jerusalem Center, Tamimi called upon Muslims and Christians to unite against what he said were the murderous Israelis.

Taking the podium after the pope without being on the original list of speakers scheduled for the evening, Tamimi, speaking at length in Arabic, accused Israel of murdering women and children in Gaza and making Palestinians refugees, and declared Jerusalem the eternal Palestinian capital.

Following the diatribe and before the meeting was officially over, the pope exited the premises. Army Radio reported that the pope shook Tamimi’s hand before walking out.

The handshake was ill-advised, but the walk-out was appropriate and indeed required. Unlike Obama, who sat mutely through Daniel Ortega’s diatribe, the Pope had it right: a prominent figure on the world stage should not by his presence extend legitimacy to those who peddle hate and lies. There is no “dialogue” to be had under such circumstances.

Its important to remember that rogue states and hate mongers crave legitimacy that can only be bestowed upon them by responsible world leaders. Denying them that legitimacy is one of the few diplomatic tools that can be easily utilized at low “cost.” That reality seems to have eluded the Obama team.

The Jerusalem Post reports:

Chief Islamic Judge of the Palestinian Authority, Sheikh Tayseer Rajab Tamimi, launched a poisonous verbal attack on Israel at a Monday night gathering attended by Pope Benedict XVI.

In a meeting with organizations involved in inter-religious dialogue at the Notre Dame Jerusalem Center, Tamimi called upon Muslims and Christians to unite against what he said were the murderous Israelis.

Taking the podium after the pope without being on the original list of speakers scheduled for the evening, Tamimi, speaking at length in Arabic, accused Israel of murdering women and children in Gaza and making Palestinians refugees, and declared Jerusalem the eternal Palestinian capital.

Following the diatribe and before the meeting was officially over, the pope exited the premises. Army Radio reported that the pope shook Tamimi’s hand before walking out.

The handshake was ill-advised, but the walk-out was appropriate and indeed required. Unlike Obama, who sat mutely through Daniel Ortega’s diatribe, the Pope had it right: a prominent figure on the world stage should not by his presence extend legitimacy to those who peddle hate and lies. There is no “dialogue” to be had under such circumstances.

Its important to remember that rogue states and hate mongers crave legitimacy that can only be bestowed upon them by responsible world leaders. Denying them that legitimacy is one of the few diplomatic tools that can be easily utilized at low “cost.” That reality seems to have eluded the Obama team.

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Not Afraid to Fire

In all the media coverage of the firing of Gen. David McKiernan in Afghanistan and his replacement by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, I was struck by this tidbit in the Wall Street Journal account:

In his two-and-a-half year tenure, Mr. Gates has also fired the secretaries of the Air Force and Army, the chief of staff of the Air Force, the officer in charge of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the top officer at Central Command. His predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, fired no senior officers during his tenure.

Don Rumsfeld fired no senior officers? That seems at odds with his reputation as someone who was a tough, demanding boss not afraid to alienate senior officers. But it’s more or less true, unless you count the failure to reappoint the decision to announce early the replacement for Gen. Eric Shinseki as Army chief of staff as a “firing.” That’s how it was perceived and thereby Rumsfeld widened the rift between himself and the army. It is very much to Gates’s credit that he can actually fire more senior leaders without creating a poisonous climate in the Pentagon.

In this case, Gates (and his boss in the Oval Office) are showing some of the moxie of an Abraham Lincoln or a Franklin Roosevelt by not being afraid to cashier a commander who hasn’t necessarily done anything wrong but who also hasn’t impressed anyone as the right kind of leader to win a war. Rumsfeld, by contrast, stuck with the discredited leadership team of Generals George Abizaid and George Casey in Iraq long after it became apparent they were leading us toward defeat.

Anyone who is familiar with the military will tell you that McChrystal has a much more impressive reputation than McKiernan, who is widely viewed as a decent enough armored officer but as the wrong kind of leader for a complex counterinsurgency. As important as McChrystal’s appointment is the designation of Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez to be his deputy. In all likelihood Rodriguez will head a corps staff in Afghanistan just as Ray Odierno did in Iraq. McKiernan resisted the creation of a corps staff and that, among other issues, sealed his fate.

Some in the military are already wringing their hands about whether it was necessary to inflict such a “humiliation” on McKiernan who was already under a bit of a cloud for his role in mishandling the switchover from conventional combat operations to nation building and counterinsurgency when he was the ground-forces commander in Iraq in the spring of 2003. The conventional thing would be to wait to replace McKiernan until he had served a more normal tour lasting another year (he’s been on the job less than a year). In the early days in Iraq the military kept to that kind of peacetime personnel system–with disastrous results. It is very much to Gates’s credit that he is imposing the kind of urgency in Afghanistan that Rumsfeld never did in Iraq.

