Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 15, 2009

Commentary of the Day

Alan Weick, on Rick Richman:

The Left has a bromide. “War never solves anything”. This is, of course, nonsense. War ended slavery in North America, ended Nazism in Europe, and stopped Japanese hegemony in Asia. However, in the case of Israel-Arab conflict the case can be made that the bromide is true. This is because the normal parameters of war have been flipped-flopped. One of the reasons nations avoid war is that the consequences of loss, to put it mildly, are prohibitive. In this conflict, the Arabs have no incentive to make peace because no matter how many wars they lose the worst they can do is tie. No matter what framework is devised there will never be peace for Israel as long as the Arabs can never lose.

Alan Weick, on Rick Richman:

The Left has a bromide. “War never solves anything”. This is, of course, nonsense. War ended slavery in North America, ended Nazism in Europe, and stopped Japanese hegemony in Asia. However, in the case of Israel-Arab conflict the case can be made that the bromide is true. This is because the normal parameters of war have been flipped-flopped. One of the reasons nations avoid war is that the consequences of loss, to put it mildly, are prohibitive. In this conflict, the Arabs have no incentive to make peace because no matter how many wars they lose the worst they can do is tie. No matter what framework is devised there will never be peace for Israel as long as the Arabs can never lose.

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What Can They Say?

It is not surprising that Newt Gingrich would call out Nancy Pelosi as “despicable” and “dishonest.” But several other retorts are noteworthy. First, Sen. Kit Bond makes the logical point: why would the CIA discuss methods they were not using? It makes no sense on its face. Second, Sen. Bob Graham is claiming the same ignorance circa 2002 as Pelosi, but he sinks her defense that nothing could be done:

Graham said that, if he had been told about waterboarding, “I would have reacted with great disagreement with that practice which broke 200 years of American history. There are a limited number of things that a member of the leadership can do. You can’t talk to members of the committee, you can’t talk to staff, you can’t consult with experts. About the only thing you can do is go to the administration which has initiated this policy and urged them to reconsider.”

But the real blowback comes from Leon Panetta, who does everything but call Pelosi a liar:

There is a long tradition in Washington of making political hay out of our business. It predates my service with this great institution, and it will be around long after I’m gone. But the political debates about interrogation reached a new decibel level yesterday when the CIA was accused of misleading Congress.

Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and our values. As the Agency indicated previously in response to Congressional inquiries, our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing “the enhanced techniques that had been employed.” Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened.

Now Panetta is the president’s man and presumably has his full confidence. He has, as one would expect, defended his agency and confirmed that Pelosi’s account is wrong. You can dance around it anyway you like but the administration has accused the Speaker of lying and politicizing national security. Democrats will need to decide which side they are on: Obama’s or Pelosi’s.

It is not surprising that Newt Gingrich would call out Nancy Pelosi as “despicable” and “dishonest.” But several other retorts are noteworthy. First, Sen. Kit Bond makes the logical point: why would the CIA discuss methods they were not using? It makes no sense on its face. Second, Sen. Bob Graham is claiming the same ignorance circa 2002 as Pelosi, but he sinks her defense that nothing could be done:

Graham said that, if he had been told about waterboarding, “I would have reacted with great disagreement with that practice which broke 200 years of American history. There are a limited number of things that a member of the leadership can do. You can’t talk to members of the committee, you can’t talk to staff, you can’t consult with experts. About the only thing you can do is go to the administration which has initiated this policy and urged them to reconsider.”

But the real blowback comes from Leon Panetta, who does everything but call Pelosi a liar:

There is a long tradition in Washington of making political hay out of our business. It predates my service with this great institution, and it will be around long after I’m gone. But the political debates about interrogation reached a new decibel level yesterday when the CIA was accused of misleading Congress.

Let me be clear: It is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress. That is against our laws and our values. As the Agency indicated previously in response to Congressional inquiries, our contemporaneous records from September 2002 indicate that CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing “the enhanced techniques that had been employed.” Ultimately, it is up to Congress to evaluate all the evidence and reach its own conclusions about what happened.

Now Panetta is the president’s man and presumably has his full confidence. He has, as one would expect, defended his agency and confirmed that Pelosi’s account is wrong. You can dance around it anyway you like but the administration has accused the Speaker of lying and politicizing national security. Democrats will need to decide which side they are on: Obama’s or Pelosi’s.

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Re: The Lessons of the Peace Process

Rick, your analysis is acute and on the mark. Most remarkable are the implications for Israeli politics, and the degree of sea change in the internal political debate about the peace process over the last decade and a half. Not too long ago, Israelis were divided over the question of keeping land and building settlements, on the one hand, versus giving up territory in exchange for peace, on the other.

Today, Israeli policy is backed by a left-to-right coalition (Kadima excluded, but their objections tend to be incoherent), which reflects a remarkable Israeli consensus that goes something like this: We’ve tried everything, both settlements and a peace process, and nothing’s worked. So let’s focus on our own security, and on the economic mess we’re all in. From left to right, the feeling seems to be that Israelis have given up on permanent occupation, but that talking about a Palestinian state seems to make actually building a viable one less and less possible.

Netanyahu’s bottom-up approach is remarkably similar to that of Natan Sharansky, who has been pushing for it not only in the Israeli context, but also for Iraq and Lebanon (in which he took marked issue with the Bush Administration). It is bound to be unpopular with the Europeans and the pro-process Left, not only because it takes much longer to implement, but also because it’s coming from perceived pro-Bushies like Bibi and Sharansky. But it has a lot of traction with an Israeli public that is thoroughly sick of quick fixes. And it is has shown early signs of working, at least on the security side, in Jenin and Hebron.

Rick, your analysis is acute and on the mark. Most remarkable are the implications for Israeli politics, and the degree of sea change in the internal political debate about the peace process over the last decade and a half. Not too long ago, Israelis were divided over the question of keeping land and building settlements, on the one hand, versus giving up territory in exchange for peace, on the other.

Today, Israeli policy is backed by a left-to-right coalition (Kadima excluded, but their objections tend to be incoherent), which reflects a remarkable Israeli consensus that goes something like this: We’ve tried everything, both settlements and a peace process, and nothing’s worked. So let’s focus on our own security, and on the economic mess we’re all in. From left to right, the feeling seems to be that Israelis have given up on permanent occupation, but that talking about a Palestinian state seems to make actually building a viable one less and less possible.

Netanyahu’s bottom-up approach is remarkably similar to that of Natan Sharansky, who has been pushing for it not only in the Israeli context, but also for Iraq and Lebanon (in which he took marked issue with the Bush Administration). It is bound to be unpopular with the Europeans and the pro-process Left, not only because it takes much longer to implement, but also because it’s coming from perceived pro-Bushies like Bibi and Sharansky. But it has a lot of traction with an Israeli public that is thoroughly sick of quick fixes. And it is has shown early signs of working, at least on the security side, in Jenin and Hebron.

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Which Side Are You On?

With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about to make his first visit to Washington since both he and President Obama took office this year, there is plenty of speculation about the result of their meeting. Opponents of Israel as well as some claiming to be her friends are openly rooting for the president to turn the screws on the Jewish State and to make it clear that the alliance between the two countries will be treated differently in the Obama era.

Yet on the other side are friends of Israel who are hoping that these two very different men can find a way to work together that will not compromise Israel’s security. But if you were expecting the Israel Policy Forum, a well-healed and influential group that touts itself as being ardently pro-Israel, to be among the latter, you’d be wrong.

Take a look at the full-page ad they placed in today’s New York Times. It proclaims a dubious five-step plan to Middle East peace, but its most significant aspect is that despite its clear timing to precede the Obama-Netanyahu talks, there is not a word of greeting for the prime minister or even the most perfunctory gesture of solidarity with the democratically elected government he leads. Instead, its punchline is clear: “We Support You Mr. President.”

You have to be as deluded as the IPF’s M.J. Rosenberg to believe that a solution in which Israel hands over every inch of the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem to a toothless Palestinian Authority or to Hamas will bring peace. Unless you are an ideologue like him, you understand that no Israeli government could possibly hand over territory to these forces since it would replicate the debacle in Gaza, where a sovereign Hamasistan now exists. Rebuilding Gaza for Hamas, removing the security measures in the West Bank that retard the ability of terrorists to kill Israelis, and agreeing to negotiate under the terms of the 2002 Saudi “peace” plan that insists on the right of return for Palestinians is a blueprint for more violence, not peace.

But the point of the ad isn’t really the bogus peace plan that ignores the reality of Palestinian politics and society. It is, instead, to signal to the administration that American Jews no longer support the right of Israel’s leaders to defend their nation’s interests. They want Obama to think Israel’s friends in this country want the president to ignore the Jewish state’s desperate plea that Obama make good on his campaign promise to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and that this effort is a higher priority than pursuing futile negotiations with Palestinians who don’t want peace.

In a separate column published on the IPF Website, that’s pretty much what Rosenberg says:

It should be noted that despite what some may think, American Jews are Americans and, it must be said, overwhelmingly Democratic. They will back their president if he pushes hard for Middle East peace. They are not Israelis living in exile.

