Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 9, 2009

LIVE BLOG: The Auto-Insurance Analogy

It’s irresponsible not to have health care. So you will be “required” to have it. After all, you’re required to have automobile insurance.

The thing is, you’re not required to own a car. And you have to have auto insurance not to protect yourself but to protect others from being damaged by you. The idea, therefore, is that the human body is tantamount to a 2-ton gasoline-powered vehicle with the capacity to kill others.

It’s irresponsible not to have health care. So you will be “required” to have it. After all, you’re required to have automobile insurance.

The thing is, you’re not required to own a car. And you have to have auto insurance not to protect yourself but to protect others from being damaged by you. The idea, therefore, is that the human body is tantamount to a 2-ton gasoline-powered vehicle with the capacity to kill others.

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LIVE BLOG: Enough Disagreeing with Me

The Left has accused him of wimping out. But how does excoriating the lack of “honest debate” endear him to the people who don’t agree with him, that now happens to be a majority of voters? And as for tone, he’s even for him unusually, well, angry. He is trying to be the boss, but he’s not, it seems, trying to act as the grand dealmaker, the figure who was going to bring us all together.

The Left has accused him of wimping out. But how does excoriating the lack of “honest debate” endear him to the people who don’t agree with him, that now happens to be a majority of voters? And as for tone, he’s even for him unusually, well, angry. He is trying to be the boss, but he’s not, it seems, trying to act as the grand dealmaker, the figure who was going to bring us all together.

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LIVE BLOG: The Goodies

Americans with health care will get more for less; Americans without health care will now have “quality affordable coverage.” Two chickens in every pot! Guns and butter! Everything for nothing!

Americans with health care will get more for less; Americans without health care will now have “quality affordable coverage.” Two chickens in every pot! Guns and butter! Everything for nothing!

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False Choices

This is a classic Obama formulation — single payer vs. individual-purchased insurance — and he’ll ride to the rescue and hold the middle. But alas, the middle looks an awful lot like the road to a single-payer system, with government setting the ground rules, legislating mandates, etc.

But everyone who disagrees is in one the two extremist camps, you see.

This is a classic Obama formulation — single payer vs. individual-purchased insurance — and he’ll ride to the rescue and hold the middle. But alas, the middle looks an awful lot like the road to a single-payer system, with government setting the ground rules, legislating mandates, etc.

But everyone who disagrees is in one the two extremist camps, you see.

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LIVE BLOG: We Already Have Consensus!

Everybody agrees with him, the president says — an unprecedented coalition! But then come the “blizzard of charges and countercharges … the time for games is over. … Now is the time to deliver on health care.” The dismissal of the validity of the counterargument against him is probably necessary, because he can’t really dial things back to a more bipartisan consensus. The question, and we won’t know the answer for a few days, is this: Will the muscularity of the approach win him new supporters, or will it seem as though he is acting in a more partisan manner, and thereby anger independents?

Everybody agrees with him, the president says — an unprecedented coalition! But then come the “blizzard of charges and countercharges … the time for games is over. … Now is the time to deliver on health care.” The dismissal of the validity of the counterargument against him is probably necessary, because he can’t really dial things back to a more bipartisan consensus. The question, and we won’t know the answer for a few days, is this: Will the muscularity of the approach win him new supporters, or will it seem as though he is acting in a more partisan manner, and thereby anger independents?

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The Bait and Switch

And because he has no clue about solving existing problems, he’s going to build the “future.” Not only will he build it, but it will be so perfect as to never require redesign. He goes through the arguments for health-care reform once again — because we obviously didn’t understand it when he explained it dozens of times before.

And because he has no clue about solving existing problems, he’s going to build the “future.” Not only will he build it, but it will be so perfect as to never require redesign. He goes through the arguments for health-care reform once again — because we obviously didn’t understand it when he explained it dozens of times before.

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LIVE BLOG: The Logical Fallacy Again

“Our health care problem is our deficit problem.” And here, again, is where he can’t get out of the trap logically. Because you cannot simultaneously achieve the broad extension of coverage to more than 40 million people and cut costs at the same time. This is the logical fallacy that has brought him low so far.

“Our health care problem is our deficit problem.” And here, again, is where he can’t get out of the trap logically. Because you cannot simultaneously achieve the broad extension of coverage to more than 40 million people and cut costs at the same time. This is the logical fallacy that has brought him low so far.

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Poor Salesmanship

And if we are at 9.7 percent unemployment, why are we talking about health-care mandates and taxes and something other than job creation?

And if we are at 9.7 percent unemployment, why are we talking about health-care mandates and taxes and something other than job creation?

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LIVE BLOG: Obama Speech on Health Care

8:20: We are “at the breaking point” because of a failure to fix health care. This is the nub of his challenge; the reason the issue has turned on him is that Americans do not believe this. Four-fifths of Americans with health care are satisfied with their coverage.

8:19: “I am determined to be the last” president to address health care. Now there’s utopianism for you.

“Thanks to the bold and decisive action we have taken since January, I can say with confidence that we have pulled this economy back from the brink.” What Obama is doing here is suggesting that if you liked the stimulus package, you’ll like the health-care legislation. Interesting. Possibly unwise.

8:20: We are “at the breaking point” because of a failure to fix health care. This is the nub of his challenge; the reason the issue has turned on him is that Americans do not believe this. Four-fifths of Americans with health care are satisfied with their coverage.

8:19: “I am determined to be the last” president to address health care. Now there’s utopianism for you.

“Thanks to the bold and decisive action we have taken since January, I can say with confidence that we have pulled this economy back from the brink.” What Obama is doing here is suggesting that if you liked the stimulus package, you’ll like the health-care legislation. Interesting. Possibly unwise.

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Oh Really?

Excerpts of Obama’s speech are circulating, and two items are noteworthy.

First, he declares that “if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. Let me repeat this: nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.” So we’re beyond “guaranteeing” you get to keep your health-care plan. But this is disingenuous in the extreme.

The issue with the public option is not whether you’d be required to give up your plan but whether private employers would dump their plans and private insurers would be driven from the marketplace, thereby herding the vast majority of us into a public plan. Also, the House plan itself makes clear what constitutes “coverage,” and if your plan doesn’t meet those requirements, you or your employer on your behalf will have to switch your plan. In short, this is hugely dishonest.