In all the media coverage of the firing of Gen. David McKiernan in Afghanistan and his replacement by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, I was struck by this tidbit in the Wall Street Journal account:

In his two-and-a-half year tenure, Mr. Gates has also fired the secretaries of the Air Force and Army, the chief of staff of the Air Force, the officer in charge of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the top officer at Central Command. His predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, fired no senior officers during his tenure.

Don Rumsfeld fired no senior officers? That seems at odds with his reputation as someone who was a tough, demanding boss not afraid to alienate senior officers. But it’s more or less true, unless you count the failure to reappoint the decision to announce early the replacement for Gen. Eric Shinseki as Army chief of staff as a “firing.” That’s how it was perceived and thereby Rumsfeld widened the rift between himself and the army. It is very much to Gates’s credit that he can actually fire more senior leaders without creating a poisonous climate in the Pentagon.

In this case, Gates (and his boss in the Oval Office) are showing some of the moxie of an Abraham Lincoln or a Franklin Roosevelt by not being afraid to cashier a commander who hasn’t necessarily done anything wrong but who also hasn’t impressed anyone as the right kind of leader to win a war. Rumsfeld, by contrast, stuck with the discredited leadership team of Generals George Abizaid and George Casey in Iraq long after it became apparent they were leading us toward defeat.

Anyone who is familiar with the military will tell you that McChrystal has a much more impressive reputation than McKiernan, who is widely viewed as a decent enough armored officer but as the wrong kind of leader for a complex counterinsurgency. As important as McChrystal’s appointment is the designation of Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez to be his deputy. In all likelihood Rodriguez will head a corps staff in Afghanistan just as Ray Odierno did in Iraq. McKiernan resisted the creation of a corps staff and that, among other issues, sealed his fate.

Some in the military are already wringing their hands about whether it was necessary to inflict such a “humiliation” on McKiernan who was already under a bit of a cloud for his role in mishandling the switchover from conventional combat operations to nation building and counterinsurgency when he was the ground-forces commander in Iraq in the spring of 2003. The conventional thing would be to wait to replace McKiernan until he had served a more normal tour lasting another year (he’s been on the job less than a year). In the early days in Iraq the military kept to that kind of peacetime personnel system–with disastrous results. It is very much to Gates’s credit that he is imposing the kind of urgency in Afghanistan that Rumsfeld never did in Iraq.

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Who Would Have Thought?

Another day, another version of the “truth” about the briefings on the enhanced interrogation methods from Nancy Pelosi. First, she never knew anything. Then, she was told that they weren’t waterboarding anyone but obtained a legal opinion stating they could. (I know, it makes no sense but it gets better. . . er. . .  worse.) The latest installment in the Nancy Chronicles from Politico:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi learned in early 2003 that the Bush administration was waterboarding terror detainees but didn’t protest directly out of respect for “appropriate” legislative channels, a person familiar with the situation said Monday.

What?? She couldn’t write a letter like Jane Harman? Or pick up the phone to call the CIA chief or president? Or move to cut off funding? Apparently she so respected the legislative process that she was utterly paralyzed to do anything.

There are some morsels from nervous Democrats, who must suspect that all of this sounds incredibly lame. This from Dick Gephardt’s former chief of staff:

“You have to remember, in the 2002 period, the whole atmospherics, it was all about scaring people every day. . . People were legitimately concerned that we were going to be attacked again, and there was a constant drumbeat coming from the Bush administration of, ‘Bad things could happen, bad things could happen.’ Nobody wants it to happen on their watch.”

So that atmosphere excuses only Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues, but none of the Bush officials who were concerned about a new attack on America? Or perhaps he is saying the Democrats were easily cowed and too meek to question the basis for the administration’s claims of imminent danger.

How did this go south so badly for Pelosi ? It seems it never crossed the minds of the Speaker and her team that the public would care about her hypocrisy:

Democratic insiders acknowledge that Pelosi has not handled the media furor surrounding the interrogation briefings — and what she was told and when — in a timely or aggressive manner.

“I don’t know whether the story is overplayed or they’re misjudging it,” said a Democratic leadership aide. “I don’t know, maybe they haven’t been aggressive enough.”

This aide added: “I think they’re good at walking and chewing gum — that’s not the problem. I don’t think they recognized that this issue has the legs that it does.”

Yeah, who would have thought that lying about your involvement in a policy decision for which you are trying to prosecute others would be such a big deal? Not since Dennis Hastert have we seen a Speaker so overwhelmed by events and looking quite so hapless. And remember what happened to him.

Another day, another version of the “truth” about the briefings on the enhanced interrogation methods from Nancy Pelosi. First, she never knew anything. Then, she was told that they weren’t waterboarding anyone but obtained a legal opinion stating they could. (I know, it makes no sense but it gets better. . . er. . .  worse.) The latest installment in the Nancy Chronicles from Politico:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi learned in early 2003 that the Bush administration was waterboarding terror detainees but didn’t protest directly out of respect for “appropriate” legislative channels, a person familiar with the situation said Monday.