The IPF has really hit a new low when its chief spokesperson starts playing the “dual loyalty” card against supporters of Israel in the same vein as Pat Buchanan. And though there is no arguing with the majority of Jews being partisan Democrats, it is quite another thing to say that most would support a president of their own party who threw Israel under a bus. But that is exactly what Rosenberg and the Walt-Mearsheimer anti-AIPAC crowd that he sides with are hoping will happen.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think rank-and-file Jewish Democrats thought they were voting for a man who was going to act in a manner that might place Hamas missiles within range of Ben Gurion Airport and acquiesce to an Iranian nuclear weapon. You don’t have to be a supporter of Netanyahu to understand that Israel’s safety ought to trump partisan loyalties.

With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about to make his first visit to Washington since both he and President Obama took office this year, there is plenty of speculation about the result of their meeting. Opponents of Israel as well as some claiming to be her friends are openly rooting for the president to turn the screws on the Jewish State and to make it clear that the alliance between the two countries will be treated differently in the Obama era.

Yet on the other side are friends of Israel who are hoping that these two very different men can find a way to work together that will not compromise Israel’s security. But if you were expecting the Israel Policy Forum, a well-healed and influential group that touts itself as being ardently pro-Israel, to be among the latter, you’d be wrong.

Take a look at the full-page ad they placed in today’s New York Times. It proclaims a dubious five-step plan to Middle East peace, but its most significant aspect is that despite its clear timing to precede the Obama-Netanyahu talks, there is not a word of greeting for the prime minister or even the most perfunctory gesture of solidarity with the democratically elected government he leads. Instead, its punchline is clear: “We Support You Mr. President.”

You have to be as deluded as the IPF’s M.J. Rosenberg to believe that a solution in which Israel hands over every inch of the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem to a toothless Palestinian Authority or to Hamas will bring peace. Unless you are an ideologue like him, you understand that no Israeli government could possibly hand over territory to these forces since it would replicate the debacle in Gaza, where a sovereign Hamasistan now exists. Rebuilding Gaza for Hamas, removing the security measures in the West Bank that retard the ability of terrorists to kill Israelis, and agreeing to negotiate under the terms of the 2002 Saudi “peace” plan that insists on the right of return for Palestinians is a blueprint for more violence, not peace.

But the point of the ad isn’t really the bogus peace plan that ignores the reality of Palestinian politics and society. It is, instead, to signal to the administration that American Jews no longer support the right of Israel’s leaders to defend their nation’s interests. They want Obama to think Israel’s friends in this country want the president to ignore the Jewish state’s desperate plea that Obama make good on his campaign promise to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and that this effort is a higher priority than pursuing futile negotiations with Palestinians who don’t want peace.

In a separate column published on the IPF Website, that’s pretty much what Rosenberg says:

It should be noted that despite what some may think, American Jews are Americans and, it must be said, overwhelmingly Democratic. They will back their president if he pushes hard for Middle East peace. They are not Israelis living in exile.

The IPF has really hit a new low when its chief spokesperson starts playing the “dual loyalty” card against supporters of Israel in the same vein as Pat Buchanan. And though there is no arguing with the majority of Jews being partisan Democrats, it is quite another thing to say that most would support a president of their own party who threw Israel under a bus. But that is exactly what Rosenberg and the Walt-Mearsheimer anti-AIPAC crowd that he sides with are hoping will happen.

Call me crazy, but I don’t think rank-and-file Jewish Democrats thought they were voting for a man who was going to act in a manner that might place Hamas missiles within range of Ben Gurion Airport and acquiesce to an Iranian nuclear weapon. You don’t have to be a supporter of Netanyahu to understand that Israel’s safety ought to trump partisan loyalties.

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It’s All About Her Now

The Wall Street Journal editors write:

Given House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s acknowledged skill at torturing the Bush Administration in recent years, it no doubt afforded her critics some pleasure yesterday to watch her twist in the wind in front of the press over what she knew and when about the CIA’s terrorist interrogations. With mockery even from Jon Stewart on Comedy Central, Mrs. Pelosi has turned herself into a spectacle about a subject that she and fellow Democrats had themselves reduced to a spectacle of demagogic accusation and blame, repeatedly threatening to put Bush officials in the dock for “condoning torture.”

Thurday’s press conference brought to a head several intertwined stories, both human and political. On one level it is a tale of hubris — of revenge turned back on the accuser. It’s not quite Shakespeare, but it does whiff of Lady Macbeth.

It is also a media story: how to inflame and create controversy when the opposite is intended. It wasn’t “I am not a crook” or “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” but it was no less memorable or self-destructive. Even if you turned the volume off and just watched the mannerisms and expression, you’d have the sense something was very wrong.  Dana Milbank observes:

As more skeptical questions were shouted, Pelosi opened her eyes wide. She licked her lips. She chopped the air with her hand and moved her arm like a windshield wiper. She swallowed hard. She used both hands to clear her hair from her face as she fired off pleas that “I wasn’t briefed,” “I wasn’t informed” and “They misled us.”

“That’s it — we’re done!” a Pelosi aide said as the reporters continued to shout questions. Finally, in a burst of sideways energy and with the help of her aides, the speaker crab-walked out of the room.

But the reason it is critical is because it reveals the lie at the heart of the witch hunt: that the Bush administration hoodwinked the country and engaged in “torture,” which everyone knew was illegal and outside the bounds of acceptable conduct. If that‘s what you believe, then you have to accept Pelosi’s view of events. It is only in her hastily constructed alibi (several of them, actually) that it makes sense.

Because if the administration obtained careful legal opinions, briefed Congress, received approval and encouragement, and proceeded ahead to obtain valuable information in defense of the country, then the whole inquisition crumbles. David Brooks asks and answers his own question on why Pelosi must lie:

Why can’t she just tell the obvious truth? She was influenced by the climate of the time. In retrospect, she wishes she had raised her voice in protest. Meanwhile, the 80 percent of the people who want to prosecute Justice Department lawyers have gone strangely silent as far as Pelosi is concerned.

There you go. You can’t very well indict or disbar attorneys under such circumstances, can you? How can we punish them for providing guidance and carrying out policy that met with congressional muteness or outright approval? It is not just hypocritical, it’s nonsensical. As Charles Krauthammer put it:

On the morality of waterboarding and other “torture,” Pelosi and other senior and expert members of Congress represented their colleagues, and indeed the entire American people, in rendering the reasonable person verdict. What did they do? They gave tacit approval. In fact, according to Goss, they offered encouragement. Given the circumstances, they clearly deemed the interrogations warranted.

The face of the “truth commission” is Nancy Pelosi’s. And her fanciful narrative is essential to its mission. If her tale is revealed to be partisan fiction we are done. And so is she.

The Wall Street Journal editors write:

Given House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s acknowledged skill at torturing the Bush Administration in recent years, it no doubt afforded her critics some pleasure yesterday to watch her twist in the wind in front of the press over what she knew and when about the CIA’s terrorist interrogations. With mockery even from Jon Stewart on Comedy Central, Mrs. Pelosi has turned herself into a spectacle about a subject that she and fellow Democrats had themselves reduced to a spectacle of demagogic accusation and blame, repeatedly threatening to put Bush officials in the dock for “condoning torture.”

Thurday’s press conference brought to a head several intertwined stories, both human and political. On one level it is a tale of hubris — of revenge turned back on the accuser. It’s not quite Shakespeare, but it does whiff of Lady Macbeth.

It is also a media story: how to inflame and create controversy when the opposite is intended. It wasn’t “I am not a crook” or “I did not have sexual relations with that woman,” but it was no less memorable or self-destructive. Even if you turned the volume off and just watched the mannerisms and expression, you’d have the sense something was very wrong.  Dana Milbank observes:

As more skeptical questions were shouted, Pelosi opened her eyes wide. She licked her lips. She chopped the air with her hand and moved her arm like a windshield wiper. She swallowed hard. She used both hands to clear her hair from her face as she fired off pleas that “I wasn’t briefed,” “I wasn’t informed” and “They misled us.”

“That’s it — we’re done!” a Pelosi aide said as the reporters continued to shout questions. Finally, in a burst of sideways energy and with the help of her aides, the speaker crab-walked out of the room.

But the reason it is critical is because it reveals the lie at the heart of the witch hunt: that the Bush administration hoodwinked the country and engaged in “torture,” which everyone knew was illegal and outside the bounds of acceptable conduct. If that‘s what you believe, then you have to accept Pelosi’s view of events. It is only in her hastily constructed alibi (several of them, actually) that it makes sense.

Because if the administration obtained careful legal opinions, briefed Congress, received approval and encouragement, and proceeded ahead to obtain valuable information in defense of the country, then the whole inquisition crumbles. David Brooks asks and answers his own question on why Pelosi must lie:

Why can’t she just tell the obvious truth? She was influenced by the climate of the time. In retrospect, she wishes she had raised her voice in protest. Meanwhile, the 80 percent of the people who want to prosecute Justice Department lawyers have gone strangely silent as far as Pelosi is concerned.

