Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 17, 2009

Ballistic Missiles: The Ostrich Defense

Max identifies a significant problem with the Obama administration’s cancellation of the missile-defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. His analysis is spot-on that this unrequited concession will only weaken America’s bargaining position on multiple issues. It is especially disquieting, however, that the administration has chosen to justify the decision as it has. The justification itself is logically weak, on even the most cursory inspection, since its essential assumption is that defense against a longer-range Iranian missile will not be needed on any time line relevant to current planning. There is no basis for this assumption.

The case made by the president (video here) hinges on two key premises: that the Iranian ballistic-missile threat “has not emerged” as soon as originally estimated, and that currently proven tactical antimissile capabilities are better suited and more ready for deployment against the actual threat. The latter reference is to growing success with sea-based (Aegis system) missile-defense testing, including the July intercept of a no-notice ballistic missile launch intended to simulate a North Korean missile. The Obama administration and Congress have been looking at sea-based missile-defense alternatives (see this report, for example), which, for the defense of Europe, would most likely involve Aegis-missile ship patrols in either the Black Sea or the Baltic Sea, possibly both. Additional deployments might include a ground-based antimissile system, reportedly to be put in “the Balkans, Turkey, or Israel,” and perhaps foreshadowed by the administration’s announcement last week that it is considering a $7.8 billion Patriot PAC-3 missile sale to Turkey.

This policy shift seeks the appearance of judiciousness by ignoring one major point and obfuscating others. The unaddressed point is that the missile-defense site in Europe, besides defending our European NATO allies, was intended as the “third site” in the U.S. national missile-defense (NMD) concept, providing defense against long-range missiles approaching North America through the western portion of the eastern hemisphere. In conjunction with the NMD sites oriented toward the Far East and the Arctic, at Vandenberg AFB in California and Fort Greeley, Alaska, it was to establish a comprehensive northern-latitudes defense against an initial salvo of long-range missiles. The NMD system is the only one we have that is intended to intercept intercontinental missiles in midcourse (i.e., in outer space). With this decision, we have dealt that capability away for the defense of the U.S. East Coast.

The points being obfuscated, meanwhile, are: Iran’s progress with its ballistic-missile program; the political feasibility of the implied tactical defense network for Europe against shorter-range Iranian missiles; and the rather obvious option, apparently assumed away, to pursue more than one missile-defense capability, against more distant as well as more imminent threats.

On the first point, no explicit revision has been issued by any U.S. agency of the longstanding estimate that Iran could, by 2015, develop missiles that range all of Europe (see the 2009 estimate of Air Force Intelligence). Press references to such a revision are vague and typically invoke a joint U.S.-Russian study, sponsored by the East-West Institute and released in May 2009, which concluded that the planned U.S. missile-defense installations in Europe were inappropriate to a threat that wouldn’t emerge for some time. The study, however, predicted that Iran could reach Europe with ballistic missiles within six to eight years, or in the period 2015-17.

The Joint Chiefs vice chairman, General James Cartwright, is also quoted as saying that the missile threats from Iran and North Korea “are not there yet.” The “intercontinental ballistic missile threat,” in his words, “has not come as fast as we thought it would come.” We must note, however, that no one ever expected the full threat to have emerged already in 2009. The Eastern European missile-defense sites were to be operational by 2013; on existing evidence, this timing was realistic for both the threat and our own capabilities. The worst-case estimate of 2015 for an Iranian missile ranging Europe has not been revised—nor, contrary to the implication of Obama’s announcement, is the issue here an either/or alternative between defending Europe against shorter-range missiles now and preparing for a longer-range missile threat in the future. Both requirements can be met. Going forward with the planned sites to address the future threat does not preclude the use of Patriot and Aegis systems today for shorter-range missile defense.

On the other hand, political objections from Russia might do just that. It does not seem possible that Obama’s advisers consider it more politically feasible to operate Aegis ships in the Black and Baltic Seas, in periods of heightened regional tension, than to install a radar and interceptor missiles in Eastern Europe. Certainly, shifting the Eastern European installation to “the Balkans or Turkey,” as vaguely implied in the UPI report above, would meet with at least as much resistance from Moscow. The sale of Patriot PAC-3 missiles to Turkey is not a given, nor is it a neutral idea from Russia’s perspective. Cash-hungry Moscow has for months been discussing with Ankara the sale of Russia’s most advanced air- and missile-defense system, the S-400. The two defense systems are in direct competition and represent a wider political competition over Turkey’s allegiance that Russia will not back down from. Arms sales, natural-gas politics, and regional power are all at stake for Moscow; we cannot assume either Turkey’s cooperation or Russia’s acquiescence in a Turkey-centered missile-defense concept.

The bottom line, however, is that the use of tactical missile-defense assets alone is not the most effective counter to a long-range missile threat. Obama’s action simply assumes that threat away. He is deciding not to install one of the three sites that were to give North America the most-effective defense possible against long-range missiles. The same site would have given our European allies layered and more capable protection. The decision leaves a significant geographic hole in American defenses and weakens Europe’s. The tactical alternatives Obama refers to cannot do the same job—intercepting longer-range missiles from, at a minimum, Iran—and their deployment to defend Europe would meet with much the same political resistance from Russia as the original Bush plan did. Obama is thus assuming that the job of intercepting longer-range missiles will not need doing at all, at least not on this geographic vector. It is that assumption that he and his apologists should have to defend.

