Commentary Magazine


Posts For: July 8, 2009

The Healthcare No’s

If there is some grand legislative strategy to produce health care in the near future, it isn’t yet apparent. We have many more “no’s” than answers. There is no single health-care plan from the administration. There is no agreement between Obama (yes, on the public option!) and Rahm Emanual (“We are flexible on it.”)

There is no love between Emanual and MoveOn.org (What is Emanual doing, being flexible on the public option!?) There is no timeline to produce a bill this summer. There is no funding mechanism. There is no agreement on whether to make this a bipartisan effort.

Perhaps the president will discover his inner LBJ and knock heads to produce a deal. Maybe there will be a grand compromise on something that looks like a public option, but isn’t (or the reverse). But maybe, just maybe, time is not on the side of those pushing for a government-centric health-care system financed by massive new taxes in the middle of a recession. And maybe the public would be happier to have the president and Congress work on reviving the economy than coming up with a plan to make government and their tax burden bigger.

If there is some grand legislative strategy to produce health care in the near future, it isn’t yet apparent. We have many more “no’s” than answers. There is no single health-care plan from the administration. There is no agreement between Obama (yes, on the public option!) and Rahm Emanual (“We are flexible on it.”)

There is no love between Emanual and MoveOn.org (What is Emanual doing, being flexible on the public option!?) There is no timeline to produce a bill this summer. There is no funding mechanism. There is no agreement on whether to make this a bipartisan effort.

Perhaps the president will discover his inner LBJ and knock heads to produce a deal. Maybe there will be a grand compromise on something that looks like a public option, but isn’t (or the reverse). But maybe, just maybe, time is not on the side of those pushing for a government-centric health-care system financed by massive new taxes in the middle of a recession. And maybe the public would be happier to have the president and Congress work on reviving the economy than coming up with a plan to make government and their tax burden bigger.

Read Less

CIA vs. Congress

We haven’t heard an awful lot about that Truth Commission since Nancy Pelosi’s zombiesque presser, in which she accused the CIA of lying to her. But that doesn’t mean Congress hasn’t been busy on the subject of CIA interrogations. As the Wall Street Journal tells us, shocking as it may be, Congress is engaged in some genuine hypocrisy:

Democrats recently marked up the 2010 intelligence bill, and Republican Pete Hoekstra offered an amendment in committee to require the CIA to make public an unclassified version of its records on Congressional briefings. It also would have required the CIA to disclose the information gleaned from those interrogations.

Transparency is good in and of itself and might also avoid these “misunderstandings,” right? Uh, no. The Democrats blocked Hoekstra’s amendment. But that’s not all:

Chairman Silvestre Reyes’s Intelligence Democrats passed a new requirement that the CIA videotape all detainee interrogations. This is a sop to the anti-antiterror left, which wants heads to roll because the CIA destroyed tapes of the interrogations of the likes of terrorist Abu Zubaydah. CIA clandestine chief Jose Rodriguez ordered those tapes destroyed precisely because he worried they might leak and compromise U.S. methods. Republicans offered an amendment to strip the videotape provision but lost on another partisan vote.

So the rule is simple: Congress is never accountable, but the CIA is always subject to second-guessing. The Journal wonders what CIA chief Leon Panetta thinks about all this. Good question.

If we wanted to create an atmosphere in which our intelligence agents are attuned to political rather than national-security considerations and survive by doing and saying as little as possible, it would be hard to do “better” than this administration has in its first six months.

We haven’t heard an awful lot about that Truth Commission since Nancy Pelosi’s zombiesque presser, in which she accused the CIA of lying to her. But that doesn’t mean Congress hasn’t been busy on the subject of CIA interrogations. As the Wall Street Journal tells us, shocking as it may be, Congress is engaged in some genuine hypocrisy:

Democrats recently marked up the 2010 intelligence bill, and Republican Pete Hoekstra offered an amendment in committee to require the CIA to make public an unclassified version of its records on Congressional briefings. It also would have required the CIA to disclose the information gleaned from those interrogations.

Transparency is good in and of itself and might also avoid these “misunderstandings,” right? Uh, no. The Democrats blocked Hoekstra’s amendment. But that’s not all:

Chairman Silvestre Reyes’s Intelligence Democrats passed a new requirement that the CIA videotape all detainee interrogations. This is a sop to the anti-antiterror left, which wants heads to roll because the CIA destroyed tapes of the interrogations of the likes of terrorist Abu Zubaydah. CIA clandestine chief Jose Rodriguez ordered those tapes destroyed precisely because he worried they might leak and compromise U.S. methods. Republicans offered an amendment to strip the videotape provision but lost on another partisan vote.