There you go. You can’t very well indict or disbar attorneys under such circumstances, can you? How can we punish them for providing guidance and carrying out policy that met with congressional muteness or outright approval? It is not just hypocritical, it’s nonsensical. As Charles Krauthammer put it:

On the morality of waterboarding and other “torture,” Pelosi and other senior and expert members of Congress represented their colleagues, and indeed the entire American people, in rendering the reasonable person verdict. What did they do? They gave tacit approval. In fact, according to Goss, they offered encouragement. Given the circumstances, they clearly deemed the interrogations warranted.

The face of the “truth commission” is Nancy Pelosi’s. And her fanciful narrative is essential to its mission. If her tale is revealed to be partisan fiction we are done. And so is she.

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It’s a Good Time to Be George W. Bush

Let’s face it, this is shaping up as George W. Bush’s best month in years. The last time the 43rd president enjoyed this kind of vindication was when a bedraggled Saddam Hussein was pulled from a hole in the ground by American soldiers in 2003. All of Barack Obama’s efforts to cast the Bush administration as an immoral stain on American history have not merely collapsed, but collapsed on the heads of Bush’s most public and vocal critics.

Here’s a non-stammering Nancy Pelosi talking about Bush last July: “God bless him, bless his heart, president of the United States — a total failure, losing all credibility with the American people on the economy, on the war, on energy, you name the subject.”

Don’t mind if I do. How about national security? It turns out that support for a criminal investigation of Bush policies yielded an important finding after all: Pelosi’s own long-standing agreement with the Bush administration’s toughest measures. On that point she’s in sync with the rest of the country. A CNN/Opinion Research Corp poll found that Americans approve of the interrogation methods Bush okayed by a margin of 50% to 46%. In other words, she didn’t have to go through the condemnation charade to begin with.

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

Let’s face it, this is shaping up as George W. Bush’s best month in years. The last time the 43rd president enjoyed this kind of vindication was when a bedraggled Saddam Hussein was pulled from a hole in the ground by American soldiers in 2003. All of Barack Obama’s efforts to cast the Bush administration as an immoral stain on American history have not merely collapsed, but collapsed on the heads of Bush’s most public and vocal critics.

Here’s a non-stammering Nancy Pelosi talking about Bush last July: “God bless him, bless his heart, president of the United States — a total failure, losing all credibility with the American people on the economy, on the war, on energy, you name the subject.”

Don’t mind if I do. How about national security? It turns out that support for a criminal investigation of Bush policies yielded an important finding after all: Pelosi’s own long-standing agreement with the Bush administration’s toughest measures. On that point she’s in sync with the rest of the country. A CNN/Opinion Research Corp poll found that Americans approve of the interrogation methods Bush okayed by a margin of 50% to 46%. In other words, she didn’t have to go through the condemnation charade to begin with.

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

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Obama’s Weakened Iran Strategy

I’ve previously argued that an effective strategy vis-a-vis Iran requires Israeli strategic ambiguity. Indeed, the less the Obama administration can claim to have total control over Israel’s decision to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities, the more urgent it becomes for Iran to negotiate — that is, of course, assuming that Iran is willing to negotiate seriously in the first place (that’s the administration’s assumption, not mine). Of course, insofar as Iran’s development of nuclear capabilities is time sensitive, anything that expedites forthcoming negotiations between Washington and Tehran — by threatening Tehran with significant consequences if negotiations do not yield quick results — is a good thing.

Yesterday, however, the Obama administration tossed Israeli strategic ambiguity out the window, publicly announcing it had won an assurance that Israel wouldn’t attack Iran without Washington’s prior consent. This weakens President Obama’s hand vis-à-vis Tehran in two critical ways.

First, it removes Obama’s ability to claim that Israel might (key word) attack if Iran doesn’t negotiate in good faith. After all, the Iranians are now certain Obama knows full well whether or not Israel will strike — and this greater certainty reduces the urgency of negotiations for Tehran. Indeed, expect to see a good deal of foot-dragging from the mullahs.

Second, by declaring its veto power over any future Israeli strike, Washington has tied itself inextricably to Jerusalem’s decision-making. In turn, an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would carry the American imprimatur, thereby forcing the U.S. to confront possible Iranian retaliation as much as Israel.  The stakes for any Israeli attack on Iran have thus been raised significantly — thereby undermining credibility of Israel’s military option.

Ultimately, all of this is a consequence of Obama’s policy of “engagement” — the belief that sufficient cheer and goodwill, rather than threats, can soften tyrants. We must pray it works. After all, we are increasingly running out of other options.

I’ve previously argued that an effective strategy vis-a-vis Iran requires Israeli strategic ambiguity. Indeed, the less the Obama administration can claim to have total control over Israel’s decision to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities, the more urgent it becomes for Iran to negotiate — that is, of course, assuming that Iran is willing to negotiate seriously in the first place (that’s the administration’s assumption, not mine). Of course, insofar as Iran’s development of nuclear capabilities is time sensitive, anything that expedites forthcoming negotiations between Washington and Tehran — by threatening Tehran with significant consequences if negotiations do not yield quick results — is a good thing.

Yesterday, however, the Obama administration tossed Israeli strategic ambiguity out the window, publicly announcing it had won an assurance that Israel wouldn’t attack Iran without Washington’s prior consent. This weakens President Obama’s hand vis-à-vis Tehran in two critical ways.

First, it removes Obama’s ability to claim that Israel might (key word) attack if Iran doesn’t negotiate in good faith. After all, the Iranians are now certain Obama knows full well whether or not Israel will strike — and this greater certainty reduces the urgency of negotiations for Tehran. Indeed, expect to see a good deal of foot-dragging from the mullahs.

Second, by declaring its veto power over any future Israeli strike, Washington has tied itself inextricably to Jerusalem’s decision-making. In turn, an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would carry the American imprimatur, thereby forcing the U.S. to confront possible Iranian retaliation as much as Israel.  The stakes for any Israeli attack on Iran have thus been raised significantly — thereby undermining credibility of Israel’s military option.

Ultimately, all of this is a consequence of Obama’s policy of “engagement” — the belief that sufficient cheer and goodwill, rather than threats, can soften tyrants. We must pray it works. After all, we are increasingly running out of other options.

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Nancy Pelosi, War Criminal

In her disastrous press conference yesterday, Nancy Pelosi finally confirmed that she was aware waterboarding was taking place as early as 2003, after her top intelligence aide Michael Sheehy attended a briefing with CIA officials where he was told as much. This contradicts her earlier, and highly dubious, claims that she didn’t know about waterboarding until the rest of us found out.

But Pelosi really made news with her accusation that the CIA lied to her in September of 2002, specifically disputing the claims of the Agency (and others) who said that Congressional leaders were briefed about the actual, and not just potential, use of enhanced interrogation techniques. We’ve known about these briefings for at least two years, but it was only yesterday, with the real possibility of a congressional “Truth Commission” taking shape, that Pelosi decided to accuse the CIA of “misleading” her. In 2007, for instance, the Washington Post described the content of that meeting this way: “For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA’s overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.” The Post further reported that “Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.”

But let’s take Pelosi at her word. Let’s assume that in 2002, all the CIA told her was that “they had some legislative counsel — the Office of Legislative Counsel opinions that they could be used, but not that they would,” as she put it last month. According to the people now calling for “war crimes” investigations against Bush administration lawyers, the mere writing of a legal memo that justified enhanced interrogation techniques itself constitutes a “war crime.” Put aside the question of whether the agents performing said techniques are themselves culpable, it’s the lawyers who argued for their legality who are the real “war criminals” and who should be disbarred, impeached, imprisoned, etc. By this logic, then, Pelosi being aware that such legal rationales had been provided by government officials (her claim), even if she wasn’t told waterboarding itself was taking place, would obviously make her complicit in the commissioning of war crimes since she did absolutely nothing about it.

I should state plainly here that I don’t believe Nancy Pelosi is a war criminal. But that’s because I also don’t believe John Yoo or Jay Bybee are war criminals for drafting legal opinions the Left disagrees with. Regardless, that Nancy Pelosi is complicit in the commissioning and cover-up of war crimes is the inescapable logic of the arguments being put forth by the mob calling for partisan witch-hunts. To maintain at least the guise of intellectual consistency, those calling for the heads of Yoo and Bybee should start calling for the Speaker’s as well.

In her disastrous press conference yesterday, Nancy Pelosi finally confirmed that she was aware waterboarding was taking place as early as 2003, after her top intelligence aide Michael Sheehy attended a briefing with CIA officials where he was told as much. This contradicts her earlier, and highly dubious, claims that she didn’t know about waterboarding until the rest of us found out.

But Pelosi really made news with her accusation that the CIA lied to her in September of 2002, specifically disputing the claims of the Agency (and others) who said that Congressional leaders were briefed about the actual, and not just potential, use of enhanced interrogation techniques. We’ve known about these briefings for at least two years, but it was only yesterday, with the real possibility of a congressional “Truth Commission” taking shape, that Pelosi decided to accuse the CIA of “misleading” her. In 2007, for instance, the Washington Post described the content of that meeting this way: “For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA’s overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.” The Post further reported that “Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.”