Max identifies a significant problem with the Obama administration’s cancellation of the missile-defense installations in Poland and the Czech Republic. His analysis is spot-on that this unrequited concession will only weaken America’s bargaining position on multiple issues. It is especially disquieting, however, that the administration has chosen to justify the decision as it has. The justification itself is logically weak, on even the most cursory inspection, since its essential assumption is that defense against a longer-range Iranian missile will not be needed on any time line relevant to current planning. There is no basis for this assumption.

The case made by the president (video here) hinges on two key premises: that the Iranian ballistic-missile threat “has not emerged” as soon as originally estimated, and that currently proven tactical antimissile capabilities are better suited and more ready for deployment against the actual threat. The latter reference is to growing success with sea-based (Aegis system) missile-defense testing, including the July intercept of a no-notice ballistic missile launch intended to simulate a North Korean missile. The Obama administration and Congress have been looking at sea-based missile-defense alternatives (see this report, for example), which, for the defense of Europe, would most likely involve Aegis-missile ship patrols in either the Black Sea or the Baltic Sea, possibly both. Additional deployments might include a ground-based antimissile system, reportedly to be put in “the Balkans, Turkey, or Israel,” and perhaps foreshadowed by the administration’s announcement last week that it is considering a $7.8 billion Patriot PAC-3 missile sale to Turkey.

This policy shift seeks the appearance of judiciousness by ignoring one major point and obfuscating others. The unaddressed point is that the missile-defense site in Europe, besides defending our European NATO allies, was intended as the “third site” in the U.S. national missile-defense (NMD) concept, providing defense against long-range missiles approaching North America through the western portion of the eastern hemisphere. In conjunction with the NMD sites oriented toward the Far East and the Arctic, at Vandenberg AFB in California and Fort Greeley, Alaska, it was to establish a comprehensive northern-latitudes defense against an initial salvo of long-range missiles. The NMD system is the only one we have that is intended to intercept intercontinental missiles in midcourse (i.e., in outer space). With this decision, we have dealt that capability away for the defense of the U.S. East Coast.

The points being obfuscated, meanwhile, are: Iran’s progress with its ballistic-missile program; the political feasibility of the implied tactical defense network for Europe against shorter-range Iranian missiles; and the rather obvious option, apparently assumed away, to pursue more than one missile-defense capability, against more distant as well as more imminent threats.

On the first point, no explicit revision has been issued by any U.S. agency of the longstanding estimate that Iran could, by 2015, develop missiles that range all of Europe (see the 2009 estimate of Air Force Intelligence). Press references to such a revision are vague and typically invoke a joint U.S.-Russian study, sponsored by the East-West Institute and released in May 2009, which concluded that the planned U.S. missile-defense installations in Europe were inappropriate to a threat that wouldn’t emerge for some time. The study, however, predicted that Iran could reach Europe with ballistic missiles within six to eight years, or in the period 2015-17.

The Joint Chiefs vice chairman, General James Cartwright, is also quoted as saying that the missile threats from Iran and North Korea “are not there yet.” The “intercontinental ballistic missile threat,” in his words, “has not come as fast as we thought it would come.” We must note, however, that no one ever expected the full threat to have emerged already in 2009. The Eastern European missile-defense sites were to be operational by 2013; on existing evidence, this timing was realistic for both the threat and our own capabilities. The worst-case estimate of 2015 for an Iranian missile ranging Europe has not been revised—nor, contrary to the implication of Obama’s announcement, is the issue here an either/or alternative between defending Europe against shorter-range missiles now and preparing for a longer-range missile threat in the future. Both requirements can be met. Going forward with the planned sites to address the future threat does not preclude the use of Patriot and Aegis systems today for shorter-range missile defense.

On the other hand, political objections from Russia might do just that. It does not seem possible that Obama’s advisers consider it more politically feasible to operate Aegis ships in the Black and Baltic Seas, in periods of heightened regional tension, than to install a radar and interceptor missiles in Eastern Europe. Certainly, shifting the Eastern European installation to “the Balkans or Turkey,” as vaguely implied in the UPI report above, would meet with at least as much resistance from Moscow. The sale of Patriot PAC-3 missiles to Turkey is not a given, nor is it a neutral idea from Russia’s perspective. Cash-hungry Moscow has for months been discussing with Ankara the sale of Russia’s most advanced air- and missile-defense system, the S-400. The two defense systems are in direct competition and represent a wider political competition over Turkey’s allegiance that Russia will not back down from. Arms sales, natural-gas politics, and regional power are all at stake for Moscow; we cannot assume either Turkey’s cooperation or Russia’s acquiescence in a Turkey-centered missile-defense concept.

The bottom line, however, is that the use of tactical missile-defense assets alone is not the most effective counter to a long-range missile threat. Obama’s action simply assumes that threat away. He is deciding not to install one of the three sites that were to give North America the most-effective defense possible against long-range missiles. The same site would have given our European allies layered and more capable protection. The decision leaves a significant geographic hole in American defenses and weakens Europe’s. The tactical alternatives Obama refers to cannot do the same job—intercepting longer-range missiles from, at a minimum, Iran—and their deployment to defend Europe would meet with much the same political resistance from Russia as the original Bush plan did. Obama is thus assuming that the job of intercepting longer-range missiles will not need doing at all, at least not on this geographic vector. It is that assumption that he and his apologists should have to defend.