So the rule is simple: Congress is never accountable, but the CIA is always subject to second-guessing. The Journal wonders what CIA chief Leon Panetta thinks about all this. Good question.

If we wanted to create an atmosphere in which our intelligence agents are attuned to political rather than national-security considerations and survive by doing and saying as little as possible, it would be hard to do “better” than this administration has in its first six months.

Read Less

But What About the Economy?

Unemployment is soaring while the president and Congress contemplate a massive energy tax and regulatory scheme and a government take-over of health care. Investors are watching and seem to have concluded that the economy is not getting better anytime soon:

Stocks have drifted lower in recent days as the market’s confidence about the economy took hits from a poor jobs report for June, waning consumer confidence and plunging commodities prices.

[. . .]

“Uncertainty has crept back into the picture,” said Carl Beck, partner at Harris Financial Group. “We started to get some data that put a damper on some of the optimism that had been growing about the economic recovery and that sort of put everything on hold until we start hearing from companies.”

The Dow fell 161.27, or 1.9 percent, to 8,163.60. It was the lowest finish for the blue chips since April 28.

There is reason to be gloomy when one considers the overall economic picture. The New York Times reports:

“We’re a little concerned,” said Nicholas Bohnsack, sector strategist at Strategas Research Partners. “The economy has moved toward less-bad territory, but it’s struggling to move into good, or a recovery mode.”

[. . .]

Underscoring concerns about financial stocks and consumer credit, the American Bankers Association said that delinquency rates on home equity loans, auto loans and others rose slightly in the first three months of the year as people lost their jobs and fell behind on their debts. In all, 3.23 percent of loans were 30 days behind or more through the end of March, up from 3.22 percent a quarter earlier, the group reported. . . As earnings stagnate and consumers put more of their disposable income into savings — 6.9 percent, according to recent government figures — analysts are concerned that corporate revenue will flatten or keep falling. And many corporations will be able to beat earnings expectations only by cutting jobs and other costs, which could worsen the already weak job market.

The president assures us there is “nothing” he would have done differently on the economy. (Nothing?) His agenda is devoid of any measures to encourage private-sector growth or spur employment. He would rather devote his energies to government-run, universal health-care. But his domestic priorities are spectacularly ill-suited to assist in the economic recovery. As Michael Gerson writes:

Initially, Obama counted on an atmosphere of economic crisis to grease the passage of any legislation he pronounced an economic need. But it hasn’t worked out that way. Whatever their virtues, restricting carbon emissions and expanding the health entitlement do not constitute a direct response to America’s financial and economic failures. No economic theory suggests that a round of new federal regulations and entitlements would result in a burst of economic growth.

Continuing the spend-a-thon and panoply of measures hostile to free-market activity seems doomed to fail. When will it be time to hit the “reset” button on Obama’s domestic agenda? If he does not, the voters may have to in November 2010.

Unemployment is soaring while the president and Congress contemplate a massive energy tax and regulatory scheme and a government take-over of health care. Investors are watching and seem to have concluded that the economy is not getting better anytime soon:

Stocks have drifted lower in recent days as the market’s confidence about the economy took hits from a poor jobs report for June, waning consumer confidence and plunging commodities prices.

[. . .]

“Uncertainty has crept back into the picture,” said Carl Beck, partner at Harris Financial Group. “We started to get some data that put a damper on some of the optimism that had been growing about the economic recovery and that sort of put everything on hold until we start hearing from companies.”

The Dow fell 161.27, or 1.9 percent, to 8,163.60. It was the lowest finish for the blue chips since April 28.

There is reason to be gloomy when one considers the overall economic picture. The New York Times reports:

“We’re a little concerned,” said Nicholas Bohnsack, sector strategist at Strategas Research Partners. “The economy has moved toward less-bad territory, but it’s struggling to move into good, or a recovery mode.”

[. . .]

Underscoring concerns about financial stocks and consumer credit, the American Bankers Association said that delinquency rates on home equity loans, auto loans and others rose slightly in the first three months of the year as people lost their jobs and fell behind on their debts. In all, 3.23 percent of loans were 30 days behind or more through the end of March, up from 3.22 percent a quarter earlier, the group reported. . . As earnings stagnate and consumers put more of their disposable income into savings — 6.9 percent, according to recent government figures — analysts are concerned that corporate revenue will flatten or keep falling. And many corporations will be able to beat earnings expectations only by cutting jobs and other costs, which could worsen the already weak job market.

