Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 7, 2009

Linkage Alright

First we hear that the Saudis wouldn’t be chagrined by an Israeli strike on Iran. Now we hear, although not much reported or remarked upon over the holiday weekend (h/t TNR):

An Israeli submarine sailed the Suez Canal to the Red Sea as part of a naval drill last month, defense sources said on Friday, describing the unusual maneuver as a show of strategic reach in the face of Iran.

[. . .]

A defense source said the Israeli navy held an exercise off Eilat last month and that a Dolphin took part, having traveled to the Red Sea port though Suez. Israel has a naval base at Eilat, a 10-km (6-mile) strip of coast between Egypt and Jordan, but officials say it has no submarine dock there.

“This was definitely a departure from policy,” said the source, who declined to give further details on the drill or say whether the Dolphin had undergone Egyptian inspections in the canal, through which the submarine sailed unsubmerged.

This might be a wake-up call to Tehran:

Another Israeli defense source with extensive naval experience said the drill “showed that we can far more easily access the Indian Ocean, and the Gulf, than before.”

But the source added: “If indeed our subs are capable of doing to Iran what they are believed to be capable of doing, then surely this is a capability that can be put into action from the Mediterranean?”

It looks as though Hillary Clinton and the president have had the “linkage” concept backward, as some of us have long argued. In their book, an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement was the price to be paid for Arab co-operation with Israel on the Iranian threat. But that seems not to be the case. In fact, the Arab states and Israel have a common objective in limiting Iranian hegemony in the region, curtailing Iranian support for terrorist groups, and preventing Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. And all sorts of co-ordination and productive mutual defense activities seem to be proceeding while Obama continues his search for the key to unlock that magical “peace process” (and for the Grand Bargain with the mullahs).

Iran, contrary to the Clinton-Obama view, has become a motivating factor for Israel and the Arab states to leave aside the non-existent “peace process” and deal with something far more critical — an existential threat to the region. And once again, just as on the response to the Iranian uprising, America seems to be trailing or playing the role of a mute bystander, rather than leading the international response.

First we hear that the Saudis wouldn’t be chagrined by an Israeli strike on Iran. Now we hear, although not much reported or remarked upon over the holiday weekend (h/t TNR):

An Israeli submarine sailed the Suez Canal to the Red Sea as part of a naval drill last month, defense sources said on Friday, describing the unusual maneuver as a show of strategic reach in the face of Iran.

[. . .]

A defense source said the Israeli navy held an exercise off Eilat last month and that a Dolphin took part, having traveled to the Red Sea port though Suez. Israel has a naval base at Eilat, a 10-km (6-mile) strip of coast between Egypt and Jordan, but officials say it has no submarine dock there.

“This was definitely a departure from policy,” said the source, who declined to give further details on the drill or say whether the Dolphin had undergone Egyptian inspections in the canal, through which the submarine sailed unsubmerged.

This might be a wake-up call to Tehran:

Another Israeli defense source with extensive naval experience said the drill “showed that we can far more easily access the Indian Ocean, and the Gulf, than before.”

But the source added: “If indeed our subs are capable of doing to Iran what they are believed to be capable of doing, then surely this is a capability that can be put into action from the Mediterranean?”

It looks as though Hillary Clinton and the president have had the “linkage” concept backward, as some of us have long argued. In their book, an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement was the price to be paid for Arab co-operation with Israel on the Iranian threat. But that seems not to be the case. In fact, the Arab states and Israel have a common objective in limiting Iranian hegemony in the region, curtailing Iranian support for terrorist groups, and preventing Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. And all sorts of co-ordination and productive mutual defense activities seem to be proceeding while Obama continues his search for the key to unlock that magical “peace process” (and for the Grand Bargain with the mullahs).

Iran, contrary to the Clinton-Obama view, has become a motivating factor for Israel and the Arab states to leave aside the non-existent “peace process” and deal with something far more critical — an existential threat to the region. And once again, just as on the response to the Iranian uprising, America seems to be trailing or playing the role of a mute bystander, rather than leading the international response.

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Oh, Yes, the Economy

While in Russia, Obama not only had to walk back Joe Biden’s comments on Iran, he also had to try dampening the furor over Biden’s remarks about the stimulus. Dan Balz writes:

Vice President Biden opened the door to questions on Sunday, telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, “We and everyone else misread the economy.” But he insisted that the stimulus applied “is the right package given the circumstances we’re in.”

Obama, in Moscow, tried to modulate the impact of the vice president’s words that the administration had somehow miscalculated. “No, no, no, no, no,” he told NBC’s Chuck Todd. “Rather than say misread, we had incomplete information.” To ABC’s Jake Tapper, he said, “There’s nothing that we would have done differently. We needed a stimulus and we needed a substantial stimulus.”

What both Obama and Biden were trying to explain away was the dissonance between their early assurances that the big stimulus package would hold the unemployment rate to around 8 percent with Thursday’s report showing it at 9.5 percent. The jobless rate is expected to rise further in the months to come, with some economists projecting that it will go above 10 percent for the first time since 1982.

It is hard to square an assessment that the administration underestimated the severity of the recession and the assertion that the White House wouldn’t have done anything different had it known how bad things really were.

The real problem for Obama is not his loose-lipped VP. It is the soaring unemployment rate and the sense, even among Democrats, as Balz notes, that “Obama and his team may have taken their eye off the economy, that they are not sufficiently vigilant in making sure that they produce the job growth they have promised since January.”

Well, when in doubt, why not more of the same? Yes, the buzz has started that we need a second stimulus. But the public thinks Congress has wasted quite enough of their money on the first one:

Sixty percent (60%) of U.S. voters now oppose the passage of a second economic stimulus plan this year, a five-point increase in opposition since the issue was first raised in March. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 27% of voters favor a new stimulus plan, unchanged from the earlier findings.

Perhaps the economy will rebound on its own, although the legislation for cap-and-trade and a round of new taxes to pay for a government take-over of health care may further spook investors and employers. (Small businesses are already up in arms about cap-and-trade.) The solution to our continued economic woes and their political consequences are not apparent. Having blown a trillion dollars for no discernible benefit, the president and Congress now must tough it out and face an increasingly worried electorate.

While in Russia, Obama not only had to walk back Joe Biden’s comments on Iran, he also had to try dampening the furor over Biden’s remarks about the stimulus. Dan Balz writes:

Vice President Biden opened the door to questions on Sunday, telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, “We and everyone else misread the economy.” But he insisted that the stimulus applied “is the right package given the circumstances we’re in.”

Obama, in Moscow, tried to modulate the impact of the vice president’s words that the administration had somehow miscalculated. “No, no, no, no, no,” he told NBC’s Chuck Todd. “Rather than say misread, we had incomplete information.” To ABC’s Jake Tapper, he said, “There’s nothing that we would have done differently. We needed a stimulus and we needed a substantial stimulus.”