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The Times Doubles Down on Goldstone

The UN’s investigation of last winter’s fighting in Gaza was the farrago that every objective observer expected it would be. Based on the UN Human Right Council’s premise that the Israeli counteroffensive aimed at stopping the barrage of rockets at its southern towns and villages constituted a “war crime,” the so-called “fact-finding mission” led by South African Judge Richard Goldstone found exactly what it was looking for and regurgitated the avalanche of Hamas propaganda fed by Palestinian witnesses. Though it condemned Hamas missile attacks on Israel, the main focus of the report is to classify Israel’s attempt to defend itself from attacks across the Gaza border as an unjustifiable crime. The bias of the committee, one of whose members, Christine Chinkin, had already condemned Israel’s actions, was apparent, and Israel was right to refuse to take part in the affair.

The main point of the report was not so much the individual charges but the notion that the entire Israeli campaign was itself illegitimate, and to set an absurd standard of conduct by which Israel’s armed forces are judged as criminal for any attempt to root out terrorists who hide among civilians.

What’s missing here is any sense of context. Hamas considered itself at war with Israel and used the territory it controlled to attack Israel. But when, after completely evacuating Gaza in 2005 and holding back for years, Israel took the only step any sovereign state could—using its army to try wiping out the terrorists and their bases—Hamas cried foul and the anti-Israel cheering section at the UN has now obliged with a report that treats the attacks on Israel as insufficient to justify a serious military response. The point is that the responsibility for the fighting and all the casualties on both sides rest with those who launched the war and made attacks on Gaza inevitable.

Just as the Nazi regime bears the guilt for all the civilian casualties incurred, not only during their own conquest of Europe, but also killed and hurt during the Allied campaign to liberate the Continent, so too does the Hamas terrorist movement bear the sole responsibility for all the hurt done to the people of Gaza as a result of their calculated decision to wage war on Israel from that area. To provoke a war and then to lament their sad fate as victims of their own aggression is hypocritical on the part of Hamas. For the UN to endorse this stand renders the world body, its Human Rights Council, and the Goldstone committee as guilty as the terrorists themselves. To endorse the principle that Israel has no right to defend itself against attacks across its borders is to delegitimize the Jewish state.

This report will, no doubt, be grist for the mill of Israel bashers but will persuade few not already convinced that Israel was born in sin and that efforts to protect it are likewise sinful. But almost as interesting as the UN’s efforts to besmirch Israel is the way some in the mainstream media have treated this story. Among the most fascinating was the story the New York Times published on its front page yesterday.

Nothing in the piece challenged the extraordinary premise of the report, which views Hamas terrorism and Israeli self-defense as morally equivalent. Even more important, the Times article presented the committee’s claims that armed Hamas fighters were not located in the schools, mosques, and other civilian targets that suffered during the fighting, even though the paper’s own coverage of the war contradicted this assertion.

But not satisfied with trumpeting the UN attack on Israel on its front page, the Times followed up the next day by giving Goldstone space on the op-ed page to further justify his report without giving space to any dissent to this point of view. Titled “Justice in Gaza” (no irony intended), Goldstone continued his campaign of treating the two sides of the battle as morally equivalent. Indeed, in order to justify the UN’s attempts to criminalize Israeli self-defense, he goes even further. He believes that since the West has pushed for accountability of Sudan’s government for the genocide in Darfur, they “must do the same with Israel.” In the bizzaro world of Goldstone’s persecution of Israel, Israeli self-defense is now indistinguishable from the mass murder of hundreds of thousands in Darfur, and it’s equally indefensible.

Goldstone’s premise that all civilian deaths in battle are, in the absence of any conclusive proof, war crimes and subject to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court is clearly not sustainable. Nor is it one the United States would care to see applied to our own forces. But though the international Left would like to see such a standard applied to the United States, Israel is much more vulnerable a target. With the help of friendly media such as the Times, Goldstone and the UN have advanced the campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state another crucial step.

The UN’s investigation of last winter’s fighting in Gaza was the farrago that every objective observer expected it would be. Based on the UN Human Right Council’s premise that the Israeli counteroffensive aimed at stopping the barrage of rockets at its southern towns and villages constituted a “war crime,” the so-called “fact-finding mission” led by South African Judge Richard Goldstone found exactly what it was looking for and regurgitated the avalanche of Hamas propaganda fed by Palestinian witnesses. Though it condemned Hamas missile attacks on Israel, the main focus of the report is to classify Israel’s attempt to defend itself from attacks across the Gaza border as an unjustifiable crime. The bias of the committee, one of whose members, Christine Chinkin, had already condemned Israel’s actions, was apparent, and Israel was right to refuse to take part in the affair.

The main point of the report was not so much the individual charges but the notion that the entire Israeli campaign was itself illegitimate, and to set an absurd standard of conduct by which Israel’s armed forces are judged as criminal for any attempt to root out terrorists who hide among civilians.

What’s missing here is any sense of context. Hamas considered itself at war with Israel and used the territory it controlled to attack Israel. But when, after completely evacuating Gaza in 2005 and holding back for years, Israel took the only step any sovereign state could—using its army to try wiping out the terrorists and their bases—Hamas cried foul and the anti-Israel cheering section at the UN has now obliged with a report that treats the attacks on Israel as insufficient to justify a serious military response. The point is that the responsibility for the fighting and all the casualties on both sides rest with those who launched the war and made attacks on Gaza inevitable.

Just as the Nazi regime bears the guilt for all the civilian casualties incurred, not only during their own conquest of Europe, but also killed and hurt during the Allied campaign to liberate the Continent, so too does the Hamas terrorist movement bear the sole responsibility for all the hurt done to the people of Gaza as a result of their calculated decision to wage war on Israel from that area. To provoke a war and then to lament their sad fate as victims of their own aggression is hypocritical on the part of Hamas. For the UN to endorse this stand renders the world body, its Human Rights Council, and the Goldstone committee as guilty as the terrorists themselves. To endorse the principle that Israel has no right to defend itself against attacks across its borders is to delegitimize the Jewish state.