What?? She couldn’t write a letter like Jane Harman? Or pick up the phone to call the CIA chief or president? Or move to cut off funding? Apparently she so respected the legislative process that she was utterly paralyzed to do anything.

There are some morsels from nervous Democrats, who must suspect that all of this sounds incredibly lame. This from Dick Gephardt’s former chief of staff:

“You have to remember, in the 2002 period, the whole atmospherics, it was all about scaring people every day. . . People were legitimately concerned that we were going to be attacked again, and there was a constant drumbeat coming from the Bush administration of, ‘Bad things could happen, bad things could happen.’ Nobody wants it to happen on their watch.”

So that atmosphere excuses only Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues, but none of the Bush officials who were concerned about a new attack on America? Or perhaps he is saying the Democrats were easily cowed and too meek to question the basis for the administration’s claims of imminent danger.

How did this go south so badly for Pelosi ? It seems it never crossed the minds of the Speaker and her team that the public would care about her hypocrisy:

Democratic insiders acknowledge that Pelosi has not handled the media furor surrounding the interrogation briefings — and what she was told and when — in a timely or aggressive manner.

“I don’t know whether the story is overplayed or they’re misjudging it,” said a Democratic leadership aide. “I don’t know, maybe they haven’t been aggressive enough.”

This aide added: “I think they’re good at walking and chewing gum — that’s not the problem. I don’t think they recognized that this issue has the legs that it does.”

Yeah, who would have thought that lying about your involvement in a policy decision for which you are trying to prosecute others would be such a big deal? Not since Dennis Hastert have we seen a Speaker so overwhelmed by events and looking quite so hapless. And remember what happened to him.

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Re: The Use of Polemical Weapons

Abe, the hysteria over white phosphorus is nothing new. The recriminations against its alleged use by either the U.S. or Israel will be ongoing.

But let’s take a look at white phosphorus, and its use in Western militaries.

The U.S. first started employing white phosphorus, or “Willy Pete,” in Viet Nam. It is a remarkably useful chemical: it burns on contact with air, generates a tremendous amount of light and smoke, and puts out quite a bit of heat.
Its two main uses are oddly contradictory: to show things, and to hide things. When it’s used in the air, fired upwards and descending on parachutes, it is a phenomenal light source. It illuminates the battlefield with incredible clarity, denying the enemy darkness and shadows to hide in. When used on the ground, it spews out tremendous volumes of non-toxic smoke, hiding advancing forces from the enemy until it’s too late.

But it’s almost never used  as a weapon directly. For setting things (or, occasionally, people) on fire, there’s  napalm. For burning through metal or other tough substances, there’s thermite. And there are a lot more chemicals that the average layperson doesn’t know about.

So, the bad guys in Afghanistan  are using white phosphorus. It’s a nasty chemical, and notoriously difficult for amateurs to use safely. Here’s hoping they learn that lesson — the hard way — very, very soon.

Abe, the hysteria over white phosphorus is nothing new. The recriminations against its alleged use by either the U.S. or Israel will be ongoing.

But let’s take a look at white phosphorus, and its use in Western militaries.

The U.S. first started employing white phosphorus, or “Willy Pete,” in Viet Nam. It is a remarkably useful chemical: it burns on contact with air, generates a tremendous amount of light and smoke, and puts out quite a bit of heat.
Its two main uses are oddly contradictory: to show things, and to hide things. When it’s used in the air, fired upwards and descending on parachutes, it is a phenomenal light source. It illuminates the battlefield with incredible clarity, denying the enemy darkness and shadows to hide in. When used on the ground, it spews out tremendous volumes of non-toxic smoke, hiding advancing forces from the enemy until it’s too late.

But it’s almost never used  as a weapon directly. For setting things (or, occasionally, people) on fire, there’s  napalm. For burning through metal or other tough substances, there’s thermite. And there are a lot more chemicals that the average layperson doesn’t know about.

So, the bad guys in Afghanistan  are using white phosphorus. It’s a nasty chemical, and notoriously difficult for amateurs to use safely. Here’s hoping they learn that lesson — the hard way — very, very soon.

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Re: Obama, Civility and Wanda Sykes

Pete, the White House is having second thoughts about the president’s yucking it up over Sykes’ brand of humor. Politico reports:

In his daily briefing Monday, Robert Gibbs distanced the president from comedian Wanda Sykes’ joke comparing Rush Limbaugh to a 9/11 hijacker at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.

“I don’t know how the guests get booked,” Gibbs said, adding that he hadn’t “talked specifically” with Obama about Sykes’ crack.

“I think there are a lot of topics that are better left for serious reflection rather than comedy. I think there’s no doubt 9/11 is part of that,” Gibbs continued.

Left unexplained is why the president appeared amused at her “jokes” and whether wishing the death of radio talk show host is also a topic “left for serious reflection.”

