Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 19, 2009

Commentary of the Day

Stuart Koehl, on Noah Pollak:

It helps to remember that some two decades ago, the Honda Civic VX got more than 50 mpg using an ordinary four cylinder gasoline engine. It also met all the mission standards of the time, had decent performance, and could carry four people and a useful cargo in the back.

This ought to call into question the real reason for hybrid cars, which has nothing to do with fuel economy and reducing dependence on foreign oil, and everything with meeting California’s stupendously stupid “Zero Emissions” standard. Long before global warming was a gleam in Al Gore’s eye, car makers were trying to figure out how to make cars that would meet the illogical regulations of the leftmost state. Their answer was the hybrid, simply because even Californians realized that the all-electric car was not coming to a showroom in their lifetime. So inferior were the hybrids in most regards that the entire concept almost died–only to be resurrected by the desire to cut greenhouse gasses (which, we are now told, include carbon dioxide, so don’t exhale!).

Since no rational person with a real life will buy these things, the government has decided to do what it always does when it wants people to behave contrary to reason and human nature–it removes all choices.

Stuart Koehl, on Noah Pollak:

It helps to remember that some two decades ago, the Honda Civic VX got more than 50 mpg using an ordinary four cylinder gasoline engine. It also met all the mission standards of the time, had decent performance, and could carry four people and a useful cargo in the back.

This ought to call into question the real reason for hybrid cars, which has nothing to do with fuel economy and reducing dependence on foreign oil, and everything with meeting California’s stupendously stupid “Zero Emissions” standard. Long before global warming was a gleam in Al Gore’s eye, car makers were trying to figure out how to make cars that would meet the illogical regulations of the leftmost state. Their answer was the hybrid, simply because even Californians realized that the all-electric car was not coming to a showroom in their lifetime. So inferior were the hybrids in most regards that the entire concept almost died–only to be resurrected by the desire to cut greenhouse gasses (which, we are now told, include carbon dioxide, so don’t exhale!).

Since no rational person with a real life will buy these things, the government has decided to do what it always does when it wants people to behave contrary to reason and human nature–it removes all choices.

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Re: What’s the Hang-Up?

As Politico details, and as Abe noted, the Democrats — not those darn Republicans — dealt the administration a “clear setback” by nixing the funds for relocating Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. Harry Reid is issuing “contradictory comments” and Democrats are grousing that Obama “hasn’t done us any favors on this… He’s a little of this, a little of that. The Republicans have one compelling message.” And the Democrats have taken to the airwaves, grumbling that the Obama team never had a clue what to do about Guantanamo.

All of this may be shocking to the chattering class which is amazed that the president isn’t getting his way. But really, did the purveyors of conventional wisdom think Americans would shrug and accept the notion of housing terrorists in their neighborhoods? Only inside the Beltway do all issues become reduced to a popularity contest (“Obama v. Cheney!”) without regard to the merits of the arguments. Certainly the Obama team thought Congress and the public at large would simply accept the illogical proposition that because George W. Bush was unpopular, ending his policy of housing detainees at Guantanamo would be popular and earn the new administration brownie points at home and abroad.

But perhaps the public is over George W. Bush. Maybe they don’t look at every decision and policy as “anti-Bush” or “change from Bush,” but rather on the merits. And when they and their representatives figured out that closing Guantanamo might win plaudits in Europe but mean detainees in their neighborhood, the reaction was swift.

It is a lesson worth remembering for the new administration: rather than being the un-Bush administration they will fare much better by being the pro-national security administration. And that may mean conceding that the Bush administration got some big issues very right.

As Politico details, and as Abe noted, the Democrats — not those darn Republicans — dealt the administration a “clear setback” by nixing the funds for relocating Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. Harry Reid is issuing “contradictory comments” and Democrats are grousing that Obama “hasn’t done us any favors on this… He’s a little of this, a little of that. The Republicans have one compelling message.” And the Democrats have taken to the airwaves, grumbling that the Obama team never had a clue what to do about Guantanamo.

All of this may be shocking to the chattering class which is amazed that the president isn’t getting his way. But really, did the purveyors of conventional wisdom think Americans would shrug and accept the notion of housing terrorists in their neighborhoods? Only inside the Beltway do all issues become reduced to a popularity contest (“Obama v. Cheney!”) without regard to the merits of the arguments. Certainly the Obama team thought Congress and the public at large would simply accept the illogical proposition that because George W. Bush was unpopular, ending his policy of housing detainees at Guantanamo would be popular and earn the new administration brownie points at home and abroad.

But perhaps the public is over George W. Bush. Maybe they don’t look at every decision and policy as “anti-Bush” or “change from Bush,” but rather on the merits. And when they and their representatives figured out that closing Guantanamo might win plaudits in Europe but mean detainees in their neighborhood, the reaction was swift.

It is a lesson worth remembering for the new administration: rather than being the un-Bush administration they will fare much better by being the pro-national security administration. And that may mean conceding that the Bush administration got some big issues very right.

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Pelosi Should Not Slide

On the Democratic Party v. the CIA front, a couple of new developments are worth noting. Democratic consultant Bob Shrum appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to insist that the CIA “lied us into a war [Iraq]” and continued his rant, asking, “Do they lie? Yeah, they sure do.”

This is, I think, exactly the wrong approach for Democrats to take. Mr. Shrum seems incapable of distinguishing between a mistake — even a massive mistake (which is what the CIA made in the run-up to the Iraq war) — from a lie. There is no evidence that the CIA intentionally provided false information to force a war with Iraq. In fact, many CIA analysts opposed the war. And whatever mistakes the CIA made, were mistakes echoed by almost every other intelligence agency in the world, including those of nations that opposed the Iraq war.

From a political perspective, however, opponents should take advantage of Shrum’s calumny. As Joe Scarborough clearly understands, it simply reminds people of some of the worst traits of today’s Left — from its almost reflexive disdain for the CIA to its angry and bitter tone. It doesn’t help Shrum’s case that the current CIA director, Leon Panetta — formerly a Democratic Member of the House from California’s delegation, as well as Bill Clinton’s chief of staff — wrote a memo not only directly contradicting what Shrum says, but also — by the force and logic of Panetta argument — accusing Speaker Pelosi of herself lying.

Members of Congress should consider a series of parliamentary procedures to keep this issue alive — perhaps pushing for a Sense of Congress Resolution stating their belief that the CIA’s briefings to Members of Congress on Enhanced Interrogation Techniques were honest and truthful. There should be speeches — in Washington and outside of Washington — defending the CIA against Pelosi’s charge and explaining why what she said was both reckless and, per Director Panetta’s statement, untrue.

Nancy Pelosi’s press conference last week will, I think, rank among the genuine political blunders of recent times. It will become a leading example of what not to do, and what not to say, and how not to conduct a press conference.

Pelosi is badly weakened. And if she remains Speaker, her irresponsible actions might hurt the Democratic Party. For discrediting her party and for violating the trust of American citizens with her dishonest attack on America’s intelligence agency, Ms. Pelosi should pay a high price.

On the Democratic Party v. the CIA front, a couple of new developments are worth noting. Democratic consultant Bob Shrum appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” to insist that the CIA “lied us into a war [Iraq]” and continued his rant, asking, “Do they lie? Yeah, they sure do.”

This is, I think, exactly the wrong approach for Democrats to take. Mr. Shrum seems incapable of distinguishing between a mistake — even a massive mistake (which is what the CIA made in the run-up to the Iraq war) — from a lie. There is no evidence that the CIA intentionally provided false information to force a war with Iraq. In fact, many CIA analysts opposed the war. And whatever mistakes the CIA made, were mistakes echoed by almost every other intelligence agency in the world, including those of nations that opposed the Iraq war.

