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Posts For: July 5, 2009

Did Biden Make News or a Mega-Gaffe?

With Joe Biden you never know if he is speaking out of school (i.e., candidly revealing what is administration policy) or just making stuff up. On the Sunday circuit he seemed to give Israel the go-ahead to strike Iran:

Israel has the right to determine its own course of action with regard to the Iranian nuclear threat regardless of what the Obama administration chooses to do, Biden told ABC reporter George Stephanopoulos.

When asked whether the Obama administration would restrain Israeli military action against Iran, Biden responded:
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“Israel can determine for itself — it’s a sovereign nation — what’s in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else.”

Stephanaopoulos posed the question three times, and each time Biden repeated that Israel was free to choose its actions.

“If the Netanyahu government decides to take a course of action different than the one being pursued now, that is their sovereign right to do that. That is not our choice.”

Well that would be a big shift from Obama’s Cairo speech, in which he declared that no one country could determine if another could acquire nuclear weapons. Is Obama now allowing Israel to be the world’s nuclear watchdog while he assumes some grand position of neutrality, sitting above the fray and unwilling to assert American military power even if facing a nuclear-armed Iran? Perhaps. That would be quite a timid stance, a retreat from America’s historic role as leader and defender of the Free World. But if he’s not going to do it himself, it is a good thing indeed to signal that Israel can defend itself and the rest of the region.

With Joe Biden you never know if he is speaking out of school (i.e., candidly revealing what is administration policy) or just making stuff up. On the Sunday circuit he seemed to give Israel the go-ahead to strike Iran:

Israel has the right to determine its own course of action with regard to the Iranian nuclear threat regardless of what the Obama administration chooses to do, Biden told ABC reporter George Stephanopoulos.

When asked whether the Obama administration would restrain Israeli military action against Iran, Biden responded:
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“Israel can determine for itself — it’s a sovereign nation — what’s in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else.”

Stephanaopoulos posed the question three times, and each time Biden repeated that Israel was free to choose its actions.

“If the Netanyahu government decides to take a course of action different than the one being pursued now, that is their sovereign right to do that. That is not our choice.”

Well that would be a big shift from Obama’s Cairo speech, in which he declared that no one country could determine if another could acquire nuclear weapons. Is Obama now allowing Israel to be the world’s nuclear watchdog while he assumes some grand position of neutrality, sitting above the fray and unwilling to assert American military power even if facing a nuclear-armed Iran? Perhaps. That would be quite a timid stance, a retreat from America’s historic role as leader and defender of the Free World. But if he’s not going to do it himself, it is a good thing indeed to signal that Israel can defend itself and the rest of the region.

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The Worst of all Worlds

The Washington Post editors, who generally have cheered climate change legislation, sound quite queasy about the cap-and-trade bill that squeaked through in the House. In particular, the editors are afraid of setting off a trade war with the tariff on countries which haven’t been so foolish as to hobble their own economics with the sort of “mandates, subsidies, and regulations” that Congress saw fit to pass. They write:

Even talk of tariffs sends exactly the wrong signal to skittish trading partners during a global downturn. Now is not the time to invite a trade war.

Are the tariffs’ extra layer of protection worth the risk? It is if you’re an American union boss. The rebate-tariff regime looks like yet another Waxman-Markey sop that the bill’s backers added to ensure its passage. We hope that the Senate, where the action is now, has the sense to remove the tariff provision, fix its trade compensation scheme and scale back the bill’s other excesses.

Yes, and what about those “other excesses”?

Granted legislation is the art of compromise but this one seems to have incorporated the worst elements from every special interest group, thus rendering the bill both economically disastrous and ineffective in its goal of limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Tariffs for Big Labor. Off-sets and free carbon permits for business (thereby nixing the incentive to create those “green” jobs). And plenty of taxes and mandates for Midwestern employers (“polluters,” the president calls them). There is plenty for everyone to hate. What is missing is a coherent scheme that meets its drafters’ stated purpose. Oh, and anything that is likely to produces those “jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs,” which Speaker Pelosi promised us.