What both Obama and Biden were trying to explain away was the dissonance between their early assurances that the big stimulus package would hold the unemployment rate to around 8 percent with Thursday’s report showing it at 9.5 percent. The jobless rate is expected to rise further in the months to come, with some economists projecting that it will go above 10 percent for the first time since 1982.

It is hard to square an assessment that the administration underestimated the severity of the recession and the assertion that the White House wouldn’t have done anything different had it known how bad things really were.

The real problem for Obama is not his loose-lipped VP. It is the soaring unemployment rate and the sense, even among Democrats, as Balz notes, that “Obama and his team may have taken their eye off the economy, that they are not sufficiently vigilant in making sure that they produce the job growth they have promised since January.”

Well, when in doubt, why not more of the same? Yes, the buzz has started that we need a second stimulus. But the public thinks Congress has wasted quite enough of their money on the first one:

Sixty percent (60%) of U.S. voters now oppose the passage of a second economic stimulus plan this year, a five-point increase in opposition since the issue was first raised in March. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 27% of voters favor a new stimulus plan, unchanged from the earlier findings.

Perhaps the economy will rebound on its own, although the legislation for cap-and-trade and a round of new taxes to pay for a government take-over of health care may further spook investors and employers. (Small businesses are already up in arms about cap-and-trade.) The solution to our continued economic woes and their political consequences are not apparent. Having blown a trillion dollars for no discernible benefit, the president and Congress now must tough it out and face an increasingly worried electorate.

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Honduras and a Short History of Intervention

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the first military intervention of the Obama administration were to occur in, of all places, Honduras? Unlikely, I admit, but not impossible. Young Democratic presidents with scant foreign-policy experience usually feel a need to demonstrate their willingness to use force early on. Think of JFK and the Bay of Bigs. Or, more to the point, recall Clinton and Haiti. In 1994, Cinton sent in troops to restore president Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power after he had been ousted by a military coup.

Sound familiar? In Haiti our intervention didn’t work out so well. Aristide, although elected, turned out to be no democrat and not an enlightened despot either. The country continued to become poorer and more chaotic. He was ultimately ousted in another coup in 2004. This time, President Bush was wise enough to give Aristide a lift out of the country — not to force him back into power.

Let us hope Obama learns a lesson in all this about the dangers of American intervention in another nation’s internal affairs — something he is keenly aware of when it comes to Iran. But he seems much less reticent about interfering with Israel’s internal affairs or Honduras’s.

He and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been loudly denouncing the illegality of the coup which toppled President Manuel Zelaya. The legality of what happened is, however, murky. The army claimed it was simply enforcing a Supreme Court warrant by arresting and exiling Zelaya. It would have been better if the president had been impeached or placed on trial so he could mount a legal defense, but the anti-Zelaya side makes good points about the illegality of the president’s own actions.

There was nothing legal about Zelaya’s attempts to stage a rigged referendum to allow him to continue in power in contravention of a Honduran Supreme Court decision. He was plainly maneuvering in the style of his patron, Hugo Chavez, to extend his power by forceful means, thereby keeping the shell of electoral democracy but hollowing out its core.

It is a complex situation and hard to make the case that the U.S. should employ its power or prestige to force Zelaya back into power. By all means the U.S. should act as an honest broker to help all sides reach an accommodation if possible and, even if not, to get the electoral process fully functional again. Obama, Clinton, et al. should certainly express American support for democracy — which means the rule of law, not simply regular balloting. Military coups are no longer the biggest threat to Latin democracy. Now it’s leftist demagogues who repress the opposition and accumulate power in their own hands after being elected. That is precisely the danger that many in Honduras saw descending on their own country.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the first military intervention of the Obama administration were to occur in, of all places, Honduras? Unlikely, I admit, but not impossible. Young Democratic presidents with scant foreign-policy experience usually feel a need to demonstrate their willingness to use force early on. Think of JFK and the Bay of Bigs. Or, more to the point, recall Clinton and Haiti. In 1994, Cinton sent in troops to restore president Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power after he had been ousted by a military coup.

Sound familiar? In Haiti our intervention didn’t work out so well. Aristide, although elected, turned out to be no democrat and not an enlightened despot either. The country continued to become poorer and more chaotic. He was ultimately ousted in another coup in 2004. This time, President Bush was wise enough to give Aristide a lift out of the country — not to force him back into power.

Let us hope Obama learns a lesson in all this about the dangers of American intervention in another nation’s internal affairs — something he is keenly aware of when it comes to Iran. But he seems much less reticent about interfering with Israel’s internal affairs or Honduras’s.

He and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been loudly denouncing the illegality of the coup which toppled President Manuel Zelaya. The legality of what happened is, however, murky. The army claimed it was simply enforcing a Supreme Court warrant by arresting and exiling Zelaya. It would have been better if the president had been impeached or placed on trial so he could mount a legal defense, but the anti-Zelaya side makes good points about the illegality of the president’s own actions.

There was nothing legal about Zelaya’s attempts to stage a rigged referendum to allow him to continue in power in contravention of a Honduran Supreme Court decision. He was plainly maneuvering in the style of his patron, Hugo Chavez, to extend his power by forceful means, thereby keeping the shell of electoral democracy but hollowing out its core.

It is a complex situation and hard to make the case that the U.S. should employ its power or prestige to force Zelaya back into power. By all means the U.S. should act as an honest broker to help all sides reach an accommodation if possible and, even if not, to get the electoral process fully functional again. Obama, Clinton, et al. should certainly express American support for democracy — which means the rule of law, not simply regular balloting. Military coups are no longer the biggest threat to Latin democracy. Now it’s leftist demagogues who repress the opposition and accumulate power in their own hands after being elected. That is precisely the danger that many in Honduras saw descending on their own country.

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Gaffe, It Is

We had some spirited speculation as to whether Joe Biden was test-driving a new administration position on Israel on a potential military strike against Iran or merely speaking out of school. It is the latter.

CNN reports:

The United States is “absolutely not” giving Israel a green light to attack Iran, U.S. President Barack Obama told CNN Tuesday.

President Obama meets Tuesday with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin near Moscow.

“We have said directly to the Israelis that it is important to try and resolve this in an international setting in a way that does not create major conflict in the Middle East,” Obama said, referring to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Did Biden say something he shouldn’t have? The president gives a terse response and the State Department essentially says “yes”:

“I think Vice President Biden stated a categorical fact, which is we can’t dictate to other countries what their security interests are. What is also true is that it is the policy of the United States to resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear capabilities in a peaceful way through diplomatic channels,” [Obama] said.

The State Department took a similar line on Monday.

“Our goal here is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. When I say ‘our’ it is just not the United States — it is the international community,” spokesman Ian Kelly said. “Israel is a sovereign country. We are not going to dictate its actions. We also are committed to Israel’s security and we share Israel’s deep concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.”
Asked if this could be interpreted as the United States flashing a green light for Israel to attack Iran’s nuclear sites, Kelly said, “I certainly would not want to give a green light to any kind of military action.”