From a political perspective, however, opponents should take advantage of Shrum’s calumny. As Joe Scarborough clearly understands, it simply reminds people of some of the worst traits of today’s Left — from its almost reflexive disdain for the CIA to its angry and bitter tone. It doesn’t help Shrum’s case that the current CIA director, Leon Panetta — formerly a Democratic Member of the House from California’s delegation, as well as Bill Clinton’s chief of staff — wrote a memo not only directly contradicting what Shrum says, but also — by the force and logic of Panetta argument — accusing Speaker Pelosi of herself lying.

Members of Congress should consider a series of parliamentary procedures to keep this issue alive — perhaps pushing for a Sense of Congress Resolution stating their belief that the CIA’s briefings to Members of Congress on Enhanced Interrogation Techniques were honest and truthful. There should be speeches — in Washington and outside of Washington — defending the CIA against Pelosi’s charge and explaining why what she said was both reckless and, per Director Panetta’s statement, untrue.

Nancy Pelosi’s press conference last week will, I think, rank among the genuine political blunders of recent times. It will become a leading example of what not to do, and what not to say, and how not to conduct a press conference.

Pelosi is badly weakened. And if she remains Speaker, her irresponsible actions might hurt the Democratic Party. For discrediting her party and for violating the trust of American citizens with her dishonest attack on America’s intelligence agency, Ms. Pelosi should pay a high price.

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The CEO of Afghanistan

It’s hard to know what to make of news that Zalmay Khalilzad, a native of Afghanistan and formerly the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Nations, may be returning to Afghanistan to take a staff position under Hamid Karzai as that country’s “Chief Executive Officer.” My first reaction was: At least he’s given up running for president of Afghanistan — a quixotic quest. My second reaction was: He will provide a much-needed boost to Karzai in the same way that he did when he was ambassador in Kabul in 2003-2005.

At the time, Khalilzad pushed and prodded Karzai to make tough governance decisions. Since Khalilzad left, no one has been exerting a comparable influence on Karzai and as a result Afghanistan’s government has drifted. But there are big differences between the role Khalilzad played in 2003-2005 and the one he might play in the future.

Advising Karzai from a perch at the U.S. Embassy is one thing; running the Afghan government on Karzai’s behalf is considerably more difficult. For all his virtues — and they are many — Khalilzad does not have a reputation as being an especially adroit administrator. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was a shambles when he ran it. Moreover, Khalilzad is and will remain a U.S. citizen. As a foreigner, will he have the needed authority to impose his will on Afghan’s government or would his appointment undercut Karzai’s own legitimacy?

It’s impossible to reach a definitive judgment on the possibility of Khalilzad’s appointment. It is, however, an intriguing possibility because it might auger the return of other emigres such as former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani (currently running a doomed but noble campaign against Karzai) and former Interior Minister Ali Jelali (currently a professor at National Defense University in Washington). They played a vital role in the post-2001 transition by offering much needed technocratic expertise but then they left (or were pushed out) and Karzai governed the country virtually alone with a bunch of warlords, hacks, and drug dealers. If they come back into politics, they could provide a much-needed boost to Afghanistan’s government whose terrible performance and rampant corruption remain major hindrances in the war against the Taliban.

It’s hard to know what to make of news that Zalmay Khalilzad, a native of Afghanistan and formerly the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Nations, may be returning to Afghanistan to take a staff position under Hamid Karzai as that country’s “Chief Executive Officer.” My first reaction was: At least he’s given up running for president of Afghanistan — a quixotic quest. My second reaction was: He will provide a much-needed boost to Karzai in the same way that he did when he was ambassador in Kabul in 2003-2005.

At the time, Khalilzad pushed and prodded Karzai to make tough governance decisions. Since Khalilzad left, no one has been exerting a comparable influence on Karzai and as a result Afghanistan’s government has drifted. But there are big differences between the role Khalilzad played in 2003-2005 and the one he might play in the future.

Advising Karzai from a perch at the U.S. Embassy is one thing; running the Afghan government on Karzai’s behalf is considerably more difficult. For all his virtues — and they are many — Khalilzad does not have a reputation as being an especially adroit administrator. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was a shambles when he ran it. Moreover, Khalilzad is and will remain a U.S. citizen. As a foreigner, will he have the needed authority to impose his will on Afghan’s government or would his appointment undercut Karzai’s own legitimacy?

It’s impossible to reach a definitive judgment on the possibility of Khalilzad’s appointment. It is, however, an intriguing possibility because it might auger the return of other emigres such as former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani (currently running a doomed but noble campaign against Karzai) and former Interior Minister Ali Jelali (currently a professor at National Defense University in Washington). They played a vital role in the post-2001 transition by offering much needed technocratic expertise but then they left (or were pushed out) and Karzai governed the country virtually alone with a bunch of warlords, hacks, and drug dealers. If they come back into politics, they could provide a much-needed boost to Afghanistan’s government whose terrible performance and rampant corruption remain major hindrances in the war against the Taliban.

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“Let me be clear that hybrid cars are designed solely to milk the guilt genes of the smug and the foolish.”

My favorite Brit, Jeremy Clarkson, reviews the new Honda Insight hybrid, which has an appalling green light bulb on the dash that glows brighter the less fuel you use. Clarkson is always at his most entertaining when he is outraged, especially when his target is the environuts. Read it all.

My favorite Brit, Jeremy Clarkson, reviews the new Honda Insight hybrid, which has an appalling green light bulb on the dash that glows brighter the less fuel you use. Clarkson is always at his most entertaining when he is outraged, especially when his target is the environuts. Read it all.

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Not So Much Change We Can Believe In

James Capretta comes up with a smart conservative response to ObamaCare — let employer-provided healthcare go on as it is and build an alternative “consumer-driven marketplace outside of employer-provided care.” He explains:

In general, it should be something like the program through which federal employees select their coverage every year from competing private insurers. Eligible state residents would have sufficient information about the offerings, and their tax credit would get sent automatically to the plan of their choice. States would be required to ensure that the price and quality differences between competing options were clear, transparent, and easily accessible via the Internet. When residents chose more expensive plans, they would pay the difference out of their own pockets. When they chose less expensive plans, they would get to keep every dollar saved.

No, it isn’t easy to explain, but it may be the only viable alternative to a public-option plan that would surely morph into a nationalized single-payer plan. And it does avoid the concern from voters — which the Obama team is wrestling with — that a great number of people want to just keep what they have.

Indeed, some polling data suggests voters aren’t inclined to accept all that much change. A new Rasmussen poll shows:

Forty-two percent (42%) of Americans say every one in the United States should have free health care. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 44% disagree. However, by a two-to-one margin (60% to 27%), Americans reject free health care for all if it means changing their own coverage and joining a program administered by the government.

It’s good to see Americans are opposed to “free things”– because they are never free. But it is also interesting,  as Capretta argues, how many Americans like what they have. And it raises the question as to why this administration is bent on destroying a very popular system to solve a confined problem (the uninsured). Nevertheless, the “winning” solution is going to be one that offers “reform” but recognizes Americans’ reluctance to throw the baby out with the bathwater. In that regard, Capretta’s contribution is an important one.