But let’s take Pelosi at her word. Let’s assume that in 2002, all the CIA told her was that “they had some legislative counsel — the Office of Legislative Counsel opinions that they could be used, but not that they would,” as she put it last month. According to the people now calling for “war crimes” investigations against Bush administration lawyers, the mere writing of a legal memo that justified enhanced interrogation techniques itself constitutes a “war crime.” Put aside the question of whether the agents performing said techniques are themselves culpable, it’s the lawyers who argued for their legality who are the real “war criminals” and who should be disbarred, impeached, imprisoned, etc. By this logic, then, Pelosi being aware that such legal rationales had been provided by government officials (her claim), even if she wasn’t told waterboarding itself was taking place, would obviously make her complicit in the commissioning of war crimes since she did absolutely nothing about it.

I should state plainly here that I don’t believe Nancy Pelosi is a war criminal. But that’s because I also don’t believe John Yoo or Jay Bybee are war criminals for drafting legal opinions the Left disagrees with. Regardless, that Nancy Pelosi is complicit in the commissioning and cover-up of war crimes is the inescapable logic of the arguments being put forth by the mob calling for partisan witch-hunts. To maintain at least the guise of intellectual consistency, those calling for the heads of Yoo and Bybee should start calling for the Speaker’s as well.

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What Do They Want From Netanyahu?

Two consecutive polls in Israel converge to constitute a seemingly similar conclusion: Israelis support a two-state solution. But what a difference wording can make.

In YNet yesterday, it was conclusive and definitive:

Some 58% of Israel’s Jewish public backs the “two states for two peoples” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a Smith Institute poll commissioned by YNet revealed… According to the poll, which was conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled trip to Washington, 37% of Israeli Jews are opposed to the two-state solution, while five percent of those surveyed had no opinion on the matter.

In Haaretz this morning the numbers are similar, but with a caveat:

Asked about the peace process, 57 percent of respondents, or 280 people, said that Netanyahu should tell U.S. President Barack Obama that he supports a two-state solution when he visits Washington next week. Only 35 percent said Netanyahu should not give his consent, while 8 percent were undecided.

So, while the first poll indicates that most Israelis support a two-state solution, the second poll barely reveals that Israelis want Netanyahu to tell Obama he supports a two-state solution. Since the first poll doesn’t even specify the wording of the question asked to respondents, one wonders what it is that Israelis really want… Do respondents who want Netanyahu to tell Obama he supports a two-state solution also support it themselves?

What we do know for sure is that Israelis, frustrated by the performance of their leadership, are already “disappointed” by Netanyahu. The two polls I mentioned support such conclusion, seconded by a score of other polls (if you read Hebrew you can see two examples here and here). In most polls half of Israelis aren’t happy with Netanyahu’s performance so far. A lot of it has to do with the week-long process of approving Israel’s budget, but this makes Netanyahu’s meeting with Obama next week much more complicated politically. If his visit to the U.S. ends on a tense note — the week after his government performed miserably in budget negotiations — the public will grow even more restless and unhappy with his government. Bottom line: politically speaking, Netanyahu has much more to lose than Obama from a dispute. This might not make him a wholehearted supporter of a two-state solution, but it can conceivably push his rhetoric in that direction. Existentially speaking, it’s a whole different matter.

Two consecutive polls in Israel converge to constitute a seemingly similar conclusion: Israelis support a two-state solution. But what a difference wording can make.

In YNet yesterday, it was conclusive and definitive:

Some 58% of Israel’s Jewish public backs the “two states for two peoples” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a Smith Institute poll commissioned by YNet revealed… According to the poll, which was conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday ahead of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled trip to Washington, 37% of Israeli Jews are opposed to the two-state solution, while five percent of those surveyed had no opinion on the matter.

In Haaretz this morning the numbers are similar, but with a caveat:

Asked about the peace process, 57 percent of respondents, or 280 people, said that Netanyahu should tell U.S. President Barack Obama that he supports a two-state solution when he visits Washington next week. Only 35 percent said Netanyahu should not give his consent, while 8 percent were undecided.

So, while the first poll indicates that most Israelis support a two-state solution, the second poll barely reveals that Israelis want Netanyahu to tell Obama he supports a two-state solution. Since the first poll doesn’t even specify the wording of the question asked to respondents, one wonders what it is that Israelis really want… Do respondents who want Netanyahu to tell Obama he supports a two-state solution also support it themselves?

What we do know for sure is that Israelis, frustrated by the performance of their leadership, are already “disappointed” by Netanyahu. The two polls I mentioned support such conclusion, seconded by a score of other polls (if you read Hebrew you can see two examples here and here). In most polls half of Israelis aren’t happy with Netanyahu’s performance so far. A lot of it has to do with the week-long process of approving Israel’s budget, but this makes Netanyahu’s meeting with Obama next week much more complicated politically. If his visit to the U.S. ends on a tense note — the week after his government performed miserably in budget negotiations — the public will grow even more restless and unhappy with his government. Bottom line: politically speaking, Netanyahu has much more to lose than Obama from a dispute. This might not make him a wholehearted supporter of a two-state solution, but it can conceivably push his rhetoric in that direction. Existentially speaking, it’s a whole different matter.

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Murtha Might Want to Watch His Back

As Jennifer noted this morning, Representative Jeff Flake’s motion to have the House Ethics Committee investigate Rep. John Murtha was defeated on Tuesday, after Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s enforcers threatened Democrats with problems (in an e-mail headed “Don’t Be a Flake”) if they voted for it.

But 29 Democrats did so anyway. And this morning, the New York Times ran an editorial backing the investigation of the ever-growing pile of evidence that John Murtha has been at the center of a vast pay-to-play scheme involving defense appropriations. The Times editors wrote, “It is time to follow the money — all of it.”

To be sure, the Times’s editorial page these days has limited power, because its often highly tendentious editorials preach almost exclusively to the liberal choir. But it still has real clout  — with that choir at least.  When the Times wrote that former Senator Tom Daschle should withdraw his nomination to be Health and Human Services secretary because of his failure to pay taxes on large amounts of in-kind income, Daschle’s support crumbled and he withdrew the same day.

With the Speaker enmeshed ever more tightly in a net of her own conflicting statements about what she knew and when she knew it regarding interrogation techniques, her power to protect her close associate Murtha (who she wanted to be Majority Leader — a post the Democratic Caucus gave to Steny Hoyer) is increasingly limited.

I’d suggest that John Murtha do some serious lawyering up if he hasn’t already.

As Jennifer noted this morning, Representative Jeff Flake’s motion to have the House Ethics Committee investigate Rep. John Murtha was defeated on Tuesday, after Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s enforcers threatened Democrats with problems (in an e-mail headed “Don’t Be a Flake”) if they voted for it.

But 29 Democrats did so anyway. And this morning, the New York Times ran an editorial backing the investigation of the ever-growing pile of evidence that John Murtha has been at the center of a vast pay-to-play scheme involving defense appropriations. The Times editors wrote, “It is time to follow the money — all of it.”

To be sure, the Times’s editorial page these days has limited power, because its often highly tendentious editorials preach almost exclusively to the liberal choir. But it still has real clout  — with that choir at least.  When the Times wrote that former Senator Tom Daschle should withdraw his nomination to be Health and Human Services secretary because of his failure to pay taxes on large amounts of in-kind income, Daschle’s support crumbled and he withdrew the same day.

With the Speaker enmeshed ever more tightly in a net of her own conflicting statements about what she knew and when she knew it regarding interrogation techniques, her power to protect her close associate Murtha (who she wanted to be Majority Leader — a post the Democratic Caucus gave to Steny Hoyer) is increasingly limited.

I’d suggest that John Murtha do some serious lawyering up if he hasn’t already.

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Imperial Climate Change Policy

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels disclaims intention to run for office again (yes, but people change their minds all the time) and writes an inspired column opposing cap-and-trade. He puts the whole boondoggle in stark terms:

Quite simply, it looks like imperialism. This bill would impose enormous taxes and restrictions on free commerce by wealthy but faltering powers — California, Massachusetts and New York — seeking to exploit politically weaker colonies in order to prop up their own decaying economies. Because proceeds from their new taxes, levied mostly on us, will be spent on their social programs while negatively impacting our economy, we Hoosiers decline to submit meekly.

[. . .]

And for what? No honest estimate pretends to suggest that a U.S. cap-and-trade regime will move the world’s thermometer by so much as a tenth of a degree a half century from now. My fellow citizens are being ordered to accept impoverishment for a policy that won’t save a single polar bear.

We are told that although China, India and others show no signs of joining in this dismal process, we will eventually induce their participation by “setting an example.” Watching the impending indigence of the Midwest, and the flow of jobs from our shores to theirs, our friends in Asia and the Third World are far more likely to choose any other path but ours.