Second, the president seems to be doubling down on insulting and ignoring the critics. While Congress was laboring away, the president tells us that we also saw “the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government. Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned.” Got that — you town-hall attendees?

So far, this is not promising — and not living up to the president’s promise to get away from recriminations and get to some honest discussion of health care. But what did you expect from a campaign-speech addict?

Excerpts of Obama’s speech are circulating, and two items are noteworthy.

First, he declares that “if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. Let me repeat this: nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.” So we’re beyond “guaranteeing” you get to keep your health-care plan. But this is disingenuous in the extreme.

The issue with the public option is not whether you’d be required to give up your plan but whether private employers would dump their plans and private insurers would be driven from the marketplace, thereby herding the vast majority of us into a public plan. Also, the House plan itself makes clear what constitutes “coverage,” and if your plan doesn’t meet those requirements, you or your employer on your behalf will have to switch your plan. In short, this is hugely dishonest.

Second, the president seems to be doubling down on insulting and ignoring the critics. While Congress was laboring away, the president tells us that we also saw “the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government. Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned.” Got that — you town-hall attendees?

So far, this is not promising — and not living up to the president’s promise to get away from recriminations and get to some honest discussion of health care. But what did you expect from a campaign-speech addict?

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Voters? What Voters?

Just as the president seems unaffected by a public outpouring of anger and opposition to his government-centric health-care ideas, so too are key Democrats in Congress in the mode of put-their-fingers-in-their-ears-and-hum.

James Capretta explains that Sen. Max Baucus’s  newest plan is pretty much the old Baucus plan, “starting with a so-called ‘individual mandate’ that would penalize any American who didn’t sign up with government-approved insurance.” Throw in an employer tax “if any of their lower wage workers ended up on government-subsidized plans, which would create a strong disincentive for hiring such workers in the first place.” (Did I hear we have 9.7 percent unemployment?) And add in expansion of Medicaid and Medicare, with some $900 billion in new spending.

Capretta concludes:

The Baucus plan is flawed from the get-go because it starts from the same misguided premise as its counterparts in the House. It seeks to achieve “universal coverage” but without building a functioning marketplace to slow the pace of rising costs. And so, if it were to pass, costs would escalate just as rapidly in the future as they have in the past, and it would only be a matter of time before the current administration or its successor proposed new and draconian “cost control” measures to hold down governmental health-care spending. At that point, federal central planners would resort to the same kinds of price setting devices that have been tried for years in others settings, including Medicare. And the predictable result would be a large reduction in the willing suppliers of medical services, which would mean queues and lower quality care all around.

Meanwhile, the president will be out recycling his claim that Republicans haven’t budged and favor the status quo. It is not going to win him any friends on the other side of the aisle or from independents who think he’s already gotten too partisan. Moreover, it’s not true, as anyone who is even dimly aware of the efforts of Sen. Jim DeMint, Rep. Tom Price, and Rep. Paul Ryan can attest. But “dim” is what the president and his Democratic allies must think of the voters—that they won’t notice they have been utterly ignored.

Just as the president seems unaffected by a public outpouring of anger and opposition to his government-centric health-care ideas, so too are key Democrats in Congress in the mode of put-their-fingers-in-their-ears-and-hum.

James Capretta explains that Sen. Max Baucus’s  newest plan is pretty much the old Baucus plan, “starting with a so-called ‘individual mandate’ that would penalize any American who didn’t sign up with government-approved insurance.” Throw in an employer tax “if any of their lower wage workers ended up on government-subsidized plans, which would create a strong disincentive for hiring such workers in the first place.” (Did I hear we have 9.7 percent unemployment?) And add in expansion of Medicaid and Medicare, with some $900 billion in new spending.

Capretta concludes:

The Baucus plan is flawed from the get-go because it starts from the same misguided premise as its counterparts in the House. It seeks to achieve “universal coverage” but without building a functioning marketplace to slow the pace of rising costs. And so, if it were to pass, costs would escalate just as rapidly in the future as they have in the past, and it would only be a matter of time before the current administration or its successor proposed new and draconian “cost control” measures to hold down governmental health-care spending. At that point, federal central planners would resort to the same kinds of price setting devices that have been tried for years in others settings, including Medicare. And the predictable result would be a large reduction in the willing suppliers of medical services, which would mean queues and lower quality care all around.

Meanwhile, the president will be out recycling his claim that Republicans haven’t budged and favor the status quo. It is not going to win him any friends on the other side of the aisle or from independents who think he’s already gotten too partisan. Moreover, it’s not true, as anyone who is even dimly aware of the efforts of Sen. Jim DeMint, Rep. Tom Price, and Rep. Paul Ryan can attest. But “dim” is what the president and his Democratic allies must think of the voters—that they won’t notice they have been utterly ignored.

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Re: Nah! Would He Say that?

Now we hear that in his great moment of presidential leadership, when he is to tell people where he really stands on health care, Obama is going to hedge on the public option.

Politico informs us:

President Barack Obama plans to give a strong endorsement of a public option – or government health-insurance plan – in his remarks to Congress on Wednesday night but will stop short of an ultimatum, leaving wiggle room for negotiation as the bill moves through Congress, according to sources familiar with his remarks.In a speech meant to reset debate on the centerpiece of his first-term agenda, Obama can be expected to use language similar to his Labor Day remarks in Cincinnati, where he said: “I continue to believe that a public option within that basket of insurance choices will help improve quality and bring down costs.”

But he doesn’t really mean it, he’s just afraid to break up with the Left on national TV?

Then in an effort to woo conservatives and the American people, Obama seems ready to insult them. We hear from him:

“I, out of an effort to give Congress the ability to do their thing and not step on their toes, probably left too much ambiguity out there, which allowed then opponents of reform to come in and to fill up the airwaves with a lot of nonsense. … So, the intent of the speech … is to … make sure that the American people are clear exactly what it is that we are proposing … to make sure that Democrats and Republicans understand that I’m open to new ideas, that we’re not being rigid and ideological about this thing, but we do intend to get something done this year. And … to dispel some of the myths and, frankly, silliness that’s been floating out there for quite some time.”