James Capretta comes up with a smart conservative response to ObamaCare — let employer-provided healthcare go on as it is and build an alternative “consumer-driven marketplace outside of employer-provided care.” He explains:

In general, it should be something like the program through which federal employees select their coverage every year from competing private insurers. Eligible state residents would have sufficient information about the offerings, and their tax credit would get sent automatically to the plan of their choice. States would be required to ensure that the price and quality differences between competing options were clear, transparent, and easily accessible via the Internet. When residents chose more expensive plans, they would pay the difference out of their own pockets. When they chose less expensive plans, they would get to keep every dollar saved.

No, it isn’t easy to explain, but it may be the only viable alternative to a public-option plan that would surely morph into a nationalized single-payer plan. And it does avoid the concern from voters — which the Obama team is wrestling with — that a great number of people want to just keep what they have.

Indeed, some polling data suggests voters aren’t inclined to accept all that much change. A new Rasmussen poll shows:

Forty-two percent (42%) of Americans say every one in the United States should have free health care. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 44% disagree. However, by a two-to-one margin (60% to 27%), Americans reject free health care for all if it means changing their own coverage and joining a program administered by the government.

It’s good to see Americans are opposed to “free things”– because they are never free. But it is also interesting,  as Capretta argues, how many Americans like what they have. And it raises the question as to why this administration is bent on destroying a very popular system to solve a confined problem (the uninsured). Nevertheless, the “winning” solution is going to be one that offers “reform” but recognizes Americans’ reluctance to throw the baby out with the bathwater. In that regard, Capretta’s contribution is an important one.

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What’s the Hang-Up?

If the Bush administration’s transgressions were so obvious, why are the fixes so hard to figure out? The kind of outrage we saw over Guantanamo Bay surely was backed by a certainty of purpose, right? After all, holding terrorist suspects there wasn’t a mere matter of inexact solutions; it showed an anti-American disregard for human rights and due process. The answer should be a simple matter of course correction.

So, what’s holding things up?

Bipartisan opposition to Barack Obama’s willy-nilly Guantanamo everything-must-go close-out has solidified. Not only did the House version of the relevant bill refuse the administration’s $80 million request to shutter the detainee facility, the AP now reports that the Senate has made important changes in its bill:

President Barack Obama’s allies in the Senate will not provide funds to close the Guantanamo Bay prison next January, a top Democratic official said Tuesday.

With debate looming on Obama’s spending request to cover military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the official says Democrats will deny the Pentagon and Justice Department $80 million to relocate Guantanamo’s 240 detainees.

The problem is our new brilliant, empathic, accountable, transparent, and noble administration hasn’t the first clue as to what to do with the detainees. Democrats say they’ll revisit the issue when and if there’s a relocation plan in place. Good luck with that. Unlawful enemy combatants occupy unique legal status. Any new blueprint for their detention and trial would have to be similarly unique. Dropping them in Virginia doesn’t quite answer the call and our moralizing allies have told our new beloved president to get lost.

And let’s revisit, for perspective, the presidential signing process that declared the closing of Gitmo:

President Obama: “And we then, we will then, uh, provide the process whereby Guantanamo will be closed no later than, uh, one year from now. We will be… Uhhh … Ummm. … Is there a separate executive order, Greg, with respect to how we’re going to dispose of the detainees? Is that it, eh, uh, what we’re doing?”

White House Counsel Greg Craig: “We’ll set up a process.”

Glad to hear it.

If the Bush administration’s transgressions were so obvious, why are the fixes so hard to figure out? The kind of outrage we saw over Guantanamo Bay surely was backed by a certainty of purpose, right? After all, holding terrorist suspects there wasn’t a mere matter of inexact solutions; it showed an anti-American disregard for human rights and due process. The answer should be a simple matter of course correction.

So, what’s holding things up?

Bipartisan opposition to Barack Obama’s willy-nilly Guantanamo everything-must-go close-out has solidified. Not only did the House version of the relevant bill refuse the administration’s $80 million request to shutter the detainee facility, the AP now reports that the Senate has made important changes in its bill:

President Barack Obama’s allies in the Senate will not provide funds to close the Guantanamo Bay prison next January, a top Democratic official said Tuesday.

With debate looming on Obama’s spending request to cover military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the official says Democrats will deny the Pentagon and Justice Department $80 million to relocate Guantanamo’s 240 detainees.

The problem is our new brilliant, empathic, accountable, transparent, and noble administration hasn’t the first clue as to what to do with the detainees. Democrats say they’ll revisit the issue when and if there’s a relocation plan in place. Good luck with that. Unlawful enemy combatants occupy unique legal status. Any new blueprint for their detention and trial would have to be similarly unique. Dropping them in Virginia doesn’t quite answer the call and our moralizing allies have told our new beloved president to get lost.

And let’s revisit, for perspective, the presidential signing process that declared the closing of Gitmo:

President Obama: “And we then, we will then, uh, provide the process whereby Guantanamo will be closed no later than, uh, one year from now. We will be… Uhhh … Ummm. … Is there a separate executive order, Greg, with respect to how we’re going to dispose of the detainees? Is that it, eh, uh, what we’re doing?”

White House Counsel Greg Craig: “We’ll set up a process.”

Glad to hear it.

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Re: Obama’s New Linkage

Noah Pollak has correctly pointed out the risks of linking efforts to stop Iran from going nuclear with progress on the Palestinian-Israeli track. One of the risks is that the timelines for the two phenomena are different and play to the disadvantage of U.S. goals:

This of course gives rise to a predictable set of questions, such as: what if Israeli-Palestinian peace will take many years to accomplish, but the Iranian nuclear bomb will only take a year or two to accomplish? Obama essentially proposes that America will race the Iranians – our peace process versus their nuclear program. Does anyone wonder who will win?

Clearly, the answer is Iran. One cannot blame Netanyahu for failing to impress on President Obama that this linkage is silly. But the bottom line is that anyone who believes that Israel will gain regional support against Iran only once it concedes on the Palestinian issue is a fool. Gulf states are not going to line up behind Israel against Iran as a favor to the Jewish state once Palestinians have their own. Since when have Arab regimes been so altruistic? History points in a different direction. Both in 1991 and in 2003 Arab countries endorsed, actively participated in, or acquiesced to a U.S. war against an aggressive Arab neighbor. Both times, peace processors in the West and radicals in the East suggested a similar linkage — first solve Palestine, then we can all unite against the common enemy. And both times — niceties such as the Madrid conference and the Roadmap aside — those Arab governments who felt threatened enough let the war-dance begin without waiting for deliverance for the Palestinians.

Their track record of helping the Palestinians does not lend strength to the linkage thesis, anyway. Even at the level of financial aid, the gap between pledged money and given money is evidence that Arab leaders rarely put their money where their mouths are, when it comes to the Palestinians.

The hard and simple truth is that pro-American regional powers — especially Egypt and the Gulf States — see Iran’s ambitions of regional hegemony as a direct threat.

It is unlikely they will put the cause Palestine over their own survival.

Noah Pollak has correctly pointed out the risks of linking efforts to stop Iran from going nuclear with progress on the Palestinian-Israeli track. One of the risks is that the timelines for the two phenomena are different and play to the disadvantage of U.S. goals:

This of course gives rise to a predictable set of questions, such as: what if Israeli-Palestinian peace will take many years to accomplish, but the Iranian nuclear bomb will only take a year or two to accomplish? Obama essentially proposes that America will race the Iranians – our peace process versus their nuclear program. Does anyone wonder who will win?

