Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 22, 2009

Commentary of the Day

Los Angeleno, on Jennifer Rubin:

I wonder how long before people (besides, to his credit, Robert Muller of the FBI) figure out that having celebrity terrorists in any U.S. prison — even a super-duper max — will inevitably radicalize the prison population. We are injecting ourselves with a lethal virus, and fooling ourselves that it won’t hurt us. Like putting Napoleon on the Isle of Elba or keeping Lenin on the infamous “sealed train” through Germany, you have to keep ideological foes far at bay. Ideology seeps out. Even if no other prisoner ever comes into direct contact with one of these celebrity terrorists, their mere presence in the same facility will inspire, influence and over time radicalize the population, just like Africanized Honeybees always take over European Honeybee colonies. Obama is scoring a goal in his (our) own net. This is folly in the extreme.

Los Angeleno, on Jennifer Rubin:

I wonder how long before people (besides, to his credit, Robert Muller of the FBI) figure out that having celebrity terrorists in any U.S. prison — even a super-duper max — will inevitably radicalize the prison population. We are injecting ourselves with a lethal virus, and fooling ourselves that it won’t hurt us. Like putting Napoleon on the Isle of Elba or keeping Lenin on the infamous “sealed train” through Germany, you have to keep ideological foes far at bay. Ideology seeps out. Even if no other prisoner ever comes into direct contact with one of these celebrity terrorists, their mere presence in the same facility will inspire, influence and over time radicalize the population, just like Africanized Honeybees always take over European Honeybee colonies. Obama is scoring a goal in his (our) own net. This is folly in the extreme.

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They’re Just not that Into them

Mickey Kaus spots the buried lede in the recent Pew poll:

[P]ublic support for labor unions appears to be weakening: the percentage of people agreeing that “labor unions are necessary to protect the working person,” has dropped from 74 percent at the start of this decade to 61 percent this year. The decline was sharper — from 76 to 53 percent, a 23 point fall — among independent voters than among either Democrats or Republicans. . . Some 61% say labor unions are “too powerful,” a big jump from 52% in 1999. … Support for unions, says Pew, is at an “all-time low.”

So the question is why? Well, it may be that voters like the idea of labor unions — a counterweight to powerful employers – more than the reality of intransigent UAW bosses, secret ballot opposition, and the thuggery that has been much in the news lately. Or it may be that in the era of Obama, with nationalized health-care and soak-the-rich economics back in fashion, the public doesn’t view unions as all that essential. And perhaps Americans are reminded in a serious recession (with unemployment climbing to double digits) that unions don’t preserve jobs.

But it does go to the heart of Big Labor’s arguments that American workers are dying for union representation and that unionization has declined because of employer illegality (which only card check can solve). Maybe the reason unions are on the decline (other than the fact they’ve driven employers like GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy) is that Americans just don’t like unions as much as they used to.

Mickey Kaus spots the buried lede in the recent Pew poll:

[P]ublic support for labor unions appears to be weakening: the percentage of people agreeing that “labor unions are necessary to protect the working person,” has dropped from 74 percent at the start of this decade to 61 percent this year. The decline was sharper — from 76 to 53 percent, a 23 point fall — among independent voters than among either Democrats or Republicans. . . Some 61% say labor unions are “too powerful,” a big jump from 52% in 1999. … Support for unions, says Pew, is at an “all-time low.”

So the question is why? Well, it may be that voters like the idea of labor unions — a counterweight to powerful employers – more than the reality of intransigent UAW bosses, secret ballot opposition, and the thuggery that has been much in the news lately. Or it may be that in the era of Obama, with nationalized health-care and soak-the-rich economics back in fashion, the public doesn’t view unions as all that essential. And perhaps Americans are reminded in a serious recession (with unemployment climbing to double digits) that unions don’t preserve jobs.

But it does go to the heart of Big Labor’s arguments that American workers are dying for union representation and that unionization has declined because of employer illegality (which only card check can solve). Maybe the reason unions are on the decline (other than the fact they’ve driven employers like GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy) is that Americans just don’t like unions as much as they used to.

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The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

Certain double-standards applied to the Palestinians are so flagrant and systematic that nobody even notices them anymore. Here is a perfect example: A New York Times piece on the state of the Fatah Party and the Palestinian Authority airs a threat to resume terrorism that it is published without the slightest of eyebrow-raising:

Many of the younger activists say that the men around Mr. Abbas are mistaken to take armed struggle off the table, especially after Israel’s attack on Gaza in January. At the same time, they say that if a deal were struck, they are the ones who could sell it to the street and make it stick.

“The current leadership doesn’t keep armed struggle as an option,” said Dimitri Y. Diliani, the Fatah spokesman for the Jerusalem area. “For us on the ground, we are in favor of political discourse to pursue national goals. But in case it doesn’t work in a certain time frame we should resort to other options, including armed resistance.”

And these are members of Fatah, the good Palestinians — the ones who receive millions of dollars in U.S. money!

Certain double-standards applied to the Palestinians are so flagrant and systematic that nobody even notices them anymore. Here is a perfect example: A New York Times piece on the state of the Fatah Party and the Palestinian Authority airs a threat to resume terrorism that it is published without the slightest of eyebrow-raising:

Many of the younger activists say that the men around Mr. Abbas are mistaken to take armed struggle off the table, especially after Israel’s attack on Gaza in January. At the same time, they say that if a deal were struck, they are the ones who could sell it to the street and make it stick.

“The current leadership doesn’t keep armed struggle as an option,” said Dimitri Y. Diliani, the Fatah spokesman for the Jerusalem area. “For us on the ground, we are in favor of political discourse to pursue national goals. But in case it doesn’t work in a certain time frame we should resort to other options, including armed resistance.”

And these are members of Fatah, the good Palestinians — the ones who receive millions of dollars in U.S. money!

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The Tragedy of Dick Cheney

Reading through the former vice-president’s take-down of the Obama administration’s deeply flawed national-security policies, I am struck by the paradox that is Richard B. Cheney. On one hand, we have a brilliant man — a fantastic orator, expert national-security strategist, and first-class patriot. Check out the smart, hard punches packed into the following lines of yesterday’s speech:

The released memos were carefully redacted to leave out references to what our government learned through the methods in question. Other memos, laying out specific terrorist plots that were averted, apparently were not even considered for release. For reasons the administration has yet to explain, they believe the public has a right to know the method of the questions, but not the content of the answers.

[...]

The administration seems to pride itself on searching for some kind of middle ground in policies addressing terrorism. But in the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half exposed. You cannot keep just some nuclear-armed terrorists out of the United States, you must keep every nuclear-armed terrorist out of the United States. Triangulation is a political strategy, not a national security strategy.There is never a good time to compromise when the lives and safety of the American people are in the balance.

[...]

The administration has found that it’s easy to receive applause in Europe for closing Guantanamo. But it’s tricky to come up with an alternative that will serve the interests of justice and America’s national security.

Yet, on the other hand, we have an unsmiling politician with minimal charisma who exudes barely any warmth. (I remember the Republicans’ attempt to soften his image at the 2004 GOP Convention by surrounding him with his grandchildren following his keynote address — it didn’t work.) For this reason, those critical of the Obama administration’s counter-terrorism policies are in a quandary. After all, the most important arguments regarding U.S. national security are coming from a former leader who, despite his sharp intelligence and deep policy experience, lacks the political skills to win over the public.