The Washington Post editors, who generally have cheered climate change legislation, sound quite queasy about the cap-and-trade bill that squeaked through in the House. In particular, the editors are afraid of setting off a trade war with the tariff on countries which haven’t been so foolish as to hobble their own economics with the sort of “mandates, subsidies, and regulations” that Congress saw fit to pass. They write:

Even talk of tariffs sends exactly the wrong signal to skittish trading partners during a global downturn. Now is not the time to invite a trade war.

Are the tariffs’ extra layer of protection worth the risk? It is if you’re an American union boss. The rebate-tariff regime looks like yet another Waxman-Markey sop that the bill’s backers added to ensure its passage. We hope that the Senate, where the action is now, has the sense to remove the tariff provision, fix its trade compensation scheme and scale back the bill’s other excesses.

Yes, and what about those “other excesses”?

Granted legislation is the art of compromise but this one seems to have incorporated the worst elements from every special interest group, thus rendering the bill both economically disastrous and ineffective in its goal of limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Tariffs for Big Labor. Off-sets and free carbon permits for business (thereby nixing the incentive to create those “green” jobs). And plenty of taxes and mandates for Midwestern employers (“polluters,” the president calls them). There is plenty for everyone to hate. What is missing is a coherent scheme that meets its drafters’ stated purpose. Oh, and anything that is likely to produces those “jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs,” which Speaker Pelosi promised us.

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It’s the Policy, Not Just the Message

Mickey Kaus writes:

It’s seemed to me that the Obama administration has made a mistake in the framing of the health care issue: “We’ll raise your taxes and in exchange we’re going to cut your treatments.” I mean, how could that not have widespread appeal? It’s pain/pain!

Yes, but that is the nature of what the Obama administration and those pushing for a government-controlled healthcare system are advocating. It isn’t easy to disguise what you are up to when the stakes are so high. (Well, they did for a while with the mumbo-jumbo about healthcare reform paying for itself, but that wasn’t going to hold up very long.) It is going to require massive taxes and it is going to result in rationed care. At least, if they get their way in Congress.

Instead, the Left could work on the cost-control side of health care on the theory that healthcare access is really an affordability problem. But that’s not what the Ted Kennedy/Barack Obama dream of universal coverage is all about. There’s no liberal glory in declaring that by removing barriers to competition, healthcare insurance rates will fall X percent and consequently, X percent more Americans can choose to buy insurance that was previously unaffordable. Too much free market! Too Republican.

They could try to shift the country from an employer-based health-care insurance system to an individual-purchased system, thereby working on the portability and the cost problems. But again, these people aren’t after some pale imitation of what John McCain and CATO have been peddling. They want the credit for delivering healthcare to the masses.

So I think it’s more than a marketing problem; it’s a policy problem. You can’t get to a government-centric healthcare system (what liberals want) without spending gobs of money (to be paid for either by borrowing or by taxation) and then being forced to limit the gobs of money by rationing the benefits. That has been the experience in Canada and western European countries. So if that sounds unappealing — and it is — then it’s time for a new policy, not just a new message. But alas, I see no sign that the president or the Congress want to abandon their “pain/pain” approach.

Mickey Kaus writes:

It’s seemed to me that the Obama administration has made a mistake in the framing of the health care issue: “We’ll raise your taxes and in exchange we’re going to cut your treatments.” I mean, how could that not have widespread appeal? It’s pain/pain!

Yes, but that is the nature of what the Obama administration and those pushing for a government-controlled healthcare system are advocating. It isn’t easy to disguise what you are up to when the stakes are so high. (Well, they did for a while with the mumbo-jumbo about healthcare reform paying for itself, but that wasn’t going to hold up very long.) It is going to require massive taxes and it is going to result in rationed care. At least, if they get their way in Congress.

Instead, the Left could work on the cost-control side of health care on the theory that healthcare access is really an affordability problem. But that’s not what the Ted Kennedy/Barack Obama dream of universal coverage is all about. There’s no liberal glory in declaring that by removing barriers to competition, healthcare insurance rates will fall X percent and consequently, X percent more Americans can choose to buy insurance that was previously unaffordable. Too much free market! Too Republican.