Well, at least he’s not calling his critics “un-American” or “evil-mongers.” They are just silly and uninformed. And what’s he going to do after the big speech? Well, more “high profile” events. (Didn’t we have these already?) And then a big campaign-style rally in the Midwest.

UPDATE: With a new poll showing that 52 percent of Americans don’t approve of his handling of health care, Obama will certainly have his work cut out for him.

Now we hear that in his great moment of presidential leadership, when he is to tell people where he really stands on health care, Obama is going to hedge on the public option.

Politico informs us:

President Barack Obama plans to give a strong endorsement of a public option – or government health-insurance plan – in his remarks to Congress on Wednesday night but will stop short of an ultimatum, leaving wiggle room for negotiation as the bill moves through Congress, according to sources familiar with his remarks.In a speech meant to reset debate on the centerpiece of his first-term agenda, Obama can be expected to use language similar to his Labor Day remarks in Cincinnati, where he said: “I continue to believe that a public option within that basket of insurance choices will help improve quality and bring down costs.”

But he doesn’t really mean it, he’s just afraid to break up with the Left on national TV?

Then in an effort to woo conservatives and the American people, Obama seems ready to insult them. We hear from him:

“I, out of an effort to give Congress the ability to do their thing and not step on their toes, probably left too much ambiguity out there, which allowed then opponents of reform to come in and to fill up the airwaves with a lot of nonsense. … So, the intent of the speech … is to … make sure that the American people are clear exactly what it is that we are proposing … to make sure that Democrats and Republicans understand that I’m open to new ideas, that we’re not being rigid and ideological about this thing, but we do intend to get something done this year. And … to dispel some of the myths and, frankly, silliness that’s been floating out there for quite some time.”

Well, at least he’s not calling his critics “un-American” or “evil-mongers.” They are just silly and uninformed. And what’s he going to do after the big speech? Well, more “high profile” events. (Didn’t we have these already?) And then a big campaign-style rally in the Midwest.

UPDATE: With a new poll showing that 52 percent of Americans don’t approve of his handling of health care, Obama will certainly have his work cut out for him.

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Sweden’s ‘Sensitivity’ Double Standard

Only weeks after refusing to criticize the mass-circulation tabloid Aftonbladet for its libelous “organ harvest” piece against Israel’s army, Sweden’s government has asked Stockholm’s Museum of Modern Art to remove controversial and potentially offensive art currently on display at an exhibition. The backdrop of this decision is the EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Stockholm this coming weekend.

Surely the Swedish government thinks it can get away with explaining its request on grounds of sensitivity to its guests and denying that any censorship was exercised. Still, could Sweden not voice and then explain away criticism of Aftonbladet‘s story on the same grounds? After all, when a fresh row exploded, later, between Israel and the Spanish paper El Mundo on El Mundo‘s editorial choice to interview Holocaust denier David Irving, Spain’s foreign minister, Miguel Moratinos, was able to criticize the choice while upholding freedom of the press.

One can do both after all—and nobody asked either Sweden’s or Spain’s government to take any action against the aforementioned papers that might jeopardize freedom of the press.

Sweden, on the other hand, has decided to be callous to Israel and oversensitive to its European colleagues. What, then, is Swedish for consistency?

Only weeks after refusing to criticize the mass-circulation tabloid Aftonbladet for its libelous “organ harvest” piece against Israel’s army, Sweden’s government has asked Stockholm’s Museum of Modern Art to remove controversial and potentially offensive art currently on display at an exhibition. The backdrop of this decision is the EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Stockholm this coming weekend.

Surely the Swedish government thinks it can get away with explaining its request on grounds of sensitivity to its guests and denying that any censorship was exercised. Still, could Sweden not voice and then explain away criticism of Aftonbladet‘s story on the same grounds? After all, when a fresh row exploded, later, between Israel and the Spanish paper El Mundo on El Mundo‘s editorial choice to interview Holocaust denier David Irving, Spain’s foreign minister, Miguel Moratinos, was able to criticize the choice while upholding freedom of the press.

One can do both after all—and nobody asked either Sweden’s or Spain’s government to take any action against the aforementioned papers that might jeopardize freedom of the press.

Sweden, on the other hand, has decided to be callous to Israel and oversensitive to its European colleagues. What, then, is Swedish for consistency?

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Their Kind Of Guy

Chris Cillizza reports:

Nearly eight in ten Europeans approve of the job President Obama has done in international affairs, according to a new “Transatlantic Trends” survey being released today by the German Marshall Fund. That represents a massive change in international attitudes from the presidency of George W. Bush; just 19 percent of Europeans approved of the job Bush was doing on international affairs last year in this same poll. Interestingly, despite the popularity of Obama’s general handling of international affairs, Europeans are less sanguine about his administration’s chances of success in Afghanistan, with two-thirds saying they are pessimistic about order being restored to the country.

How nice for Obama that his fellow “citizens of the world” are so pleased with the president, whose effectiveness the same respondents doubt so overwhelmingly. You think the two might be related, do you? No more of that American boosterism. Who needs a great war leader? They have someone who shares their contempt for the unseemly provincialism of Americans and who fully appreciates America’s failures and sins. He’s their kind of guy!

Chris Cillizza reports:

Nearly eight in ten Europeans approve of the job President Obama has done in international affairs, according to a new “Transatlantic Trends” survey being released today by the German Marshall Fund. That represents a massive change in international attitudes from the presidency of George W. Bush; just 19 percent of Europeans approved of the job Bush was doing on international affairs last year in this same poll. Interestingly, despite the popularity of Obama’s general handling of international affairs, Europeans are less sanguine about his administration’s chances of success in Afghanistan, with two-thirds saying they are pessimistic about order being restored to the country.

How nice for Obama that his fellow “citizens of the world” are so pleased with the president, whose effectiveness the same respondents doubt so overwhelmingly. You think the two might be related, do you? No more of that American boosterism. Who needs a great war leader? They have someone who shares their contempt for the unseemly provincialism of Americans and who fully appreciates America’s failures and sins. He’s their kind of guy!

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Iran, Its Bomb, and the Real Time Line

According to the U.S. envoy to the IAEA, Iran is dangerously close to a nuclear bomb: “This ongoing enrichment activity . . . moves Iran closer to a dangerous and destabilizing possible breakout capacity,” he reportedly told the IAEA board.