In short, Cheney’s excellent speech discredits the notion that Republicans lack compelling ideas.  Rather, the problem for Republicans is a lack of fresh leaders — and, in particular, the absence of a consensus figure who can match President Obama’s charm in selling a proven national-security approach to Americans.

Reading through the former vice-president’s take-down of the Obama administration’s deeply flawed national-security policies, I am struck by the paradox that is Richard B. Cheney. On one hand, we have a brilliant man — a fantastic orator, expert national-security strategist, and first-class patriot. Check out the smart, hard punches packed into the following lines of yesterday’s speech:

The released memos were carefully redacted to leave out references to what our government learned through the methods in question. Other memos, laying out specific terrorist plots that were averted, apparently were not even considered for release. For reasons the administration has yet to explain, they believe the public has a right to know the method of the questions, but not the content of the answers.

[...]

The administration seems to pride itself on searching for some kind of middle ground in policies addressing terrorism. But in the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half exposed. You cannot keep just some nuclear-armed terrorists out of the United States, you must keep every nuclear-armed terrorist out of the United States. Triangulation is a political strategy, not a national security strategy.There is never a good time to compromise when the lives and safety of the American people are in the balance.

[...]

The administration has found that it’s easy to receive applause in Europe for closing Guantanamo. But it’s tricky to come up with an alternative that will serve the interests of justice and America’s national security.

Yet, on the other hand, we have an unsmiling politician with minimal charisma who exudes barely any warmth. (I remember the Republicans’ attempt to soften his image at the 2004 GOP Convention by surrounding him with his grandchildren following his keynote address — it didn’t work.) For this reason, those critical of the Obama administration’s counter-terrorism policies are in a quandary. After all, the most important arguments regarding U.S. national security are coming from a former leader who, despite his sharp intelligence and deep policy experience, lacks the political skills to win over the public.

In short, Cheney’s excellent speech discredits the notion that Republicans lack compelling ideas.  Rather, the problem for Republicans is a lack of fresh leaders — and, in particular, the absence of a consensus figure who can match President Obama’s charm in selling a proven national-security approach to Americans.

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Biden Arrives Early for Lebanon’s Funeral

Vice President Joe Biden is in Beirut today, hoping to boost the Lebanese moderates’ chances of holding off Hezbollah’s drive to seize power in the upcoming elections there. Best of luck, Joe.

Of course, it’s an open question whether Biden’s appearance will help or hurt the American-backed coalition led by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, which opposes Hezbollah. Despite disclaimers of neutrality, Biden stated clearly that future American aid to the government would be affected by the elections’ outcome.

“We will evaluate the shape of our assistance programs based on the shape of the new government,” Biden said. That is the right message, but given the administration’s overall policy of appeasing rather than pressuring Hezbollah’s Iranian sponsors, the statement may be compromised by everything else President Obama has said and done. Moreover, the context of this visit is the seeming collapse of the Cedar Revolution and the March 14 coalition, which the Bush administration rightly saw as a major achievement.

The problem is Obama wants to “engage” in a dialogue that strengthens Iran and seeks to make nice with the Syrians, who have done so much damage in Lebanon. Can America do so without impacting that country’s democratic forces’ chances of survival? Usually, vice presidents get sent to funerals. Biden’s visit may instead be to the deathbed of Lebanon.

On a lighter note, we should also remember that during last fall’s vice presidential debate, Biden, a self-proclaimed know-it-all on foreign policy, claimed that the United States had already kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon. Had Sarah Palin said something that stupid, it would have been fresh confirmation for her critics that she was unqualified for high office. This trip gives Biden a chance to rectify his gaffe. Unfortunately, it is more likely that his administration’s failure to stop Iran’s nuclear plans will also inevitably mean the collapse of any hope for a free Lebanon.

Vice President Joe Biden is in Beirut today, hoping to boost the Lebanese moderates’ chances of holding off Hezbollah’s drive to seize power in the upcoming elections there. Best of luck, Joe.

Of course, it’s an open question whether Biden’s appearance will help or hurt the American-backed coalition led by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, which opposes Hezbollah. Despite disclaimers of neutrality, Biden stated clearly that future American aid to the government would be affected by the elections’ outcome.

“We will evaluate the shape of our assistance programs based on the shape of the new government,” Biden said. That is the right message, but given the administration’s overall policy of appeasing rather than pressuring Hezbollah’s Iranian sponsors, the statement may be compromised by everything else President Obama has said and done. Moreover, the context of this visit is the seeming collapse of the Cedar Revolution and the March 14 coalition, which the Bush administration rightly saw as a major achievement.

The problem is Obama wants to “engage” in a dialogue that strengthens Iran and seeks to make nice with the Syrians, who have done so much damage in Lebanon. Can America do so without impacting that country’s democratic forces’ chances of survival? Usually, vice presidents get sent to funerals. Biden’s visit may instead be to the deathbed of Lebanon.

On a lighter note, we should also remember that during last fall’s vice presidential debate, Biden, a self-proclaimed know-it-all on foreign policy, claimed that the United States had already kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon. Had Sarah Palin said something that stupid, it would have been fresh confirmation for her critics that she was unqualified for high office. This trip gives Biden a chance to rectify his gaffe. Unfortunately, it is more likely that his administration’s failure to stop Iran’s nuclear plans will also inevitably mean the collapse of any hope for a free Lebanon.

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Spinning Israeli Public Opinion

Asking silly questions has become a habit for headline-seeking pollsters. Today, it was Tel Aviv University’s turn:

Some 23 percent of Israelis would consider leaving the country if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, according to a poll conducted on behalf of the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University.

Sounds scary? Yes, if you merely follow press releases; no, if you do some research (something not all journalists find necessary).

First, there’s nothing new about this finding, and the number of Israelis fearing a nuclearized Iran hasn’t increased. This study, conducted for the Herzliya Conference back in January, asked: If a hostile state in the region is threatening Israel with nuclear arms, will you be willing to live in the country? The response: 81% (of Jews) said yes. A year earlier, in 2008, the percentage was exactly the same: 81%. Namely, about 1 in 5 Jews might consider leaving Israel. Since for Israeli Arabs the percentage is a bit higher, the 1 in 4 figure from the more recent study is old news.

But even so, is it even important that Israelis say they may consider leaving the country because of a nuclearized Iran? Consider the same Herzliya poll. To the question “Would you be ready to move and live in a different country?” 6% answer “definitely yes,” 34% say “depends on circumstances.” That is 40% of Israeli Jews (for Israeli Arabs, the percentage is much lower this time around) who might consider leaving under certain conditions.

Think about this figure, and suddenly, the new poll doesn’t look grim at all — on the contrary. If 40% of Israelis might consider leaving under certain conditions, but only 25%, if Iran becomes nuclear, the conclusion is that almost half of those prone to “consider” do not think that a nuclearized Iran represents a sufficiently severe circumstance to warrant leaving.

Asking silly questions has become a habit for headline-seeking pollsters. Today, it was Tel Aviv University’s turn:

Some 23 percent of Israelis would consider leaving the country if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, according to a poll conducted on behalf of the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University.

Sounds scary? Yes, if you merely follow press releases; no, if you do some research (something not all journalists find necessary).