They could try to shift the country from an employer-based health-care insurance system to an individual-purchased system, thereby working on the portability and the cost problems. But again, these people aren’t after some pale imitation of what John McCain and CATO have been peddling. They want the credit for delivering healthcare to the masses.

So I think it’s more than a marketing problem; it’s a policy problem. You can’t get to a government-centric healthcare system (what liberals want) without spending gobs of money (to be paid for either by borrowing or by taxation) and then being forced to limit the gobs of money by rationing the benefits. That has been the experience in Canada and western European countries. So if that sounds unappealing — and it is — then it’s time for a new policy, not just a new message. But alas, I see no sign that the president or the Congress want to abandon their “pain/pain” approach.

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Obama Has Gotten It Wrong for Twenty-Five Years

Those who suspect the president is engaged in a bit of dangerous self-delusion and denial about certain unpleasant realities regarding the threats from rogue states won’t be heartened to read that his current non-proliferation fetish stems, at least according to the New York Times, from his college infatuation with the nuclear freeze movement. Apparently, youthful Obama did not focus on the results from Ronald Reagan’s refusal to buy into the fantasies of liberals –namely the fall of the Soviet Empire. That lesson has entirely eluded now-president Obama. Is it any wonder his critics find his posture fraught with peril and entirely out-of-touch with the threats we face?

As the Times reports:

“This is dangerous, wishful thinking,” Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, and Richard Perle, an architect of the Reagan-era nuclear buildup that appalled Mr. Obama as an undergraduate, wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal. They contend that Mr. Obama is, indeed, a naïf for assuming that “the nuclear ambitions of Kim Jong-il or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be curtailed or abandoned in response to reductions in the American and Russian deterrent forces.”

In the interview, the president described his agenda as the best way to move forward in a turbulent world.
“It’s naïve for us to think,” he said, “that we can grow our nuclear stockpiles, the Russians continue to grow their nuclear stockpiles, and our allies grow their nuclear stockpiles, and that in that environment we’re going to be able to pressure countries like Iran and North Korea not to pursue nuclear weapons themselves.”

But what is naïve, of course, is to think that Iran and North Korea will be impressed by our disarmament efforts. No consideration is given, just as none was given by the nuclear freeze crowd a generation ago, to the possibility that disarmament will only embolden our adversaries and confuse our allies. But apparently Obama’s worldview has not matured much since his Columbia days:

Mr. Obama’s journalistic voice was edgy with disdain for what he called “the relentless, often silent spread of militarism in the country” amid “the growing threat of war.” The two groups, he wrote, “visualizing the possibilities of destruction and grasping the tendencies of distorted national priorities, are throwing their weight into shifting America off the dead-end track.”

So little has changed. President Obama, like college student Obama, still fails to grasp the moral and political dimensions of the struggle we are involved in, still lacks any appreciation for the nature of totalitarian despots and of the motives compelling them to seek nuclear weapons. He is still fixated on the notion that weakness can resolve international threats. Unfortunately, the consequences for student Obama were not potentially fatal to his country. The reality is different today. As the Times notes:

Critics argue that the North Koreas of the world will simply defy the ban — and that the international community will fail to punish offenders.

“If the implications were not so serious, the discrepancy between Mr. Obama’s plans and real-world conditions would be hilarious,” said Frank J. Gaffney Jr., a Reagan-era Pentagon official who directs the Center for Security Policy, a private group in Washington. “There is only one country on earth that Team Obama can absolutely, positively denuclearize: Ours.”

And really, what excuse is there for Obama’s ludicrous worldview? Unlike student Obama, President Obama knows how the Cold War ended. And it wasn’t by disarming America.

Those who suspect the president is engaged in a bit of dangerous self-delusion and denial about certain unpleasant realities regarding the threats from rogue states won’t be heartened to read that his current non-proliferation fetish stems, at least according to the New York Times, from his college infatuation with the nuclear freeze movement. Apparently, youthful Obama did not focus on the results from Ronald Reagan’s refusal to buy into the fantasies of liberals –namely the fall of the Soviet Empire. That lesson has entirely eluded now-president Obama. Is it any wonder his critics find his posture fraught with peril and entirely out-of-touch with the threats we face?