The president assures us there is “nothing” he would have done differently on the economy. (Nothing?) His agenda is devoid of any measures to encourage private-sector growth or spur employment. He would rather devote his energies to government-run, universal health-care. But his domestic priorities are spectacularly ill-suited to assist in the economic recovery. As Michael Gerson writes:

Initially, Obama counted on an atmosphere of economic crisis to grease the passage of any legislation he pronounced an economic need. But it hasn’t worked out that way. Whatever their virtues, restricting carbon emissions and expanding the health entitlement do not constitute a direct response to America’s financial and economic failures. No economic theory suggests that a round of new federal regulations and entitlements would result in a burst of economic growth.

Continuing the spend-a-thon and panoply of measures hostile to free-market activity seems doomed to fail. When will it be time to hit the “reset” button on Obama’s domestic agenda? If he does not, the voters may have to in November 2010.

Read Less

Does Will Prefer a Nuclear Iran to a Neocon Washington?

George Will’s take on the death of Robert McNamara starts out as a critique of the skewed assumptions at the heart of the former defense secretary’s worldview. McNamara was a stat fiend who believed, as Will puts it, that “things that can be quantified can be controlled. And everything can be quantified.”

He rightly notes that “the behavior of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong did not respond as expected to America’s finely calibrated stimuli, such as bombing this but not that, and bombing pauses.”

But the real target of the scorn of the esteemed high Tory columnist of the Washington Post isn’t McNamara. It’s contemporary neoconservatism.

In a piece devoid of the staple intellectual rigor through which the columnist established his reputation for brilliance, Will seeks to establish a tenuous link between current advocates for a stronger policy against Iran and McNamara’s foolishness. He tells us the Public Interest quarterly was created by neoconservatives such as Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who sought to counter McNamara’s mentality by pointing out that “The function of social science is not to tell us what to do but to tell us what does not work.”

Fair enough. But what really interests Will is this:

The world McNamara has departed could soon be convulsed by attempts to modify Iran’s behavior. Since a variety of incentives have been unavailing, more muscular measures — perhaps “surgical strikes,” a phrase redolent of the McNamara mentality — are contemplated.

Some persons fault the president for not having more ambitious plans to prompt and guide Iranians toward regime change. That outcome is sometimes advocated, and its consequences confidently anticipated, by neoconservatives whose certitude about feasibility resembles that which, decades ago, neoconservatism was born to counter.

If Will is attempting to merely sound a note of skepticism about an assumption that America can remake Iran by just pushing the right reset button, he’s not completely off the mark. Such conflicts, as we discovered in Iraq, are complicated.

But one senses that Will’s approach to Iran is based more on an unwillingness to face the danger and act, than mere skepticism. Will’s position is obviously informed by his prior opposition to the war in Iraq. But though he may still think that position was correct, a change in military tactics there eventually turned what looked like a failure into something that even most of those unsympathetic to the war now concede looks like a success. While the analogy is far from exact, the change in tactics in Vietnam after McNamara exited the Pentagon also changed that war in our favor even though that result was eventually reversed by American abandonment of our allies due to anti-war sentiment at home that failed to take into account the awful consequences of allowing the North Vietnamese to win.

The point is that Will’s notion that those who supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s tyranny — who are also the people he presumes are pushing for action to halt Iran’s nuclear threat — are blind adherents of McNamara-like behaviorism or proponents of a simplistic statistical view of the world, is essentially false.

Far from indulging in social-science fantasies, such as those that Daniel Moynihan lambasted in the 1960′s, neoconservatives are today urging the Obama administration to look at Iran and the rest of the world as it really is and not try shoehorning it into the president’s preconceived notions of how “engagement” and apologies for past sins can solve the world’s problems.

It’s true that we don’t know exactly what will happen if tough international sanctions are placed on the regime led by Khamenei and Ahmadinejad or how best to aid the regime’s internal foes in creating a more democratic and less dangerous Iran. Nor can we be entirely sure what the result will be if strikes (whether they are “surgical” or more comprehensive) are launched against Iran’s nuclear plants.

But we do know what will happen if we seek to appease Tehran or fail to act. We will be facing a radical Islamist regime with nuclear capability that will present an existential threat to the State of Israel as well as a strategic peril to moderate Arab states and the West. Will seems to counsel inaction because he views neoconservative advocacy for action in averting such a disaster as antithetical to true conservatism. But rather than a clear-eyed look at the situation, such an unwillingness to face up to the danger of a nuclear Iran is neither an enlightened version of conservatism nor good public policy. It is, alas, merely an excuse to do nothing. The proper term for such a view is isolationism, not conservatism.