First, there’s nothing new about this finding, and the number of Israelis fearing a nuclearized Iran hasn’t increased. This study, conducted for the Herzliya Conference back in January, asked: If a hostile state in the region is threatening Israel with nuclear arms, will you be willing to live in the country? The response: 81% (of Jews) said yes. A year earlier, in 2008, the percentage was exactly the same: 81%. Namely, about 1 in 5 Jews might consider leaving Israel. Since for Israeli Arabs the percentage is a bit higher, the 1 in 4 figure from the more recent study is old news.

But even so, is it even important that Israelis say they may consider leaving the country because of a nuclearized Iran? Consider the same Herzliya poll. To the question “Would you be ready to move and live in a different country?” 6% answer “definitely yes,” 34% say “depends on circumstances.” That is 40% of Israeli Jews (for Israeli Arabs, the percentage is much lower this time around) who might consider leaving under certain conditions.

Think about this figure, and suddenly, the new poll doesn’t look grim at all — on the contrary. If 40% of Israelis might consider leaving under certain conditions, but only 25%, if Iran becomes nuclear, the conclusion is that almost half of those prone to “consider” do not think that a nuclearized Iran represents a sufficiently severe circumstance to warrant leaving.

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Escaping From Brooklyn … or the Hamptons

The New York Times’ website has a feature titled “One: New York Characters in Sound and Images.” This week has a new feature about one Rivka Karasik, who grew up in the Lubavitch movement and left it in her early 20s.

Her story of leaving a life and a faith system she disliked is pretty typical and, it must be conceded that the narrative on the video manages to deprecate the Chabad lifestyle without indulging in any over-the-top rhetoric or abuse of this approach to Judaism. This is, thank God, a free country, and people can and should live as they see fit, by following any faith or none at all.

However, in listening Karasik’s story, her flight from her parents’ community did strike me as a narrative that would particularly appeal to the liberal mindset of the Times’ audience; most of the responses in the Comments section reflected this bias. Yet one reader was thinking along the same lines as I. Giving his name as “Joe” from “LawnGuyLand,” he wrote:

In the interest of even-handed journalism for which the Times is noted, I hope to soon see a piece on one of us who thought s/he was crazy because s/he thought that there must be more to life than being reading the Sunday Times at the weekend home in the Hamptons, and so opted to become a Chassidic Jew.

Well said, Joe, though I think such a story would more likely than not be about a religious Muslim rather than a Jew.

Count me in as one who thinks there is a middle way between the Times-reading Hamptons-dwelling Jews and the Hasidim in Brooklyn. But wouldn’t it be nice if the former stopped viewing the latter as only something to escape from or as worthy subjects of a National Geographic-style feature treating the Orthodox like some obscure tribe in the Amazon?

The New York Times’ website has a feature titled “One: New York Characters in Sound and Images.” This week has a new feature about one Rivka Karasik, who grew up in the Lubavitch movement and left it in her early 20s.

Her story of leaving a life and a faith system she disliked is pretty typical and, it must be conceded that the narrative on the video manages to deprecate the Chabad lifestyle without indulging in any over-the-top rhetoric or abuse of this approach to Judaism. This is, thank God, a free country, and people can and should live as they see fit, by following any faith or none at all.

However, in listening Karasik’s story, her flight from her parents’ community did strike me as a narrative that would particularly appeal to the liberal mindset of the Times’ audience; most of the responses in the Comments section reflected this bias. Yet one reader was thinking along the same lines as I. Giving his name as “Joe” from “LawnGuyLand,” he wrote:

In the interest of even-handed journalism for which the Times is noted, I hope to soon see a piece on one of us who thought s/he was crazy because s/he thought that there must be more to life than being reading the Sunday Times at the weekend home in the Hamptons, and so opted to become a Chassidic Jew.

Well said, Joe, though I think such a story would more likely than not be about a religious Muslim rather than a Jew.

Count me in as one who thinks there is a middle way between the Times-reading Hamptons-dwelling Jews and the Hasidim in Brooklyn. But wouldn’t it be nice if the former stopped viewing the latter as only something to escape from or as worthy subjects of a National Geographic-style feature treating the Orthodox like some obscure tribe in the Amazon?

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“We Really Don’t Have A Clue!”

In case you were hoping that the administration’s approach to Guantanamo turned out to be better thought out than it appears (it has to be, right?), think again. Joe Biden clears up any confusion on that front:

Speaking to reporters on the final day of his tour of the Balkans, Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged the administration still hasn’t figured out what to do with all the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay but predicted that it will still meet its deadline of closing the prison within a year. “I think so,” Biden said, when asked about the January 2010 deadline. “But, look, what the president said is that this is going to be hard. It’s like opening Pandora’s Box. We don’t know what’s inside the box.”

[. . .]

“There’s a lot of speculation (about) detainees who are a real danger who are not able to returned or tried,” Biden said. “But that (number), to the best of my knowledge, has not been established.” Echoing President Obama’s comments earlier today, Biden brushed off critics who say confining detainees to federal penitentiaries is too dangerous. “There’s a bit of a hysteria about, well, my god, these guys are so dangerous,” he said. “Go to some maximum security cells if you want to know some dangerous people. Matter of fact, it might be an awakening to them.”

Ninety U.S. senators (who voted to cut off funds for the transfer of the detainees) are hysterical, you see. But Biden’s perception that the administration had not a clue about what’s going on with regard to Guantanamo rings true. After all, the president decided down to close the facility before his attorney general visited there and before he had a plan on how to disperse the detainees. Who knew it’d be such a problem, eh? Sigh.

For all his foolishness, Biden at least has the virtue of honesty when it comes to relating the administration’s outlook and plans. Everyone else in their view is “hysterical.” And after months on the job, the administration still has no policy solution to back up its outpouring of sanctimonious rhetoric. Well, that’s more insight than you can derive from Robert Gibbs and more candor than you may get from the president.

In case you were hoping that the administration’s approach to Guantanamo turned out to be better thought out than it appears (it has to be, right?), think again. Joe Biden clears up any confusion on that front:

Speaking to reporters on the final day of his tour of the Balkans, Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged the administration still hasn’t figured out what to do with all the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay but predicted that it will still meet its deadline of closing the prison within a year. “I think so,” Biden said, when asked about the January 2010 deadline. “But, look, what the president said is that this is going to be hard. It’s like opening Pandora’s Box. We don’t know what’s inside the box.”

[. . .]

“There’s a lot of speculation (about) detainees who are a real danger who are not able to returned or tried,” Biden said. “But that (number), to the best of my knowledge, has not been established.” Echoing President Obama’s comments earlier today, Biden brushed off critics who say confining detainees to federal penitentiaries is too dangerous. “There’s a bit of a hysteria about, well, my god, these guys are so dangerous,” he said. “Go to some maximum security cells if you want to know some dangerous people. Matter of fact, it might be an awakening to them.”

Ninety U.S. senators (who voted to cut off funds for the transfer of the detainees) are hysterical, you see. But Biden’s perception that the administration had not a clue about what’s going on with regard to Guantanamo rings true. After all, the president decided down to close the facility before his attorney general visited there and before he had a plan on how to disperse the detainees. Who knew it’d be such a problem, eh? Sigh.

For all his foolishness, Biden at least has the virtue of honesty when it comes to relating the administration’s outlook and plans. Everyone else in their view is “hysterical.” And after months on the job, the administration still has no policy solution to back up its outpouring of sanctimonious rhetoric. Well, that’s more insight than you can derive from Robert Gibbs and more candor than you may get from the president.