While it would be nice to think the Obama administration is maturing in its outlook on Iran and recognizes the utility of at least the threat of a military strike, it seems such optimism would be unfounded. And once again, one can never go wrong betting that Biden has wandered off the talking points and into a verbal minefield.

We had some spirited speculation as to whether Joe Biden was test-driving a new administration position on Israel on a potential military strike against Iran or merely speaking out of school. It is the latter.

CNN reports:

The United States is “absolutely not” giving Israel a green light to attack Iran, U.S. President Barack Obama told CNN Tuesday.

President Obama meets Tuesday with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin near Moscow.

“We have said directly to the Israelis that it is important to try and resolve this in an international setting in a way that does not create major conflict in the Middle East,” Obama said, referring to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Did Biden say something he shouldn’t have? The president gives a terse response and the State Department essentially says “yes”:

“I think Vice President Biden stated a categorical fact, which is we can’t dictate to other countries what their security interests are. What is also true is that it is the policy of the United States to resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear capabilities in a peaceful way through diplomatic channels,” [Obama] said.

The State Department took a similar line on Monday.

“Our goal here is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. When I say ‘our’ it is just not the United States — it is the international community,” spokesman Ian Kelly said. “Israel is a sovereign country. We are not going to dictate its actions. We also are committed to Israel’s security and we share Israel’s deep concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.”
Asked if this could be interpreted as the United States flashing a green light for Israel to attack Iran’s nuclear sites, Kelly said, “I certainly would not want to give a green light to any kind of military action.”

While it would be nice to think the Obama administration is maturing in its outlook on Iran and recognizes the utility of at least the threat of a military strike, it seems such optimism would be unfounded. And once again, one can never go wrong betting that Biden has wandered off the talking points and into a verbal minefield.

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UN Turns off Lights, Pretends to Sleep

Less than a month after U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said that the UN Security Council was working on a resolution “with teeth that will bite in North Korea,” the Kim regime tested a battery of proscribed short- and medium-range missiles. So much for the teeth. How did the Security Council respond this time? It “condemned” the action, naturally. But, of course, the real concern of the “international community” isn’t the nuclear braggadocio of a rogue regime; it’s the mortal fear that another country might attempt to inhibit the mad brinkmanship of Kim Jong Il:

The council appealed to all countries in the region to refrain from “any action” that could escalate tensions, Ruhakana Rugunda, the Ugandan ambassador who serves as the council’s acting president, told reporters after a special meeting of the council today in New York.

Wherever you turn today, the free world is allowing bad actors to define the rules of the game and call the shots. In Latin America, Hugo Chavez signs off on Manuel Zelaya’s assault on Honduran democracy and the American administration concurs. In the Middle East, the Iranian regime murders civil protesters and tells us to butt out, so we do. In the Pacific, Kim Jong Il says that a sneeze will be considered an act of war, so the UN pinches its nose.

Here’s the quote of the day:

“I think the DPRK is getting the message,” said Japan’s ambassador, Yukio Takasu, referring to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “We hope they will stop launching missiles eventually.”

Yes. Know hope, as they say.

Less than a month after U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said that the UN Security Council was working on a resolution “with teeth that will bite in North Korea,” the Kim regime tested a battery of proscribed short- and medium-range missiles. So much for the teeth. How did the Security Council respond this time? It “condemned” the action, naturally. But, of course, the real concern of the “international community” isn’t the nuclear braggadocio of a rogue regime; it’s the mortal fear that another country might attempt to inhibit the mad brinkmanship of Kim Jong Il:

The council appealed to all countries in the region to refrain from “any action” that could escalate tensions, Ruhakana Rugunda, the Ugandan ambassador who serves as the council’s acting president, told reporters after a special meeting of the council today in New York.

Wherever you turn today, the free world is allowing bad actors to define the rules of the game and call the shots. In Latin America, Hugo Chavez signs off on Manuel Zelaya’s assault on Honduran democracy and the American administration concurs. In the Middle East, the Iranian regime murders civil protesters and tells us to butt out, so we do. In the Pacific, Kim Jong Il says that a sneeze will be considered an act of war, so the UN pinches its nose.

Here’s the quote of the day:

“I think the DPRK is getting the message,” said Japan’s ambassador, Yukio Takasu, referring to North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “We hope they will stop launching missiles eventually.”

Yes. Know hope, as they say.

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Deciphering Biden

David Hazony and Jennifer Rubin both weighed in yesterday on VP Joe Biden’s comments about a possible Israeli strike on Iran. I wish I could see a silver lining in the interview. But I think the language used by the VP is purposely vague and could actually be construed the opposite way. Consider this:

Biden also said Israel is “entitled to do that. Any sovereign nation is entitled to do that. But there is no pressure from any nation that’s going to alter our behavior as to how to proceed” — which means that a sovereign Israel may see Iran’s nuclear program as an existential threat, but a sovereign America may not let such perception influence its policy of engagement: “What we believe is in the national interest of the United States, which we, coincidentally, believe is also in the interest of Israel and the whole world.”

Biden, in fact, seems to be saying that U.S. engagement with Iran is in Israel’s interest — not bombing. He goes on to say that this course of action is “in the national interest of the U.S.” — presumably a strike would sabotage engagement and thus run contrary to U.S. national interest. He adds that “coincidentally,” this behavior also serves Israel’s interest and the interest of the world community. How is a strike going to coincide with this interest? Biden’s statement could be just as easily construed as a warning to Israel — don’t do it, you are harming our interest and, in the process, yours as well. And the world’s — which means, if you go ahead, you are alone.

Of course, Israel is “sovereign” and can choose to isolate itself by standing in the way of the U.S. — but it may not be the wisest course of action. So don’t hold your breath — this administration will stay the course for now.

David Hazony and Jennifer Rubin both weighed in yesterday on VP Joe Biden’s comments about a possible Israeli strike on Iran. I wish I could see a silver lining in the interview. But I think the language used by the VP is purposely vague and could actually be construed the opposite way. Consider this:

Biden also said Israel is “entitled to do that. Any sovereign nation is entitled to do that. But there is no pressure from any nation that’s going to alter our behavior as to how to proceed” — which means that a sovereign Israel may see Iran’s nuclear program as an existential threat, but a sovereign America may not let such perception influence its policy of engagement: “What we believe is in the national interest of the United States, which we, coincidentally, believe is also in the interest of Israel and the whole world.”

Biden, in fact, seems to be saying that U.S. engagement with Iran is in Israel’s interest — not bombing. He goes on to say that this course of action is “in the national interest of the U.S.” — presumably a strike would sabotage engagement and thus run contrary to U.S. national interest. He adds that “coincidentally,” this behavior also serves Israel’s interest and the interest of the world community. How is a strike going to coincide with this interest? Biden’s statement could be just as easily construed as a warning to Israel — don’t do it, you are harming our interest and, in the process, yours as well. And the world’s — which means, if you go ahead, you are alone.