George Will’s take on the death of Robert McNamara starts out as a critique of the skewed assumptions at the heart of the former defense secretary’s worldview. McNamara was a stat fiend who believed, as Will puts it, that “things that can be quantified can be controlled. And everything can be quantified.”

He rightly notes that “the behavior of the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong did not respond as expected to America’s finely calibrated stimuli, such as bombing this but not that, and bombing pauses.”

But the real target of the scorn of the esteemed high Tory columnist of the Washington Post isn’t McNamara. It’s contemporary neoconservatism.

In a piece devoid of the staple intellectual rigor through which the columnist established his reputation for brilliance, Will seeks to establish a tenuous link between current advocates for a stronger policy against Iran and McNamara’s foolishness. He tells us the Public Interest quarterly was created by neoconservatives such as Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who sought to counter McNamara’s mentality by pointing out that “The function of social science is not to tell us what to do but to tell us what does not work.”

Fair enough. But what really interests Will is this:

The world McNamara has departed could soon be convulsed by attempts to modify Iran’s behavior. Since a variety of incentives have been unavailing, more muscular measures — perhaps “surgical strikes,” a phrase redolent of the McNamara mentality — are contemplated.

Some persons fault the president for not having more ambitious plans to prompt and guide Iranians toward regime change. That outcome is sometimes advocated, and its consequences confidently anticipated, by neoconservatives whose certitude about feasibility resembles that which, decades ago, neoconservatism was born to counter.

If Will is attempting to merely sound a note of skepticism about an assumption that America can remake Iran by just pushing the right reset button, he’s not completely off the mark. Such conflicts, as we discovered in Iraq, are complicated.

But one senses that Will’s approach to Iran is based more on an unwillingness to face the danger and act, than mere skepticism. Will’s position is obviously informed by his prior opposition to the war in Iraq. But though he may still think that position was correct, a change in military tactics there eventually turned what looked like a failure into something that even most of those unsympathetic to the war now concede looks like a success. While the analogy is far from exact, the change in tactics in Vietnam after McNamara exited the Pentagon also changed that war in our favor even though that result was eventually reversed by American abandonment of our allies due to anti-war sentiment at home that failed to take into account the awful consequences of allowing the North Vietnamese to win.

The point is that Will’s notion that those who supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s tyranny — who are also the people he presumes are pushing for action to halt Iran’s nuclear threat — are blind adherents of McNamara-like behaviorism or proponents of a simplistic statistical view of the world, is essentially false.

Far from indulging in social-science fantasies, such as those that Daniel Moynihan lambasted in the 1960′s, neoconservatives are today urging the Obama administration to look at Iran and the rest of the world as it really is and not try shoehorning it into the president’s preconceived notions of how “engagement” and apologies for past sins can solve the world’s problems.

It’s true that we don’t know exactly what will happen if tough international sanctions are placed on the regime led by Khamenei and Ahmadinejad or how best to aid the regime’s internal foes in creating a more democratic and less dangerous Iran. Nor can we be entirely sure what the result will be if strikes (whether they are “surgical” or more comprehensive) are launched against Iran’s nuclear plants.

But we do know what will happen if we seek to appease Tehran or fail to act. We will be facing a radical Islamist regime with nuclear capability that will present an existential threat to the State of Israel as well as a strategic peril to moderate Arab states and the West. Will seems to counsel inaction because he views neoconservative advocacy for action in averting such a disaster as antithetical to true conservatism. But rather than a clear-eyed look at the situation, such an unwillingness to face up to the danger of a nuclear Iran is neither an enlightened version of conservatism nor good public policy. It is, alas, merely an excuse to do nothing. The proper term for such a view is isolationism, not conservatism.

Read Less

Ohio’s Ominous Political Storm Clouds

If there is one set of polling data that must be sending chills down the spine of President Obama and his political aides, this is it:

President Barack Obama gets a lackluster 49 – 44 percent approval rating in Ohio, considered by many to be the most important swing state in a presidential election, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. This is President Obama’s lowest approval rating in any national or statewide Quinnipiac University poll since he was inaugurated and is down from 62 – 31 percent in a May 6 survey.

By a small 48 – 46 percent margin, voters disapprove of the way Obama is handling the economy… This is down from a 57 – 36 percent approval May 6….  “Now, by a 48 – 46 percent margin, Ohio independent voters give the President a failing grade on the economy. These numbers indicate that he may be losing, at least for now, some of those who voted for him in November and should be an indication to the White House that his honeymoon with the voters may be ending,” [according to Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute].