And that explains precisely why the president and Congressional leadership are having a tough time rounding up the votes. Aside from conservatives who object in principle to government’s micro-management of the economy, the impact on Middle America is real and a vote for “imperial climate-change policy” is likely to be a dangerous one for lawmakers from Indiana and surrounding states.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels disclaims intention to run for office again (yes, but people change their minds all the time) and writes an inspired column opposing cap-and-trade. He puts the whole boondoggle in stark terms:

Quite simply, it looks like imperialism. This bill would impose enormous taxes and restrictions on free commerce by wealthy but faltering powers — California, Massachusetts and New York — seeking to exploit politically weaker colonies in order to prop up their own decaying economies. Because proceeds from their new taxes, levied mostly on us, will be spent on their social programs while negatively impacting our economy, we Hoosiers decline to submit meekly.

[. . .]

And for what? No honest estimate pretends to suggest that a U.S. cap-and-trade regime will move the world’s thermometer by so much as a tenth of a degree a half century from now. My fellow citizens are being ordered to accept impoverishment for a policy that won’t save a single polar bear.

We are told that although China, India and others show no signs of joining in this dismal process, we will eventually induce their participation by “setting an example.” Watching the impending indigence of the Midwest, and the flow of jobs from our shores to theirs, our friends in Asia and the Third World are far more likely to choose any other path but ours.

And that explains precisely why the president and Congressional leadership are having a tough time rounding up the votes. Aside from conservatives who object in principle to government’s micro-management of the economy, the impact on Middle America is real and a vote for “imperial climate-change policy” is likely to be a dangerous one for lawmakers from Indiana and surrounding states.

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Reality’s Version of a Free Market

I’m astounded at how much really intelligent stuff is being written by people who are avowedly left-wing. For international-finance geeks, Brad Setser at CFR is a must-read, and Steven Waldman always has something thought-provoking. There are many others.

On the free-market side, most of what gets written is some variant of “Government is evil. Private actors may be anywhere from stupid to evil, but we prefer their stupidity and evil to government’s evil.” We already know that, so a lot of this material gets old pretty fast.

Finance commentators who are left-wing are generally unafraid to see that strict free-market outcomes aren’t necessarily for the good. They tend to be quite comfortable with exercising state power to constrain market behavior. On the right, people like me are generally very reluctant to embrace state power for two reasons: it leads to corruption; and it’s incredibly hard to get right.

I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. A strict, pure free market would allow any and all manner of financial arrangements among private parties. Although nothing remotely like this has ever existed in human history, I’m inclined to expect that such a state of nature would be fully self-policing. The key aspect of it that’s missing from today’s world is failure. Under strict free markets, you go out of business when you fail. You also risk failing when you do business with someone else who fails. And that induces everyone to carefully consider who they do business with and on what terms.

A very complex system has evolved for dealing with the consequences of free markets. Business failure isn’t always just. Think of Bear Stearns, which was fully solvent when rumors of its pending insolvency became self-fulfilling and destroyed a venerable firm in seven days flat. There’s a lot of structure in our legal system intended to prevent the full impact of free-market failures from hitting firms, stakeholders, and counter-parties under circumstances deemed less than fair.

But we may have taken this too far, into the realm of unwritten rules. Consider the discussion in regard to companies that are “too big to fail.” In these cases, agencies of government are entirely willing to expend enormous amounts of taxpayer money in order to prevent systemic disruptions due to business failures. The whole global financial system is now stabilized by government promises of this nature. Private actors no longer need to think very hard about doing business with weak counter-parties who bear the mark of “systemic importance” and for whom failure is (politically) not an option. Since this is quite unprecedented, we have no idea (yet) how brittle this environment is, or how susceptible to shocks like asset bubbles and their collapses.

The bottom line is we don’t have a free-market system. Such a thing is in fact quite impossible in practice, because of the ease with which powerful financial actors can influence and corrupt governments. Favored entities like Citigroup and Goldman Sachs will never be exposed to the full consequences of their actions, and will thus remain a permanent source of systemic risk.

To their immense credit, financial commentators on the left recognize what’s happening: huge amounts of taxpayer money are getting shoveled into the maws of politically-connected people and organizations who are rewarded for taking risks they would never take if they were fully exposed to the consequences of their practices. To oppose this is really a kind of populism (reminiscent of left-wing currents of the past, like the Free Silver movement), rather than the shibboleth of thoroughgoing state control (“socialism”) that is so feared on the Right.

I worry that those on the Right, with their emphasis on low regulation and fragmented government power, are enabling the Goldmans of the world to keep gaming the system in their favor. The proper alternative would not be a system of government control over the economy, but rather a system of strict financial regulation that makes it largely impossible for people to take risks with other people’s money.

How to do that without suffering the evil of government corruption, a risk that is underestimated on the Left? That’s another story.

I’m astounded at how much really intelligent stuff is being written by people who are avowedly left-wing. For international-finance geeks, Brad Setser at CFR is a must-read, and Steven Waldman always has something thought-provoking. There are many others.

On the free-market side, most of what gets written is some variant of “Government is evil. Private actors may be anywhere from stupid to evil, but we prefer their stupidity and evil to government’s evil.” We already know that, so a lot of this material gets old pretty fast.

Finance commentators who are left-wing are generally unafraid to see that strict free-market outcomes aren’t necessarily for the good. They tend to be quite comfortable with exercising state power to constrain market behavior. On the right, people like me are generally very reluctant to embrace state power for two reasons: it leads to corruption; and it’s incredibly hard to get right.

I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. A strict, pure free market would allow any and all manner of financial arrangements among private parties. Although nothing remotely like this has ever existed in human history, I’m inclined to expect that such a state of nature would be fully self-policing. The key aspect of it that’s missing from today’s world is failure. Under strict free markets, you go out of business when you fail. You also risk failing when you do business with someone else who fails. And that induces everyone to carefully consider who they do business with and on what terms.

A very complex system has evolved for dealing with the consequences of free markets. Business failure isn’t always just. Think of Bear Stearns, which was fully solvent when rumors of its pending insolvency became self-fulfilling and destroyed a venerable firm in seven days flat. There’s a lot of structure in our legal system intended to prevent the full impact of free-market failures from hitting firms, stakeholders, and counter-parties under circumstances deemed less than fair.

But we may have taken this too far, into the realm of unwritten rules. Consider the discussion in regard to companies that are “too big to fail.” In these cases, agencies of government are entirely willing to expend enormous amounts of taxpayer money in order to prevent systemic disruptions due to business failures. The whole global financial system is now stabilized by government promises of this nature. Private actors no longer need to think very hard about doing business with weak counter-parties who bear the mark of “systemic importance” and for whom failure is (politically) not an option. Since this is quite unprecedented, we have no idea (yet) how brittle this environment is, or how susceptible to shocks like asset bubbles and their collapses.

The bottom line is we don’t have a free-market system. Such a thing is in fact quite impossible in practice, because of the ease with which powerful financial actors can influence and corrupt governments. Favored entities like Citigroup and Goldman Sachs will never be exposed to the full consequences of their actions, and will thus remain a permanent source of systemic risk.

To their immense credit, financial commentators on the left recognize what’s happening: huge amounts of taxpayer money are getting shoveled into the maws of politically-connected people and organizations who are rewarded for taking risks they would never take if they were fully exposed to the consequences of their practices. To oppose this is really a kind of populism (reminiscent of left-wing currents of the past, like the Free Silver movement), rather than the shibboleth of thoroughgoing state control (“socialism”) that is so feared on the Right.

I worry that those on the Right, with their emphasis on low regulation and fragmented government power, are enabling the Goldmans of the world to keep gaming the system in their favor. The proper alternative would not be a system of government control over the economy, but rather a system of strict financial regulation that makes it largely impossible for people to take risks with other people’s money.

How to do that without suffering the evil of government corruption, a risk that is underestimated on the Left? That’s another story.

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And Then the Trillion Dollar Healthcare Plan’s Going to Pay for Everthing Else!

David Brooks suggests the entire Obama domestic agenda is built on a giant falsehood, or a big “whoops” to say the least. He explains:

The government now borrows $1 for every $2 it spends. A Treasury bond auction earlier this month went poorly, suggesting the world’s hunger for U.S. debt is not limitless. President Obama has been thrown back on his original theory. If he is going to sustain his agenda, if he is going to prevent national insolvency, he has to control health care costs. Health care costs are now the crucial issue of his whole presidency.

So to make the whole thing work, healthcare reform has to be a big cost-saver, you see. What?! It’s going to cost a fortune (a trillion maybe), you say. Well yes, and that’s the problem — the huge problem. As Brooks explains, all the cost-savings notions are of questionable value and in any event, cost a lot up front. So the upshot:

The likely outcome of this year’s health care push is that we will get a medium-size bill that expands coverage to some groups but does relatively little to control costs. In normal conditions, that would be a legislative achievement.

But Obama needs those cuts for his whole strategy to work. Right now, his spending plans are concrete and certain. But his health care savings, which make those spending plans affordable, are distant, amorphous and uncertain. Without serious health cost cuts, this burst of activism will hasten fiscal suicide.