Of course, Israel is “sovereign” and can choose to isolate itself by standing in the way of the U.S. — but it may not be the wisest course of action. So don’t hold your breath — this administration will stay the course for now.

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The Real Timeline with Iran

According to a UPI report, Iran’s ballistic missile program is steadily, if slowly advancing — Iran may be soon able to extend the range and improve the accuracy of its missiles. It could also reach the stage in which salvos of missiles may be able to penetrate Israel’s anti-missile defense system.

In another report from a few days earlier, strains between Israel and Russia over the possible advancement of the Iran-Russia deal to supply S-300 air defense systems to Iran were also discussed.   What do these two reports have in common?

They indicate that the real timeline for a possible Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear installations is not dictated, as most people still seem to think, by the timeline of Iran’s nuclear program — or by how soon Iran may be able to build a nuclear bomb. The real issue is how soon Iran may be able to shield its program from outside military attack and how effective, by contrast, its deterrence will be against a preemptive strike.

Iran is moving along — slowly, perhaps, but surely.

According to a UPI report, Iran’s ballistic missile program is steadily, if slowly advancing — Iran may be soon able to extend the range and improve the accuracy of its missiles. It could also reach the stage in which salvos of missiles may be able to penetrate Israel’s anti-missile defense system.

In another report from a few days earlier, strains between Israel and Russia over the possible advancement of the Iran-Russia deal to supply S-300 air defense systems to Iran were also discussed.   What do these two reports have in common?

They indicate that the real timeline for a possible Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear installations is not dictated, as most people still seem to think, by the timeline of Iran’s nuclear program — or by how soon Iran may be able to build a nuclear bomb. The real issue is how soon Iran may be able to shield its program from outside military attack and how effective, by contrast, its deterrence will be against a preemptive strike.

Iran is moving along — slowly, perhaps, but surely.

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The Honduran Re-Run

Jamie Kirchick, Rick Richman, and J.G. Thayer have offered persuasive comments on the Honduran crisis, which is rapidly turning into a kind of political Rorschach test. If you are the Christian Science Monitor, you sigh that “The fact a military coup occurred apparently against U.S. wishes suggests how American dominance in the region has waned,” a verdict that nicely condemns Zelaya’s ouster as a coup, insinuates that the U.S. may secretly have been involved in it, and uses the occasion to applaud the decline and fall of the American Empire. If, like the Obama Administration, you want to “engage” America’s enemies into placidity, Honduras offers an opportunity to stand alongside Hugo Chavez and the Castros in defense of what is implausibly called democracy.

Yet the ink blots form a pattern. What these approaches have in common is that they do not actually relate to what is going on in Honduras. As is too often the case when liberals discuss foreign affairs, they are all about us — our (supposed) responsibility, our dominance, our relations with other states. That’s too bad, because liberals have a tradition that would allow them to contribute to making sensible U.S. policy towards Honduras.

That tradition begins with Eleanor Roosevelt’s recognition that “Democracy, freedom, human rights have come to have a definite meaning to the people of the world, which we must not allow to so change that they are made synonymous with suppression and dictatorship.” And it should continue to ask an obvious question: does Zelaya’s plan to hold an “election” to fundamentally remake the constitution make him a democrat? More broadly, do elections make a democracy?

Obviously not — they are a necessary but not sufficient condition. This was a point that some on the left — and indeed, the right — were fond of making about George W. Bush’s support of democracy in the Middle East, the argument being that the pursuit of elections in Iraq and elsewhere was, at best, a pursuit of image over substance. In practice, this argument tended to slight the reality that, while elections do not make a democracy, you cannot have democracy without elections. But as a broader point, it is fair enough. After all, as Eleanor Roosevelt acknowledged, there are lots of places in the world that call themselves democracies, that claim to be legitimated by elections, but are obviously no such thing — Putin’s Russia, or Iran, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, for example.

Nor, it must follow, does being elected grant a leader a right to subvert fundamentally the existing constitutional order. We saw enough of this in the twentieth century to know where it leads. The policy of other states toward a particular country must rest not on the existence of the form of democracy, but rather on its substance. And that can only be decided by studying what is happening in the state in question. When elected dictatorship impends a “coup” in defense of constitutional order, it is no coup: it is an expression of the right of self-government, for it is the government itself that has become illegitimate. Americans, above all others, should understand this.

It’s not as though we’ve not seen this before. As Brian Nelson’s book on the 2002 rebellion against Chavez points out, it happened in Venezuela. Nelson’s work is an exhaustive study of the popular revolt against Chavez that led, because of the failings of his opposition, to Chavez’s return to power and his institution of fully dictatorial rule. It was recently praised by the Economist as “scrupulously unbiased.”

Right now, Honduras is at about April 12, 2002 in this process: it has gotten rid of its dictator-in-the-making, but the opposition (severely hampered in this case by the U.S.) has not been able to stabilize the situation. As with Venezuela, all the opportunities now rest with the dictator’s friends: the more trouble they make, the less orderly the new state will be, and the more likely the old regime is to find a way back.  That would be a tragedy for Honduras, as it was for Venezuela.

Of course, Chavez backs Zelaya in part because Zelaya is his political ally. But there is more to it than that. Zelaya is not just an ally: his anti-constitutional revolution is following the same course as Chavez’s did.  Chavez must realize that, if Zelaya can be restored to power, his own legitimacy will be enhanced; if Zelaya does not return, Chavez’s own legitimacy — it is amazing that it exists at all — will be even more badly tarnished. There is a great deal at stake in Honduras, and the stakes are not clarified by looking through the old lenses of “military coup,” or “legitimately elected government” — never mind the “it’s all about us” theme of the liberal commentariat.

Jamie Kirchick, Rick Richman, and J.G. Thayer have offered persuasive comments on the Honduran crisis, which is rapidly turning into a kind of political Rorschach test. If you are the Christian Science Monitor, you sigh that “The fact a military coup occurred apparently against U.S. wishes suggests how American dominance in the region has waned,” a verdict that nicely condemns Zelaya’s ouster as a coup, insinuates that the U.S. may secretly have been involved in it, and uses the occasion to applaud the decline and fall of the American Empire. If, like the Obama Administration, you want to “engage” America’s enemies into placidity, Honduras offers an opportunity to stand alongside Hugo Chavez and the Castros in defense of what is implausibly called democracy.

Yet the ink blots form a pattern. What these approaches have in common is that they do not actually relate to what is going on in Honduras. As is too often the case when liberals discuss foreign affairs, they are all about us — our (supposed) responsibility, our dominance, our relations with other states. That’s too bad, because liberals have a tradition that would allow them to contribute to making sensible U.S. policy towards Honduras.