Clearly, the answer is Iran. One cannot blame Netanyahu for failing to impress on President Obama that this linkage is silly. But the bottom line is that anyone who believes that Israel will gain regional support against Iran only once it concedes on the Palestinian issue is a fool. Gulf states are not going to line up behind Israel against Iran as a favor to the Jewish state once Palestinians have their own. Since when have Arab regimes been so altruistic? History points in a different direction. Both in 1991 and in 2003 Arab countries endorsed, actively participated in, or acquiesced to a U.S. war against an aggressive Arab neighbor. Both times, peace processors in the West and radicals in the East suggested a similar linkage — first solve Palestine, then we can all unite against the common enemy. And both times — niceties such as the Madrid conference and the Roadmap aside — those Arab governments who felt threatened enough let the war-dance begin without waiting for deliverance for the Palestinians.

Their track record of helping the Palestinians does not lend strength to the linkage thesis, anyway. Even at the level of financial aid, the gap between pledged money and given money is evidence that Arab leaders rarely put their money where their mouths are, when it comes to the Palestinians.

The hard and simple truth is that pro-American regional powers — especially Egypt and the Gulf States — see Iran’s ambitions of regional hegemony as a direct threat.

It is unlikely they will put the cause Palestine over their own survival.

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What They Were Selling Americans Weren’t Buying

The Los Angeles Times reviews how anti-card check forces organized and persuaded Red state Democrats like Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor to oppose the bill:

Today, thanks to those and other defections, key components of the bill are in serious jeopardy. And the legislation has produced one of the biggest surprises in Washington since Democrats swept the White House and Congress: The nation’s labor unions, which organized so effectively last year to help elect President Obama, have been outmaneuvered so far on their top priority by their opponents in the business community.

“We were outspent, outhustled and outorganized,” said one chagrined union advisor who was not authorized to speak by name.

Missing from the Times’s report, however, is any discussion of the reason anti-card check forces have been so successful: the key components of the bill (i.e., effective repeal of the secret ballot and forced arbitration of new union contracts) are anathema to most Americans. Big Labor wasn’t simply “outhustled”; it was pushing a grossly overreaching bill that offended Americans’ sense of fairness. Take away the secret ballot? Have a government-appointed arbitrator tell the bargaining parties what contract they will have? Well, it’s no wonder the proponents didn’t want to talk about the specifics of the bill.

Couple this with Big Labor choosing to push this issue during a recession – when employers are laying off millions of workers — and the image was firmly established that whatever Big Labor was pushing was not in the interest of average workers and certainly was not going to help the economy at large.

This isn’t to say that Big Labor will fold its tent and go away. So long as Arlen Specter is in the Senate, there will be efforts to craft a “compromise.” But the legislative lesson is inescapable. Some ideas are so awful and unsustainable that it doesn’t matter how much a special-interest group has ponied up to elect a sympathetic president and Congress.

The Los Angeles Times reviews how anti-card check forces organized and persuaded Red state Democrats like Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor to oppose the bill:

Today, thanks to those and other defections, key components of the bill are in serious jeopardy. And the legislation has produced one of the biggest surprises in Washington since Democrats swept the White House and Congress: The nation’s labor unions, which organized so effectively last year to help elect President Obama, have been outmaneuvered so far on their top priority by their opponents in the business community.

“We were outspent, outhustled and outorganized,” said one chagrined union advisor who was not authorized to speak by name.

Missing from the Times’s report, however, is any discussion of the reason anti-card check forces have been so successful: the key components of the bill (i.e., effective repeal of the secret ballot and forced arbitration of new union contracts) are anathema to most Americans. Big Labor wasn’t simply “outhustled”; it was pushing a grossly overreaching bill that offended Americans’ sense of fairness. Take away the secret ballot? Have a government-appointed arbitrator tell the bargaining parties what contract they will have? Well, it’s no wonder the proponents didn’t want to talk about the specifics of the bill.

Couple this with Big Labor choosing to push this issue during a recession – when employers are laying off millions of workers — and the image was firmly established that whatever Big Labor was pushing was not in the interest of average workers and certainly was not going to help the economy at large.

This isn’t to say that Big Labor will fold its tent and go away. So long as Arlen Specter is in the Senate, there will be efforts to craft a “compromise.” But the legislative lesson is inescapable. Some ideas are so awful and unsustainable that it doesn’t matter how much a special-interest group has ponied up to elect a sympathetic president and Congress.

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Obama’s Even Riskier Debt

The estimable Robert Samuelson of the Washington Post had a must-read column yesterday titled “Obama’s Risky Debt.” Samuelson writes that the administration is projecting a total of $7.1 trillion in additional publicly-held debt over the next ten years, on top of $1.8 trillion for this year alone. (The Congressional Budget Office, less enthralled by the allures of Rosie Scenario, projects the additional debt will be $9.3 trillion). Today’s publicly-held debt is $6.3 trillion. Thus, using the CBO figures, in ten years the publicly-held debt will total $17.4 trillion, 270 percent of the current debt.

That’s about the same as the percentage increase in the national debt from 1930 to 1940, when the country underwent an economic crisis orders of magnitude more severe than the current one. And in 1930 the total national debt was only about 15 percent of GDP, not the 40 percent that the publicly-held debt is today. So the country was not nearly as close to being maxed out during the Great Depression as we are today, after twenty-five years of unprecedented prosperity in the country and fiscal irresponsibility in Washington.

But Samuelson does not discuss the government-held debt that will make the situation much worse by the year 2020. By far the biggest holder of federal treasury bonds is the United States Government itself ($4.2 trillion worth, as compared to $2.7 trillion held by foreigners). Most of this debt is owned by various trust funds, principally the Social Security Trust Fund. That makes the total national debt $10.5 trillion, not $6.3 trillion, 73 percent of GDP, not 40 percent.

The big problem here is that many of these trust funds will have to start dipping into their stockpiles of treasuries in order to pay their obligations in the near future. Medicare is already doing so. Social Security will begin in 2016 according to current projections, as the tide of retiring baby boomers swells.

When the trust funds need the money, they will take their treasury bonds to the Treasury and ask for it. The government will then have three means for raising the money: 1) It can make cuts in spending in other areas of the federal budget (but not to the ever-growing portion that will have to be allocated to interest on the debt, a constitutional obligation). 2) It can raise taxes substantially to bring in new revenue. Or 3) It can go into the bond market and sell still more bonds over and above the trillions of dollars’ worth it will be selling in order to finance the Obama deficits.

Congress, ever more a re-election committee for incumbents of all parties rather than a legislature, has shown scant relish for either cutting spending or raising taxes on the middle class, both of which create instant voter resentment. So it is likely to borrow still more in the bond market.

Of course one way for a government to get out from under an unsupportable debt load is to inflate its way out of it. The national debt is dollar-denominated, so a raging inflation would make it worth less as a percentage of GDP. In the inflation-ravaged 1970′s, the national debt nearly tripled in dollar terms (from $370 billion to $909 billion) but it fell as a percentage of GDP from 39 percent to 34 percent.

The Federal Reserve’s number-one job is to maintain price stability. If the Fed — despite what will be enormous pressure from politicians desperate to avoid having to take responsibility for their folly — does that job, I don’t think the present debt course will be sustainable.

How that will play out is anyone’s guess, but it will be ugly, to put it mildly. The Republican Party, however, has a great opportunity here if it has the political machismo to take advantage of the situation. The Democrats own the government and therefore they own these numbers.

The estimable Robert Samuelson of the Washington Post had a must-read column yesterday titled “Obama’s Risky Debt.” Samuelson writes that the administration is projecting a total of $7.1 trillion in additional publicly-held debt over the next ten years, on top of $1.8 trillion for this year alone. (The Congressional Budget Office, less enthralled by the allures of Rosie Scenario, projects the additional debt will be $9.3 trillion). Today’s publicly-held debt is $6.3 trillion. Thus, using the CBO figures, in ten years the publicly-held debt will total $17.4 trillion, 270 percent of the current debt.