One senses that Obama doesn’t react well on the spur of the moment. Some of his most cringe-inducing episodes — the bow to the Saudi king, the grip-and-grin greeting with Hugo Chavez, and now the giggle over Sykes’s “humor” — come at moments when he is not scripted and is beyond his handlers’ control. He does not yet have an internal radar for what is and isn’t appropriate and becoming behavior for a president.

One wonders if amid all the sharp elbows aimed at the Bush administration and the hyper-partisan boasting (“I won”) Obama has actually realized he won and now really is U.S. President. Unlike other countries, we combine our head of government and head of state — and we expect our presidents to conduct themselves with honor and civility in both roles, whether in dealing with legislators or in ceremonial settings. One sense that no one has the nerve to say to Obama, “As president you just don’t do X.”

Perhaps the president will come to terms with all that his job entails and start to rise above the partisan fray –rather than contribute to it.

Pete, the White House is having second thoughts about the president’s yucking it up over Sykes’ brand of humor. Politico reports:

In his daily briefing Monday, Robert Gibbs distanced the president from comedian Wanda Sykes’ joke comparing Rush Limbaugh to a 9/11 hijacker at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner.

“I don’t know how the guests get booked,” Gibbs said, adding that he hadn’t “talked specifically” with Obama about Sykes’ crack.

“I think there are a lot of topics that are better left for serious reflection rather than comedy. I think there’s no doubt 9/11 is part of that,” Gibbs continued.

Left unexplained is why the president appeared amused at her “jokes” and whether wishing the death of radio talk show host is also a topic “left for serious reflection.”

One senses that Obama doesn’t react well on the spur of the moment. Some of his most cringe-inducing episodes — the bow to the Saudi king, the grip-and-grin greeting with Hugo Chavez, and now the giggle over Sykes’s “humor” — come at moments when he is not scripted and is beyond his handlers’ control. He does not yet have an internal radar for what is and isn’t appropriate and becoming behavior for a president.

One wonders if amid all the sharp elbows aimed at the Bush administration and the hyper-partisan boasting (“I won”) Obama has actually realized he won and now really is U.S. President. Unlike other countries, we combine our head of government and head of state — and we expect our presidents to conduct themselves with honor and civility in both roles, whether in dealing with legislators or in ceremonial settings. One sense that no one has the nerve to say to Obama, “As president you just don’t do X.”

Perhaps the president will come to terms with all that his job entails and start to rise above the partisan fray –rather than contribute to it.

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Get Out, He Explained

Jennifer Rubin and John Steele Gordon referred to the figurative “mob outside the door” that is forming against John Yoo and Judge Jay Bybee.  Well, better a figurative mob than a real one.  I am told by academically-minded friends in various human-rights related NGOs that they have had to dissuade their organizations from launching on the ground, 1960s-style campaigns against any Bush Administration appointee who takes a job at any university.

As one of my friends said, there are lots of reasons why this is a bad idea, but the best one is that it would make the Left look intolerant.

Well, I suppose there’s some hope for sanity, though looking intolerant of conservatives on America’s campuses hasn’t been something the Left’s been worried about since, maybe, the mid-1960s.

Though the way things are going, it’s not a problem that will vex anyone much longer, since the last vestiges of ideological diversity will soon enough be driven away, covered in tar and feathers.

But the fact that some organizations have begged off from the holy war doesn’t mean that they all have.  It would be a real service if someone were to keep track of the protests.  Here’s a starting point: on April 20, five students conducted a sit-in in the “Studies in Grand Strategy” seminar at Yale, to protest the appointment of Ambassador John Negroponte to a position with International Security Studies’ Program in Grand Strategy.  (Full disclosure: I worked for ISS for a decade, and helped to teach the “Studies” seminar as recently as early April.)

Now, as protests go, this was a pretty tame one.  And the way the faculty handled it was, sadly, just about right: no one (certainly not the real students, or the faculty) wins if you make a stink out of unauthorized ‘visitors’ who show up to protest.  But it reminds me why we always had to be so careful at ISS with distinguished conservative visitors, and why we sometimes resorted to meeting off campus, or even out of town entirely: you just never know.  Actually, that’s not quite right: with some guests – Daniel Pipes’s visit in 2003 to Yale leaps to mind – you really do know.

But it sticks in my craw that the only way to deal with this sort of thing is to sit there and smile: my instincts run more towards asking the ‘visitors’ to leave and, if they don’t, calling the campus police to evict them from what is, after all, a private class meeting.

That’s unwise, I know, but it sure is tempting.  Of course, that sentiment probably explains why I don’t work in the academy any more.

Jennifer Rubin and John Steele Gordon referred to the figurative “mob outside the door” that is forming against John Yoo and Judge Jay Bybee.  Well, better a figurative mob than a real one.  I am told by academically-minded friends in various human-rights related NGOs that they have had to dissuade their organizations from launching on the ground, 1960s-style campaigns against any Bush Administration appointee who takes a job at any university.