This report will, no doubt, be grist for the mill of Israel bashers but will persuade few not already convinced that Israel was born in sin and that efforts to protect it are likewise sinful. But almost as interesting as the UN’s efforts to besmirch Israel is the way some in the mainstream media have treated this story. Among the most fascinating was the story the New York Times published on its front page yesterday.

Nothing in the piece challenged the extraordinary premise of the report, which views Hamas terrorism and Israeli self-defense as morally equivalent. Even more important, the Times article presented the committee’s claims that armed Hamas fighters were not located in the schools, mosques, and other civilian targets that suffered during the fighting, even though the paper’s own coverage of the war contradicted this assertion.

But not satisfied with trumpeting the UN attack on Israel on its front page, the Times followed up the next day by giving Goldstone space on the op-ed page to further justify his report without giving space to any dissent to this point of view. Titled “Justice in Gaza” (no irony intended), Goldstone continued his campaign of treating the two sides of the battle as morally equivalent. Indeed, in order to justify the UN’s attempts to criminalize Israeli self-defense, he goes even further. He believes that since the West has pushed for accountability of Sudan’s government for the genocide in Darfur, they “must do the same with Israel.” In the bizzaro world of Goldstone’s persecution of Israel, Israeli self-defense is now indistinguishable from the mass murder of hundreds of thousands in Darfur, and it’s equally indefensible.

Goldstone’s premise that all civilian deaths in battle are, in the absence of any conclusive proof, war crimes and subject to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court is clearly not sustainable. Nor is it one the United States would care to see applied to our own forces. But though the international Left would like to see such a standard applied to the United States, Israel is much more vulnerable a target. With the help of friendly media such as the Times, Goldstone and the UN have advanced the campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state another crucial step.

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Timing Is Everything

On the day Obama decides to give the back-of-the-hand to our European allies, we should note this:

Experts at the world’s top atomic watchdog are in agreement that Tehran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and is on the way to developing a missile system able to carry an atomic warhead, according to a secret report seen by The Associated Press.The document drafted by senior officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency is the clearest indication yet that the agency’s leaders share Washington’s views on Iran’s weapon-making capabilities. It appears to be the so-called “secret annex” on Iran’s nuclear program that Washington says is being withheld by the IAEA’s chief. The document says Iran has “sufficient information” to build a bomb. It says Iran is likely to “overcome problems” on developing a delivery system.

I am sure Obama officials will scamper forward in the days and weeks ahead to assure us we have plenty of time to deal with the Iranian threat. And after all, do we really know it’s a threat? Hey, if one can be so self-deluded as to imagine we’ll endear ourselves to Putin by shoving our Eastern European allies aside, one can believe just about anything.

On the day Obama decides to give the back-of-the-hand to our European allies, we should note this:

Experts at the world’s top atomic watchdog are in agreement that Tehran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb and is on the way to developing a missile system able to carry an atomic warhead, according to a secret report seen by The Associated Press.The document drafted by senior officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency is the clearest indication yet that the agency’s leaders share Washington’s views on Iran’s weapon-making capabilities. It appears to be the so-called “secret annex” on Iran’s nuclear program that Washington says is being withheld by the IAEA’s chief. The document says Iran has “sufficient information” to build a bomb. It says Iran is likely to “overcome problems” on developing a delivery system.

I am sure Obama officials will scamper forward in the days and weeks ahead to assure us we have plenty of time to deal with the Iranian threat. And after all, do we really know it’s a threat? Hey, if one can be so self-deluded as to imagine we’ll endear ourselves to Putin by shoving our Eastern European allies aside, one can believe just about anything.

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Where Do We Go for Hope?

The Obama administration’s decision on missile defense, as with virtually every move the Obama team has made in foreign policy, is both deeply naive and deeply cynical. It is naive in conceiving that our adversaries simply must respond to our apologies, retreats, reversals, and unilateral-disarmament efforts with some comparable gesture, as if they fear being thought ungracious or rude if they don’t reciprocate in a timely manner. It conceives that Vladimir Putin will now find something meaningful to do for us, once relieved—thank goodness!—of the horrifying prospect that the U.S. might stand resolutely with our allies in Eastern Europe. It conceives that if we dare not speak up about the Iranian regime’s atrocities against its people, the regime will be more favorably disposed to discuss its nuclear program. It is a deeply flawed vision of the motives and interests of our adversaries. Whether it’s based on a misconception of the influence of Obama’s own persona or on other factors, is unclear. But the supposition that we can induce adversaries to react favorably by shunning our friends, disarming, and retreating from previously held positions is not supported by any precedent.

And he’s more than just naive; Obama is practicing a foreign policy of cynicism. It is based on the premise that America’s word—whether pledges to Israel on settlements or to Poland and the Czech Republic on missile defense—does not bind us when it becomes inconvenient or an irritant to our adversaries. It imagines that we have no interest and no stake in defending human-rights activists and democracy advocates—in China, Cuba, or Iran—who in the past have looked to the U.S. for guidance and support. American exceptionalism is ostensibly nothing more than American chauvinism. As Obama said, American exceptionalism is only relative—just as the British believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks in Greek exceptionalism. It is not based on a view of America’s unique leadership role in the world and does not require that we act in defense of ideals larger than narrow national interests.