That tradition begins with Eleanor Roosevelt’s recognition that “Democracy, freedom, human rights have come to have a definite meaning to the people of the world, which we must not allow to so change that they are made synonymous with suppression and dictatorship.” And it should continue to ask an obvious question: does Zelaya’s plan to hold an “election” to fundamentally remake the constitution make him a democrat? More broadly, do elections make a democracy?

Obviously not — they are a necessary but not sufficient condition. This was a point that some on the left — and indeed, the right — were fond of making about George W. Bush’s support of democracy in the Middle East, the argument being that the pursuit of elections in Iraq and elsewhere was, at best, a pursuit of image over substance. In practice, this argument tended to slight the reality that, while elections do not make a democracy, you cannot have democracy without elections. But as a broader point, it is fair enough. After all, as Eleanor Roosevelt acknowledged, there are lots of places in the world that call themselves democracies, that claim to be legitimated by elections, but are obviously no such thing — Putin’s Russia, or Iran, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, for example.

Nor, it must follow, does being elected grant a leader a right to subvert fundamentally the existing constitutional order. We saw enough of this in the twentieth century to know where it leads. The policy of other states toward a particular country must rest not on the existence of the form of democracy, but rather on its substance. And that can only be decided by studying what is happening in the state in question. When elected dictatorship impends a “coup” in defense of constitutional order, it is no coup: it is an expression of the right of self-government, for it is the government itself that has become illegitimate. Americans, above all others, should understand this.

It’s not as though we’ve not seen this before. As Brian Nelson’s book on the 2002 rebellion against Chavez points out, it happened in Venezuela. Nelson’s work is an exhaustive study of the popular revolt against Chavez that led, because of the failings of his opposition, to Chavez’s return to power and his institution of fully dictatorial rule. It was recently praised by the Economist as “scrupulously unbiased.”

Right now, Honduras is at about April 12, 2002 in this process: it has gotten rid of its dictator-in-the-making, but the opposition (severely hampered in this case by the U.S.) has not been able to stabilize the situation. As with Venezuela, all the opportunities now rest with the dictator’s friends: the more trouble they make, the less orderly the new state will be, and the more likely the old regime is to find a way back.  That would be a tragedy for Honduras, as it was for Venezuela.

Of course, Chavez backs Zelaya in part because Zelaya is his political ally. But there is more to it than that. Zelaya is not just an ally: his anti-constitutional revolution is following the same course as Chavez’s did.  Chavez must realize that, if Zelaya can be restored to power, his own legitimacy will be enhanced; if Zelaya does not return, Chavez’s own legitimacy — it is amazing that it exists at all — will be even more badly tarnished. There is a great deal at stake in Honduras, and the stakes are not clarified by looking through the old lenses of “military coup,” or “legitimately elected government” — never mind the “it’s all about us” theme of the liberal commentariat.

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As Goes Ohio?

It is only one state, but Ohio is often a bellwether state in presidential elections and public opinion. A recent poll encapsulates what we are seeing in national polls as the Obama presidency comes into focus:

President Obama’s job approval in Ohio has dropped significantly in the last two months, dipping under the 50% mark for the first time, according to a new poll by Quinnipiac University. In the last Quinnipiac poll in Ohio taken in early May, Obama enjoyed a healthy 62% job approval rating, with only 31% disapproving. Today, Obama’s job approval stands at 49%, with 44% disapproving – a twenty-five point net drop in just eight weeks. Not surprisingly, Obama has seen a corresponding drop among voters’ approval of his handling of the economy: two months ago he had a net +21 approval (57/36), today it is -2 (46/48).

In the 2010 senate race, Rob Portman is now just a smidgen behind each of the Democratic challengers “though their leads have nearly evaporated over the last eight weeks.”

There are two possibilities here. One is that the economic news is catching up with the administration and voters are now holding those in power accountable. That suggests, of course, that if the economy rebounds, the polling of Obama and fellow Democrats will as well. The other explanation is that it isn’t just the economy, but the entire agenda that is off-putting to a moderate state. They voted for “no George W. Bush” and got a left-wing presidency and left-wing Congress, which are pursuing an extreme agenda. That is a potentially longer-term problem — unless, of course, the president and Congress zig-zag back to the center of the political spectrum.

We will see whether these trends continue and how the president and congressional leadership responds. But given their one-party domination and substantial majorities, the risk remains that if they blow their political fortunes now, they won’t get an opportunity like this anytime soon.

It is only one state, but Ohio is often a bellwether state in presidential elections and public opinion. A recent poll encapsulates what we are seeing in national polls as the Obama presidency comes into focus:

President Obama’s job approval in Ohio has dropped significantly in the last two months, dipping under the 50% mark for the first time, according to a new poll by Quinnipiac University. In the last Quinnipiac poll in Ohio taken in early May, Obama enjoyed a healthy 62% job approval rating, with only 31% disapproving. Today, Obama’s job approval stands at 49%, with 44% disapproving – a twenty-five point net drop in just eight weeks. Not surprisingly, Obama has seen a corresponding drop among voters’ approval of his handling of the economy: two months ago he had a net +21 approval (57/36), today it is -2 (46/48).

In the 2010 senate race, Rob Portman is now just a smidgen behind each of the Democratic challengers “though their leads have nearly evaporated over the last eight weeks.”

There are two possibilities here. One is that the economic news is catching up with the administration and voters are now holding those in power accountable. That suggests, of course, that if the economy rebounds, the polling of Obama and fellow Democrats will as well. The other explanation is that it isn’t just the economy, but the entire agenda that is off-putting to a moderate state. They voted for “no George W. Bush” and got a left-wing presidency and left-wing Congress, which are pursuing an extreme agenda. That is a potentially longer-term problem — unless, of course, the president and Congress zig-zag back to the center of the political spectrum.

We will see whether these trends continue and how the president and congressional leadership responds. But given their one-party domination and substantial majorities, the risk remains that if they blow their political fortunes now, they won’t get an opportunity like this anytime soon.

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Obama’s Nuclear Illusions

Why do I feel like I’m back in the 1970′s? Perhaps because a U.S. president is meeting with a Russian leader to sign a nuclear-arms reduction agreement.

I suppose you can argue that there is some merit to Washington and Moscow agreeing on anything. So if they can’t see eye to eye on Iran, Georgia, missile defense, or other contentious issues, why not sign an arms-control treaty they both want? There is a certain logic to this argument.

Certainly from the Russian perspective there is a desire to lock in reductions in America’s nuclear warheads and launchers because Russia’s warheads and launchers will naturally degrade over the course of the next few years. Moreover, Russia’s leaders enjoy the prestige that comes from bargaining as equals with the world’s sole superpower.