Among independents, only one in three people in Ohio approve of Obama’s handling of the economy — and his overall job approval rating among independents is only 38 percent.

These findings are significant in several respects. First, Ohio is not Mississippi. It is arguably the most important state in American politics today and usually a pretty good indicator of what the nation is thinking. For Obama’s approval ratings to drop below 50 percent there is a troubling, and potentially quite damaging, development. And his loss among independents is simply startling.

One should quickly insert the caveat that the results of the Quinnipiac Poll come from a single survey. At the same time, the results correspond with other national trends we are seeing.

Obama’s overall job approval-rating is now under 60 percent in the RealClearPolitics poll averages. The President tends to be weakest on the issue most important to the American public right now: the economy. In addition, Obama is viewed as more and more liberal in a nation that is becoming somewhat more conservative. The effects of Obama’s spending on the deficit and debt are increasingly turning into a source of public concern. And if/when Obama breaks his pledge not to raise taxes on families earning less than $250,000 per year, public opposition and anger toward him will rise even more. His credibility, already damaged because of his assurance that the stimulus package would keep unemployment from exceeding 8 percent this year (it is likely to top 10 percent), will absorb a much more powerful blow.

The storm clouds that have been amassing on the horizon are beginning to move overhead. The second most worrisome consideration for the President is that things may well get worse before they get better, particularly when it comes to unemployment. Such a development would not, by itself, be debilitating. After all, Ronald Reagan had to endure a very bad year in 1982 as he and Paul Volcker wrung stagflation out of the economy.

No, the most worrisome consideration for Obama is that his policies, rather than making things better, make things a good deal worse. The most harmful results of Obamaism are only now beginning to be felt. Once more times passes and Obama’s mistakes become more evident, we will see, I suspect, more and more trends similar to what we are seeing in Ohio. And concern among Congressional Democrats, which right now is fairly muted, will become vocal.

As the months pass, President Obama’s words and demeanor, which are his most formidable weapons, will be viewed as increasingly hollow and peripheral as the public judges him by the results of his actions.

This day was bound to come; it’s just coming a lot earlier than many people imagined.

If there is one set of polling data that must be sending chills down the spine of President Obama and his political aides, this is it:

President Barack Obama gets a lackluster 49 – 44 percent approval rating in Ohio, considered by many to be the most important swing state in a presidential election, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today. This is President Obama’s lowest approval rating in any national or statewide Quinnipiac University poll since he was inaugurated and is down from 62 – 31 percent in a May 6 survey.

By a small 48 – 46 percent margin, voters disapprove of the way Obama is handling the economy… This is down from a 57 – 36 percent approval May 6….  “Now, by a 48 – 46 percent margin, Ohio independent voters give the President a failing grade on the economy. These numbers indicate that he may be losing, at least for now, some of those who voted for him in November and should be an indication to the White House that his honeymoon with the voters may be ending,” [according to Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute].

Among independents, only one in three people in Ohio approve of Obama’s handling of the economy — and his overall job approval rating among independents is only 38 percent.

These findings are significant in several respects. First, Ohio is not Mississippi. It is arguably the most important state in American politics today and usually a pretty good indicator of what the nation is thinking. For Obama’s approval ratings to drop below 50 percent there is a troubling, and potentially quite damaging, development. And his loss among independents is simply startling.

One should quickly insert the caveat that the results of the Quinnipiac Poll come from a single survey. At the same time, the results correspond with other national trends we are seeing.

Obama’s overall job approval-rating is now under 60 percent in the RealClearPolitics poll averages. The President tends to be weakest on the issue most important to the American public right now: the economy. In addition, Obama is viewed as more and more liberal in a nation that is becoming somewhat more conservative. The effects of Obama’s spending on the deficit and debt are increasingly turning into a source of public concern. And if/when Obama breaks his pledge not to raise taxes on families earning less than $250,000 per year, public opposition and anger toward him will rise even more. His credibility, already damaged because of his assurance that the stimulus package would keep unemployment from exceeding 8 percent this year (it is likely to top 10 percent), will absorb a much more powerful blow.

The storm clouds that have been amassing on the horizon are beginning to move overhead. The second most worrisome consideration for the President is that things may well get worse before they get better, particularly when it comes to unemployment. Such a development would not, by itself, be debilitating. After all, Ronald Reagan had to endure a very bad year in 1982 as he and Paul Volcker wrung stagflation out of the economy.