As the Times reports:

“This is dangerous, wishful thinking,” Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, and Richard Perle, an architect of the Reagan-era nuclear buildup that appalled Mr. Obama as an undergraduate, wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal. They contend that Mr. Obama is, indeed, a naïf for assuming that “the nuclear ambitions of Kim Jong-il or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be curtailed or abandoned in response to reductions in the American and Russian deterrent forces.”

In the interview, the president described his agenda as the best way to move forward in a turbulent world.
“It’s naïve for us to think,” he said, “that we can grow our nuclear stockpiles, the Russians continue to grow their nuclear stockpiles, and our allies grow their nuclear stockpiles, and that in that environment we’re going to be able to pressure countries like Iran and North Korea not to pursue nuclear weapons themselves.”

But what is naïve, of course, is to think that Iran and North Korea will be impressed by our disarmament efforts. No consideration is given, just as none was given by the nuclear freeze crowd a generation ago, to the possibility that disarmament will only embolden our adversaries and confuse our allies. But apparently Obama’s worldview has not matured much since his Columbia days:

Mr. Obama’s journalistic voice was edgy with disdain for what he called “the relentless, often silent spread of militarism in the country” amid “the growing threat of war.” The two groups, he wrote, “visualizing the possibilities of destruction and grasping the tendencies of distorted national priorities, are throwing their weight into shifting America off the dead-end track.”

So little has changed. President Obama, like college student Obama, still fails to grasp the moral and political dimensions of the struggle we are involved in, still lacks any appreciation for the nature of totalitarian despots and of the motives compelling them to seek nuclear weapons. He is still fixated on the notion that weakness can resolve international threats. Unfortunately, the consequences for student Obama were not potentially fatal to his country. The reality is different today. As the Times notes:

Critics argue that the North Koreas of the world will simply defy the ban — and that the international community will fail to punish offenders.

“If the implications were not so serious, the discrepancy between Mr. Obama’s plans and real-world conditions would be hilarious,” said Frank J. Gaffney Jr., a Reagan-era Pentagon official who directs the Center for Security Policy, a private group in Washington. “There is only one country on earth that Team Obama can absolutely, positively denuclearize: Ours.”

And really, what excuse is there for Obama’s ludicrous worldview? Unlike student Obama, President Obama knows how the Cold War ended. And it wasn’t by disarming America.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

So much for “clearing the field” in the Senate race in New York: “Rep. Charles Rangel defended colleague Carolyn Maloney’s right to take on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and lashed out anew at President Obama for butting into New York’s Democratic primary.”

From the “elections have consequences” file, John McCain on the 4th of July: “Today, we stand with the millions of Iranians who brave batons, imprisonment and gunfire to have their voices heard and their votes counted. They do not ask us to arm them or come to their assistance with anything other than public declarations of solidarity, and public denunciations of the tyrants who oppress them. We have a moral obligation to do so.” Nor does he buy the “we’ll just get blamed for meddling” excuse. “But the regime will make that claim no matter what we say or do. Do they really believe Iranians don’t know why they’re protesting and who is oppressing them? ” The rest — an unabashed tribute to the greatness and rightness of America and our international responsibilities — should be read in full.

Marc Ambinder has it all figured out, you see. Sarah Palin wants to be invited to Washington parties. I’m sure the Beagle Blogger is impressed with that sort of insight.

Now that Obama is in office, the Washington Post editors decry Congress for seeking to “tie the president’s hands” on Guantanamo. So now an all-powerful chief executive freed from any legislative meddling is a good thing?

Jamie Fly has some sober analysis on Russia-U.S. relations: “The Russians are savvy negotiators. The same cannot be said of Team Obama. President Obama has responded to Russian bluster about missile defense by announcing his intention to cut the missile defense budget by 15 percent in FY2010, slashing funding for construction of the European sites in Poland and the Czech Republic by 80 percent, and appointing a leading Congressional skeptic of the European sites, Rep. Ellen Tauscher, who has accused her opponents of ‘running around with their hair on fire about a long range threat from Iran that does not exist,’ as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, the top State Department official tasked with advancing missile defense discussions with Russia and our European allies.These actions, combined with the administration’s seeming lack of interest in confronting Russia on human rights and other ‘uncomfortable’ topics do not leave the Obama administration with a good negotiating hand.”