As one of my friends said, there are lots of reasons why this is a bad idea, but the best one is that it would make the Left look intolerant.

Well, I suppose there’s some hope for sanity, though looking intolerant of conservatives on America’s campuses hasn’t been something the Left’s been worried about since, maybe, the mid-1960s.

Though the way things are going, it’s not a problem that will vex anyone much longer, since the last vestiges of ideological diversity will soon enough be driven away, covered in tar and feathers.

But the fact that some organizations have begged off from the holy war doesn’t mean that they all have.  It would be a real service if someone were to keep track of the protests.  Here’s a starting point: on April 20, five students conducted a sit-in in the “Studies in Grand Strategy” seminar at Yale, to protest the appointment of Ambassador John Negroponte to a position with International Security Studies’ Program in Grand Strategy.  (Full disclosure: I worked for ISS for a decade, and helped to teach the “Studies” seminar as recently as early April.)

Now, as protests go, this was a pretty tame one.  And the way the faculty handled it was, sadly, just about right: no one (certainly not the real students, or the faculty) wins if you make a stink out of unauthorized ‘visitors’ who show up to protest.  But it reminds me why we always had to be so careful at ISS with distinguished conservative visitors, and why we sometimes resorted to meeting off campus, or even out of town entirely: you just never know.  Actually, that’s not quite right: with some guests – Daniel Pipes’s visit in 2003 to Yale leaps to mind – you really do know.

But it sticks in my craw that the only way to deal with this sort of thing is to sit there and smile: my instincts run more towards asking the ‘visitors’ to leave and, if they don’t, calling the campus police to evict them from what is, after all, a private class meeting.

That’s unwise, I know, but it sure is tempting.  Of course, that sentiment probably explains why I don’t work in the academy any more.

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Too Silly, Even for the MSM

For once the mainstream media was not entirely snowed by the Obama administration’s dog-and-pony show. The subject was healthcare “savings” and everyone from the AMA to major insurers to drug companies pledged to do their part. The only thing missing was any reasonable explanation for how they’d do so. And the MSM figured it out.

The A.P. reported:

There’s no detail on how the savings pledge would be enforced. And, critically, the promised savings in private health care costs would accrue to society as a whole, not just the federal government. That’s a crucial distinction because specific federal savings are needed to help pay for the cost of expanding coverage.

Costs have emerged as the most serious obstacle to Obama’s plan. The estimated federal costs range from $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion over 10 years, and so far Obama has only spelled out how to get about half of that.

McClatchy observed:

President Barack Obama on Monday called a pledge by health industry groups to shave $2 trillion from rising costs “a watershed event” in a years-long campaign to make coverage available to all Americans.  But industry experts said that voluntary commitment won’t mean much unless Congress requires some of the cost-containment mechanisms by law.

And The Hill explained that the so-called reforms weren’t enforceable able “to offset the $1 trillion-plus expected cost of healthcare reform legislation because Congress only considers the impact on the federal budget, not the entire economy.”

Meanwhile, conservatives were merciless: calling the whole charade “silly” and asking, “Where’s the beef?”  And libertarian Megan McCardle summed up:

Obama’s health care plans are very, very expensive, and they mean higher taxes for everyone, not just that elusive klatch of greedy fools who are not in the 95% of working families now allegedly slated for stable or lower taxes.  Otherwise, how could Obama hope to pay for it? I think we found out today:  magic!

It wasn’t hard to figure out that if private players can “cut costs” they are already doing so, that none of the so-called “savings” can be tracked anymore than those jobs “saved” from the stimulus plan and that there still isn’t an identified revenue source sufficient to pay for what the Democrats want to accomplish — extending healthcare to tens of millions of people who don’t currently have it.

But it was a sign that many industry players are tripping over each other to shape the outcome of the healthcare debate, and preserve whatever piece of the pie they can as government imposes itself upon 17% of the economy. But none of this solves the big issues: Who pays? Will a “public option” put all those cheerful healthcare execs out of work? And will we see the end of a distinctive American system which has emphasized choice and innovation in favor of slow-motion descent into nationalized healthcare and rationing?

So long as the politicians pretend all of this will pay for itself — like some sort of giant perpetual motion machine which runs on its own energy — you know they haven’t gotten down to hard choices. At the end of the day, if the government is going to insist on a government-centric universal healthcare scheme the numbers will only add up with huge tax increases and rationed care. And no one really wants to talk about that.

For once the mainstream media was not entirely snowed by the Obama administration’s dog-and-pony show. The subject was healthcare “savings” and everyone from the AMA to major insurers to drug companies pledged to do their part. The only thing missing was any reasonable explanation for how they’d do so. And the MSM figured it out.

The A.P. reported:

There’s no detail on how the savings pledge would be enforced. And, critically, the promised savings in private health care costs would accrue to society as a whole, not just the federal government. That’s a crucial distinction because specific federal savings are needed to help pay for the cost of expanding coverage.