That’s about the same as the percentage increase in the national debt from 1930 to 1940, when the country underwent an economic crisis orders of magnitude more severe than the current one. And in 1930 the total national debt was only about 15 percent of GDP, not the 40 percent that the publicly-held debt is today. So the country was not nearly as close to being maxed out during the Great Depression as we are today, after twenty-five years of unprecedented prosperity in the country and fiscal irresponsibility in Washington.

But Samuelson does not discuss the government-held debt that will make the situation much worse by the year 2020. By far the biggest holder of federal treasury bonds is the United States Government itself ($4.2 trillion worth, as compared to $2.7 trillion held by foreigners). Most of this debt is owned by various trust funds, principally the Social Security Trust Fund. That makes the total national debt $10.5 trillion, not $6.3 trillion, 73 percent of GDP, not 40 percent.

The big problem here is that many of these trust funds will have to start dipping into their stockpiles of treasuries in order to pay their obligations in the near future. Medicare is already doing so. Social Security will begin in 2016 according to current projections, as the tide of retiring baby boomers swells.

When the trust funds need the money, they will take their treasury bonds to the Treasury and ask for it. The government will then have three means for raising the money: 1) It can make cuts in spending in other areas of the federal budget (but not to the ever-growing portion that will have to be allocated to interest on the debt, a constitutional obligation). 2) It can raise taxes substantially to bring in new revenue. Or 3) It can go into the bond market and sell still more bonds over and above the trillions of dollars’ worth it will be selling in order to finance the Obama deficits.

Congress, ever more a re-election committee for incumbents of all parties rather than a legislature, has shown scant relish for either cutting spending or raising taxes on the middle class, both of which create instant voter resentment. So it is likely to borrow still more in the bond market.

Of course one way for a government to get out from under an unsupportable debt load is to inflate its way out of it. The national debt is dollar-denominated, so a raging inflation would make it worth less as a percentage of GDP. In the inflation-ravaged 1970′s, the national debt nearly tripled in dollar terms (from $370 billion to $909 billion) but it fell as a percentage of GDP from 39 percent to 34 percent.

The Federal Reserve’s number-one job is to maintain price stability. If the Fed — despite what will be enormous pressure from politicians desperate to avoid having to take responsibility for their folly — does that job, I don’t think the present debt course will be sustainable.

How that will play out is anyone’s guess, but it will be ugly, to put it mildly. The Republican Party, however, has a great opportunity here if it has the political machismo to take advantage of the situation. The Democrats own the government and therefore they own these numbers.

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The Old Time and the New Newsweek

Twenty-seven years ago, I began my professional career at Time Magazine as a reporter-researcher in the World section, which was devoted to international news. Generally speaking, the World section ran  12 pages in the magazine. Nation, devoted to news within our borders, ran about the same or a page shorter. Think of that—an American publication, marketed to millions, that devoted slightly more of its attention, and vastly more of its budget, to news about events outside the United States.

Time Inc., the parent company of Time, was flush then. Very, very, very flush. So flush that the first week I was there, the World section had a farewell lunch for a writer who was being sent to Paris to serve as bureau chief…at Lutece, the most expensive restaurant in Manhattan, for 50 people.So flush that if you stayed past 8, you could take a limousine home…and take it anywhere, including to the Hamptons if you had weekend plans there. So flush that if a writer who lived, say, in suburban Connecticut, stayed late writing his article that week, he could stay in town at a hotel of his choice. So flush that, when I turned in an expense account covering my first month with a $32 charge on it for two books I’d bought for research purposes, my boss closed her office door and told me never to submit a report asking for less than $300 back, because it would make everybody else look bad. So flush when its editor-in-chief, the late Henry Grunwald, went to visit the facilities of a new publication called TV Cable Week that was based in White Plains, a 40 minute drive from the Time Life Building, he arrived by helicopter—and when he grew bored by the tour, he said to his aide, “Get me my helicopter.”

Those were, as they say, the days. No one in journalism will ever see their like again. I had come to Time after writing for journals of opinion, and was stunned at the prospect that I might make an actual living working full-time as a magazine employee. Now it has all come full circle. For Newsweek, the other newsweekly, has now been redesigned by its editor, Jon Meacham, in the model of…an opinion magazine. The publication is surrendering any pretense that it is attempting to present objective reportage. Instead, like the Weekly Standard or the New Republic or the Washington Monthly, it has lighter front matter, shorter hard opinion pieces, and then a central well of articles that combine reporting, analysis, and opinion. (And there is a culture section in the back, though this is not nearly as thoroughly conceived as the rest.) The resulting mix is a combination of those publications, the Atlantic, and New York magazine; though Meacham says he is an admirer and emulator of The Economist, that is a peculiar thing to say, because there is nothing whatever of the Economist in what he has produced. Perhaps what he means is that he wants the audience of the Economist—smaller but far wealthier, and easier to sell expensive ads in.

I wish Meacham Godspeed, but there’s almost no hope for him or Newsweek, and here’s why. If there were a market for an opinion journal that could sell in excess of a million copies, it would have revealed itself before this. The advantage journals of opinion possess is that their readers are extremely loyal and they have a personal stake in them that no newsmagazine has ever generated. The disadvantage they have is that the audience for journals of opinion is small.

More important, they are published for people who are passionate about abstract ideas, and find it invigorating, thrilling, and exciting to see them batted about. This is not the profile of the general mass reader.

Finally, Meacham has trapped himself in a false premise. In his editor’s letter and in interviews, he says that Newsweek is not partisan and cannot be perceived as partisan if it is to succeed. Well, first of all, that is an absurdity. The magazine is a love letter to the current president, and features a bristling attack on Dick Cheney, a pitying piece about George W. Bush, and a genuinely embarrassing paean to Nancy Pelosi by that notable interpreter of American politics, Tina Brown.  If one had to affix an adjective to the new Newsweek’s first issue, “partisan” would be one of the first that would spring to your mind.

Besides which, partisanship is the hallmark of the opinion journal–not necessarily of the variety that would lead to support for one political voting faction over another, but in the sense that serious journals of opinion stake claim to a side of the ideological divide and then defend its base and attack outward at the other camp. This is what gives them their fire, their vim, their vigor, their reason for being. A publication that a) seeks to benefit from opinion, b) says it’s not partisan when it is, and c) expects to sell more than a million copies a week is a Rube Goldberg machine.

Why was the Time of my professional youth so successful? Because its readers hadn’t died off yet. Because cable news hadn’t hit yet. Because news organizations hadn’t surrendered to the siren song of soft puff pieces that completely destroyed their authority with the readers they still had. Meacham is trying to recapture that authority in a different way, but if he isn’t willing to own up to his own publication’s politics and its hoped-for position as the pet publication of the Obama White House, no reader is going to invest his or her trust in what Newsweek has to say.

Twenty-seven years ago, I began my professional career at Time Magazine as a reporter-researcher in the World section, which was devoted to international news. Generally speaking, the World section ran  12 pages in the magazine. Nation, devoted to news within our borders, ran about the same or a page shorter. Think of that—an American publication, marketed to millions, that devoted slightly more of its attention, and vastly more of its budget, to news about events outside the United States.