Minority Leader John Boehner must be doing something right if the New York Times is complaining about his “bag of tricks.” That means he is using every rule available and some good old-fashioned theatrics to call attention to the worst aspects of the far-Left agenda that Obama and the House Democrats are pushing.

Who can blame the Iraqis who “bristled at the messenger” (i.e., VP Joe Biden): “Biden is well-known in Iraq for his earlier support of a plan to give three-way autonomy to each major ethnic group – Sunni Arab, Shiite Arab and Kurd – under a central government. . .Mohammed Kathem, 40, an administrator, said many of the protesters hit the streets after an imam encouraged them to do so at Friday prayers. ‘Biden’s visit sent the signal to us that Iraq will be divided,’ he said. ‘Biden’s background doesn’t allow him to play any role in reconciliation.'” Really, of all the people to send, doesn’t the choice of Biden show an appalling lack of sensitivity to our Iraqi friends?

So much for “clearing the field” in the Senate race in New York: “Rep. Charles Rangel defended colleague Carolyn Maloney’s right to take on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and lashed out anew at President Obama for butting into New York’s Democratic primary.”

From the “elections have consequences” file, John McCain on the 4th of July: “Today, we stand with the millions of Iranians who brave batons, imprisonment and gunfire to have their voices heard and their votes counted. They do not ask us to arm them or come to their assistance with anything other than public declarations of solidarity, and public denunciations of the tyrants who oppress them. We have a moral obligation to do so.” Nor does he buy the “we’ll just get blamed for meddling” excuse. “But the regime will make that claim no matter what we say or do. Do they really believe Iranians don’t know why they’re protesting and who is oppressing them? ” The rest — an unabashed tribute to the greatness and rightness of America and our international responsibilities — should be read in full.

Marc Ambinder has it all figured out, you see. Sarah Palin wants to be invited to Washington parties. I’m sure the Beagle Blogger is impressed with that sort of insight.

Now that Obama is in office, the Washington Post editors decry Congress for seeking to “tie the president’s hands” on Guantanamo. So now an all-powerful chief executive freed from any legislative meddling is a good thing?

Jamie Fly has some sober analysis on Russia-U.S. relations: “The Russians are savvy negotiators. The same cannot be said of Team Obama. President Obama has responded to Russian bluster about missile defense by announcing his intention to cut the missile defense budget by 15 percent in FY2010, slashing funding for construction of the European sites in Poland and the Czech Republic by 80 percent, and appointing a leading Congressional skeptic of the European sites, Rep. Ellen Tauscher, who has accused her opponents of ‘running around with their hair on fire about a long range threat from Iran that does not exist,’ as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, the top State Department official tasked with advancing missile defense discussions with Russia and our European allies.These actions, combined with the administration’s seeming lack of interest in confronting Russia on human rights and other ‘uncomfortable’ topics do not leave the Obama administration with a good negotiating hand.”

Minority Leader John Boehner must be doing something right if the New York Times is complaining about his “bag of tricks.” That means he is using every rule available and some good old-fashioned theatrics to call attention to the worst aspects of the far-Left agenda that Obama and the House Democrats are pushing.

Who can blame the Iraqis who “bristled at the messenger” (i.e., VP Joe Biden): “Biden is well-known in Iraq for his earlier support of a plan to give three-way autonomy to each major ethnic group – Sunni Arab, Shiite Arab and Kurd – under a central government. . .Mohammed Kathem, 40, an administrator, said many of the protesters hit the streets after an imam encouraged them to do so at Friday prayers. ‘Biden’s visit sent the signal to us that Iraq will be divided,’ he said. ‘Biden’s background doesn’t allow him to play any role in reconciliation.'” Really, of all the people to send, doesn’t the choice of Biden show an appalling lack of sensitivity to our Iraqi friends?

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