Well, shouldn’t we be doing something about that? Perhaps ending the silly dog-and-pony photo-ops and having some heart-to-heart talks with the American people. Maybe we should explain that the money has already been spent — on junk (e.g. a stimulus bill that won’t stimulate and a jumbo budget without a single meaningful cut).

It might be smart to look at alternative plans that don’t involve expanding coverage by government fiat. We could for example open up interstate health insurance sales, allow small business to create insurance-purchasing pools and begin to transition from an employer-provided to individual-purchased healthcare system. All of those would be prudent moves.

But we’re not doing any of that. So what does that say about the president — who was going to dispense with ideology and govern on the basis of “pragmatism”? I’m not exactly sure what pragmatism means as a governing philosophy, but it’s not promising everyone healthcare with money we have already spent. And if this president was supposed to usher in a “new era of responsibility,” I don’t see how we wound up with a fiscal policy that is the equivalent of going to Vegas with the grocery money.

Maybe, just maybe, this is not the pragmatic or responsible administration we were promised. If we had that sort of administration we wouldn’t be digging our fiscal graves.

David Brooks suggests the entire Obama domestic agenda is built on a giant falsehood, or a big “whoops” to say the least. He explains:

The government now borrows $1 for every $2 it spends. A Treasury bond auction earlier this month went poorly, suggesting the world’s hunger for U.S. debt is not limitless. President Obama has been thrown back on his original theory. If he is going to sustain his agenda, if he is going to prevent national insolvency, he has to control health care costs. Health care costs are now the crucial issue of his whole presidency.

So to make the whole thing work, healthcare reform has to be a big cost-saver, you see. What?! It’s going to cost a fortune (a trillion maybe), you say. Well yes, and that’s the problem — the huge problem. As Brooks explains, all the cost-savings notions are of questionable value and in any event, cost a lot up front. So the upshot:

The likely outcome of this year’s health care push is that we will get a medium-size bill that expands coverage to some groups but does relatively little to control costs. In normal conditions, that would be a legislative achievement.

But Obama needs those cuts for his whole strategy to work. Right now, his spending plans are concrete and certain. But his health care savings, which make those spending plans affordable, are distant, amorphous and uncertain. Without serious health cost cuts, this burst of activism will hasten fiscal suicide.

Well, shouldn’t we be doing something about that? Perhaps ending the silly dog-and-pony photo-ops and having some heart-to-heart talks with the American people. Maybe we should explain that the money has already been spent — on junk (e.g. a stimulus bill that won’t stimulate and a jumbo budget without a single meaningful cut).

It might be smart to look at alternative plans that don’t involve expanding coverage by government fiat. We could for example open up interstate health insurance sales, allow small business to create insurance-purchasing pools and begin to transition from an employer-provided to individual-purchased healthcare system. All of those would be prudent moves.

But we’re not doing any of that. So what does that say about the president — who was going to dispense with ideology and govern on the basis of “pragmatism”? I’m not exactly sure what pragmatism means as a governing philosophy, but it’s not promising everyone healthcare with money we have already spent. And if this president was supposed to usher in a “new era of responsibility,” I don’t see how we wound up with a fiscal policy that is the equivalent of going to Vegas with the grocery money.

Maybe, just maybe, this is not the pragmatic or responsible administration we were promised. If we had that sort of administration we wouldn’t be digging our fiscal graves.

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Understanding France

It is both the greatest weakness and the greatest strength of the French that they are capable of holding a nuanced view of just about anything. So we should not be particularly troubled by the Jerusalem Post‘s headline today about a new survey of French public opinion regarding the Middle East: “France Views on Israel are Nuanced.” While most Israelis think the French public is overwhelmingly anti-Israel, the truth is more, well, nuanced. For example, while twice as many French support the Palestinian side of the conflict rather than the Israeli side (27% versus 14%), a far larger portion (32%) support neither side. And while 77% opposed Israel’s invasion of Gaza in January, more French think Hamas is to blame for the humanitarian crisis than Israel. Fully 83% say they are in favor of a two-state solution, and yet the same portion says that such a solution is “not realistic right now.”
Perhaps the most interesting figures concern how the French order the priorities of action in the Middle East. When asked what single issue needed to be solved most urgently, they answered, in order of priority: (i) Iran’s arming and funding terrorists, (ii) Palestinian rocket fire into Israel, (iii) Israel’s military strikes in Gaza, (iv) the Arabs’ refusal to recognize Israel, and (v) the Palestinians’ teaching of hate in their schools.

Given everything else going on in Europe this year, a lack of clarity may be the best one can hope for.

It is both the greatest weakness and the greatest strength of the French that they are capable of holding a nuanced view of just about anything. So we should not be particularly troubled by the Jerusalem Post‘s headline today about a new survey of French public opinion regarding the Middle East: “France Views on Israel are Nuanced.” While most Israelis think the French public is overwhelmingly anti-Israel, the truth is more, well, nuanced. For example, while twice as many French support the Palestinian side of the conflict rather than the Israeli side (27% versus 14%), a far larger portion (32%) support neither side. And while 77% opposed Israel’s invasion of Gaza in January, more French think Hamas is to blame for the humanitarian crisis than Israel. Fully 83% say they are in favor of a two-state solution, and yet the same portion says that such a solution is “not realistic right now.”
Perhaps the most interesting figures concern how the French order the priorities of action in the Middle East. When asked what single issue needed to be solved most urgently, they answered, in order of priority: (i) Iran’s arming and funding terrorists, (ii) Palestinian rocket fire into Israel, (iii) Israel’s military strikes in Gaza, (iv) the Arabs’ refusal to recognize Israel, and (v) the Palestinians’ teaching of hate in their schools.

Given everything else going on in Europe this year, a lack of clarity may be the best one can hope for.

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Welcome Wagon Runs off the Road

Newt Gingrich objects to rolling out the welcome mat in Northern Virginia for the Uighurs. As he explains, these people were trained for mass murder in Afghanistan and they have some odd social views:

At Guantanamo Bay, the Uighurs are known for picking up television sets on which women with bared arms appear and hurling them across the room. Perhaps understandably, the Obama administration believes the Uighurs will need help getting adjusted to northern Virginia society, in which women with bared arms have been known to appear.

But the story continues to bubble in Virginia. The buried lede in this story: presidential buddy, DNC chief and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine isn’t making a fuss about putting the Uighurs in Virginia. He likes the idea of closing Guantanamo and has “faith” the president will get it right. But he doesn’t seems opposed, at least not openly, to having the Uighurs in his state.

Meanwhile, two of the three Democratic gubernatorial candidates have “softly worded” positions of “concern,” while Brian Moran remains paralyzed by his brother Jim’s “‘y’all come” op-ed. The Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell has made his position clear. “Keep Guantanamo Bay Detainees Out of Virginia,” is displayed on his website. And Rep. Frank Wolf has been on a mission to pry information out of the Obama administration and prevent the release of detainees in Virginia. The state’s two U.S. senators (Jim Webb and Mark Warner) have been mute.

Virginia has state-wide elections this year. We’ll see how many politicians run on “Virginia: The Detainee Friendly State” and how many run on “Not on My Watch.”

Newt Gingrich objects to rolling out the welcome mat in Northern Virginia for the Uighurs. As he explains, these people were trained for mass murder in Afghanistan and they have some odd social views:

At Guantanamo Bay, the Uighurs are known for picking up television sets on which women with bared arms appear and hurling them across the room. Perhaps understandably, the Obama administration believes the Uighurs will need help getting adjusted to northern Virginia society, in which women with bared arms have been known to appear.

But the story continues to bubble in Virginia. The buried lede in this story: presidential buddy, DNC chief and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine isn’t making a fuss about putting the Uighurs in Virginia. He likes the idea of closing Guantanamo and has “faith” the president will get it right. But he doesn’t seems opposed, at least not openly, to having the Uighurs in his state.

Meanwhile, two of the three Democratic gubernatorial candidates have “softly worded” positions of “concern,” while Brian Moran remains paralyzed by his brother Jim’s “‘y’all come” op-ed. The Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell has made his position clear. “Keep Guantanamo Bay Detainees Out of Virginia,” is displayed on his website. And Rep. Frank Wolf has been on a mission to pry information out of the Obama administration and prevent the release of detainees in Virginia. The state’s two U.S. senators (Jim Webb and Mark Warner) have been mute.

Virginia has state-wide elections this year. We’ll see how many politicians run on “Virginia: The Detainee Friendly State” and how many run on “Not on My Watch.”

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The Nancy Chronicles

How badly did Nancy Pelosi’s “The CIA Lied To Me” press conference go? Really bad. “World class” bad. “They’ll be talking about this in public relations classes for decades” bad. When The Hill titles its coverage “Storm Center Over Pelosi” you know it is not a harbinger of good things. And “chaotic” is generally not the way you want your appearances characterized.

Here is one report:

Under a barrage of questioning, Pelosi adamantly insisted that she was not aware that waterboarding or other enhanced interrogation techniques were being used on terrorism suspects.“I am telling you they told me they approved these and said they wanted to use them but said they were not using waterboarding,” she said. Growing increasingly frustrated throughout the briefing, Pelosi slowly started backing away from the podium as she tried to end the questioning. As she backed out, she continued to accuse the CIA of not telling Congress that dissenting opinions had been filed within the administration suggesting the methods were not lawful.