Costs have emerged as the most serious obstacle to Obama’s plan. The estimated federal costs range from $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion over 10 years, and so far Obama has only spelled out how to get about half of that.

McClatchy observed:

President Barack Obama on Monday called a pledge by health industry groups to shave $2 trillion from rising costs “a watershed event” in a years-long campaign to make coverage available to all Americans.  But industry experts said that voluntary commitment won’t mean much unless Congress requires some of the cost-containment mechanisms by law.

And The Hill explained that the so-called reforms weren’t enforceable able “to offset the $1 trillion-plus expected cost of healthcare reform legislation because Congress only considers the impact on the federal budget, not the entire economy.”

Meanwhile, conservatives were merciless: calling the whole charade “silly” and asking, “Where’s the beef?”  And libertarian Megan McCardle summed up:

Obama’s health care plans are very, very expensive, and they mean higher taxes for everyone, not just that elusive klatch of greedy fools who are not in the 95% of working families now allegedly slated for stable or lower taxes.  Otherwise, how could Obama hope to pay for it? I think we found out today:  magic!

It wasn’t hard to figure out that if private players can “cut costs” they are already doing so, that none of the so-called “savings” can be tracked anymore than those jobs “saved” from the stimulus plan and that there still isn’t an identified revenue source sufficient to pay for what the Democrats want to accomplish — extending healthcare to tens of millions of people who don’t currently have it.

But it was a sign that many industry players are tripping over each other to shape the outcome of the healthcare debate, and preserve whatever piece of the pie they can as government imposes itself upon 17% of the economy. But none of this solves the big issues: Who pays? Will a “public option” put all those cheerful healthcare execs out of work? And will we see the end of a distinctive American system which has emphasized choice and innovation in favor of slow-motion descent into nationalized healthcare and rationing?

So long as the politicians pretend all of this will pay for itself — like some sort of giant perpetual motion machine which runs on its own energy — you know they haven’t gotten down to hard choices. At the end of the day, if the government is going to insist on a government-centric universal healthcare scheme the numbers will only add up with huge tax increases and rationed care. And no one really wants to talk about that.

Read Less

Perspectives on 1948 — and the Present

The current issue of The New York Review of Books includes a lengthy essay by Gershom Gorenberg, entitled “The War to Begin All Wars,” discussing the 1948 War and Benny Morris’s successive histories of it.  It is a useful summary and a thoughtful reflection on how the present affects our understanding of the past (and vice versa), and the changing perspectives of historians.  But the essay has a historical slant of its own worth examining, not least for its contemporary significance.

Gorenberg provides a 100-word summary of the 1948 War that contains within it themes that would recur in the sixty-year history that followed:

The conflagration began on November 30, 1947, the morning after the United Nations voted to partition British-ruled Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state. A band of Arab fighters fired the first shots at a bus east of Tel Aviv, killing five Jews. The last military operation ended on March 10, 1949. In those fifteen months, Jewish forces defeated first the Arab irregulars of Palestine, then the invading armies of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan. The new Jewish state’s borders, and its survival, were a product of victory. Yet in those same months, somewhere around 700,000 Palestinian Arabs became refugees.

The war started, in other words, not with Israel’s May 14, 1948 declaration of independence, but with the Arab rejection of a two-state solution six months before, immediately after the international community endorsed it, and the war commenced with a terrorist attack on Jewish civilians.  It featured a victory, in a period of 15 months, over local Arab forces and four Arab armies.  It was, for the Jews, a war of survival, coming three years after the end of the Holocaust.  “Yet . . . around 700,000 Palestinian Arabs became refugees.”

It is the “Yet” that reflects the perspective that underlies Gorenberg’s essay – a moral equivalence between the consequences of the war for Jews and Arabs.  Imagine a history of World War II describing that it began after Germany reneged on the Munich agreement, lasted six years until the initially more powerful Axis powers were defeated, and resulted in the borders of modern Europe – and then concluded with “Yet millions of Germans became refugees.”

Two important facts, and an important moral perspective, are missing from Gorenberg’s essay.  The first fact is that nearly one-percent of the Jewish population was killed in the war – a figure that would translate, in comparative demographic terms today, to more than three million Americans.  The second is that the war resulted in approximately 850,000 Jewish refugees expelled from the Arab countries in which they lived, who were resettled in the new state of Israel with no compensation (much less a “right of return”).

The 700,000 Arabs who became refugees fall into three categories – some fled amidst the panic of the war; others were ordered out by Arab leaders to make way for the invading armies; and others were expelled, for various reasons, during the course of the fighting.  The numbers in each category are still a matter of dispute (and the subject of tendentious Palestinian “scholarship“), but one fact is indisputable:  there would not have been a single refugee had the Arabs accepted the two-state solution and not started a war.