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Astrological Economics in D.C.

Washington and its press corps love ten-year economic projections. The executive branch is required by law to make them for all manner of things. And news outlets publish them with the same shamelessness that supermarket tabloids publish predictions of Martians landing in Central Park.

Only one problem — just like the predictions of Martians, they are completely worthless for anything except garnering headlines. Projecting such things as GDP, federal revenues and outlays, and the size of the national debt ten years out is like predicting the weather ten years out. Both predictions must fail for precisely the same reason: millions — probably billions — of variables interact in often completely unpredictable ways. So predicting the economy (or the weather) ten years out is like predicting the outcome of a backgammon game after the third roll of the dice.

I stumbled on a perfect example of what I mean this morning, while working on a new edition of my history of the national debt, first published in 1997: It’s a Treasury Department press release titled “From Widening Deficits to Paying Down the Debt: Benefits for the American People,” and it was published in August 1999.

It confidently predicts ever-increasing budget surpluses from that point on, reaching as high as nearly $500 billion in fiscal 2009 — 3.5 percent of GDP. (In fact, the budget deficit this year will be at least $1.8 trillion — nearly 14 percent of GDP). The press release goes on to foresee that the publicly-held national debt in fiscal 2009 would be a mere $1.5 trillion (it is $6.9 trillion) and only 25 percent of GDP (it’s 49 percent). I suppose the Treasury Department economists who wrote this press release might have done a better job had they only taken the end of the dot.com bubble, 9/11, the Iraq War, and the financial crisis of 2008 into account. I wonder why they didn’t.

If economists had the scruples of meteorologists, they would flatly refuse to make these projections. Unfortunately, all too often when you scratch an economist (especially in Washington, D.C.) you find a politician.

Washington and its press corps love ten-year economic projections. The executive branch is required by law to make them for all manner of things. And news outlets publish them with the same shamelessness that supermarket tabloids publish predictions of Martians landing in Central Park.

Only one problem — just like the predictions of Martians, they are completely worthless for anything except garnering headlines. Projecting such things as GDP, federal revenues and outlays, and the size of the national debt ten years out is like predicting the weather ten years out. Both predictions must fail for precisely the same reason: millions — probably billions — of variables interact in often completely unpredictable ways. So predicting the economy (or the weather) ten years out is like predicting the outcome of a backgammon game after the third roll of the dice.

I stumbled on a perfect example of what I mean this morning, while working on a new edition of my history of the national debt, first published in 1997: It’s a Treasury Department press release titled “From Widening Deficits to Paying Down the Debt: Benefits for the American People,” and it was published in August 1999.

It confidently predicts ever-increasing budget surpluses from that point on, reaching as high as nearly $500 billion in fiscal 2009 — 3.5 percent of GDP. (In fact, the budget deficit this year will be at least $1.8 trillion — nearly 14 percent of GDP). The press release goes on to foresee that the publicly-held national debt in fiscal 2009 would be a mere $1.5 trillion (it is $6.9 trillion) and only 25 percent of GDP (it’s 49 percent). I suppose the Treasury Department economists who wrote this press release might have done a better job had they only taken the end of the dot.com bubble, 9/11, the Iraq War, and the financial crisis of 2008 into account. I wonder why they didn’t.

If economists had the scruples of meteorologists, they would flatly refuse to make these projections. Unfortunately, all too often when you scratch an economist (especially in Washington, D.C.) you find a politician.

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CNN Invents the News, Again

Yesterday’s top news story was the very public debate between President Barack Obama and former Vice-President Dick Cheney regarding the interrogation of captured terrorists. Indeed, it isn’t everyday that the White House engages in open ideological battle with its immediate predecessors, which is why virtually every major news outlet made it the first headline on their websites, the first item in their newscasts, and a page-A1 story in this morning’s papers.

With one major exception, that is: CNN, which reported on a former Iraqi soldier who was tortured by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison as the top news story on its website last night. Yes, you read that correctly: CNN chose as its top news item something that happened over five years ago, not even providing its readers with a single sentence explaining how this particular story was remotely newsworthy. (The article was written by Cal Perry, the Middle East correspondent who shamelessly lobbed softballs at the Syrian dictator’s wife back in January.)

There is only one logical explanation for this editorial choice: that CNN sought to deceive its viewers into believing that the debate on enhanced interrogation methods for terrorists is actually a about whether or not the U.S. should torture prisoners of war. Naturally, the latter plays into the ultimate straw-man argument, suggesting that those who oppose Obama’s views on interrogating terrorists actually support torturing other countries’ soldiers. Recognizing that straw-man arguments are the primary weapon in Obama’s rhetorical arsenal, Cheney addressed this disingenuous strategy during yesterday’s speech:

In public discussion of these matters, there has been a strange and sometimes willful attempt to conflate what happened at Abu Ghraib with the top-secret program of enhanced interrogations.

At Abu Ghraib, a few sadistic prison guards abused inmates in violation of American law, military regulation and simple decency. For the harm they did to Iraqi prisoners and to America’s cause, they deserved and received Army justice.

And it takes a deeply unfair cast of mind to equate the disgraces of Abu Ghraib with the lawful, skillful and entirely honorable work of CIA personnel trained to deal with a few malevolent men.

Of course, this isn’t the first time CNN has invented the news or crafted its coverage to Obama’s distinct benefit — far from it, actually. But it is certainly its worst example of news invention to date, with CNN’s editors using old news stories to throw sand in the public’s eyes.

Yesterday’s top news story was the very public debate between President Barack Obama and former Vice-President Dick Cheney regarding the interrogation of captured terrorists. Indeed, it isn’t everyday that the White House engages in open ideological battle with its immediate predecessors, which is why virtually every major news outlet made it the first headline on their websites, the first item in their newscasts, and a page-A1 story in this morning’s papers.

With one major exception, that is: CNN, which reported on a former Iraqi soldier who was tortured by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison as the top news story on its website last night. Yes, you read that correctly: CNN chose as its top news item something that happened over five years ago, not even providing its readers with a single sentence explaining how this particular story was remotely newsworthy. (The article was written by Cal Perry, the Middle East correspondent who shamelessly lobbed softballs at the Syrian dictator’s wife back in January.)

There is only one logical explanation for this editorial choice: that CNN sought to deceive its viewers into believing that the debate on enhanced interrogation methods for terrorists is actually a about whether or not the U.S. should torture prisoners of war. Naturally, the latter plays into the ultimate straw-man argument, suggesting that those who oppose Obama’s views on interrogating terrorists actually support torturing other countries’ soldiers. Recognizing that straw-man arguments are the primary weapon in Obama’s rhetorical arsenal, Cheney addressed this disingenuous strategy during yesterday’s speech:

In public discussion of these matters, there has been a strange and sometimes willful attempt to conflate what happened at Abu Ghraib with the top-secret program of enhanced interrogations.

At Abu Ghraib, a few sadistic prison guards abused inmates in violation of American law, military regulation and simple decency. For the harm they did to Iraqi prisoners and to America’s cause, they deserved and received Army justice.

And it takes a deeply unfair cast of mind to equate the disgraces of Abu Ghraib with the lawful, skillful and entirely honorable work of CIA personnel trained to deal with a few malevolent men.