So how close are we to an Iranian mushroom cloud?

Analysts and government officials routinely offer different time lines for an Iranian bomb—but they tend to put Iran’s breakout capacity a few years away. Iran is experiencing significant technological difficulties. And the political decision to go for the bomb might not have been made yet. It does not mean that Iran does not intend to build a nuclear arsenal over time—to the contrary. But testing a nuclear device comes with a price: Iran is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Crossing the nuclear threshold for a rudimentary nuclear device that Iran may not yet be able to replicate or deliver will be costly and fall short of achieving the strategic goals Iran is pursuing through its nuclear program—namely, the survival of the Islamic Revolution and its rise as the regional hegemon.

Tactically, Iran may therefore prefer to wait until it has accumulated enough weapons-grade fissile material to build not one but dozens of bombs; until it can build a nuclear device that is small enough to fit into a missile warhead; and until it has perfected its ballistic-missile technology to the point where a long-range missile can accurately hit a distant target. That time line is still quite long—years, not months.

However, it is not the time line that matters for policymakers. For long before Iran has accumulated enough fissile material to build an arsenal and enough technological know-how to make it into deliverable warheads, Iran will have mastered the technology and cracked the scientific secrets needed to reach that goal. It is the difference between knowing how to ride a bicycle and owning one. The regime is closer to the former than the latter—the U.S. envoy’s statement is further evidence of that. But once the knowledge is there, it will be harder to halt the march to the real thing. Thus, this shorter time line matters more than the actual moment when Iran will break away from the NPT, build several warheads, mount them on missiles, and threaten its neighbors.

But even this time line is not the one that policymakers must rely on for their planning. Long before Iran has built its arsenal or acquired the necessary knowledge, it will have shielded dozens of clandestine installations from a possible military strike. Iran knows that military planners in Israel and the U.S. constantly update their contingency plans for a strike based on fresh intelligence. The more Iran spreads its program, the more it hides it behind an impenetrable shield of defenses and fortifications, the harder the job for those in the West tasked with devising a realistic plan of attack.

At some point, they will tell the U.S. president and the Israeli prime minister that a military strike to retard or destroy Iran’s nuclear program is no longer an option. From then onward, Iran’s run to nuclear capability is unhindered. The removal of a credible military threat from the arsenal of diplomatic tools available to the international community will considerably reduce its leverage on Iran’s regime. Whereas the nuclear clock may be still ticking slow enough to give us time, Iran’s efforts to make its program untouchable are less burdened by scientific challenges—that clock is ticking much faster. Tehran will get there long before it can threaten anyone with a deliverable nuclear weapon. Once that happens— in months, not years—the game is up.

According to the U.S. envoy to the IAEA, Iran is dangerously close to a nuclear bomb: “This ongoing enrichment activity . . . moves Iran closer to a dangerous and destabilizing possible breakout capacity,” he reportedly told the IAEA board.

So how close are we to an Iranian mushroom cloud?

Analysts and government officials routinely offer different time lines for an Iranian bomb—but they tend to put Iran’s breakout capacity a few years away. Iran is experiencing significant technological difficulties. And the political decision to go for the bomb might not have been made yet. It does not mean that Iran does not intend to build a nuclear arsenal over time—to the contrary. But testing a nuclear device comes with a price: Iran is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Crossing the nuclear threshold for a rudimentary nuclear device that Iran may not yet be able to replicate or deliver will be costly and fall short of achieving the strategic goals Iran is pursuing through its nuclear program—namely, the survival of the Islamic Revolution and its rise as the regional hegemon.

Tactically, Iran may therefore prefer to wait until it has accumulated enough weapons-grade fissile material to build not one but dozens of bombs; until it can build a nuclear device that is small enough to fit into a missile warhead; and until it has perfected its ballistic-missile technology to the point where a long-range missile can accurately hit a distant target. That time line is still quite long—years, not months.

However, it is not the time line that matters for policymakers. For long before Iran has accumulated enough fissile material to build an arsenal and enough technological know-how to make it into deliverable warheads, Iran will have mastered the technology and cracked the scientific secrets needed to reach that goal. It is the difference between knowing how to ride a bicycle and owning one. The regime is closer to the former than the latter—the U.S. envoy’s statement is further evidence of that. But once the knowledge is there, it will be harder to halt the march to the real thing. Thus, this shorter time line matters more than the actual moment when Iran will break away from the NPT, build several warheads, mount them on missiles, and threaten its neighbors.

But even this time line is not the one that policymakers must rely on for their planning. Long before Iran has built its arsenal or acquired the necessary knowledge, it will have shielded dozens of clandestine installations from a possible military strike. Iran knows that military planners in Israel and the U.S. constantly update their contingency plans for a strike based on fresh intelligence. The more Iran spreads its program, the more it hides it behind an impenetrable shield of defenses and fortifications, the harder the job for those in the West tasked with devising a realistic plan of attack.

At some point, they will tell the U.S. president and the Israeli prime minister that a military strike to retard or destroy Iran’s nuclear program is no longer an option. From then onward, Iran’s run to nuclear capability is unhindered. The removal of a credible military threat from the arsenal of diplomatic tools available to the international community will considerably reduce its leverage on Iran’s regime. Whereas the nuclear clock may be still ticking slow enough to give us time, Iran’s efforts to make its program untouchable are less burdened by scientific challenges—that clock is ticking much faster. Tehran will get there long before it can threaten anyone with a deliverable nuclear weapon. Once that happens— in months, not years—the game is up.

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Obama Tells D.C. Parents to Take A Hike

This story sure didn’t get a lot of play in the mainstream media:

School-voucher proponents confronted police Tuesday morning outside the U.S. Department of Education, where the protesters demanded that federal officials restore scholarships taken away from 216 D.C. students.

About 20 Federal Protective Services officers stood in front of the Maryland Avenue Southwest entrance, blocking six demonstrators, who formed a human chain, from entering the building. As the protesters inched closer to the doorway, officers called for backup and obstructed their path.

A crowd of about 30 demonstrators chanted, “Spare the change, return our hope.” The group stood on the building’s steps, cheering on those who linked arms and stood face to face with authorities. Former D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous, who organized the event, and Virginia Walden Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice, were among those risking arrest.

[. . .]