No, the most worrisome consideration for Obama is that his policies, rather than making things better, make things a good deal worse. The most harmful results of Obamaism are only now beginning to be felt. Once more times passes and Obama’s mistakes become more evident, we will see, I suspect, more and more trends similar to what we are seeing in Ohio. And concern among Congressional Democrats, which right now is fairly muted, will become vocal.

As the months pass, President Obama’s words and demeanor, which are his most formidable weapons, will be viewed as increasingly hollow and peripheral as the public judges him by the results of his actions.

This day was bound to come; it’s just coming a lot earlier than many people imagined.

Read Less

Bye Bye Burqa

Barack Obama gave the hijab the all-clear in his Cairo speech, but the poor female souls forced to live under asphyxiating layers are getting fed up. Obama said, “I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal,” creating the false impression that gender subjugation is an innocuous matter of beauty-salon options. Contrast that with yesterday’s Reuters story about burqas in Afghanistan:

“When I wear a burqa it gives me a really bad feeling. I don’t like to wear it. My family are not really happy with me wearing a chador namaz, they tell me to always wear a burqa. But I don’t like it, it upsets me, I can’t breathe properly,” 18-year-old Amirejan said.

Margol, who is in her early 20s, said that she was used [sic] to the burqa now, having worn it since she was about 15. Her family prefers her to wear it and does not approve of her walking the streets with her face on display.

“My family says I have to wear it, they say the chador namaz is bad. You understand that if you don’t wear a burqa and your face is open, people will just gossip about you,” Margol said, giggling.

“But it does give me bad headaches, it puts a lot of pressure on my head, especially if it’s sewn too tightly,” she added.

Her cousin Amirejan said she would rather wear a mantau chalvar and discard her chador namaz if it was left up to her.

“Now they say that Afghanistan is free and women should be able to breathe more, but no, your mother, auntie and family still tell you that you have to wear the burqa … I just don’t like it, I like to be free, not under a burqa.”

Perhaps Obama can convince the freedom-hungry eighteen-year-old that being sewn up and suffocated on family orders is just how she’s meant to contribute to the spectacular multicultural tapestry that is “the Muslim world.” He is a very compelling speaker, you know.

Which is a good thing. Because as Muslim women in Afghanistan and elsewhere become empowered to discard their cloth prisons (in incremental steps, from burqa to chador, etc.) Obama is going to have to account for his anachronistic endorsement in Cairo. The fact is, burqa sales in Afghanistan have fallen off since the U.S. ousted the Taliban in 2001. (This shop owner says business is down 50%.) It is a strange form of outreach that finds the American president endorsing the very practices that American involvement is successfully eradicating.

Barack Obama gave the hijab the all-clear in his Cairo speech, but the poor female souls forced to live under asphyxiating layers are getting fed up. Obama said, “I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal,” creating the false impression that gender subjugation is an innocuous matter of beauty-salon options. Contrast that with yesterday’s Reuters story about burqas in Afghanistan:

“When I wear a burqa it gives me a really bad feeling. I don’t like to wear it. My family are not really happy with me wearing a chador namaz, they tell me to always wear a burqa. But I don’t like it, it upsets me, I can’t breathe properly,” 18-year-old Amirejan said.

Margol, who is in her early 20s, said that she was used [sic] to the burqa now, having worn it since she was about 15. Her family prefers her to wear it and does not approve of her walking the streets with her face on display.

“My family says I have to wear it, they say the chador namaz is bad. You understand that if you don’t wear a burqa and your face is open, people will just gossip about you,” Margol said, giggling.

“But it does give me bad headaches, it puts a lot of pressure on my head, especially if it’s sewn too tightly,” she added.

Her cousin Amirejan said she would rather wear a mantau chalvar and discard her chador namaz if it was left up to her.

“Now they say that Afghanistan is free and women should be able to breathe more, but no, your mother, auntie and family still tell you that you have to wear the burqa … I just don’t like it, I like to be free, not under a burqa.”

Perhaps Obama can convince the freedom-hungry eighteen-year-old that being sewn up and suffocated on family orders is just how she’s meant to contribute to the spectacular multicultural tapestry that is “the Muslim world.” He is a very compelling speaker, you know.

Which is a good thing. Because as Muslim women in Afghanistan and elsewhere become empowered to discard their cloth prisons (in incremental steps, from burqa to chador, etc.) Obama is going to have to account for his anachronistic endorsement in Cairo. The fact is, burqa sales in Afghanistan have fallen off since the U.S. ousted the Taliban in 2001. (This shop owner says business is down 50%.) It is a strange form of outreach that finds the American president endorsing the very practices that American involvement is successfully eradicating.