Time Inc., the parent company of Time, was flush then. Very, very, very flush. So flush that the first week I was there, the World section had a farewell lunch for a writer who was being sent to Paris to serve as bureau chief…at Lutece, the most expensive restaurant in Manhattan, for 50 people.So flush that if you stayed past 8, you could take a limousine home…and take it anywhere, including to the Hamptons if you had weekend plans there. So flush that if a writer who lived, say, in suburban Connecticut, stayed late writing his article that week, he could stay in town at a hotel of his choice. So flush that, when I turned in an expense account covering my first month with a $32 charge on it for two books I’d bought for research purposes, my boss closed her office door and told me never to submit a report asking for less than $300 back, because it would make everybody else look bad. So flush when its editor-in-chief, the late Henry Grunwald, went to visit the facilities of a new publication called TV Cable Week that was based in White Plains, a 40 minute drive from the Time Life Building, he arrived by helicopter—and when he grew bored by the tour, he said to his aide, “Get me my helicopter.”

Those were, as they say, the days. No one in journalism will ever see their like again. I had come to Time after writing for journals of opinion, and was stunned at the prospect that I might make an actual living working full-time as a magazine employee. Now it has all come full circle. For Newsweek, the other newsweekly, has now been redesigned by its editor, Jon Meacham, in the model of…an opinion magazine. The publication is surrendering any pretense that it is attempting to present objective reportage. Instead, like the Weekly Standard or the New Republic or the Washington Monthly, it has lighter front matter, shorter hard opinion pieces, and then a central well of articles that combine reporting, analysis, and opinion. (And there is a culture section in the back, though this is not nearly as thoroughly conceived as the rest.) The resulting mix is a combination of those publications, the Atlantic, and New York magazine; though Meacham says he is an admirer and emulator of The Economist, that is a peculiar thing to say, because there is nothing whatever of the Economist in what he has produced. Perhaps what he means is that he wants the audience of the Economist—smaller but far wealthier, and easier to sell expensive ads in.

I wish Meacham Godspeed, but there’s almost no hope for him or Newsweek, and here’s why. If there were a market for an opinion journal that could sell in excess of a million copies, it would have revealed itself before this. The advantage journals of opinion possess is that their readers are extremely loyal and they have a personal stake in them that no newsmagazine has ever generated. The disadvantage they have is that the audience for journals of opinion is small.

More important, they are published for people who are passionate about abstract ideas, and find it invigorating, thrilling, and exciting to see them batted about. This is not the profile of the general mass reader.

Finally, Meacham has trapped himself in a false premise. In his editor’s letter and in interviews, he says that Newsweek is not partisan and cannot be perceived as partisan if it is to succeed. Well, first of all, that is an absurdity. The magazine is a love letter to the current president, and features a bristling attack on Dick Cheney, a pitying piece about George W. Bush, and a genuinely embarrassing paean to Nancy Pelosi by that notable interpreter of American politics, Tina Brown.  If one had to affix an adjective to the new Newsweek’s first issue, “partisan” would be one of the first that would spring to your mind.

Besides which, partisanship is the hallmark of the opinion journal–not necessarily of the variety that would lead to support for one political voting faction over another, but in the sense that serious journals of opinion stake claim to a side of the ideological divide and then defend its base and attack outward at the other camp. This is what gives them their fire, their vim, their vigor, their reason for being. A publication that a) seeks to benefit from opinion, b) says it’s not partisan when it is, and c) expects to sell more than a million copies a week is a Rube Goldberg machine.

Why was the Time of my professional youth so successful? Because its readers hadn’t died off yet. Because cable news hadn’t hit yet. Because news organizations hadn’t surrendered to the siren song of soft puff pieces that completely destroyed their authority with the readers they still had. Meacham is trying to recapture that authority in a different way, but if he isn’t willing to own up to his own publication’s politics and its hoped-for position as the pet publication of the Obama White House, no reader is going to invest his or her trust in what Newsweek has to say.

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Car Companies in the Obama Era

The Obama administration announced plans to require that fuel economy of cars sold in the U.S. be increased to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, four years earlier than scheduled under present law. In so doing, the administration has highlighted the inherent contradiction in its new role as uber-car czar. The Wall Street Journal explains:

The technology required to make the cars and trucks able to meet the proposed standard could add $1,300 to the average cost of making a vehicle — a significant share of the money Detroit’s auto makers are trying to save by slashing their union retiree health care costs.

[. . .]

“If gasoline is cheap, there’s going to be a huge disconnect” between the vehicles available and what consumers will want, argues AutoNation Inc. Chief Executive Mike Jackson. He has long advocated a higher federal gasoline tax to ensure that gas prices stay above $4 a gallon, the level that drove demand for small cars last summer.

So taxpayers are giving away or lending billions to the car manufacturers in the hope that they will survive while the government is loading enormous costs onto the companies to produce cars Americans may not want to buy. This will necessitate more subsidies to get Americans to buy the cars government has forced the companies to make. Got it? The extent of the expenses imposed on the car companies is staggering and the impact, inescapable:

The costs of meeting the new standard would be high. The Transportation Department last year estimated that requiring auto makers to achieve 31.6 mpg by 2015 would cost the industry $46.7 billion, among the most expensive rule makings in U.S. history.

The car companies are mute, in part because they would rather deal with a uniform federal standard than the maze of regulations from California and other states. And of course they are now wards of the federal government, so it wouldn’t do to complain about the new mandates imposed. And besides, they’re too big to fail and the government can always subsidize their sales if Americans don’t want itty-bitty expensive cars, right?

Welcome to the car industry in the era of post-capitalism.

The Obama administration announced plans to require that fuel economy of cars sold in the U.S. be increased to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016, four years earlier than scheduled under present law. In so doing, the administration has highlighted the inherent contradiction in its new role as uber-car czar. The Wall Street Journal explains:

The technology required to make the cars and trucks able to meet the proposed standard could add $1,300 to the average cost of making a vehicle — a significant share of the money Detroit’s auto makers are trying to save by slashing their union retiree health care costs.

[. . .]

“If gasoline is cheap, there’s going to be a huge disconnect” between the vehicles available and what consumers will want, argues AutoNation Inc. Chief Executive Mike Jackson. He has long advocated a higher federal gasoline tax to ensure that gas prices stay above $4 a gallon, the level that drove demand for small cars last summer.

So taxpayers are giving away or lending billions to the car manufacturers in the hope that they will survive while the government is loading enormous costs onto the companies to produce cars Americans may not want to buy. This will necessitate more subsidies to get Americans to buy the cars government has forced the companies to make. Got it? The extent of the expenses imposed on the car companies is staggering and the impact, inescapable:

The costs of meeting the new standard would be high. The Transportation Department last year estimated that requiring auto makers to achieve 31.6 mpg by 2015 would cost the industry $46.7 billion, among the most expensive rule makings in U.S. history.

The car companies are mute, in part because they would rather deal with a uniform federal standard than the maze of regulations from California and other states. And of course they are now wards of the federal government, so it wouldn’t do to complain about the new mandates imposed. And besides, they’re too big to fail and the government can always subsidize their sales if Americans don’t want itty-bitty expensive cars, right?

Welcome to the car industry in the era of post-capitalism.

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Our Timeline, and Iran’s

So Barack Obama does have a timeline for his talks with Iran. As Noah Pollak has already noted, yesterday he said that by the end of this year he would have a “fairly good sense” whether the Iranian leaders are making “a good-faith effort to resolve differences.” It’s nice that he doesn’t envision interminable talks with Iran, but how does his timeline sync up with Iran’s own nuclear timeline?