Of course, this isn’t the first time CNN has invented the news or crafted its coverage to Obama’s distinct benefit — far from it, actually. But it is certainly its worst example of news invention to date, with CNN’s editors using old news stories to throw sand in the public’s eyes.

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Triangulating National Security

Peter Baker has a thoughtful analysis on the dilemma Obama faces in trying to be all things to all people in the national-security debate:

Arguably on the defensive over policy for the first time since taking office, Mr. Obama is gambling that his oratorical powers can reassure the public that bringing terrorism suspects to prisons on American soil will not put the public in danger.

At the same time, he must explain and win support for a nuanced set of positions that fall somewhere between George W. Bush and the American Civil Liberties Union.

That highly political balancing-act is problematic, especially when it comes to national security. Baker explains:

Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Cheney used the term “ad hoc” to scorn the other party’s policy toward terrorism. But the case-by-case approach of the current White House — officials there describe it as pragmatic — has generated confusion and disappointment across the political spectrum. While Mr. Obama dismissed concerns among fellow Democrats about “30-second commercials” attacking them as weak on terrorism — “I get it,” he said — the reality is that the debate could replay in harsh fashion in the midterm elections next year.

James Jay Carafano, a national security expert at the Heritage Foundation, said Mr. Obama risked being left with no supporters on either side for his program.

“The people on the left know there’s more in common than not between the Obama policy and the Bush policy,” he said. “And the people on the right know there’s a credibility problem because there’s a gap between what he tells the left and what he’s doing.”

But there is more at issue here than just “will it work?” It is odd in the extreme, as Dick Cheney noted in his speech and as his daughter Liz pointed out in several TV appearances yesterday, to play the triangulation game on national security. That’s a modality for domestic affairs — balancing competing interest groups and trying to ease out a working majority in Congress. But it has never been an accepted — or acceptable — tactic on national security. Indeed, presidents from Truman to Reagan to JFK to, yes, Bill Clinton, separated domestic horsetrading from formulation of national security policy. For all his shortcomings, Clinton didn’t go to war in Bosnia as political gambit nor did George H.W. Bush make the decision to not press on to Baghdad in the first Iraq war in order to calm the Left in America.

This method of trying to soothe all parties and charm even the most virulent foes of the United States has been Obama’s lifelong modus operandi. He has unlimited faith in his rhetorical skills. But this begs the question whether foreign policy should be formulated on its own merits or whether it is simply a function of what he can “sell.” Leadership involves setting a course, persuading others to follow, and steeling oneself against the inevitable criticism with confidence that in the end, good policy makes for good politics. Somehow that has eluded the president, who seems intent on getting the politics right and worrying about the policy later. It’s a dangerous game — and as Baker points out, likely fruitless.

Peter Baker has a thoughtful analysis on the dilemma Obama faces in trying to be all things to all people in the national-security debate:

Arguably on the defensive over policy for the first time since taking office, Mr. Obama is gambling that his oratorical powers can reassure the public that bringing terrorism suspects to prisons on American soil will not put the public in danger.

At the same time, he must explain and win support for a nuanced set of positions that fall somewhere between George W. Bush and the American Civil Liberties Union.

That highly political balancing-act is problematic, especially when it comes to national security. Baker explains:

Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Cheney used the term “ad hoc” to scorn the other party’s policy toward terrorism. But the case-by-case approach of the current White House — officials there describe it as pragmatic — has generated confusion and disappointment across the political spectrum. While Mr. Obama dismissed concerns among fellow Democrats about “30-second commercials” attacking them as weak on terrorism — “I get it,” he said — the reality is that the debate could replay in harsh fashion in the midterm elections next year.

James Jay Carafano, a national security expert at the Heritage Foundation, said Mr. Obama risked being left with no supporters on either side for his program.

“The people on the left know there’s more in common than not between the Obama policy and the Bush policy,” he said. “And the people on the right know there’s a credibility problem because there’s a gap between what he tells the left and what he’s doing.”

But there is more at issue here than just “will it work?” It is odd in the extreme, as Dick Cheney noted in his speech and as his daughter Liz pointed out in several TV appearances yesterday, to play the triangulation game on national security. That’s a modality for domestic affairs — balancing competing interest groups and trying to ease out a working majority in Congress. But it has never been an accepted — or acceptable — tactic on national security. Indeed, presidents from Truman to Reagan to JFK to, yes, Bill Clinton, separated domestic horsetrading from formulation of national security policy. For all his shortcomings, Clinton didn’t go to war in Bosnia as political gambit nor did George H.W. Bush make the decision to not press on to Baghdad in the first Iraq war in order to calm the Left in America.

This method of trying to soothe all parties and charm even the most virulent foes of the United States has been Obama’s lifelong modus operandi. He has unlimited faith in his rhetorical skills. But this begs the question whether foreign policy should be formulated on its own merits or whether it is simply a function of what he can “sell.” Leadership involves setting a course, persuading others to follow, and steeling oneself against the inevitable criticism with confidence that in the end, good policy makes for good politics. Somehow that has eluded the president, who seems intent on getting the politics right and worrying about the policy later. It’s a dangerous game — and as Baker points out, likely fruitless.

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The Other Tzipi

Fresh off Prime Minister Netanyahu’s meeting with President Obama, in which the former again refused to endorse a two-state solution to the Palestinian problem, members of his party are hard at work trying to come up with a different approach. The latest is a conference for parliamentarians held under the title “Alternatives to the Two-State Outlook,” which will include major figures such as former IDF Chief-of-Staff Moshe Bogie Ya’alon, Shas leader Eli Yishai, and Labor MK Yuli Tamir.

I don’t know whether genuinely new ideas will emerge. Of greater interest is the conference being held at the initiative of Likud MK and former TV personality Tzipi Hotovely. Hotovely, just 30 years old, is a rising star on the Israeli political scene, and represents a whole new generation of young Likud leaders, including Danny Danon, Gilad Erdan, and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar. These under-45s are all dynamic, well-spoken people who take the grunt-work of parliament seriously. They are, in all likelihood, the future of Likud.

Part of a party’s success depends on its ability to speak to a younger generation of voters, and give them a sense of where the future lies. Don’t be fooled by campaign cameos of the likes of Benny Begin and Dan Meridor. Keep your eyes on the other Tzipi and her friends.

Fresh off Prime Minister Netanyahu’s meeting with President Obama, in which the former again refused to endorse a two-state solution to the Palestinian problem, members of his party are hard at work trying to come up with a different approach. The latest is a conference for parliamentarians held under the title “Alternatives to the Two-State Outlook,” which will include major figures such as former IDF Chief-of-Staff Moshe Bogie Ya’alon, Shas leader Eli Yishai, and Labor MK Yuli Tamir.

I don’t know whether genuinely new ideas will emerge. Of greater interest is the conference being held at the initiative of Likud MK and former TV personality Tzipi Hotovely. Hotovely, just 30 years old, is a rising star on the Israeli political scene, and represents a whole new generation of young Likud leaders, including Danny Danon, Gilad Erdan, and Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar. These under-45s are all dynamic, well-spoken people who take the grunt-work of parliament seriously. They are, in all likelihood, the future of Likud.

Part of a party’s success depends on its ability to speak to a younger generation of voters, and give them a sense of where the future lies. Don’t be fooled by campaign cameos of the likes of Benny Begin and Dan Meridor. Keep your eyes on the other Tzipi and her friends.