Read Less

Never Mind About Honduras

Even for the Obama administration its Honduras “policy” has become totally incoherent. First we were treated to a tour de force of diplomatic double-talk from the president:

America cannot and should not seek to impose any system of government on any other country, nor would we presume to choose which party or individual should run a country…. And we haven’t always done what we should have on that front.Even as we meet here today, America supports now the restoration of the democratically elected president of Honduras, even though he has strongly opposed American policies.

Got that — not taking sides except ever-so obviously in favor of the guy whose role model is Hugo Chavez.

But then we decided to stop all that . . .  what is it called? . . .  ah, yes, “meddling.” So we passed the baton to President Óscar Arias of Costa Rica to mediate. Hillary Clinton explains the new approach is to let them all work it out among themselves:

While Secretary Clinton reiterated the United States’ condemnation of Mr. Zelaya’s ouster, she stopped short of calling for his reinstatement, a departure from statements by President Obama earlier Tuesday and from the position taken by much of the international community.
When asked whether the United States viewed Mr. Zelaya’s return as central to the restoration of democratic order, she said that she did not want to “prejudge” the talks before they began.
“There are many different issues that will have to be discussed and resolved,” Mrs. Clinton said. “But I think it’s fair to let the parties themselves, with President Arias’s assistance, sort out all of these issues.”

Goodness knows what provoked them to stop the foot-stomping. Perhaps someone found a copy of the Honduran constitution. Or maybe they got nervous about building up another Hugo Chavez. But they have taught our foes and friends a key lesson: the president doesn’t always mean what he says and if you don’t like his first answer just wait awhile; he may change his tune.

Even for the Obama administration its Honduras “policy” has become totally incoherent. First we were treated to a tour de force of diplomatic double-talk from the president:

America cannot and should not seek to impose any system of government on any other country, nor would we presume to choose which party or individual should run a country…. And we haven’t always done what we should have on that front.Even as we meet here today, America supports now the restoration of the democratically elected president of Honduras, even though he has strongly opposed American policies.

Got that — not taking sides except ever-so obviously in favor of the guy whose role model is Hugo Chavez.

But then we decided to stop all that . . .  what is it called? . . .  ah, yes, “meddling.” So we passed the baton to President Óscar Arias of Costa Rica to mediate. Hillary Clinton explains the new approach is to let them all work it out among themselves:

While Secretary Clinton reiterated the United States’ condemnation of Mr. Zelaya’s ouster, she stopped short of calling for his reinstatement, a departure from statements by President Obama earlier Tuesday and from the position taken by much of the international community.
When asked whether the United States viewed Mr. Zelaya’s return as central to the restoration of democratic order, she said that she did not want to “prejudge” the talks before they began.
“There are many different issues that will have to be discussed and resolved,” Mrs. Clinton said. “But I think it’s fair to let the parties themselves, with President Arias’s assistance, sort out all of these issues.”

Goodness knows what provoked them to stop the foot-stomping. Perhaps someone found a copy of the Honduran constitution. Or maybe they got nervous about building up another Hugo Chavez. But they have taught our foes and friends a key lesson: the president doesn’t always mean what he says and if you don’t like his first answer just wait awhile; he may change his tune.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Rory Cooper of Heritage, on Obama in Russia: “His goal, much like his Global Warming agenda, is to unilaterally eliminate our nation’s strategic defenses, and other countries will eventually see the light and play along. Unfortunately, here in reality, Russia is unwilling to help with Iran, unwilling to make concessions on Tblisi, unwilling to engage in human rights issues and is unwilling to allow the U.S. to protect its homeland and allies with a missile defense shield.”

Republicans recruitment for House is “showing promise.” It is apparently easier to get people to run when Obama rather than George W. Bush is in the White House.

That swamp has not yet been drained: “A former executive for a defense contractor with ties to Democratic U.S. Rep. John Murtha has been charged by federal prosecutors with taking about $200,000 in kickbacks from a subcontractor.” But here is the buried lead: “[Defendant]Richard Ianieri was charged via a federal criminal information, which typically indicates that a defendant is cooperating with prosecutors.” Hmm.

Mark Steyn mocks the power of positive economic thinking expounded by Robert H. Franks: “The stimulus will work because enough economists are saying it will work that their prestigious postnominal credentials will impress enough of the masses into thinking it will work, which in turn will make it work. I can’t wait to see him in The Music Man in summer stock telling the kiddies that if they just think lovely thoughts the band will sound great.”