Israeli intelligence is warning that “Iran has two-thirds of the fissile material it needs to manufacture a nuclear weapon,… meaning that at the current pace of uranium enrichment, it will reach the break-out quantity late this year or early next year.” So Obama says he will find out whether negotiations with Iran are going anywhere just about the time when Iran may be fielding its first nuclear weapon.

This points to one of the key problems with Obama’s approach: There simply isn’t time for protracted negotiations given how close Iran is to going nuclear. Yet, even in the best-case scenario the Obama team imagines a lengthy process under which the Iranians would rebuff initial demands, the U.S. would have to seek tougher sanctions, then eventually a deal would be possible. And that’s assuming, of course, that Obama could somehow put more pressure on Iran than Bush did — which is improbable. (Why will the Russians or Chinese be any more willing to crack down now than in the past?)

The administration may be content to play out this game, but will Israel? Prime Minister Netanyahu has made clear that he regards Iran’s nuclear program as an existential danger. It is hard to believe he won’t take military action if his own intelligence agencies advise him that Iran is on the brink of a nuclear breakout. Perhaps that’s what Obama or at least some of his more realistic advisers are secretly hoping for — that Bibi will save them from America’s long history of feckless diplomacy with regard to Iran.

So Barack Obama does have a timeline for his talks with Iran. As Noah Pollak has already noted, yesterday he said that by the end of this year he would have a “fairly good sense” whether the Iranian leaders are making “a good-faith effort to resolve differences.” It’s nice that he doesn’t envision interminable talks with Iran, but how does his timeline sync up with Iran’s own nuclear timeline?

Israeli intelligence is warning that “Iran has two-thirds of the fissile material it needs to manufacture a nuclear weapon,… meaning that at the current pace of uranium enrichment, it will reach the break-out quantity late this year or early next year.” So Obama says he will find out whether negotiations with Iran are going anywhere just about the time when Iran may be fielding its first nuclear weapon.

This points to one of the key problems with Obama’s approach: There simply isn’t time for protracted negotiations given how close Iran is to going nuclear. Yet, even in the best-case scenario the Obama team imagines a lengthy process under which the Iranians would rebuff initial demands, the U.S. would have to seek tougher sanctions, then eventually a deal would be possible. And that’s assuming, of course, that Obama could somehow put more pressure on Iran than Bush did — which is improbable. (Why will the Russians or Chinese be any more willing to crack down now than in the past?)

The administration may be content to play out this game, but will Israel? Prime Minister Netanyahu has made clear that he regards Iran’s nuclear program as an existential danger. It is hard to believe he won’t take military action if his own intelligence agencies advise him that Iran is on the brink of a nuclear breakout. Perhaps that’s what Obama or at least some of his more realistic advisers are secretly hoping for — that Bibi will save them from America’s long history of feckless diplomacy with regard to Iran.

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Down the Memory Hole Already?

The Washington Post editors write:

Rarely in the contemporary world has a domestic insurgency been as decisively crushed by military means as the Tamil Tiger rebels of Sri Lanka have been — and arguably not in recent times has a reversal of fortunes been so dramatic.

Hmm, let’s think for a minute. Any great military counter-insurgency efforts in recent memory, any remarkable ones which defied the odds? Why there is that whole Iraq thing — you remember, right? Funny how the Post editors seem to have amnesia about one of the greatest (if not the greatest) counterinsurgency operations in American history.

But that, I fear, is how Iraq War will come to be portrayed: bad intelligence, followed by a mistaken strategy that was then fixed so we could leave. Left out of course is a remarkable tale. The President realized that we were losing a war, that the strategy of handing the baton over to Iraqi Security Forces as quickly as possible and leaving the insurgency to them was flawed and that we couldn’t somehow evade the necessity of providing security to the Iraqi people. The construction and implementation of a winning counter-insurgency strategy is one of the great accomplishments in our military history. But, in large part, because that strategy was so resisted by the current administration and the media elites, it has already slipped down the collective memory hole.

The defeat of the Tamil Tigers is a wonderful accomplishment, but the Post editors should be ashamed for so obviously and insultingly suggesting there is no recent achievement of equal or greater merit.

The Washington Post editors write:

Rarely in the contemporary world has a domestic insurgency been as decisively crushed by military means as the Tamil Tiger rebels of Sri Lanka have been — and arguably not in recent times has a reversal of fortunes been so dramatic.

Hmm, let’s think for a minute. Any great military counter-insurgency efforts in recent memory, any remarkable ones which defied the odds? Why there is that whole Iraq thing — you remember, right? Funny how the Post editors seem to have amnesia about one of the greatest (if not the greatest) counterinsurgency operations in American history.

But that, I fear, is how Iraq War will come to be portrayed: bad intelligence, followed by a mistaken strategy that was then fixed so we could leave. Left out of course is a remarkable tale. The President realized that we were losing a war, that the strategy of handing the baton over to Iraqi Security Forces as quickly as possible and leaving the insurgency to them was flawed and that we couldn’t somehow evade the necessity of providing security to the Iraqi people. The construction and implementation of a winning counter-insurgency strategy is one of the great accomplishments in our military history. But, in large part, because that strategy was so resisted by the current administration and the media elites, it has already slipped down the collective memory hole.

The defeat of the Tamil Tigers is a wonderful accomplishment, but the Post editors should be ashamed for so obviously and insultingly suggesting there is no recent achievement of equal or greater merit.

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Netanyahu’s Two Conditions

At the end of his remarks yesterday, Benjamin Netanyahu signaled his possible support for a two-state solution — without using those words — by stating that he wanted to “make it clear that we don’t want to govern the Palestinians.”  But his support for such a solution was not unconditional:

If we resume negotiations, as we plan to do, then I think that the Palestinians will have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state; will have to also enable Israel to have the means to defend itself. And if those conditions are met, Israel’s security conditions are met, and there’s recognition of Israel’s legitimacy, its permanent legitimacy, then I think we can envision an arrangement where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in dignity, in security, and in peace.

Some may view Netanyahu’s conditions as obstacles to peace, since the Palestinians will object to them.  But President Obama can hardly dispute either condition.  With respect to security, the U.S. has repeatedly assured Israel (during both the Clinton and Bush administrations) of support for “defensible borders” for Israel — which are by definition what Israel requires, at a minimum, to “have the means to defend itself.”

Nor can Obama dispute the condition that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.  Such recognition is one of the conditions Obama set forth himself in his “Let me be clear” statement to AIPAC last June (“The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper — but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders”).

In any event, it borders on the absurd to ask Israel to recognize a 22nd Arab state (a state so Arab that every Jew must be removed from its territory) without reciprocal Arab recognition of the only Jewish state — as a Jewish state.  And Israel’s new borders must be secure and defensible — not simply recognized in a peace agreement.

Netanyahu’s two conditions are thus neither unreasonable nor unprecedented.  They are, in fact, the basic requirements of the process, if the goal is not simply two states, but two states “living side by side in peace and security.”

In the past, peace processors have presumed that the creation of a Palestinian state would by itself produce peace.  The presumption has no evidence to support it, and plenty of evidence (such as the results of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza) that refutes it.  Netanyahu’s conditions are designed to ensure that the process will actually produce peace, and not merely reposition the parties for the next war.

At the end of his remarks yesterday, Benjamin Netanyahu signaled his possible support for a two-state solution — without using those words — by stating that he wanted to “make it clear that we don’t want to govern the Palestinians.”  But his support for such a solution was not unconditional:

If we resume negotiations, as we plan to do, then I think that the Palestinians will have to recognize Israel as a Jewish state; will have to also enable Israel to have the means to defend itself. And if those conditions are met, Israel’s security conditions are met, and there’s recognition of Israel’s legitimacy, its permanent legitimacy, then I think we can envision an arrangement where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in dignity, in security, and in peace.