The test for Obama will be twofold. First, will it work? To date we have seen no evidence that prostrating ourselves before the world’s rogue states redounds to our benefit. Second, is this an American foreign policy that Americans can stomach and that will be sustainable over the long haul? Obama must suppose that so long as they get health care, Americans don’t really give a darn about Chinese dissidents and Iranian demonstrators. But Americans are a decent people, and they expect that their nation will behave decently and in defense of American values. After all, Americans bought his message of hope and change, the notion that America could be and do good things, and that America should be revered and respected. They did not vote, I would suggest, for this.

The Obama administration’s decision on missile defense, as with virtually every move the Obama team has made in foreign policy, is both deeply naive and deeply cynical. It is naive in conceiving that our adversaries simply must respond to our apologies, retreats, reversals, and unilateral-disarmament efforts with some comparable gesture, as if they fear being thought ungracious or rude if they don’t reciprocate in a timely manner. It conceives that Vladimir Putin will now find something meaningful to do for us, once relieved—thank goodness!—of the horrifying prospect that the U.S. might stand resolutely with our allies in Eastern Europe. It conceives that if we dare not speak up about the Iranian regime’s atrocities against its people, the regime will be more favorably disposed to discuss its nuclear program. It is a deeply flawed vision of the motives and interests of our adversaries. Whether it’s based on a misconception of the influence of Obama’s own persona or on other factors, is unclear. But the supposition that we can induce adversaries to react favorably by shunning our friends, disarming, and retreating from previously held positions is not supported by any precedent.

And he’s more than just naive; Obama is practicing a foreign policy of cynicism. It is based on the premise that America’s word—whether pledges to Israel on settlements or to Poland and the Czech Republic on missile defense—does not bind us when it becomes inconvenient or an irritant to our adversaries. It imagines that we have no interest and no stake in defending human-rights activists and democracy advocates—in China, Cuba, or Iran—who in the past have looked to the U.S. for guidance and support. American exceptionalism is ostensibly nothing more than American chauvinism. As Obama said, American exceptionalism is only relative—just as the British believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks in Greek exceptionalism. It is not based on a view of America’s unique leadership role in the world and does not require that we act in defense of ideals larger than narrow national interests.

The test for Obama will be twofold. First, will it work? To date we have seen no evidence that prostrating ourselves before the world’s rogue states redounds to our benefit. Second, is this an American foreign policy that Americans can stomach and that will be sustainable over the long haul? Obama must suppose that so long as they get health care, Americans don’t really give a darn about Chinese dissidents and Iranian demonstrators. But Americans are a decent people, and they expect that their nation will behave decently and in defense of American values. After all, Americans bought his message of hope and change, the notion that America could be and do good things, and that America should be revered and respected. They did not vote, I would suggest, for this.

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Obama’s Compartmentalized Foreign Policy

The latest episode in the Obama administration’s foreign policy tells us much more than the way the president views missile defense or the commitments the United States has made to its allies. It tells us that Obama’s strategic vision is one in which American foreign policy can be pursued discretely, with policies tailored narrowly to countries or crises with little regard for how the components assemble into a whole, or how a policy in one area might affect America’s interests in other areas. There is a great deal of evidence to support this claim.

Obama pursues rapprochement with Syria at the same time the Syrians are orchestrating violence in Iraq, undermining Lebanese democracy, and fueling Palestinian extremism. The foreseeable cost of this one-sided courtship is the degradation of America’s ability to hold Syria accountable for its regional meddling—and that, of course, is exactly what has happened, with U.S. silence greeting Damascus’s recently amplified terrorism campaign in Iraq. Obama’s opening gambit in the peace process has consisted almost entirely of pressuring Israel, which again has had the foreseeable effect of convincing Jerusalem that Obama is not serious about Israel’s immediate security needs and thereby curtailing Washington’s ability to restrain Israeli action on Iran. Today, it is hard not to notice that the many statements on Iran emanating from Israel share a sober realization that Israel might have to act unilaterally. This represents a failure of Obama’s policies, both on the peace process and the Iranian nuclear program.

And now he has done a large favor for Vladimir Putin a year after Putin showed the seriousness of his intention to establish Russian “spheres of influence” over its former captive territories, and amid Russia’s campaign to short-circuit Western diplomatic pressure on Iran. The administration’s reasoning on missile defense appears to be part of the “reset button” strategy with Russia—but the result will be a demonstration to Iran, as Max pointed out, of American naiveté and weakness, or at least of a foolish desire to elevate the superficial appearance of good relations above substantive American interests. In hanging Poland and the Czech Republic out to dry, Obama damages our ability to show our allies that American friendship is meaningful and unwavering. “This is catastrophic for Poland,” said a spokeswoman at the Polish Ministry of Defense. It is catastrophic for Poland, and Obama has apparently made his peace with that fact. But it is also broadly damaging to American credibility, which is the wellspring of American power.

There are many problems with individual Obama initiatives. But taken as a whole, the biggest problem is the administration’s apparent inability to look at the world as a system that responds with great sensitivity to American leadership, or the lack thereof. Obama looks at a map of the world as if through a straw, believing that his decisions in one area will have little effect on his choices in other areas. It is a grand strategy of rejecting the concept of grand strategy.

The latest episode in the Obama administration’s foreign policy tells us much more than the way the president views missile defense or the commitments the United States has made to its allies. It tells us that Obama’s strategic vision is one in which American foreign policy can be pursued discretely, with policies tailored narrowly to countries or crises with little regard for how the components assemble into a whole, or how a policy in one area might affect America’s interests in other areas. There is a great deal of evidence to support this claim.