That fact has particular relevance for contemporary history, as still another iteration of the “peace process” begins.  The reason for rejecting a Palestinian “right of return” is not simply the practical one that it would demographically destroy the Jewish state; nor the legal one that there is no such right; nor the logical one that there can be no such right for Palestinian refugees where there was none for the more numerous Jewish refugees.

The even more compelling reason is the moral one that those who started a war have no claim to be relieved of its results.  In a more moral world, they would be paying reparations – not only for the “War to Begin All Wars,” but for the subsequent ones they caused as well.  But at the least, in the imperfect actual world, they have no standing to argue that those they sought to defeat must help exempt them from the consequences of history.

The current issue of The New York Review of Books includes a lengthy essay by Gershom Gorenberg, entitled “The War to Begin All Wars,” discussing the 1948 War and Benny Morris’s successive histories of it.  It is a useful summary and a thoughtful reflection on how the present affects our understanding of the past (and vice versa), and the changing perspectives of historians.  But the essay has a historical slant of its own worth examining, not least for its contemporary significance.

Gorenberg provides a 100-word summary of the 1948 War that contains within it themes that would recur in the sixty-year history that followed:

The conflagration began on November 30, 1947, the morning after the United Nations voted to partition British-ruled Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state. A band of Arab fighters fired the first shots at a bus east of Tel Aviv, killing five Jews. The last military operation ended on March 10, 1949. In those fifteen months, Jewish forces defeated first the Arab irregulars of Palestine, then the invading armies of Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan. The new Jewish state’s borders, and its survival, were a product of victory. Yet in those same months, somewhere around 700,000 Palestinian Arabs became refugees.

The war started, in other words, not with Israel’s May 14, 1948 declaration of independence, but with the Arab rejection of a two-state solution six months before, immediately after the international community endorsed it, and the war commenced with a terrorist attack on Jewish civilians.  It featured a victory, in a period of 15 months, over local Arab forces and four Arab armies.  It was, for the Jews, a war of survival, coming three years after the end of the Holocaust.  “Yet . . . around 700,000 Palestinian Arabs became refugees.”

It is the “Yet” that reflects the perspective that underlies Gorenberg’s essay – a moral equivalence between the consequences of the war for Jews and Arabs.  Imagine a history of World War II describing that it began after Germany reneged on the Munich agreement, lasted six years until the initially more powerful Axis powers were defeated, and resulted in the borders of modern Europe – and then concluded with “Yet millions of Germans became refugees.”

Two important facts, and an important moral perspective, are missing from Gorenberg’s essay.  The first fact is that nearly one-percent of the Jewish population was killed in the war – a figure that would translate, in comparative demographic terms today, to more than three million Americans.  The second is that the war resulted in approximately 850,000 Jewish refugees expelled from the Arab countries in which they lived, who were resettled in the new state of Israel with no compensation (much less a “right of return”).

The 700,000 Arabs who became refugees fall into three categories – some fled amidst the panic of the war; others were ordered out by Arab leaders to make way for the invading armies; and others were expelled, for various reasons, during the course of the fighting.  The numbers in each category are still a matter of dispute (and the subject of tendentious Palestinian “scholarship“), but one fact is indisputable:  there would not have been a single refugee had the Arabs accepted the two-state solution and not started a war.

That fact has particular relevance for contemporary history, as still another iteration of the “peace process” begins.  The reason for rejecting a Palestinian “right of return” is not simply the practical one that it would demographically destroy the Jewish state; nor the legal one that there is no such right; nor the logical one that there can be no such right for Palestinian refugees where there was none for the more numerous Jewish refugees.

The even more compelling reason is the moral one that those who started a war have no claim to be relieved of its results.  In a more moral world, they would be paying reparations – not only for the “War to Begin All Wars,” but for the subsequent ones they caused as well.  But at the least, in the imperfect actual world, they have no standing to argue that those they sought to defeat must help exempt them from the consequences of history.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

A must-read account of how the Obama team bullied Chrysler’s creditors out of their preferred standing in bankruptcy proceedings. But this is a doozy: “‘You don’t need banks and bondholders to make cars,’ said one administration official.” Yeah, if you don’t want capitalism you don’t need capital.

From the “they know how to kick a guy when he’s down” file: “Biden set to help launch Corzine’s general campaign.” Well, VPs are supposed to have funeral duty.

A compelling study: High union density = low job growth. Heck of a time to bring up card check, isn’t it?

In case you were getting optimistic: “You can have a jobless recovery, but you can’t have a profitless recovery. Consider: Earnings are subpar, Treasury’s last auction was a bust because of weak demand, the dollar is suspect, the stimulus is pork, the latest budget projects a $1.84 trillion deficit, the administration is berating investment firms and hedge funds saying ‘I don’t stand with them,’ California is dead broke, health care may be nationalized, cap and trade will bump electric bills by 30% . . . Shall I go on?”