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The Weakest Argument of them All

As many other observers did, the Wall Street Journal editors comment:

The President went out of his way to insist that its existence “likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained,” albeit without offering any evidence, and that it “has weakened American security,” again based only on assertion. What is a plain fact is that in the seven-plus years that Gitmo has been in operation the American homeland has not been attacked.

It is also a plain fact — and one the President acknowledged — that many of the detainees previously released, often under intense pressure from Mr. Obama’s anti-antiterror allies, have returned to careers as Taliban commanders and al Qaeda “emirs.” The New York Times reported yesterday on an undisclosed Pentagon report that no fewer than one in seven detainees released from Gitmo have returned to jihad.

This is, of course, entirely non-factual and illogical. The 9-11 plot and the prior string of attacks on American interests in the 1990′s preceded use of Guantanamo as a terrorist safehouse. And it defies logic to think that had the detainees been housed in Colorado as Sen. Diane Feinstein now suggests (Colorado votes “no” on that idea, by the way), recruiting would have suffered in jihadist circles. (If memory serves me correctly, it used to be in the Left’s playbook that Iraq was the terror recruiter’s dream, but that seems patently silly now that it has become a killing field for Al Qaeda.) It is an unsupported (and unsupportable) bit of sloganeering, necessitated by Obama’s unwillingness to confront the uncomfortable reality that we must put these people somewhere, and that Guantanamo is no more objectionable a place than a prison in Colorado or California (what say you about that, Speaker Pelosi?).

Next time the CIA is briefing Congress, one of the lawmakers should ask about the president’s assertion: where is the evidence that Guantanamo aided our enemies? I suspect the query would be greeted by blank stares. What we do know is that Al Qaeda is a shell of its former self, in part because we fought a war in Iraq which Obama bitterly opposed and wished to abandon. What we do know is that those who pressured the administration to release detainees (on the theory that they weren’t all that bad) had it wrong. So when it comes to advocating policies that “weakened American security,” Obama and his netroot supporters are in a class of their own.

As many other observers did, the Wall Street Journal editors comment:

The President went out of his way to insist that its existence “likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained,” albeit without offering any evidence, and that it “has weakened American security,” again based only on assertion. What is a plain fact is that in the seven-plus years that Gitmo has been in operation the American homeland has not been attacked.

It is also a plain fact — and one the President acknowledged — that many of the detainees previously released, often under intense pressure from Mr. Obama’s anti-antiterror allies, have returned to careers as Taliban commanders and al Qaeda “emirs.” The New York Times reported yesterday on an undisclosed Pentagon report that no fewer than one in seven detainees released from Gitmo have returned to jihad.

This is, of course, entirely non-factual and illogical. The 9-11 plot and the prior string of attacks on American interests in the 1990′s preceded use of Guantanamo as a terrorist safehouse. And it defies logic to think that had the detainees been housed in Colorado as Sen. Diane Feinstein now suggests (Colorado votes “no” on that idea, by the way), recruiting would have suffered in jihadist circles. (If memory serves me correctly, it used to be in the Left’s playbook that Iraq was the terror recruiter’s dream, but that seems patently silly now that it has become a killing field for Al Qaeda.) It is an unsupported (and unsupportable) bit of sloganeering, necessitated by Obama’s unwillingness to confront the uncomfortable reality that we must put these people somewhere, and that Guantanamo is no more objectionable a place than a prison in Colorado or California (what say you about that, Speaker Pelosi?).

Next time the CIA is briefing Congress, one of the lawmakers should ask about the president’s assertion: where is the evidence that Guantanamo aided our enemies? I suspect the query would be greeted by blank stares. What we do know is that Al Qaeda is a shell of its former self, in part because we fought a war in Iraq which Obama bitterly opposed and wished to abandon. What we do know is that those who pressured the administration to release detainees (on the theory that they weren’t all that bad) had it wrong. So when it comes to advocating policies that “weakened American security,” Obama and his netroot supporters are in a class of their own.

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Barack Obama, Deconstructionist

I commented earlier on President Obama’s national security speech. In reading it over, though, I was struck by something else: the contradiction between what Obama says and what he does. Let’s start with the most obvious: he lectures us against “pointing fingers at one another” — and gives a speech that includes more than two dozen critical comments (direct or implied) against the Bush Administration. For a fellow who constantly speaks about wanting to move forward, Obama spends an awful lot of time looking back. But there is more. President Obama pretends to be providing a quantum break from his predecessor — but, as Charles Krauthammer points out in his column, “Obama has adopted with only minor modifications huge swaths of the entire, allegedly lawless Bush program.”

The president continually made reference to the importance of “transparency” in his speech — yet he will not release enhanced interrogation techniques memoranda showing what information we extracted by using these techniques. Compounding this hypocrisy is Obama feeling no reluctance to release previously classified memos that dealt with the methods of interrogation.

In his speech, Obama argued that President Bush’s anti-terrorism policies did not and, indeed, could not keep this country safe (because, Obama insists, they were at odds with our most fundamental values) — yet Bush’s policies, which in fact were not at odds with our most fundamental values, did exactly that. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, there was an overwhelming consensus that we would be hit again, and probably sooner rather than later. Al Qaeda certainly tried. Yet during the remaining seven-and-a-half years of the Bush presidency, our homeland was kept safe. Such things do not happen by accident.

President Obama spoke about his passionate concern for a “legitimate legal framework, with the kind of meaningful due process and rights for the accused that could stand up on appeal.” Yet in the same speech — just a few paragraphs later — Obama said, “even when this process is complete, there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States.” So Obama endorsed the idea of indefinite detention without trial for some people he believes to pose a threat.

President Obama says that waterboarding “serve[d] as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and increase[d] the will of our enemies to fight us.” Yet key metrics of the last few years — from the increasing unpopularity of al Qaeda and bin Laden in the Muslim world, to rising sentiment against killing innocent civilians, to key clerics who were once allies of jihadists turning against them — show the appeal of Islamic militancy is waning. The reason, in large part, is because the surge has been succeeding in Iraq and Bush’s polices had terrorists on the run in many parts of the world. Iraq turned out to be the birthplace of the Muslim rise against militant Islam. The way to dampen enthusiasm for terrorists is to defeat them, to turn them into the “weak horse” rather than the “strong horse.” And if Obama had his way while serving in the Senate — he both opposed the surge and declared he would withdraw all American combat troops from Iraq by March 2008 — we would have lost the war. And that loss would have been the greatest jihadist recruitment tool imaginable.

By all accounts, Barack Obama’s personal life is admirable, meaning that in this respect he is completely different from Bill Clinton. But what is becoming increasingly clear is that Obama shares with Clinton the tendency to routinely, almost promiscuously, use straw-men to strengthen his case. He employs smooth and persuasive words which, upon close inspection, are at odds with reality. Deconstructionism might go over well when you’re a professor at an Ivy League school; as President, though, it can eventually get you in trouble.

I commented earlier on President Obama’s national security speech. In reading it over, though, I was struck by something else: the contradiction between what Obama says and what he does. Let’s start with the most obvious: he lectures us against “pointing fingers at one another” — and gives a speech that includes more than two dozen critical comments (direct or implied) against the Bush Administration. For a fellow who constantly speaks about wanting to move forward, Obama spends an awful lot of time looking back. But there is more. President Obama pretends to be providing a quantum break from his predecessor — but, as Charles Krauthammer points out in his column, “Obama has adopted with only minor modifications huge swaths of the entire, allegedly lawless Bush program.”