“You may not lock us up, but we’ll be back,” Mr. Chavous said. “We will make sure that we do everything in our power to give our children the education they deserve. I am disgusted by the fact that they can go to great lengths to stop or muzzle the voice of freedom.

“It is fundamentally wrong for this administration not to listen to the voices of citizens in this city.”

The protest against President Obama’s refusal to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program came the same day that Mr. Obama addressed the nation’s classrooms in a televised speech about the importance of taking personal responsibility for one’s education.

There is, of course, legislation with bipartisan sponsorship to restore the funding. In late July, Sens. Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins, Diane Feinstein, George Voinovich, Robert Byrd, and John Ensign introduced the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act, which would provide reauthorization for the program for five years. So it seems that the only thing standing in the way of giving D.C. parents what they want—funding for a successful program for kids trapped in one of the worst school districts in the country—is the Obama administration. And the teachers’ union, of course.

This story sure didn’t get a lot of play in the mainstream media:

School-voucher proponents confronted police Tuesday morning outside the U.S. Department of Education, where the protesters demanded that federal officials restore scholarships taken away from 216 D.C. students.

About 20 Federal Protective Services officers stood in front of the Maryland Avenue Southwest entrance, blocking six demonstrators, who formed a human chain, from entering the building. As the protesters inched closer to the doorway, officers called for backup and obstructed their path.

A crowd of about 30 demonstrators chanted, “Spare the change, return our hope.” The group stood on the building’s steps, cheering on those who linked arms and stood face to face with authorities. Former D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous, who organized the event, and Virginia Walden Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice, were among those risking arrest.

[. . .]

“You may not lock us up, but we’ll be back,” Mr. Chavous said. “We will make sure that we do everything in our power to give our children the education they deserve. I am disgusted by the fact that they can go to great lengths to stop or muzzle the voice of freedom.

“It is fundamentally wrong for this administration not to listen to the voices of citizens in this city.”

The protest against President Obama’s refusal to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program came the same day that Mr. Obama addressed the nation’s classrooms in a televised speech about the importance of taking personal responsibility for one’s education.

There is, of course, legislation with bipartisan sponsorship to restore the funding. In late July, Sens. Joe Lieberman, Susan Collins, Diane Feinstein, George Voinovich, Robert Byrd, and John Ensign introduced the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results (SOAR) Act, which would provide reauthorization for the program for five years. So it seems that the only thing standing in the way of giving D.C. parents what they want—funding for a successful program for kids trapped in one of the worst school districts in the country—is the Obama administration. And the teachers’ union, of course.

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The Good News: It’s a Total Failure

Michael Freund writing in the Jerusalem Post observes:

For a president who has been in office for just over seven months, Barack Obama can at last point to some meaningful change that he has brought about in the Middle East.

US President Barack Obama speaks during a dinner celebrating Ramadan in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday.

Thanks to his administration’s arm-twisting and bullying of Jerusalem over settlements, Obama has unwittingly succeeded in galvanizing the Israeli public like never before. The result is a broad coalition that extends all the way from the moderate left, through the center and over to the reasonable right, giving Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu plenty of political breathing space.

[. . .]

Ironically, in this respect, Obama has managed to attain what various right-wing MKs and settler lobby groups could only dream of. Through his obstinacy, the American president has inadvertently brought about a resumption of construction in the territories by unfairly pressing Israel to agree to a “freeze.”

That’s not all. Obama has also managed to “avoid” the consistently high approval ratings in Israel that American presidents of both parties have enjoyed:

Yet here too Obama has managed to alter reality. As a recent Smith Research poll conducted on behalf of The Jerusalem Post revealed (August 28), just 4 percent of Israelis now think Obama’s policies are pro-Israel, while 51% consider his administration to be pro-Palestinian.

In effect, Obama has changed the way Israelis view America. It was once considered unthinkable for a prime minister to say no to the United States, yet that is exactly what is happening now, and the bulk of Israelis support it.

That leaves Freund with a counterintuitive optimistic conclusion: “In a short period, he has hardened the Palestinian position, strengthened the hand of Israel’s settlement enterprise and led the Israeli public to reassess its blind faith in Washington.” Well, that’s one way of looking at it. And that’s the best one can hope for under trying circumstances.

But if one thinks that a warm and robust Israeli-U.S. relationship is of benefit to both countries, that the looming threat of a nuclear Iran requires close coordination and trust between Israel and the U.S., and that limited but meaningful progress can be made in the lives of Palestinians and the security of Israelis with a less antagonistic U.S. approach to Israel, then this is hardly an ideal state of affairs. And if you think that from the American perspective our moral standing and international credibility have been damaged by the shameful groveling before the “Muslim world” and the needlessly hostile attacks on our ally, then you certainly can’t be pleased.

That Obama’s policy is spectacularly failing is, then, the only consolation one can “enjoy” under the worst of circumstances.

Michael Freund writing in the Jerusalem Post observes:

For a president who has been in office for just over seven months, Barack Obama can at last point to some meaningful change that he has brought about in the Middle East.

US President Barack Obama speaks during a dinner celebrating Ramadan in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday.

Thanks to his administration’s arm-twisting and bullying of Jerusalem over settlements, Obama has unwittingly succeeded in galvanizing the Israeli public like never before. The result is a broad coalition that extends all the way from the moderate left, through the center and over to the reasonable right, giving Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu plenty of political breathing space.

[. . .]

Ironically, in this respect, Obama has managed to attain what various right-wing MKs and settler lobby groups could only dream of. Through his obstinacy, the American president has inadvertently brought about a resumption of construction in the territories by unfairly pressing Israel to agree to a “freeze.”

That’s not all. Obama has also managed to “avoid” the consistently high approval ratings in Israel that American presidents of both parties have enjoyed:

Yet here too Obama has managed to alter reality. As a recent Smith Research poll conducted on behalf of The Jerusalem Post revealed (August 28), just 4 percent of Israelis now think Obama’s policies are pro-Israel, while 51% consider his administration to be pro-Palestinian.

In effect, Obama has changed the way Israelis view America. It was once considered unthinkable for a prime minister to say no to the United States, yet that is exactly what is happening now, and the bulk of Israelis support it.