The USA Today editors aren’t impressed with Obama’s fiscal approach: “When it comes to federal spending, there’s a pattern emerging with President Obama, and it’s not a flattering one. The president says all the right things about the importance of getting the deficit under control, but his actions don’t come close to matching his rhetoric.” Check out the very helpful chart on deficit spending.

If the story about John Edwards’s staffers devising a plan to blow up the campaign if he “got close” is true, they need to return every dime to Edwards’ campaign donors who were defrauded into giving money to what they thought was a real campaign.

Liberal Democrats not enamored of Arlen Specter have stirred up some online support for Joe Sestak. It seems we will have a boisterous Democratic primary in Pennsylvania.

And Specter gets no help from his state’s senior senator: “His junior colleague from Pennsylvania, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), told CNN’s John King Sunday that leaders in the Democratic party should not be telling candidates whether or not to challenge Specter.’I don’t think anyone in our party should ever dictate to a candidate,’ Casey said on CNN’s State of the Union. ‘That’s really up to that candidate, to run or not run.’”

Rick Santorum’s ad for Arlen Specter (in 2004) really isn’t out of date — Specter still is with Republicans on key issues (e.g. no on the budget, cram down mortgages and card check).

Speaking of politicians who aren’t winning friends and influencing people, Michael Steele is in trouble again.

Meanwhile, how’s he going to pay for all the spending and healthcare “reform”? Well $58B in taxes to make up for “errors” is a start.

The Washington Post editors were not bowled over by the healthcare show yesterday: “None of the interest groups signed up for a specific number; no one is saying who will sacrifice what, or how much. All are promising to ‘do our part,’ but the actual share of the $2 trillion that would fall on each pair of shoulders was not laid out. What would make up the substance of the plan? That remains to be seen. How would the private sector be held accountable for this promise to reduce costs? That, too, remains to be seen.”

Robert Gibbs thanks the Iranians for their “humanitarian” gesture in releasing Roxana Saberi. Michael Ledeen says humanitarianism has nothing to do with it.

A must-read account of how the Obama team bullied Chrysler’s creditors out of their preferred standing in bankruptcy proceedings. But this is a doozy: “‘You don’t need banks and bondholders to make cars,’ said one administration official.” Yeah, if you don’t want capitalism you don’t need capital.

From the “they know how to kick a guy when he’s down” file: “Biden set to help launch Corzine’s general campaign.” Well, VPs are supposed to have funeral duty.

A compelling study: High union density = low job growth. Heck of a time to bring up card check, isn’t it?

In case you were getting optimistic: “You can have a jobless recovery, but you can’t have a profitless recovery. Consider: Earnings are subpar, Treasury’s last auction was a bust because of weak demand, the dollar is suspect, the stimulus is pork, the latest budget projects a $1.84 trillion deficit, the administration is berating investment firms and hedge funds saying ‘I don’t stand with them,’ California is dead broke, health care may be nationalized, cap and trade will bump electric bills by 30% . . . Shall I go on?”

The USA Today editors aren’t impressed with Obama’s fiscal approach: “When it comes to federal spending, there’s a pattern emerging with President Obama, and it’s not a flattering one. The president says all the right things about the importance of getting the deficit under control, but his actions don’t come close to matching his rhetoric.” Check out the very helpful chart on deficit spending.

If the story about John Edwards’s staffers devising a plan to blow up the campaign if he “got close” is true, they need to return every dime to Edwards’ campaign donors who were defrauded into giving money to what they thought was a real campaign.

Liberal Democrats not enamored of Arlen Specter have stirred up some online support for Joe Sestak. It seems we will have a boisterous Democratic primary in Pennsylvania.

And Specter gets no help from his state’s senior senator: “His junior colleague from Pennsylvania, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), told CNN’s John King Sunday that leaders in the Democratic party should not be telling candidates whether or not to challenge Specter.’I don’t think anyone in our party should ever dictate to a candidate,’ Casey said on CNN’s State of the Union. ‘That’s really up to that candidate, to run or not run.’”

Rick Santorum’s ad for Arlen Specter (in 2004) really isn’t out of date — Specter still is with Republicans on key issues (e.g. no on the budget, cram down mortgages and card check).

Speaking of politicians who aren’t winning friends and influencing people, Michael Steele is in trouble again.

Meanwhile, how’s he going to pay for all the spending and healthcare “reform”? Well $58B in taxes to make up for “errors” is a start.

The Washington Post editors were not bowled over by the healthcare show yesterday: “None of the interest groups signed up for a specific number; no one is saying who will sacrifice what, or how much. All are promising to ‘do our part,’ but the actual share of the $2 trillion that would fall on each pair of shoulders was not laid out. What would make up the substance of the plan? That remains to be seen. How would the private sector be held accountable for this promise to reduce costs? That, too, remains to be seen.”

Robert Gibbs thanks the Iranians for their “humanitarian” gesture in releasing Roxana Saberi. Michael Ledeen says humanitarianism has nothing to do with it.

Read Less




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