Good reason to think twice about making it easier for Big Labor to organize: “From 2003 to 2008,the aggregate gross domestic product (GDP), in constant, chained 2000 dollars, for the states with the lowest share of workers under union monopoly control increased by a healthy 17.3%. . . And in the 10 states with the highest private-sector unionization, aggregate output grew by just 9.9% — roughly 57% as much as in the lowest-union-density states.”

The “sort of God” misspoke about where he met Michelle. But the administration’s hymnal (the new Newsweek) is there to make excuses.

Is New Jersey in worse shape than California? “The difference between California and New Jersey is simple: The Trenton crowd can always balance their budget by passing the tax burden down to the local level. The Sacramento crowd can’t. That’s why the Golden State is running out of gold while the Garden State remains fertile ground for the big spenders.” So the state government is at the end of its rope in California while in New Jersey the taxpayers are.

It’s only July, but Bob McDonnell is back on top in at least one poll in the Virginia gubernatorial race. Democrat Creigh Deeds had momentum and good buzz coming out of his upset primary win but he really has been invisible in the last month.

Republicans catch a break in New Hampshire: “New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte announced today she will be resigning her post to pursue a campaign for the Senate, landing Republicans a top-tier recruit to run against Democrat Paul Hodes.”

Has Mark Sanford weathered the storm? Frankly the man is the luckiest politician in the country — Michael Jackson died and Sarah Palin resigned, entirely  absorbing the media and public.

And on Michael Jackson, kudos to Ruth Marcus who joins Rep. Peter King in asking “What are we glorifying him for?”

From the “You don’t say” file: “There are Democrats in Pennsylvania who feel [Arlen] Specter can’t be trusted, and they question whether he will do the right thing if he is re-elected.”

Rory Cooper of Heritage, on Obama in Russia: “His goal, much like his Global Warming agenda, is to unilaterally eliminate our nation’s strategic defenses, and other countries will eventually see the light and play along. Unfortunately, here in reality, Russia is unwilling to help with Iran, unwilling to make concessions on Tblisi, unwilling to engage in human rights issues and is unwilling to allow the U.S. to protect its homeland and allies with a missile defense shield.”

Republicans recruitment for House is “showing promise.” It is apparently easier to get people to run when Obama rather than George W. Bush is in the White House.

That swamp has not yet been drained: “A former executive for a defense contractor with ties to Democratic U.S. Rep. John Murtha has been charged by federal prosecutors with taking about $200,000 in kickbacks from a subcontractor.” But here is the buried lead: “[Defendant]Richard Ianieri was charged via a federal criminal information, which typically indicates that a defendant is cooperating with prosecutors.” Hmm.

Mark Steyn mocks the power of positive economic thinking expounded by Robert H. Franks: “The stimulus will work because enough economists are saying it will work that their prestigious postnominal credentials will impress enough of the masses into thinking it will work, which in turn will make it work. I can’t wait to see him in The Music Man in summer stock telling the kiddies that if they just think lovely thoughts the band will sound great.”

Good reason to think twice about making it easier for Big Labor to organize: “From 2003 to 2008,the aggregate gross domestic product (GDP), in constant, chained 2000 dollars, for the states with the lowest share of workers under union monopoly control increased by a healthy 17.3%. . . And in the 10 states with the highest private-sector unionization, aggregate output grew by just 9.9% — roughly 57% as much as in the lowest-union-density states.”

The “sort of God” misspoke about where he met Michelle. But the administration’s hymnal (the new Newsweek) is there to make excuses.

Is New Jersey in worse shape than California? “The difference between California and New Jersey is simple: The Trenton crowd can always balance their budget by passing the tax burden down to the local level. The Sacramento crowd can’t. That’s why the Golden State is running out of gold while the Garden State remains fertile ground for the big spenders.” So the state government is at the end of its rope in California while in New Jersey the taxpayers are.

It’s only July, but Bob McDonnell is back on top in at least one poll in the Virginia gubernatorial race. Democrat Creigh Deeds had momentum and good buzz coming out of his upset primary win but he really has been invisible in the last month.

Republicans catch a break in New Hampshire: “New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly Ayotte announced today she will be resigning her post to pursue a campaign for the Senate, landing Republicans a top-tier recruit to run against Democrat Paul Hodes.”

Has Mark Sanford weathered the storm? Frankly the man is the luckiest politician in the country — Michael Jackson died and Sarah Palin resigned, entirely  absorbing the media and public.

And on Michael Jackson, kudos to Ruth Marcus who joins Rep. Peter King in asking “What are we glorifying him for?”

From the “You don’t say” file: “There are Democrats in Pennsylvania who feel [Arlen] Specter can’t be trusted, and they question whether he will do the right thing if he is re-elected.”

Read Less