That leaves Freund with a counterintuitive optimistic conclusion: “In a short period, he has hardened the Palestinian position, strengthened the hand of Israel’s settlement enterprise and led the Israeli public to reassess its blind faith in Washington.” Well, that’s one way of looking at it. And that’s the best one can hope for under trying circumstances.

But if one thinks that a warm and robust Israeli-U.S. relationship is of benefit to both countries, that the looming threat of a nuclear Iran requires close coordination and trust between Israel and the U.S., and that limited but meaningful progress can be made in the lives of Palestinians and the security of Israelis with a less antagonistic U.S. approach to Israel, then this is hardly an ideal state of affairs. And if you think that from the American perspective our moral standing and international credibility have been damaged by the shameful groveling before the “Muslim world” and the needlessly hostile attacks on our ally, then you certainly can’t be pleased.

That Obama’s policy is spectacularly failing is, then, the only consolation one can “enjoy” under the worst of circumstances.

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The Green-Jobs Scam

Rich Lowry looks at the “green” part of the green-jobs czar’s demise. He remarks on how unremarkable the Marxist Van Jones was within the environmental movement. He explains:

How did a radical agitator like Jones arrive in the Obama administration? He’s just part of the fraternity. “We were so delighted to be able to recruit him into the White House,” Valerie Jarrett said a few weeks ago. “We were watching him.” In its story about his ouster, the Washington Post called him a “towering figure” in the environmental movement.

Jones had been the Great Black Hope of environmentalism. The movement is only slightly less white than the Daughters of the American Revolution. So it naturally took to Jones with his racially charged rhetoric about “greening the ghetto.” He offered street cred the average vanilla-latte environmentalist lacked.

For Jones, the environmental movement is a perfect vehicle. In today’s America, it is the most natural place for someone with Marxist sensibilities and aspirations outside a college English department. A frontal assault on capitalism on behalf of the working people of the world is passé and doomed. A stealth assault on capitalism in the name of saving the planet is chic and entirely plausible. In this sense, green is the new red.

It is also a racket, of course. Left unsaid in all this is the number of “green jobs” created or creatable by government. Sure, you can “create” jobs, at least temporarily, by enough government expenditure, but only by taking money from individuals and businesses that could be, among other things, creating jobs (many more as it turns out) on their own. As David Kreutzer of Heritage put it:

Government expenditures are not free. Economists know this and most others recognize it when they take the time to think about it. Unfortunately, it seems not everybody takes that time.

In a story fit for satire in The Onion, a renewable energy research group, bankrolled by a $1.1 billion subsidy from the Department of Energy, concludes that huge government subsidies for renewable energy don’t reduce employment after all. However, their reasoning works only so long as the subsidies don’t come out of anybody’s pocket—a practical and theoretical impossibility.

In fact, by subsidizing green jobs while regulating other disfavored industries and taxing energy, the net result is a loss of jobs. And those lost jobs are private-sector jobs that don’t require the constant support and meddling of an ever expanding government, one with plenty of room for Van Jones.

Moreover, as Gov. Mitch Daniels pointed out earlier this year in explaining the job-killing aspect of cap-and-trade legislation, the whole scheme looks an awful lot like something the Left constantly rails against — imperialism:

Quite simply, it looks like imperialism. This bill would impose enormous taxes and restrictions on free commerce by wealthy but faltering powers — California, Massachusetts and New York — seeking to exploit politically weaker colonies in order to prop up their own decaying economies. Because proceeds from their new taxes, levied mostly on us, will be spent on their social programs while negatively impacting our economy, we Hoosiers decline to submit meekly.

The Waxman-Markey legislation would more than double electricity bills in Indiana. Years of reform in taxation, regulation and infrastructure-building would be largely erased at a stroke. In recent years, Indiana has led the nation in capturing international investment, repatriating dollars spent on foreign goods or oil and employing Americans with them. Waxman-Markey seems designed to reverse that flow. “Closed: Gone to China” signs would cover Indiana’s stores and factories.

So among the many disconcerting things about the Jones debacle is the realization that just about everyone in the administration thought Jones was doing something useful. It was “useful” only if the end game is to accelerate the growth of government and the crippling of the private sector.

Rich Lowry looks at the “green” part of the green-jobs czar’s demise. He remarks on how unremarkable the Marxist Van Jones was within the environmental movement. He explains:

How did a radical agitator like Jones arrive in the Obama administration? He’s just part of the fraternity. “We were so delighted to be able to recruit him into the White House,” Valerie Jarrett said a few weeks ago. “We were watching him.” In its story about his ouster, the Washington Post called him a “towering figure” in the environmental movement.

Jones had been the Great Black Hope of environmentalism. The movement is only slightly less white than the Daughters of the American Revolution. So it naturally took to Jones with his racially charged rhetoric about “greening the ghetto.” He offered street cred the average vanilla-latte environmentalist lacked.

For Jones, the environmental movement is a perfect vehicle. In today’s America, it is the most natural place for someone with Marxist sensibilities and aspirations outside a college English department. A frontal assault on capitalism on behalf of the working people of the world is passé and doomed. A stealth assault on capitalism in the name of saving the planet is chic and entirely plausible. In this sense, green is the new red.

It is also a racket, of course. Left unsaid in all this is the number of “green jobs” created or creatable by government. Sure, you can “create” jobs, at least temporarily, by enough government expenditure, but only by taking money from individuals and businesses that could be, among other things, creating jobs (many more as it turns out) on their own. As David Kreutzer of Heritage put it:

Government expenditures are not free. Economists know this and most others recognize it when they take the time to think about it. Unfortunately, it seems not everybody takes that time.

In a story fit for satire in The Onion, a renewable energy research group, bankrolled by a $1.1 billion subsidy from the Department of Energy, concludes that huge government subsidies for renewable energy don’t reduce employment after all. However, their reasoning works only so long as the subsidies don’t come out of anybody’s pocket—a practical and theoretical impossibility.

In fact, by subsidizing green jobs while regulating other disfavored industries and taxing energy, the net result is a loss of jobs. And those lost jobs are private-sector jobs that don’t require the constant support and meddling of an ever expanding government, one with plenty of room for Van Jones.