Obama pursues rapprochement with Syria at the same time the Syrians are orchestrating violence in Iraq, undermining Lebanese democracy, and fueling Palestinian extremism. The foreseeable cost of this one-sided courtship is the degradation of America’s ability to hold Syria accountable for its regional meddling—and that, of course, is exactly what has happened, with U.S. silence greeting Damascus’s recently amplified terrorism campaign in Iraq. Obama’s opening gambit in the peace process has consisted almost entirely of pressuring Israel, which again has had the foreseeable effect of convincing Jerusalem that Obama is not serious about Israel’s immediate security needs and thereby curtailing Washington’s ability to restrain Israeli action on Iran. Today, it is hard not to notice that the many statements on Iran emanating from Israel share a sober realization that Israel might have to act unilaterally. This represents a failure of Obama’s policies, both on the peace process and the Iranian nuclear program.

And now he has done a large favor for Vladimir Putin a year after Putin showed the seriousness of his intention to establish Russian “spheres of influence” over its former captive territories, and amid Russia’s campaign to short-circuit Western diplomatic pressure on Iran. The administration’s reasoning on missile defense appears to be part of the “reset button” strategy with Russia—but the result will be a demonstration to Iran, as Max pointed out, of American naiveté and weakness, or at least of a foolish desire to elevate the superficial appearance of good relations above substantive American interests. In hanging Poland and the Czech Republic out to dry, Obama damages our ability to show our allies that American friendship is meaningful and unwavering. “This is catastrophic for Poland,” said a spokeswoman at the Polish Ministry of Defense. It is catastrophic for Poland, and Obama has apparently made his peace with that fact. But it is also broadly damaging to American credibility, which is the wellspring of American power.

There are many problems with individual Obama initiatives. But taken as a whole, the biggest problem is the administration’s apparent inability to look at the world as a system that responds with great sensitivity to American leadership, or the lack thereof. Obama looks at a map of the world as if through a straw, believing that his decisions in one area will have little effect on his choices in other areas. It is a grand strategy of rejecting the concept of grand strategy.

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No Good Deeds

Creigh Deeds turned in another mediocre-to-disastrous debate in the Virginia gubernatorial race. During the debate, he uttered this memorable line: “No, I’m not going to raise taxes, but I’m going to sign a transportation plan that raises new revenue.” Hmm.

After the debate, he was then set upon by the press and revealed his position—which is unintelligible. I’m sure the Washington Post headline tomorrow will be: “McDonnell Tries to Put Thesis Flap Behind Him by Raising Fuss Over Opponent’s Tax Position(s).”

Creigh Deeds turned in another mediocre-to-disastrous debate in the Virginia gubernatorial race. During the debate, he uttered this memorable line: “No, I’m not going to raise taxes, but I’m going to sign a transportation plan that raises new revenue.” Hmm.

After the debate, he was then set upon by the press and revealed his position—which is unintelligible. I’m sure the Washington Post headline tomorrow will be: “McDonnell Tries to Put Thesis Flap Behind Him by Raising Fuss Over Opponent’s Tax Position(s).”

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Re: Happy Now, Mr. Holder?

Abe, you have gotten to the nub of the matter: does the Holder Justice Department believe the civil rights laws apply to and should be enforced with equal vigor against African-American violators? There is substantial evidence that the Left-leaning civil-rights community and their allies in the Holder Justice Department think the laws run only one way.

This view was infamously encapsulated by then U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Mary Frances Berry, who in 1985 pronounced:

“[O]nce again our colleagues in the majority insist on putting blinders on society concerning the tragic present and past effects of discrimination. Civil rights laws were not passed to give civil rights protection to all Americans, as the majority of this Commission seems to believe. Instead, they were passed out of a recognition that some Americans already had protection because they belonged to a favored group; and others, including blacks, Hispanics, and women of all races, did not because they belonged to disfavored groups. If we are ever to achieve the real equality of opportunity that is the bright hope and promise of America, we must not deny our history and present condition by substituting illusion for reality.”

Interestingly, her controversial chief of staff, Les Jin, who assisted in her lawless and ultimately unsuccessful effort to keep President George W. Bush’s appointees off the commission, has now been hired as a senior counselor in Holder’s Civil Rights Division.

The dismissal of the default judgment in the New Black Panther case raises the question anew: just how vigilant is Holder’s department when the perpetrators are African American? We have two cases of apparent hate crimes directed at whites that will test just that—one from Ohio that occurred in July and the Illinois case that the Drudge Report highlighted. I contacted the Justice Department and was told yesterday: “The Civil Rights Division and the FBI are monitoring the ongoing local criminal investigation into the incident in Akron, Ohio. The Division is aware of the incident in Belleville, Illinois, and will consider if any action is appropriate.” When I asked what that monitoring entailed, I was told the department wouldn’t comment on “internal processes.” And former Justice Department officials confirm that it is not altogether unusual for the Justice Department to wait to see if local authorities successfully investigate and prosecute under state laws.

Now, Holder wants us all to talk about race. But perhaps he should tell us what he thinks about the enforcement of civil rights laws, whether he shares the Berry view of civil rights, and whether Jin and other civil rights attorneys are expected to enforce the law, regardless of the race of the alleged civil rights violator. And he might start by telling us whether, as the Washington Times relates, he still agrees with this:

Mr. Holder told The Washington Post in 1996 that his answer was to pull out a paper he always carries in his wallet, containing a quote he admires that says a black man’s “race defines him more particularly than anything else. Black people have a common cause that requires attending to.” In case that is not disconcerting enough in its own right, Mr. Holder elaborated: “It really says that . . . I am not the tall U.S. Attorney, I am not the thin U.S. Attorney. I am the black U.S. Attorney. . . . There’s a common cause that bonds the black U.S. Attorney with the black criminal or the black doctor with the black homeless person.”