The CIA immediately disputed Pelosi’s accusation, saying the documents describing the particular enhanced interrogation techniques that had been employed are accurate. CIA spokesman George Little noted that CIA Director Leon Panetta made available to the House Intelligence Committee memos from individuals who led the briefings with House members. 

Another observed her “struggle to retain her credibility” and dubbed her “besieged”: “‘It makes a story that just keeps going and gets everybody into fuzzy areas of credibility and that’s not where you want to be,’ said Norman Ornstein, a political expert at the American Enterprise Institute. ‘I don’t think it sinks her, but it can’t be pleasant.’”

The New York Times tagged the presser as “tense” and emphasized that even by her own account she knew waterboarding was occurring in early 2003. Dan Balz asked whether it was a “calculated escalation of a long-running feud with the Bush administration or a reckless act by a politician whose word had been called into question,” suggesting in the balance of his account that it was the latter. And yet another report dryly noted, “The controversy has rattled Pelosi.” But the most vivid take was this:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, her eyes wide, her hands gesticulating wildly, on Thursday laid out a third version of what she knew and when she knew it on the Bush administration’s interrogation policies, edging ever closer to debating what the meaning of the word “is” is.

With her own second-in-command now demanding more answers, the California Democrat, her voice barely audible at times, read a rambling statement at her weekly press briefing about her prior knowledge of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EITs) employed by under President Bush, asserting that she was not told in a September 2002 briefing that the U.S. government used waterboarding.

Minutes later, though, she acknowledged for the first time that her top security adviser was part of a February 2003 briefing in which he learned that American interrogators were in fact waterboarding suspected terrorists.

In the days and weeks ahead we’ll no doubt learn more about the CIA notes still locked up in Langley and hear from sources both on and off the record. It is too soon to tell how this will all end. (However it does, critics of the not-the-whole-truth commission-instigators are no doubt hoping the drip, drip, drip of spectacularly bad coverage of the Speaker continues.) After all, few could have imagined the high drama (or is it farce?) unleashed by the Left’s hysterical desire to “get the Bushies.” It is, at the very least, a gripping tale of unintended consequences and hubris.

How badly did Nancy Pelosi’s “The CIA Lied To Me” press conference go? Really bad. “World class” bad. “They’ll be talking about this in public relations classes for decades” bad. When The Hill titles its coverage “Storm Center Over Pelosi” you know it is not a harbinger of good things. And “chaotic” is generally not the way you want your appearances characterized.

Here is one report:

Under a barrage of questioning, Pelosi adamantly insisted that she was not aware that waterboarding or other enhanced interrogation techniques were being used on terrorism suspects.“I am telling you they told me they approved these and said they wanted to use them but said they were not using waterboarding,” she said. Growing increasingly frustrated throughout the briefing, Pelosi slowly started backing away from the podium as she tried to end the questioning. As she backed out, she continued to accuse the CIA of not telling Congress that dissenting opinions had been filed within the administration suggesting the methods were not lawful.

The CIA immediately disputed Pelosi’s accusation, saying the documents describing the particular enhanced interrogation techniques that had been employed are accurate. CIA spokesman George Little noted that CIA Director Leon Panetta made available to the House Intelligence Committee memos from individuals who led the briefings with House members. 

Another observed her “struggle to retain her credibility” and dubbed her “besieged”: “‘It makes a story that just keeps going and gets everybody into fuzzy areas of credibility and that’s not where you want to be,’ said Norman Ornstein, a political expert at the American Enterprise Institute. ‘I don’t think it sinks her, but it can’t be pleasant.’”

The New York Times tagged the presser as “tense” and emphasized that even by her own account she knew waterboarding was occurring in early 2003. Dan Balz asked whether it was a “calculated escalation of a long-running feud with the Bush administration or a reckless act by a politician whose word had been called into question,” suggesting in the balance of his account that it was the latter. And yet another report dryly noted, “The controversy has rattled Pelosi.” But the most vivid take was this:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, her eyes wide, her hands gesticulating wildly, on Thursday laid out a third version of what she knew and when she knew it on the Bush administration’s interrogation policies, edging ever closer to debating what the meaning of the word “is” is.

With her own second-in-command now demanding more answers, the California Democrat, her voice barely audible at times, read a rambling statement at her weekly press briefing about her prior knowledge of the “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EITs) employed by under President Bush, asserting that she was not told in a September 2002 briefing that the U.S. government used waterboarding.

Minutes later, though, she acknowledged for the first time that her top security adviser was part of a February 2003 briefing in which he learned that American interrogators were in fact waterboarding suspected terrorists.

In the days and weeks ahead we’ll no doubt learn more about the CIA notes still locked up in Langley and hear from sources both on and off the record. It is too soon to tell how this will all end. (However it does, critics of the not-the-whole-truth commission-instigators are no doubt hoping the drip, drip, drip of spectacularly bad coverage of the Speaker continues.) After all, few could have imagined the high drama (or is it farce?) unleashed by the Left’s hysterical desire to “get the Bushies.” It is, at the very least, a gripping tale of unintended consequences and hubris.

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The Lesson of the Peace Process

As Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu approach their meeting Monday, it is worth reflecting on the lessons of the “peace process” over the last eight years.  There have been no less than six separate failures during that period, noteworthy not only in number, but also because each reflected a “new approach” that ignored the prior failure.  Here are the six failures, followed by their central lesson:

1.   Peace Through Direct Negotiations (The Oslo Process).  This project failed at Camp David when the Palestinians rejected the offer of a state in Gaza and 92% of the West Bank, with a capital in Jerusalem.  It brought on a terrorist war against Israelis, in buses, cars, restaurants, discos, schools, and homes.

2.   Peace Through a Bridging Proposal (The Clinton Parameters).  After the Camp David failure, Dennis Ross spent months in secret meetings with both sides, developing a bridging proposal to incorporate the minimum each side needed and the maximum each side could give.  The result was the Clinton Parameters – increasing the West Bank percentage to 97% and providing an international plan for refugees – accepted by Israel and then rejected by Yasser Arafat in the Oval Office on January 2, 2001.

3.   Peace Through Phases (The Roadmap).  This project never completed even Phase I, as the Palestinians refused to commence sustained efforts to dismantle their terrorist groups, and preemptively announced that Phase II (a state with provisional borders to conduct Phase III negotiations) was unacceptable.

4.   Peace Through Unilateral Action (The Disengagement).  In September 2005, Israel turned over Gaza – with every settler and soldier removed – allowing the Palestinians to live “side by side, in peace and security” and build a state.  That process failed within a week, and produced rockets, tunnels, a cross-border kidnapping, and – ultimately – a new war.

5.   Peace Through Democracy (The 2006 Elections).  The administration thought giving the Palestinians a choice between Hamas and Fatah (the “peace partner”) would give Fatah the legitimacy it needed to start dismantling other Palestinian terrorist groups.  Instead, the Palestinians chose their premier terrorist group, and a year later it expelled Fatah from Gaza in a coup.  Remarkably, this failed attempt at peace was blamed on the U.S. president who gave the Palestinians a choice, not on the choice the Palestinians made.

6.  Peace Through Internationally-Sponsored Negotiations (The Annapolis Process).  Ignoring the failure of direct negotiations, the rejection of the bridging proposal, the inability to complete any phase of the three-phase plan, the disconcerting demonstration project in Gaza, the Palestinian electoral choice and the subsequent coup, this new approach endorsed negotiations with the leaders of the rump state of Ramallah, commencing with an international conference and a deadline of one year, with continuous American involvement through the personal commitment of the Secretary of State.  The Palestinians ultimately rejected a 100% offer by Israel (93.5% of the West Bank and a 6.5% land swap).

The lesson of these six failed approaches is that the absence of peace does not result from the failure of Israel to offer a state, or to withdraw from territory, or to dismantle settlements, or to accept a bridging proposal, or to devote a year to trying again with extended American involvement.  The fundamental reason is the Palestinians have neither the leaders nor the electorate ready for a two-state solution, nor the basic economic and legal institutions necessary to make such a solution work.  If they did, any one of the prior six approaches would have succeeded.

The latest idea is a “57-State Solution,” based on a Saudi/Arab proposal under which Israel would return to indefensible borders, turn over the historic portion of its capital, and recognize a Palestinian “right of return” — in exchange for 57 pledges of “peace.” The proposal comes with a refusal to amend it and warnings of a new war if it is not accepted.  It is likely to produce not peace but a seventh failure, bigger than the ones that preceded it.

A better plan is the one Netanyahu seems likely to propose to Obama:  intensive efforts to improve Palestinian economic life on the West Bank, and continued development of Palestinian police forces to insure law and order — with political negotiations proceeding no faster than the establishment of the legal and economic institutions necessary for peace.  It is a plan that would take longer than a grand bargain (which is unlikely to be reached or to be enforceable even if it were), but the lesson of the six prior failures is that it is the only plan with a chance of success.

As Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu approach their meeting Monday, it is worth reflecting on the lessons of the “peace process” over the last eight years.  There have been no less than six separate failures during that period, noteworthy not only in number, but also because each reflected a “new approach” that ignored the prior failure.  Here are the six failures, followed by their central lesson:

1.   Peace Through Direct Negotiations (The Oslo Process).  This project failed at Camp David when the Palestinians rejected the offer of a state in Gaza and 92% of the West Bank, with a capital in Jerusalem.  It brought on a terrorist war against Israelis, in buses, cars, restaurants, discos, schools, and homes.

2.   Peace Through a Bridging Proposal (The Clinton Parameters).  After the Camp David failure, Dennis Ross spent months in secret meetings with both sides, developing a bridging proposal to incorporate the minimum each side needed and the maximum each side could give.  The result was the Clinton Parameters – increasing the West Bank percentage to 97% and providing an international plan for refugees – accepted by Israel and then rejected by Yasser Arafat in the Oval Office on January 2, 2001.

3.   Peace Through Phases (The Roadmap).  This project never completed even Phase I, as the Palestinians refused to commence sustained efforts to dismantle their terrorist groups, and preemptively announced that Phase II (a state with provisional borders to conduct Phase III negotiations) was unacceptable.

4.   Peace Through Unilateral Action (The Disengagement).  In September 2005, Israel turned over Gaza – with every settler and soldier removed – allowing the Palestinians to live “side by side, in peace and security” and build a state.  That process failed within a week, and produced rockets, tunnels, a cross-border kidnapping, and – ultimately – a new war.

5.   Peace Through Democracy (The 2006 Elections).  The administration thought giving the Palestinians a choice between Hamas and Fatah (the “peace partner”) would give Fatah the legitimacy it needed to start dismantling other Palestinian terrorist groups.  Instead, the Palestinians chose their premier terrorist group, and a year later it expelled Fatah from Gaza in a coup.  Remarkably, this failed attempt at peace was blamed on the U.S. president who gave the Palestinians a choice, not on the choice the Palestinians made.

6.  Peace Through Internationally-Sponsored Negotiations (The Annapolis Process).  Ignoring the failure of direct negotiations, the rejection of the bridging proposal, the inability to complete any phase of the three-phase plan, the disconcerting demonstration project in Gaza, the Palestinian electoral choice and the subsequent coup, this new approach endorsed negotiations with the leaders of the rump state of Ramallah, commencing with an international conference and a deadline of one year, with continuous American involvement through the personal commitment of the Secretary of State.  The Palestinians ultimately rejected a 100% offer by Israel (93.5% of the West Bank and a 6.5% land swap).

The lesson of these six failed approaches is that the absence of peace does not result from the failure of Israel to offer a state, or to withdraw from territory, or to dismantle settlements, or to accept a bridging proposal, or to devote a year to trying again with extended American involvement.  The fundamental reason is the Palestinians have neither the leaders nor the electorate ready for a two-state solution, nor the basic economic and legal institutions necessary to make such a solution work.  If they did, any one of the prior six approaches would have succeeded.

The latest idea is a “57-State Solution,” based on a Saudi/Arab proposal under which Israel would return to indefensible borders, turn over the historic portion of its capital, and recognize a Palestinian “right of return” — in exchange for 57 pledges of “peace.” The proposal comes with a refusal to amend it and warnings of a new war if it is not accepted.  It is likely to produce not peace but a seventh failure, bigger than the ones that preceded it.

A better plan is the one Netanyahu seems likely to propose to Obama:  intensive efforts to improve Palestinian economic life on the West Bank, and continued development of Palestinian police forces to insure law and order — with political negotiations proceeding no faster than the establishment of the legal and economic institutions necessary for peace.  It is a plan that would take longer than a grand bargain (which is unlikely to be reached or to be enforceable even if it were), but the lesson of the six prior failures is that it is the only plan with a chance of success.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Nancy Pelosi’s sidekick tries to persuade Democrats to protect John Murtha on yet another effort by Jeff Flake to force an ethics investigation. Freshman Democrats are nervous — and they should be. Why aren’t each of these “no ethics investigation of Murtha” votes poison in the 2010 campaign? It’s pretty hard to explain one vote, let alone multiple votes, on the subject.

Gubernatorial candidate Brian Moran is voting “present” (i.e. he won’t say what he thinks) on the suggestion by his brother, Rep. Jim Moran, to welcome Guantanamo detainees to Virginia. Democratic front-runner Terry McAuliffe has “serious concerns” about the scheme. Republican Bob McDonnell “strongly opposes any efforts to bring Guantanamo detainees to Alexandria, or anywhere else in the commonwealth.”

Andy McCarthy makes two critical points: release of the detainee abuse photos is the president’s call not the courts and someone should be asking what the heck is wrong at the Department of Justice. “How did DOJ arrive at such a blatantly erroneous decision [to capitulate to the Second Circuit ordering release of the photos]? Isn’t it vital for Congress and the public to understand the genesis of a debacle so contrary to our values, to the president’s view of the law, and to our military’s position on force security?”

No surprise that Meet The Press is losing its ratings lead. It is surprising people still watch it, given the sleep-inducing conversation and lack of news-generation.

The Fix on the Nancy Pelosi presser: “And, it’s hard to imagine that the White House is pleased with Pelosi’s press conference today — knowing that the allegations she has made further complicate an already sticky political entanglement, making it far more difficult for the issue to be dismissed out of a desire to look forward rather than backward. Pelosi’s comments are also — almost certainly — not her last words on this subject. As indicated by Boehner’s comments, Republicans are going to continue to paint Pelosi as telling a series of conflicting stories about what she knew and when she knew it.”

Lindsey Graham doesn’t think Pelosi can have it both ways.

Steny Hoyer isn’t rushing to Pelosi’s defense.

Charles Krauthammer’s blistering review of the Pelosi presser is here.

Chris Christie leads Jon Corzine by nine points in the latest Rasmussen poll on the New Jersey gubernatorial race.

Now they tell us the stimulus money was ill-spent: “The challenge of getting government money out the door fast is one reason that some economists challenge the value of Keynesian stimulus policies. By the time checks are being written, they argue, an economic recovery is often underway. The result can be an inflationary waste of money.” Oh, and it’s even worse since th administration “decided against a traditional package, one based on the three Ts: timely, temporary and targeted. Instead, it opted for a more ambitious, long-lasting package; one quarter of the funds are not even slated to be spent until 2011 or beyond.” Good to know — now.

Nancy Pelosi’s sidekick tries to persuade Democrats to protect John Murtha on yet another effort by Jeff Flake to force an ethics investigation. Freshman Democrats are nervous — and they should be. Why aren’t each of these “no ethics investigation of Murtha” votes poison in the 2010 campaign? It’s pretty hard to explain one vote, let alone multiple votes, on the subject.

Gubernatorial candidate Brian Moran is voting “present” (i.e. he won’t say what he thinks) on the suggestion by his brother, Rep. Jim Moran, to welcome Guantanamo detainees to Virginia. Democratic front-runner Terry McAuliffe has “serious concerns” about the scheme. Republican Bob McDonnell “strongly opposes any efforts to bring Guantanamo detainees to Alexandria, or anywhere else in the commonwealth.”

Andy McCarthy makes two critical points: release of the detainee abuse photos is the president’s call not the courts and someone should be asking what the heck is wrong at the Department of Justice. “How did DOJ arrive at such a blatantly erroneous decision [to capitulate to the Second Circuit ordering release of the photos]? Isn’t it vital for Congress and the public to understand the genesis of a debacle so contrary to our values, to the president’s view of the law, and to our military’s position on force security?”

No surprise that Meet The Press is losing its ratings lead. It is surprising people still watch it, given the sleep-inducing conversation and lack of news-generation.

The Fix on the Nancy Pelosi presser: “And, it’s hard to imagine that the White House is pleased with Pelosi’s press conference today — knowing that the allegations she has made further complicate an already sticky political entanglement, making it far more difficult for the issue to be dismissed out of a desire to look forward rather than backward. Pelosi’s comments are also — almost certainly — not her last words on this subject. As indicated by Boehner’s comments, Republicans are going to continue to paint Pelosi as telling a series of conflicting stories about what she knew and when she knew it.”

Lindsey Graham doesn’t think Pelosi can have it both ways.

Steny Hoyer isn’t rushing to Pelosi’s defense.

Charles Krauthammer’s blistering review of the Pelosi presser is here.

Chris Christie leads Jon Corzine by nine points in the latest Rasmussen poll on the New Jersey gubernatorial race.

Now they tell us the stimulus money was ill-spent: “The challenge of getting government money out the door fast is one reason that some economists challenge the value of Keynesian stimulus policies. By the time checks are being written, they argue, an economic recovery is often underway. The result can be an inflationary waste of money.” Oh, and it’s even worse since th administration “decided against a traditional package, one based on the three Ts: timely, temporary and targeted. Instead, it opted for a more ambitious, long-lasting package; one quarter of the funds are not even slated to be spent until 2011 or beyond.” Good to know — now.

Read Less




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