Moreover, as Gov. Mitch Daniels pointed out earlier this year in explaining the job-killing aspect of cap-and-trade legislation, the whole scheme looks an awful lot like something the Left constantly rails against — imperialism:

Quite simply, it looks like imperialism. This bill would impose enormous taxes and restrictions on free commerce by wealthy but faltering powers — California, Massachusetts and New York — seeking to exploit politically weaker colonies in order to prop up their own decaying economies. Because proceeds from their new taxes, levied mostly on us, will be spent on their social programs while negatively impacting our economy, we Hoosiers decline to submit meekly.

The Waxman-Markey legislation would more than double electricity bills in Indiana. Years of reform in taxation, regulation and infrastructure-building would be largely erased at a stroke. In recent years, Indiana has led the nation in capturing international investment, repatriating dollars spent on foreign goods or oil and employing Americans with them. Waxman-Markey seems designed to reverse that flow. “Closed: Gone to China” signs would cover Indiana’s stores and factories.

So among the many disconcerting things about the Jones debacle is the realization that just about everyone in the administration thought Jones was doing something useful. It was “useful” only if the end game is to accelerate the growth of government and the crippling of the private sector.

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Packing the Justice Department

The Washington Post‘s editors got my hopes up with an op-ed entitled “Repair Job at Justice.” Wow, would they talk about the dismissal of the Black Panther voter-intimidation case? Might they query why Eric Holder has second-guessed the investigation and decision by career prosecutors not to pursue charges against CIA operatives utilizing enhanced interrogation techniques? Could they discuss Holder’s decision to hire a head of the tax divison with no tax experience, or a bevy of hyperpartisan lawyers like Dawn Johnsen?

Well, no.

But the Post editors are concerned that the announced decision to beef up the staff in the Civil Rights Division might lead to politicized hiring. They write:

Mr. Holder must be careful not to repeat the mistakes of his predecessors. If it was wrong then to fill career slots only with “loyal Bushies,” it would be wrong now to reserve slots only for committed liberals seeking to make up for lost time.

And he should seize the moment to rethink goals and approaches, even if it means challenging liberal orthodoxy. Is housing discrimination, for example, still such a vast problem that only the concerted efforts of the Justice Department can remedy the harm? The answer may be “yes,” but we would hope that Mr. Holder and his civil rights team at least test these and other assumptions.

And there is every reason to suspect that Holder and his team are indeed determined to find “loyal Obami.” The New York Times story that revealed Holder’s hiring plans noted that they involve potential replacement of key section heads (which includes career attorneys) simply because they had served during the Bush administration:

Other changes from the Bush years may be harder to roll back. The division’s downgrading of the New Black Panther Party charges, which were filed in the final days of the Bush administration, has had rippling consequences. It apparently prompted Senate Republicans to put a hold on President Obama’s nominee to lead the division as assistant attorney general for civil rights, Thomas Perez.

The delay in Mr. Perez’s arrival, in turn, is stalling plans to review section managers installed by the Bush team, including several regarded with suspicion by civil rights advocacy groups. Under federal law, top-level career officials may not be transferred to other positions for the first 120 days after a new agency head is confirmed.

You see, the “civil rights advocacy groups” — that is New York Times‒speak for left-wing activists — now call the tune as to who will serve in the Justice Department. Imagine if the Bush administration had deferred to the Federalist Society or to pro-life groups as to which attorneys to replace. What if the Bush administration had replaced civil-rights attorneys simply because they had been hired by the Clinton team?

Holder’s Justice Department says it will have career attorneys in the Civil Rights Division do the hiring. But this is no guarantee of fairness or that conservatives won’t be discriminated against. Quite the contrary. The Times let on:

Some conservatives are skeptical that such a policy will keep politics out of hiring, however. Robert Driscoll, a division political appointee from 2001 to 2003, said career civil rights lawyers are “overwhelmingly left-leaning” and will favor liberals. “If you are the Obama administration and you allow the career staff to do all the hiring, you will get the same people you would probably get if you did it yourself,” he said. “In some ways, it’s a masterstroke by them.”

Well, the Post editors are right to be concerned. But not to worry –  hasn’t Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Pat Leahy always been concerned about the “politicization” of the Justice Department? I’m sure he’ll get right on the case.

The Washington Post‘s editors got my hopes up with an op-ed entitled “Repair Job at Justice.” Wow, would they talk about the dismissal of the Black Panther voter-intimidation case? Might they query why Eric Holder has second-guessed the investigation and decision by career prosecutors not to pursue charges against CIA operatives utilizing enhanced interrogation techniques? Could they discuss Holder’s decision to hire a head of the tax divison with no tax experience, or a bevy of hyperpartisan lawyers like Dawn Johnsen?

Well, no.

But the Post editors are concerned that the announced decision to beef up the staff in the Civil Rights Division might lead to politicized hiring. They write:

Mr. Holder must be careful not to repeat the mistakes of his predecessors. If it was wrong then to fill career slots only with “loyal Bushies,” it would be wrong now to reserve slots only for committed liberals seeking to make up for lost time.

And he should seize the moment to rethink goals and approaches, even if it means challenging liberal orthodoxy. Is housing discrimination, for example, still such a vast problem that only the concerted efforts of the Justice Department can remedy the harm? The answer may be “yes,” but we would hope that Mr. Holder and his civil rights team at least test these and other assumptions.

And there is every reason to suspect that Holder and his team are indeed determined to find “loyal Obami.” The New York Times story that revealed Holder’s hiring plans noted that they involve potential replacement of key section heads (which includes career attorneys) simply because they had served during the Bush administration:

Other changes from the Bush years may be harder to roll back. The division’s downgrading of the New Black Panther Party charges, which were filed in the final days of the Bush administration, has had rippling consequences. It apparently prompted Senate Republicans to put a hold on President Obama’s nominee to lead the division as assistant attorney general for civil rights, Thomas Perez.

The delay in Mr. Perez’s arrival, in turn, is stalling plans to review section managers installed by the Bush team, including several regarded with suspicion by civil rights advocacy groups. Under federal law, top-level career officials may not be transferred to other positions for the first 120 days after a new agency head is confirmed.

You see, the “civil rights advocacy groups” — that is New York Times‒speak for left-wing activists — now call the tune as to who will serve in the Justice Department. Imagine if the Bush administration had deferred to the Federalist Society or to pro-life groups as to which attorneys to replace. What if the Bush administration had replaced civil-rights attorneys simply because they had been hired by the Clinton team?