From our perspective, we can afford to give up a few nukes without losing the ability to deter our adversaries. As long as we don’t commit to giving up too many launchers (i.e., submarines, bombers, land-based ICBMs), the agreement won’t imperil our security. But does anyone really think that this piece of paper will somehow represent the “reset” button on the U.S.-Russia relationship? That we won’t have major differences with Russia the day after the treaty just as we did the day before?

And what exactly are we getting in return for going along with Russia’s arms-control desires? I suppose the administration can point to Russia’s granting of overflight rights for aircraft supplying our forces in Afghanistan. That’s something, although I can’t help thinking that is just one more stick that Russia can hold over our heads, threatening to revoke those rights the next time they want to put pressure on us.   Moreover, the strategic arms accord, however innocuous in and of itself, encourages the illusion that somehow the American nuclear arsenal is part of the world’s problem — rather than the greatest contributor to global peace since World War II. The Iranians, North Koreans, and other bad actors justify their nuclear programs by pointing to those of Israel, India, the U.S., and other democratic nations and saying, “If you guys have them, why shouldn’t we?” The answer is that the U.S., Israel, India, et al. are responsible democracies who won’t give nukes to terrorists or use them at all except in the direst circumstances of self-defense. It is a shame that Obama cannot or will not draw a distinction between our nukes and theirs. By pushing for this arms-control treaty with Russia (and, more importantly, by pledging to eventually eradicate nukes altogether), he is in fact playing, however unwittingly, into the propaganda line fostered by rogue regimes.

It’s not the weapons, it’s the regimes that matter. Personally, I don’t feel much safer knowing that Russia will have a few hundred fewer strategic warheads, especially when they still have thousands of highly portable tactical nuclear weapons that aren’t covered by this treaty at all. Russia will continue to be a destabilizing and dangerous influence as long as it has an unaccountable government with few, if any, internal checks and balances. That is the real source of American-Russian tension, and by further legitimating the existing Russian regime we are, if anything, slightly exacerbating that problem.

Why do I feel like I’m back in the 1970′s? Perhaps because a U.S. president is meeting with a Russian leader to sign a nuclear-arms reduction agreement.

I suppose you can argue that there is some merit to Washington and Moscow agreeing on anything. So if they can’t see eye to eye on Iran, Georgia, missile defense, or other contentious issues, why not sign an arms-control treaty they both want? There is a certain logic to this argument.

Certainly from the Russian perspective there is a desire to lock in reductions in America’s nuclear warheads and launchers because Russia’s warheads and launchers will naturally degrade over the course of the next few years. Moreover, Russia’s leaders enjoy the prestige that comes from bargaining as equals with the world’s sole superpower.

From our perspective, we can afford to give up a few nukes without losing the ability to deter our adversaries. As long as we don’t commit to giving up too many launchers (i.e., submarines, bombers, land-based ICBMs), the agreement won’t imperil our security. But does anyone really think that this piece of paper will somehow represent the “reset” button on the U.S.-Russia relationship? That we won’t have major differences with Russia the day after the treaty just as we did the day before?

And what exactly are we getting in return for going along with Russia’s arms-control desires? I suppose the administration can point to Russia’s granting of overflight rights for aircraft supplying our forces in Afghanistan. That’s something, although I can’t help thinking that is just one more stick that Russia can hold over our heads, threatening to revoke those rights the next time they want to put pressure on us.   Moreover, the strategic arms accord, however innocuous in and of itself, encourages the illusion that somehow the American nuclear arsenal is part of the world’s problem — rather than the greatest contributor to global peace since World War II. The Iranians, North Koreans, and other bad actors justify their nuclear programs by pointing to those of Israel, India, the U.S., and other democratic nations and saying, “If you guys have them, why shouldn’t we?” The answer is that the U.S., Israel, India, et al. are responsible democracies who won’t give nukes to terrorists or use them at all except in the direst circumstances of self-defense. It is a shame that Obama cannot or will not draw a distinction between our nukes and theirs. By pushing for this arms-control treaty with Russia (and, more importantly, by pledging to eventually eradicate nukes altogether), he is in fact playing, however unwittingly, into the propaganda line fostered by rogue regimes.

It’s not the weapons, it’s the regimes that matter. Personally, I don’t feel much safer knowing that Russia will have a few hundred fewer strategic warheads, especially when they still have thousands of highly portable tactical nuclear weapons that aren’t covered by this treaty at all. Russia will continue to be a destabilizing and dangerous influence as long as it has an unaccountable government with few, if any, internal checks and balances. That is the real source of American-Russian tension, and by further legitimating the existing Russian regime we are, if anything, slightly exacerbating that problem.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Here we go again. The administration is . . . c’mon, you know . . . “deeply concerned” about the death of 150 in ethnic rioting in China. They are in a perpetual state of deep concern and inaction on everything from North Korea to China to Iran.

The Washington Post editors praise Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell on charter schools. His opponent Creigh Deeds “doesn’t want to deny local school boards the power to control the start-up of charters in the misguided belief that it would drain money from public education; never mind that charters are public schools.”

We have consensus on health care! On the subject of taxing health-care benefits: “In fact, both conservative and liberal advocacy groups actively opposed Senate Democrats during the Fourth of July recess.”

Cap-and-trade is supposed to be creating “green jobs.” The reality is that there will be so many jobs destroyed that the bill includes a three-year unemployment fund.

Another “Centrists Threaten Obama Agenda” story. That’s because Obama’s agenda is anything but centrist, right?

Those darn centrists: Harry Reid and Al Franken “sought to downplay the power of a filibuster-proof majority of the eve of Franken’s swearing-in.”

Gov. Jon Corzine’s woes continue: “Many voters don’t like Democratic Gov. Corzine, despite his progress on promises to cut state spending and to support tougher ethics laws, two areas where residents wanted action. Critics say he hasn’t kept his promise to fix the state’s despised property-tax system, which stands as the top issue in New Jersey. Independent polls show voters blame the governor for high taxes, whether he has a major role to play in them or not, and even for the sour economy as a whole.”

Kim Strassel thinks that is why the White House is stepping in: “Former U.S. prosecutor Chris Christie, Mr. Corzine’s Republican challenger, is showing remarkable strength in what has been a solidly blue state. Fearful that a loss would reflect badly on the Administration, Team Obama is pulling out all the stops. The president, who has been notably reluctant to risk his political capital in potentially losing causes, is scheduled to appear with Mr. Corzine during a campaign rally on July 16. Vice President Joe Biden has already made the trek to stand with the embattled Mr. Corzine when he accepted his party’s nomination last month.” Hmm, maybe they should leave Joe at home if the idea is to help Corzine.

Those enamored of “comparative effectiveness research” as part of health-care reform should read up about NICE, the Orwellian-named rationing board set up in the UK. “Mr. Obama and Democrats claim they can expand subsidies for tens of millions of Americans, while saving money and improving the quality of care. It can’t possibly be done. The inevitable result of their plan will be some version of a NICE board that will tell millions of Americans that they are too young, or too old, or too sick to be worth paying to care for.”