That would tell us a lot about how Holder views his obligations as attorney general and the mission of his Civil Rights Division.

Abe, you have gotten to the nub of the matter: does the Holder Justice Department believe the civil rights laws apply to and should be enforced with equal vigor against African-American violators? There is substantial evidence that the Left-leaning civil-rights community and their allies in the Holder Justice Department think the laws run only one way.

This view was infamously encapsulated by then U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Mary Frances Berry, who in 1985 pronounced:

“[O]nce again our colleagues in the majority insist on putting blinders on society concerning the tragic present and past effects of discrimination. Civil rights laws were not passed to give civil rights protection to all Americans, as the majority of this Commission seems to believe. Instead, they were passed out of a recognition that some Americans already had protection because they belonged to a favored group; and others, including blacks, Hispanics, and women of all races, did not because they belonged to disfavored groups. If we are ever to achieve the real equality of opportunity that is the bright hope and promise of America, we must not deny our history and present condition by substituting illusion for reality.”

Interestingly, her controversial chief of staff, Les Jin, who assisted in her lawless and ultimately unsuccessful effort to keep President George W. Bush’s appointees off the commission, has now been hired as a senior counselor in Holder’s Civil Rights Division.

The dismissal of the default judgment in the New Black Panther case raises the question anew: just how vigilant is Holder’s department when the perpetrators are African American? We have two cases of apparent hate crimes directed at whites that will test just that—one from Ohio that occurred in July and the Illinois case that the Drudge Report highlighted. I contacted the Justice Department and was told yesterday: “The Civil Rights Division and the FBI are monitoring the ongoing local criminal investigation into the incident in Akron, Ohio. The Division is aware of the incident in Belleville, Illinois, and will consider if any action is appropriate.” When I asked what that monitoring entailed, I was told the department wouldn’t comment on “internal processes.” And former Justice Department officials confirm that it is not altogether unusual for the Justice Department to wait to see if local authorities successfully investigate and prosecute under state laws.

Now, Holder wants us all to talk about race. But perhaps he should tell us what he thinks about the enforcement of civil rights laws, whether he shares the Berry view of civil rights, and whether Jin and other civil rights attorneys are expected to enforce the law, regardless of the race of the alleged civil rights violator. And he might start by telling us whether, as the Washington Times relates, he still agrees with this:

Mr. Holder told The Washington Post in 1996 that his answer was to pull out a paper he always carries in his wallet, containing a quote he admires that says a black man’s “race defines him more particularly than anything else. Black people have a common cause that requires attending to.” In case that is not disconcerting enough in its own right, Mr. Holder elaborated: “It really says that . . . I am not the tall U.S. Attorney, I am not the thin U.S. Attorney. I am the black U.S. Attorney. . . . There’s a common cause that bonds the black U.S. Attorney with the black criminal or the black doctor with the black homeless person.”

That would tell us a lot about how Holder views his obligations as attorney general and the mission of his Civil Rights Division.

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Gloomy Day

It is a rainy, gloomy day in Washington—and not just outside. At the White House, they are certainly perusing the latest Gallup poll, which has this:

Obama’s job approval ratings on handling the economy can be divided into two phases. In the most recent three measurements — taken over the last two months — his economic rating has held between 46% and 48%. Earlier in his administration — from February through May — Obama’s economic ratings were higher, between 55% and 59%.

Now 51 percent disapprove, while 46 percent approve. On health care:

Despite the intensity with which the healthcare debate has been waged in recent months, and President Obama’s ongoing involvement in that debate, there has been little change in the way Americans view Obama’s handling of healthcare policy across Gallup surveys conducted in July and August, and in the current Sept. 11-13 survey. Obama’s approval rating on healthcare has been 43% or 44% in all three surveys, and his disapproval rating has varied only slightly — between 49% and 52%.

Now 52 percent disapprove and 43 percent approve. So much for the big speech.

But this should be the real wake-up call:

President Obama’s approval rating on handling the federal budget deficit is down from 49% in March to 38% today, with at least a slight drop in each of the three surveys that followed the initial March reading. The president’s current 38% approval on handling the deficit, and the accompanying 58% disapproval, is thus his worst rating to date on the issue, and the most negative reading on any of the seven issues tested in this survey.

He’s doing best, ironically, where he has continued his predecessor’s policy most closely. Fifty-six percent approve of his handling of Iraq.

The bottom line, Gallup explains, is sobering for the White House:

Obama’s relative weaknesses at this time, as measured by public approval of the job he is doing handing various issues, would appear to be the deficit, healthcare, and the economy. The fact that there has been no change since July in Americans’ ratings of how Obama is handling healthcare or the economy suggests that Americans’ views on these issues may have become fairly entrenched — unless and until new administration or legislative actions are forthcoming to deal with either.

But the White House is convinced we just haven’t seen enough of the president, so out he will go to explain it to us all once again. A common failing of White House advisers, reluctant to blame their policies or their boss, is to characterize problems as “communications” failures. In fact, what we have is a policy failure, which will persist no matter how many talk shows Obama does.

It is a rainy, gloomy day in Washington—and not just outside. At the White House, they are certainly perusing the latest Gallup poll, which has this:

Obama’s job approval ratings on handling the economy can be divided into two phases. In the most recent three measurements — taken over the last two months — his economic rating has held between 46% and 48%. Earlier in his administration — from February through May — Obama’s economic ratings were higher, between 55% and 59%.