Holder’s Justice Department says it will have career attorneys in the Civil Rights Division do the hiring. But this is no guarantee of fairness or that conservatives won’t be discriminated against. Quite the contrary. The Times let on:

Some conservatives are skeptical that such a policy will keep politics out of hiring, however. Robert Driscoll, a division political appointee from 2001 to 2003, said career civil rights lawyers are “overwhelmingly left-leaning” and will favor liberals. “If you are the Obama administration and you allow the career staff to do all the hiring, you will get the same people you would probably get if you did it yourself,” he said. “In some ways, it’s a masterstroke by them.”

Well, the Post editors are right to be concerned. But not to worry –  hasn’t Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Pat Leahy always been concerned about the “politicization” of the Justice Department? I’m sure he’ll get right on the case.

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Where Are the Realists?

It seems that Obama’s Honduras policy isn’t going as planned. This report explains:

Honduras’ de facto government remains dead-set against the return of Manuel Zelaya as the country’s president, defying the Obama administration and disregarding the U.S. sanctions imposed last week against the poor Central American nation.

In fact, the government of interim President Roberto Micheletti appears to be digging in its heels against Zelaya by circulating accusations the ousted president illegally used public money to keep horses, buy watches and jewelry and repair his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

You have to hand it to the Honduran pro-constitutional forces — the ones for whom adherence to term limits (quite an important principle given the region’s history of strongmen) is worth defying the best efforts of the U.S. to meddle, cajole, and bully the small democracy into submission. After all, as the report notes, “The U.S. is the 800-pound gorilla in Honduras; more than half of Honduras’ trade is with the U.S. The U.S. also has a military base in Honduras, the brightest Hondurans study in the U.S. and Hondurans speak English as a point of pride.”

The situation in Honduras is instructive. Some contend that the Obama administration is not really all that ideologically minded and that once those in charge of U.S. policy (not sure who they are, exactly) see the world in action, they are bright enough to react and readjust to events as they find them. According to this school of thought, the Obama team is teachable and will shed troublesome rhetoric and unrealistic expectations of our adversaries as that rhetoric and those expectations prove to be out of kilter with the motives and behavior of other actors on the world stage. Well, not when it comes to Honduras.

Here, one might almost have excused the administration for getting it wrong initially. It looked, if one didn’t bother to read up on the Honduran constitution, vaguely like a “coup,” and we’re generally against coups. It therefore follows that the U.S. might raise a fuss and try to return to the status quo. But the passage of time has made crystal clear that Honduran democracy and the rule of law — the very things we ostensibly want to preserve — are not served by backing Zelaya. But rather than recognize the error of their ways and gracefully get off the stage, the Obama team has dug in, cutting off aid and canceling visas from the interim government.

It is the reaction of a foreign-policy team immune to facts and unable to unclench its grasp on a very bad idea, in this case the notion that we might out-Chavez Hugo Chavez by championing the power-grabbing socialist. This doesn’t bode well for the defenders of the Honduran constitution, but the real concern is that this is instructive of the Obama team’s determination to defend its skewed worldview at all costs and in defiance of real-world developments. It is not only intensely ideological but also frightfully stubborn.

Let’s hope that whoever masterminded the Honduran policy isn’t emblematic of the thinking more generally in the Obama administration. And perhaps there are lonely voices within the administration who can point to this abject failure in order to steer the White House to a more fact-based foreign policy. But it might be that no one is listening and that no one is learning. Unfortunately, those hard-nosed realists we were promised, at least for now, are nowhere to be seen.

It seems that Obama’s Honduras policy isn’t going as planned. This report explains:

Honduras’ de facto government remains dead-set against the return of Manuel Zelaya as the country’s president, defying the Obama administration and disregarding the U.S. sanctions imposed last week against the poor Central American nation.

In fact, the government of interim President Roberto Micheletti appears to be digging in its heels against Zelaya by circulating accusations the ousted president illegally used public money to keep horses, buy watches and jewelry and repair his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

You have to hand it to the Honduran pro-constitutional forces — the ones for whom adherence to term limits (quite an important principle given the region’s history of strongmen) is worth defying the best efforts of the U.S. to meddle, cajole, and bully the small democracy into submission. After all, as the report notes, “The U.S. is the 800-pound gorilla in Honduras; more than half of Honduras’ trade is with the U.S. The U.S. also has a military base in Honduras, the brightest Hondurans study in the U.S. and Hondurans speak English as a point of pride.”

The situation in Honduras is instructive. Some contend that the Obama administration is not really all that ideologically minded and that once those in charge of U.S. policy (not sure who they are, exactly) see the world in action, they are bright enough to react and readjust to events as they find them. According to this school of thought, the Obama team is teachable and will shed troublesome rhetoric and unrealistic expectations of our adversaries as that rhetoric and those expectations prove to be out of kilter with the motives and behavior of other actors on the world stage. Well, not when it comes to Honduras.

Here, one might almost have excused the administration for getting it wrong initially. It looked, if one didn’t bother to read up on the Honduran constitution, vaguely like a “coup,” and we’re generally against coups. It therefore follows that the U.S. might raise a fuss and try to return to the status quo. But the passage of time has made crystal clear that Honduran democracy and the rule of law — the very things we ostensibly want to preserve — are not served by backing Zelaya. But rather than recognize the error of their ways and gracefully get off the stage, the Obama team has dug in, cutting off aid and canceling visas from the interim government.

It is the reaction of a foreign-policy team immune to facts and unable to unclench its grasp on a very bad idea, in this case the notion that we might out-Chavez Hugo Chavez by championing the power-grabbing socialist. This doesn’t bode well for the defenders of the Honduran constitution, but the real concern is that this is instructive of the Obama team’s determination to defend its skewed worldview at all costs and in defiance of real-world developments. It is not only intensely ideological but also frightfully stubborn.

Let’s hope that whoever masterminded the Honduran policy isn’t emblematic of the thinking more generally in the Obama administration. And perhaps there are lonely voices within the administration who can point to this abject failure in order to steer the White House to a more fact-based foreign policy. But it might be that no one is listening and that no one is learning. Unfortunately, those hard-nosed realists we were promised, at least for now, are nowhere to be seen.

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