Some may view Netanyahu’s conditions as obstacles to peace, since the Palestinians will object to them.  But President Obama can hardly dispute either condition.  With respect to security, the U.S. has repeatedly assured Israel (during both the Clinton and Bush administrations) of support for “defensible borders” for Israel — which are by definition what Israel requires, at a minimum, to “have the means to defend itself.”

Nor can Obama dispute the condition that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.  Such recognition is one of the conditions Obama set forth himself in his “Let me be clear” statement to AIPAC last June (“The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper — but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders”).

In any event, it borders on the absurd to ask Israel to recognize a 22nd Arab state (a state so Arab that every Jew must be removed from its territory) without reciprocal Arab recognition of the only Jewish state — as a Jewish state.  And Israel’s new borders must be secure and defensible — not simply recognized in a peace agreement.

Netanyahu’s two conditions are thus neither unreasonable nor unprecedented.  They are, in fact, the basic requirements of the process, if the goal is not simply two states, but two states “living side by side in peace and security.”

In the past, peace processors have presumed that the creation of a Palestinian state would by itself produce peace.  The presumption has no evidence to support it, and plenty of evidence (such as the results of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza) that refutes it.  Netanyahu’s conditions are designed to ensure that the process will actually produce peace, and not merely reposition the parties for the next war.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The heat has been turned up under Rep. John Murtha. With Nancy Pelosi’s own problems to manage, how much more political capital can she expend in defending Murtha? (Or does Pelosi need Murtha more than ever?)

A bizillion reasons why Jennifer Granholm won’t be the Supreme Court pick — including tax problems and a corruption investigation. You wonder how she got to be governor. (You sort of wonder if the leaked short lists are really short lists at all since Granholm has so many strikes against her.)

In a piece entitled “The witch hunt has caught the witch,” Jack Kelly writes: “It’s been fascinating to watch perhaps soon to be former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal) dig her political grave. The first rule of holes is that when you find yourself in one, stop digging. But for her press conference Thursday, Ms. Pelosi rented a steam shovel.” Well for now Democrats are buying her story — or pretending to — so I don’t see a palace coup underway.

Her poll numbers are taking a beating.

Your tax dollars at work: “The federal government is now advertising the stimulus package to . . . federal workers. It’s part an interesting ad campaign that’s been launched in Washington. The ads include three small, identical billboards inside Union Station, a major commuter hub just a few blocks from the Capitol.”

Another excellent flip-flop: Obama pushes to complete Bush-era free trade deals.

The New York Times can’t figure out what’s wrong with Maureen Dowd using other people’s work as her own. Well, as Michael Goldfarb puts it, we’d like to know “just how much of Dowd’s drivel is her own and how much is cribbed from her friends.” Perhaps she should go back to whining about her career prospects, which seemed to be genuine although drearily irrelevant to the rest of us.

Some colorful and helpful charts on spending and taxation from Heritage.

A typically thoughtful analysis by Yuval Levin on the president’s speech at Notre Dame.

Newsweek’s goal: fewer readers! I suspect they’ll succeed.

Carolyn Maloney isn’t dropping out of the New York Senate race yet. Ironically, by chasing out Steve Israel the White House may have set up Kirsten Gillibrand for a harder race. Running against a single popular congresswoman may be tougher than having multiple challengers who would divide the anti-Gillibrand vote.

Megan McArdle isn’t buying the Maureen Dowd  (“a friend told me”) excuse for plagiarism, arguing if true “she’s wasted as a columnist; she ought to have her own mentalist act.” Well the first part is patently obvious. But it sure has been a bad week for the grande dames of liberalism — first Pelosi and now Dowd. So many people misleading them!

And Dowd’s “conversation with a friend” even included the commas. Whoops!

A Fox poll suggests a recent Gallup poll was not an anomaly: more Americans now identify as pro-life than pro-choice.

The same poll shows that by a 55-37% margin Americans are opposed to transferring Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. — and that includes a majority of Democrats.

Which reminds me: New Jersey GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Lonegan is now to the left of most Democrats on Guantanamo. And Lonegan is on quite a roll; some in New Jersey are questioning why he’s touting the Ron Paul endorsement given Paul’s virulent anti-Israel record.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brian Moran is continuing to needle Terry McAuliffe, this time because McAuliffe of course battled against Barack Obama throughout a long and bitter primary.

The heat has been turned up under Rep. John Murtha. With Nancy Pelosi’s own problems to manage, how much more political capital can she expend in defending Murtha? (Or does Pelosi need Murtha more than ever?)

A bizillion reasons why Jennifer Granholm won’t be the Supreme Court pick — including tax problems and a corruption investigation. You wonder how she got to be governor. (You sort of wonder if the leaked short lists are really short lists at all since Granholm has so many strikes against her.)

In a piece entitled “The witch hunt has caught the witch,” Jack Kelly writes: “It’s been fascinating to watch perhaps soon to be former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal) dig her political grave. The first rule of holes is that when you find yourself in one, stop digging. But for her press conference Thursday, Ms. Pelosi rented a steam shovel.” Well for now Democrats are buying her story — or pretending to — so I don’t see a palace coup underway.

Her poll numbers are taking a beating.

Your tax dollars at work: “The federal government is now advertising the stimulus package to . . . federal workers. It’s part an interesting ad campaign that’s been launched in Washington. The ads include three small, identical billboards inside Union Station, a major commuter hub just a few blocks from the Capitol.”

Another excellent flip-flop: Obama pushes to complete Bush-era free trade deals.

The New York Times can’t figure out what’s wrong with Maureen Dowd using other people’s work as her own. Well, as Michael Goldfarb puts it, we’d like to know “just how much of Dowd’s drivel is her own and how much is cribbed from her friends.” Perhaps she should go back to whining about her career prospects, which seemed to be genuine although drearily irrelevant to the rest of us.

Some colorful and helpful charts on spending and taxation from Heritage.

A typically thoughtful analysis by Yuval Levin on the president’s speech at Notre Dame.

Newsweek’s goal: fewer readers! I suspect they’ll succeed.

Carolyn Maloney isn’t dropping out of the New York Senate race yet. Ironically, by chasing out Steve Israel the White House may have set up Kirsten Gillibrand for a harder race. Running against a single popular congresswoman may be tougher than having multiple challengers who would divide the anti-Gillibrand vote.

Megan McArdle isn’t buying the Maureen Dowd  (“a friend told me”) excuse for plagiarism, arguing if true “she’s wasted as a columnist; she ought to have her own mentalist act.” Well the first part is patently obvious. But it sure has been a bad week for the grande dames of liberalism — first Pelosi and now Dowd. So many people misleading them!

And Dowd’s “conversation with a friend” even included the commas. Whoops!

A Fox poll suggests a recent Gallup poll was not an anomaly: more Americans now identify as pro-life than pro-choice.

The same poll shows that by a 55-37% margin Americans are opposed to transferring Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. — and that includes a majority of Democrats.

Which reminds me: New Jersey GOP gubernatorial candidate Steve Lonegan is now to the left of most Democrats on Guantanamo. And Lonegan is on quite a roll; some in New Jersey are questioning why he’s touting the Ron Paul endorsement given Paul’s virulent anti-Israel record.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Brian Moran is continuing to needle Terry McAuliffe, this time because McAuliffe of course battled against Barack Obama throughout a long and bitter primary.

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