Good for Rep. Peter King — for slamming the “out of whack” coverage of Michael Jackson. Politicians are no better than the media. Really, did we need a moment of silence for this person in Congress?

Fred Hiatt on Obama’s fiscal irresponsibility: “Obama’s response has been to acknowledge the seriousness of the problem — and make it worse. I’m not talking about his record-breaking stimulus plan, which was essential (if not ideally shaped) given the recession he also inherited. Rather, it is Obama’s long-term budget that would more than double the projected deficit over the next 10 years, to $9 trillion, by extending most of the Bush tax cuts and limiting the alternative minimum tax while creating new programs and entitlements (to college tuition scholarships, for example) and refusing to cut back on existing ones. And that’s not to mention his top priority, universal access to health care.” Hiatt isn’t opposed to higher taxes, but the public is.

Ariel Cohen has it right on the Russian summit: “Obama did something rather meaningless (a nuclear arms reduction agreement) and ignored the meaningful things — Iran, human rights, the former Soviet Republics, etc.” Hey this diplomacy stuff is easy when you don’t address any issue on which your adversary disagrees.

But even on that “agreement” there was thin gruel. Josh Gerstein reports: “But a look at the fine print shows the deal is less than meets the eye, experts said. The two presidents punted on how to count total weapons or total warheads — a crucial detail in the mathematics of arms reductions. And they committed in writing only to finish the deal ‘at the earliest possible date,’ though Obama said it would be done by year’s end, when the current Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty expires.”

The Washington Post has launched a review of its “business processes” to make sure they aren’t running afoul of their journalism. A little late for that? Or the whitewash needed so they can have those salons after all?

Here we go again. The administration is . . . c’mon, you know . . . “deeply concerned” about the death of 150 in ethnic rioting in China. They are in a perpetual state of deep concern and inaction on everything from North Korea to China to Iran.

The Washington Post editors praise Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell on charter schools. His opponent Creigh Deeds “doesn’t want to deny local school boards the power to control the start-up of charters in the misguided belief that it would drain money from public education; never mind that charters are public schools.”

We have consensus on health care! On the subject of taxing health-care benefits: “In fact, both conservative and liberal advocacy groups actively opposed Senate Democrats during the Fourth of July recess.”

Cap-and-trade is supposed to be creating “green jobs.” The reality is that there will be so many jobs destroyed that the bill includes a three-year unemployment fund.

Another “Centrists Threaten Obama Agenda” story. That’s because Obama’s agenda is anything but centrist, right?

Those darn centrists: Harry Reid and Al Franken “sought to downplay the power of a filibuster-proof majority of the eve of Franken’s swearing-in.”

Gov. Jon Corzine’s woes continue: “Many voters don’t like Democratic Gov. Corzine, despite his progress on promises to cut state spending and to support tougher ethics laws, two areas where residents wanted action. Critics say he hasn’t kept his promise to fix the state’s despised property-tax system, which stands as the top issue in New Jersey. Independent polls show voters blame the governor for high taxes, whether he has a major role to play in them or not, and even for the sour economy as a whole.”

Kim Strassel thinks that is why the White House is stepping in: “Former U.S. prosecutor Chris Christie, Mr. Corzine’s Republican challenger, is showing remarkable strength in what has been a solidly blue state. Fearful that a loss would reflect badly on the Administration, Team Obama is pulling out all the stops. The president, who has been notably reluctant to risk his political capital in potentially losing causes, is scheduled to appear with Mr. Corzine during a campaign rally on July 16. Vice President Joe Biden has already made the trek to stand with the embattled Mr. Corzine when he accepted his party’s nomination last month.” Hmm, maybe they should leave Joe at home if the idea is to help Corzine.

Those enamored of “comparative effectiveness research” as part of health-care reform should read up about NICE, the Orwellian-named rationing board set up in the UK. “Mr. Obama and Democrats claim they can expand subsidies for tens of millions of Americans, while saving money and improving the quality of care. It can’t possibly be done. The inevitable result of their plan will be some version of a NICE board that will tell millions of Americans that they are too young, or too old, or too sick to be worth paying to care for.”

Good for Rep. Peter King — for slamming the “out of whack” coverage of Michael Jackson. Politicians are no better than the media. Really, did we need a moment of silence for this person in Congress?

Fred Hiatt on Obama’s fiscal irresponsibility: “Obama’s response has been to acknowledge the seriousness of the problem — and make it worse. I’m not talking about his record-breaking stimulus plan, which was essential (if not ideally shaped) given the recession he also inherited. Rather, it is Obama’s long-term budget that would more than double the projected deficit over the next 10 years, to $9 trillion, by extending most of the Bush tax cuts and limiting the alternative minimum tax while creating new programs and entitlements (to college tuition scholarships, for example) and refusing to cut back on existing ones. And that’s not to mention his top priority, universal access to health care.” Hiatt isn’t opposed to higher taxes, but the public is.

Ariel Cohen has it right on the Russian summit: “Obama did something rather meaningless (a nuclear arms reduction agreement) and ignored the meaningful things — Iran, human rights, the former Soviet Republics, etc.” Hey this diplomacy stuff is easy when you don’t address any issue on which your adversary disagrees.

But even on that “agreement” there was thin gruel. Josh Gerstein reports: “But a look at the fine print shows the deal is less than meets the eye, experts said. The two presidents punted on how to count total weapons or total warheads — a crucial detail in the mathematics of arms reductions. And they committed in writing only to finish the deal ‘at the earliest possible date,’ though Obama said it would be done by year’s end, when the current Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty expires.”

The Washington Post has launched a review of its “business processes” to make sure they aren’t running afoul of their journalism. A little late for that? Or the whitewash needed so they can have those salons after all?

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None Of The Above?

Mickey Kaus points out that the Service Employees Union, fresh from trying to strong-arm every Democrat they can find in the Senate on card check, is now trying to do the same on health care. He wonders:

Does this hurt the SEIU’s “card check” push by annoying the very moderate Dem Senators they must convince in order to get a pro-labor compromise passed? Or does it help the union, which can now say “Sen. Landrieu–if you vote for card check we’ll give you a pass on health care and stop attacking you”? It’s a form of leverage, after all. And it’s leverage that’s unavailable to the SEIU on the “card check” issue itself: It’s not as if the union could run an ad attacking moderate Dems for failing to embrace “card check,” which is hard to defend in public.

Well, let’s assume that card check doesn’t yet have the votes to pass the Senate. And let’s also assume that, barring a decision by the Obama administration to jettison the rest of its agenda and suffer through a knock-down-drag-out filibuster fight that will endanger Red State Democrats, it isn’t coming up for a vote soon. That would suggest card check is just a chit to be played by SEIU and the rest of Big Labor to achieve other aims—a pro-labor health care bill (i.e. no taxing union health care benefits no matter how generous they may be), a perpetual parade of protectionist legislation (the cap-and-trade bill being the latest example), ongoing support for the United Auto Workers, etc.