The president continually made reference to the importance of “transparency” in his speech — yet he will not release enhanced interrogation techniques memoranda showing what information we extracted by using these techniques. Compounding this hypocrisy is Obama feeling no reluctance to release previously classified memos that dealt with the methods of interrogation.

In his speech, Obama argued that President Bush’s anti-terrorism policies did not and, indeed, could not keep this country safe (because, Obama insists, they were at odds with our most fundamental values) — yet Bush’s policies, which in fact were not at odds with our most fundamental values, did exactly that. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, there was an overwhelming consensus that we would be hit again, and probably sooner rather than later. Al Qaeda certainly tried. Yet during the remaining seven-and-a-half years of the Bush presidency, our homeland was kept safe. Such things do not happen by accident.

President Obama spoke about his passionate concern for a “legitimate legal framework, with the kind of meaningful due process and rights for the accused that could stand up on appeal.” Yet in the same speech — just a few paragraphs later — Obama said, “even when this process is complete, there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States.” So Obama endorsed the idea of indefinite detention without trial for some people he believes to pose a threat.

President Obama says that waterboarding “serve[d] as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and increase[d] the will of our enemies to fight us.” Yet key metrics of the last few years — from the increasing unpopularity of al Qaeda and bin Laden in the Muslim world, to rising sentiment against killing innocent civilians, to key clerics who were once allies of jihadists turning against them — show the appeal of Islamic militancy is waning. The reason, in large part, is because the surge has been succeeding in Iraq and Bush’s polices had terrorists on the run in many parts of the world. Iraq turned out to be the birthplace of the Muslim rise against militant Islam. The way to dampen enthusiasm for terrorists is to defeat them, to turn them into the “weak horse” rather than the “strong horse.” And if Obama had his way while serving in the Senate — he both opposed the surge and declared he would withdraw all American combat troops from Iraq by March 2008 — we would have lost the war. And that loss would have been the greatest jihadist recruitment tool imaginable.

By all accounts, Barack Obama’s personal life is admirable, meaning that in this respect he is completely different from Bill Clinton. But what is becoming increasingly clear is that Obama shares with Clinton the tendency to routinely, almost promiscuously, use straw-men to strengthen his case. He employs smooth and persuasive words which, upon close inspection, are at odds with reality. Deconstructionism might go over well when you’re a professor at an Ivy League school; as President, though, it can eventually get you in trouble.

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He Doth Protest too Much

As is his style, Charles Krauthammer cuts to the chase:

If hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue, then the flip-flops on previously denounced anti-terror measures are the homage that Barack Obama pays to George Bush. Within 125 days, Obama has adopted with only minor modifications huge swaths of the entire, allegedly lawless Bush program.

After reviewing all of the Bush anti-terror policies (from state secrets to the Patriot Act to military tribunals) now adopted by Obama with the barest of modifications, Krauthammer concludes: “The Bush policies in the war on terror won’t have to await vindication by historians. Obama is doing it day by day. His denials mean nothing. Look at his deeds.”

And that, more than anything, might explain the oddly purposeless speech yesterday. The president did indeed protest too much, suggesting how much it must pain him (and certainly his disappointed supporters) to concede how much Bush got right. He might disparage the motives of his predecessor — how pedestrian that they should succumb to the urge for self-preservation, he sniffs — but he can’t escape the world in which he must now govern. Just as Bush did, he must find a secure location away from American cities and towns to house the worst-of-the-worst. Just as Bush did, he must find a procedure for processing wartime detainees. Just as Bush, he must avoid defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan. And on and on it goes.

Yes, it must be infuriating to realize the all-purpose bogeyman of the Left had these challenges and more or less got it “right.” So Obama must pout and fuss, try to stomp on the news cycle of his predecessor’s vice president and deny, deny, and deny. But we come back to reality: he is not abandoning Iraq or Afghanistan, has no stand-in for Guantanamo, and isn’t about to risk dismantling the anti-terror architecture that has kept us safe. So all he can do is give a peevish speech complaining that he inherited a “mess.” Well, the “mess” served us well and it’s seemingly going to continue on for sometime.

As is his style, Charles Krauthammer cuts to the chase:

If hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue, then the flip-flops on previously denounced anti-terror measures are the homage that Barack Obama pays to George Bush. Within 125 days, Obama has adopted with only minor modifications huge swaths of the entire, allegedly lawless Bush program.

After reviewing all of the Bush anti-terror policies (from state secrets to the Patriot Act to military tribunals) now adopted by Obama with the barest of modifications, Krauthammer concludes: “The Bush policies in the war on terror won’t have to await vindication by historians. Obama is doing it day by day. His denials mean nothing. Look at his deeds.”

And that, more than anything, might explain the oddly purposeless speech yesterday. The president did indeed protest too much, suggesting how much it must pain him (and certainly his disappointed supporters) to concede how much Bush got right. He might disparage the motives of his predecessor — how pedestrian that they should succumb to the urge for self-preservation, he sniffs — but he can’t escape the world in which he must now govern. Just as Bush did, he must find a secure location away from American cities and towns to house the worst-of-the-worst. Just as Bush did, he must find a procedure for processing wartime detainees. Just as Bush, he must avoid defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan. And on and on it goes.

Yes, it must be infuriating to realize the all-purpose bogeyman of the Left had these challenges and more or less got it “right.” So Obama must pout and fuss, try to stomp on the news cycle of his predecessor’s vice president and deny, deny, and deny. But we come back to reality: he is not abandoning Iraq or Afghanistan, has no stand-in for Guantanamo, and isn’t about to risk dismantling the anti-terror architecture that has kept us safe. So all he can do is give a peevish speech complaining that he inherited a “mess.” Well, the “mess” served us well and it’s seemingly going to continue on for sometime.

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Or they Could Build a New one in the Parking Lot

We learn that someone has discovered the obvious solution to the Guantanamo dilemma that is roiling the administration: re-brand Guantanamo. Fox News reports:

A Guantanamo Bay Version 2.0 may be in the works. . . Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) said Thursday that he is open to keeping a more transparent Guantanamo facility, complete with more aggressive third party monitors, open beyond the White House January 2010 closure deadline to hold the most dangerous inmates.

This is a superficial solution to a superficial PR problem, which seems to be at the root of the administration’s current woes. I’ve joked that they should rename Guantanamo or bring in a Feng Shui expert, but Alcee’s advice isn’t much more than that. Everyone who has been there or knows the details of its operation understands it is a well-run, professional facility. That’s what Eric Holder said, right? So the problem is the nasty PR based on all the misinformation.

So like a new detergent, roll out “the new and improved Guantanamo!” One must pause at the lunacy at work here, and in some sense the passivity of Obama. If his own attorney general contends the facility is a model operation, why not try to change public opinion and explain what Guantanamo is? And if the answer is that the objections and those positing the objections are irrational and not subject to persuasion or evidence, then one has to wonder why we’re jumping through hoops at all.

It is unclear if the idea originated with Hastings or it is a trial balloon from the administration seeking to escape its self-made predicament. If the latter, it would suggest the administration is looking to end its political travails with a superficial solution. It beats a “real” and very misguided one.