Well none of that is terribly appealing for a Red State Democrat either. These are the people who have to win in states where the voters were already onto Obama’s leftwing agenda before he took office. Now these voters are going to want to know what Mary Landrieu of Louisiana or Ben Nelson of Nebraska or Byron Dorgan of North Dakota or Evan Bayh of Indiana is going to do to restore some moderation to the national agenda. A government takeover of health care with a jumbo tax scheme to go with it is likely even less appealing than card check (since most voters are convinced unions won’t come to their workplaces or that their not-quite-white collar jobs are immune from organizing).

So the bottom line is that to be viable with their own voters, Red State senators pretty much have to reject the entire Big Labor agenda. Whatever tradeoff’s might exist in the minds of SEIU head Andy Stern or Barack Obama, those who must be elected with sizable numbers of Republican and independent voters may be thinking only one thing: just how far do they need to distance themselves from the leftwing agenda of Reid-Pelosi-Obama?

Mickey Kaus points out that the Service Employees Union, fresh from trying to strong-arm every Democrat they can find in the Senate on card check, is now trying to do the same on health care. He wonders:

Does this hurt the SEIU’s “card check” push by annoying the very moderate Dem Senators they must convince in order to get a pro-labor compromise passed? Or does it help the union, which can now say “Sen. Landrieu–if you vote for card check we’ll give you a pass on health care and stop attacking you”? It’s a form of leverage, after all. And it’s leverage that’s unavailable to the SEIU on the “card check” issue itself: It’s not as if the union could run an ad attacking moderate Dems for failing to embrace “card check,” which is hard to defend in public.

Well, let’s assume that card check doesn’t yet have the votes to pass the Senate. And let’s also assume that, barring a decision by the Obama administration to jettison the rest of its agenda and suffer through a knock-down-drag-out filibuster fight that will endanger Red State Democrats, it isn’t coming up for a vote soon. That would suggest card check is just a chit to be played by SEIU and the rest of Big Labor to achieve other aims—a pro-labor health care bill (i.e. no taxing union health care benefits no matter how generous they may be), a perpetual parade of protectionist legislation (the cap-and-trade bill being the latest example), ongoing support for the United Auto Workers, etc.

Well none of that is terribly appealing for a Red State Democrat either. These are the people who have to win in states where the voters were already onto Obama’s leftwing agenda before he took office. Now these voters are going to want to know what Mary Landrieu of Louisiana or Ben Nelson of Nebraska or Byron Dorgan of North Dakota or Evan Bayh of Indiana is going to do to restore some moderation to the national agenda. A government takeover of health care with a jumbo tax scheme to go with it is likely even less appealing than card check (since most voters are convinced unions won’t come to their workplaces or that their not-quite-white collar jobs are immune from organizing).

So the bottom line is that to be viable with their own voters, Red State senators pretty much have to reject the entire Big Labor agenda. Whatever tradeoff’s might exist in the minds of SEIU head Andy Stern or Barack Obama, those who must be elected with sizable numbers of Republican and independent voters may be thinking only one thing: just how far do they need to distance themselves from the leftwing agenda of Reid-Pelosi-Obama?

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When Silence Is Golden

Clark Hoyt, the public editor of the New York Times, has chimed in on the paper’s silence regarding the kidnapping of David Rohde, one of its correspondents, for over half a year by the Taliban.

During that time, the Gray Lady did all it could to prevent this news from leaking to the public. It muzzled its own staff, reached out and begged for discretion to other media outlets, bloggers, government officials, and anyone else who found out about the kidnapping. It even persuaded the people running Wikipedia to keep the secret, hoping to help preserve the journalist’s safety and win his release. It even censored its own records, removing references to Rohde’s previous career at the Christian Science Monitor, fearing the “Christian” label would endanger him.

It was a tremendous effort, and it was successful. No one noticed David Rohde had disappeared until he reappeared, safe and sound, having finally escaped. Others have condemned the Times for its efforts to suppress the news regarding his situation. I won’t do that. Their efforts were aimed at preserving his life, and that is an entirely laudable goal. For that I will applaud them.

I will, however, point out that the same principle was not applied by the Times regarding other sensitive information related to terrorists. For example, the Gray Lady had published a story on one of the government’s most successful terrorist interrogators. The interrogator, through applied psychology, extracted from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a great deal of highly valuable intelligence, thus winning the enmity of some very dangerous people. The Times had no problem giving out the gentleman’s name and home town.

Likewise, several years ago, the Times got wind of the CIA transporting terrorists around the world in private planes. The Times not only broke the story, but published pictures of the planes — complete with identifying registration numbers. And let us all not forget how the U.S. government managed to track terrorists through their financial transactions until the Times discovered the method and plastered its details all over its front pages.

Congratulations on your safe return home, Mr. Rohde. And congratulations to your employer, the New York Times, on its efforts at keeping your captivity secret out of concern for your safety.

Now, if only the Times could extend such concern and discretion to those who are not in its employ…

Clark Hoyt, the public editor of the New York Times, has chimed in on the paper’s silence regarding the kidnapping of David Rohde, one of its correspondents, for over half a year by the Taliban.

During that time, the Gray Lady did all it could to prevent this news from leaking to the public. It muzzled its own staff, reached out and begged for discretion to other media outlets, bloggers, government officials, and anyone else who found out about the kidnapping. It even persuaded the people running Wikipedia to keep the secret, hoping to help preserve the journalist’s safety and win his release. It even censored its own records, removing references to Rohde’s previous career at the Christian Science Monitor, fearing the “Christian” label would endanger him.

It was a tremendous effort, and it was successful. No one noticed David Rohde had disappeared until he reappeared, safe and sound, having finally escaped. Others have condemned the Times for its efforts to suppress the news regarding his situation. I won’t do that. Their efforts were aimed at preserving his life, and that is an entirely laudable goal. For that I will applaud them.

I will, however, point out that the same principle was not applied by the Times regarding other sensitive information related to terrorists. For example, the Gray Lady had published a story on one of the government’s most successful terrorist interrogators. The interrogator, through applied psychology, extracted from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed a great deal of highly valuable intelligence, thus winning the enmity of some very dangerous people. The Times had no problem giving out the gentleman’s name and home town.

Likewise, several years ago, the Times got wind of the CIA transporting terrorists around the world in private planes. The Times not only broke the story, but published pictures of the planes — complete with identifying registration numbers. And let us all not forget how the U.S. government managed to track terrorists through their financial transactions until the Times discovered the method and plastered its details all over its front pages.

Congratulations on your safe return home, Mr. Rohde. And congratulations to your employer, the New York Times, on its efforts at keeping your captivity secret out of concern for your safety.

Now, if only the Times could extend such concern and discretion to those who are not in its employ…

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