We learn that someone has discovered the obvious solution to the Guantanamo dilemma that is roiling the administration: re-brand Guantanamo. Fox News reports:

A Guantanamo Bay Version 2.0 may be in the works. . . Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) said Thursday that he is open to keeping a more transparent Guantanamo facility, complete with more aggressive third party monitors, open beyond the White House January 2010 closure deadline to hold the most dangerous inmates.

This is a superficial solution to a superficial PR problem, which seems to be at the root of the administration’s current woes. I’ve joked that they should rename Guantanamo or bring in a Feng Shui expert, but Alcee’s advice isn’t much more than that. Everyone who has been there or knows the details of its operation understands it is a well-run, professional facility. That’s what Eric Holder said, right? So the problem is the nasty PR based on all the misinformation.

So like a new detergent, roll out “the new and improved Guantanamo!” One must pause at the lunacy at work here, and in some sense the passivity of Obama. If his own attorney general contends the facility is a model operation, why not try to change public opinion and explain what Guantanamo is? And if the answer is that the objections and those positing the objections are irrational and not subject to persuasion or evidence, then one has to wonder why we’re jumping through hoops at all.

It is unclear if the idea originated with Hastings or it is a trial balloon from the administration seeking to escape its self-made predicament. If the latter, it would suggest the administration is looking to end its political travails with a superficial solution. It beats a “real” and very misguided one.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Roger Cohen is now making excuses for Vietnam. Jeffrey Golberg refers to him as the “the John Mearsheimer manque of the New York Times.” But he’s really Chas Freeman-esque: never met a totalitarian regime he couldn’t cozy up to.

In a shocker, the Washington Post endorses underdog Creigh Deeds in the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary, taking a few shots at the likely nominee Terry McAuliffe. “Mr. McAuliffe’s promises have been as expansive as his personality, and he has offered no realistic way to foot the bill. It’s also unclear whether voters will give Mr. McAuliffe a pass for showing no interest in state politics or governance until setting his sights on the governor’s mansion.” You can bet that’s going to show up in an ad or two.

Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mullen sounds the alarm on Iran (and submarines any notion that we can learn to live with the Iranian bomb): “I’m one who believes that Iran getting a nuclear weapon is calamitous for the region and for the world. . . It then, in my view, generates neighbors who feel exposed, deficient and then develop or buy the capability themselves.” He concludes: “The downside, potentially, is absolutely disastrous.”

The DailyKos/Research 200 poll shows the Republican Bob McDonnell leading all three Democratic challengers in Virginia’s gubernatorial race. Survey USA shows a somewhat smaller lead, but with McDonnell similarly ahead of all three.

But don’t they want to know what happened? “House Democrats on Thursday defeated a Republican push to investigate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claims that the CIA misled her in 2002 about whether waterboarding had been used against terrorism suspects. The House voted 252-172 to block the measure that would have created a bipartisan congressional panel. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, sponsored the resolution.” In a word: No.

Yikes: “The U.S. economy will likely start growing again in the second half of this year but unemployment will likely keep rising through 2010 to peak over 10 percent, the Congressional Budget Office said on Thursday.” So much for the stimulus bill keeping unemployment to 8%.

Tim Pawlenty is the un-Schwarzenegger. “Mr. Pawlenty’s hardball has earned him glowing praise from the state’s job creators, in particular small businesses, who are relieved to be spared additional tax burdens in today’s economy. The governor’s message — that it is simply ‘inappropriate’ for state legislators to keep spending like lunatics and raise taxes in a recession — has resonated with cash-strapped voters.” Imagine that.

Another entirely cogent and poised interview performance by Liz Cheney.

It’s such a no-brainer, even Michael Steele is on message: “President Obama needs to stop repeatedly passing the buck by blaming the Bush administration, which kept America safe for the last eight years. . .By continuing to promise the closure of GITMO and allowing terrorists into the United States, President Obama is demonstrating irresponsibility at the highest level.”

The cat’s out of the bag: “Yet for all of his attacks on the Bush Administration, which he accused of making ‘decisions based upon fear rather than foresight,’ Mr. Obama stuck with his predecessor’s support for military commissions, adding some procedural bells and whistles as political cover to justify his past opposition. For the record: Both the left and right, from the ACLU to Dick Cheney, now agree that the President has all but embraced the Bush policy.”

The general gubernatorial election in New Jersey is already underway.

Roger Cohen is now making excuses for Vietnam. Jeffrey Golberg refers to him as the “the John Mearsheimer manque of the New York Times.” But he’s really Chas Freeman-esque: never met a totalitarian regime he couldn’t cozy up to.

In a shocker, the Washington Post endorses underdog Creigh Deeds in the Virginia Democratic gubernatorial primary, taking a few shots at the likely nominee Terry McAuliffe. “Mr. McAuliffe’s promises have been as expansive as his personality, and he has offered no realistic way to foot the bill. It’s also unclear whether voters will give Mr. McAuliffe a pass for showing no interest in state politics or governance until setting his sights on the governor’s mansion.” You can bet that’s going to show up in an ad or two.

Joint Chief of Staff Admiral Mullen sounds the alarm on Iran (and submarines any notion that we can learn to live with the Iranian bomb): “I’m one who believes that Iran getting a nuclear weapon is calamitous for the region and for the world. . . It then, in my view, generates neighbors who feel exposed, deficient and then develop or buy the capability themselves.” He concludes: “The downside, potentially, is absolutely disastrous.”

The DailyKos/Research 200 poll shows the Republican Bob McDonnell leading all three Democratic challengers in Virginia’s gubernatorial race. Survey USA shows a somewhat smaller lead, but with McDonnell similarly ahead of all three.

But don’t they want to know what happened? “House Democrats on Thursday defeated a Republican push to investigate House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claims that the CIA misled her in 2002 about whether waterboarding had been used against terrorism suspects. The House voted 252-172 to block the measure that would have created a bipartisan congressional panel. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, sponsored the resolution.” In a word: No.

Yikes: “The U.S. economy will likely start growing again in the second half of this year but unemployment will likely keep rising through 2010 to peak over 10 percent, the Congressional Budget Office said on Thursday.” So much for the stimulus bill keeping unemployment to 8%.

Tim Pawlenty is the un-Schwarzenegger. “Mr. Pawlenty’s hardball has earned him glowing praise from the state’s job creators, in particular small businesses, who are relieved to be spared additional tax burdens in today’s economy. The governor’s message — that it is simply ‘inappropriate’ for state legislators to keep spending like lunatics and raise taxes in a recession — has resonated with cash-strapped voters.” Imagine that.

Another entirely cogent and poised interview performance by Liz Cheney.

It’s such a no-brainer, even Michael Steele is on message: “President Obama needs to stop repeatedly passing the buck by blaming the Bush administration, which kept America safe for the last eight years. . .By continuing to promise the closure of GITMO and allowing terrorists into the United States, President Obama is demonstrating irresponsibility at the highest level.”

The cat’s out of the bag: “Yet for all of his attacks on the Bush Administration, which he accused of making ‘decisions based upon fear rather than foresight,’ Mr. Obama stuck with his predecessor’s support for military commissions, adding some procedural bells and whistles as political cover to justify his past opposition. For the record: Both the left and right, from the ACLU to Dick Cheney, now agree that the President has all but embraced the Bush policy.”

The general gubernatorial election in New Jersey is already underway.

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