Now 51 percent disapprove, while 46 percent approve. On health care:

Despite the intensity with which the healthcare debate has been waged in recent months, and President Obama’s ongoing involvement in that debate, there has been little change in the way Americans view Obama’s handling of healthcare policy across Gallup surveys conducted in July and August, and in the current Sept. 11-13 survey. Obama’s approval rating on healthcare has been 43% or 44% in all three surveys, and his disapproval rating has varied only slightly — between 49% and 52%.

Now 52 percent disapprove and 43 percent approve. So much for the big speech.

But this should be the real wake-up call:

President Obama’s approval rating on handling the federal budget deficit is down from 49% in March to 38% today, with at least a slight drop in each of the three surveys that followed the initial March reading. The president’s current 38% approval on handling the deficit, and the accompanying 58% disapproval, is thus his worst rating to date on the issue, and the most negative reading on any of the seven issues tested in this survey.

He’s doing best, ironically, where he has continued his predecessor’s policy most closely. Fifty-six percent approve of his handling of Iraq.

The bottom line, Gallup explains, is sobering for the White House:

Obama’s relative weaknesses at this time, as measured by public approval of the job he is doing handing various issues, would appear to be the deficit, healthcare, and the economy. The fact that there has been no change since July in Americans’ ratings of how Obama is handling healthcare or the economy suggests that Americans’ views on these issues may have become fairly entrenched — unless and until new administration or legislative actions are forthcoming to deal with either.

But the White House is convinced we just haven’t seen enough of the president, so out he will go to explain it to us all once again. A common failing of White House advisers, reluctant to blame their policies or their boss, is to characterize problems as “communications” failures. In fact, what we have is a policy failure, which will persist no matter how many talk shows Obama does.

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Reaction to Betrayal

Reaction is coming into the decision to renege on our missile-defense pledge to our Eastern European allies. From Sen. Joe Lieberman:

“This deeply regrettable decision sends the wrong message to Tehran, Moscow, and our European allies at a critical time in our effort to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” Lieberman said. “Moreover, it means that we will have a less capable missile defense system to protect the United States and our European allies against the Iranian threat. The administration must take immediate and tangible action to reassure our allies in Central and Eastern Europe that we are committed to their security and independence.”

From Minority Whip Eric Cantor:

I am extremely disappointed to learn about the Administration’s decision to abandon an important foreign policy commitment to two of our key allies. Scrapping our missile defense effort in Europe has severe consequences for our diplomatic relations and weakens our national security. Our allies, especially Poland and the Czech Republic, deserve better and our people deserve smarter and safer.

The Administration’s misguided action will cause our eastern European allies to question our commitment to their people and security, while heightening concerns in Israel. The European deployment is the only system that can protect both the U.S. and Europe against the common threat of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons and the capability to deliver them.  I will work to overturn this wrong-headed policy.

It will be interesting to see if any in the president’s party leap to his defense. This embarrassing display of weakness at the expense of allies who have stuck by us, and supplied troops to aid in America’s war efforts when their Western European neighbors did not, may be a bridge too far even for most of them.

UPDATE: Three cheers for surrender to Russia from Nancy Pelosi.

Reaction is coming into the decision to renege on our missile-defense pledge to our Eastern European allies. From Sen. Joe Lieberman:

“This deeply regrettable decision sends the wrong message to Tehran, Moscow, and our European allies at a critical time in our effort to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” Lieberman said. “Moreover, it means that we will have a less capable missile defense system to protect the United States and our European allies against the Iranian threat. The administration must take immediate and tangible action to reassure our allies in Central and Eastern Europe that we are committed to their security and independence.”

From Minority Whip Eric Cantor:

I am extremely disappointed to learn about the Administration’s decision to abandon an important foreign policy commitment to two of our key allies. Scrapping our missile defense effort in Europe has severe consequences for our diplomatic relations and weakens our national security. Our allies, especially Poland and the Czech Republic, deserve better and our people deserve smarter and safer.

The Administration’s misguided action will cause our eastern European allies to question our commitment to their people and security, while heightening concerns in Israel. The European deployment is the only system that can protect both the U.S. and Europe against the common threat of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons and the capability to deliver them.  I will work to overturn this wrong-headed policy.

It will be interesting to see if any in the president’s party leap to his defense. This embarrassing display of weakness at the expense of allies who have stuck by us, and supplied troops to aid in America’s war efforts when their Western European neighbors did not, may be a bridge too far even for most of them.

UPDATE: Three cheers for surrender to Russia from Nancy Pelosi.

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More Naiveté

The Obama administration’s decision to scrap the missile-defense sites planned for Poland and the Czech Republic is bad news. Not so much because the sites are vital to the defense of America or our allies. The administration is undoubtedly right when it says that the immediate threat posed by Iranian missiles is more short-range and that it will be a while before Iran has longer-range missiles capable of hitting Europe. Thus it makes sense to concentrate for the moment on building shorter-range missile defenses. And even longer-range sites don’t necessarily have to be located in Eastern Europe for maximum effectiveness.

All that is true. It is also irrelevant. For the issue of the missile-defense sites had long ago taken on a life of its own. They had occasioned endless bluster and threats from Putin and his gang in the Kremlin who believed, or pretended to believe, that this small number of interceptors was somehow a threat to Russia. How a purely defensive system could threaten another country remains to be understood. The Russians apparently think they have a divine right to threaten Europe with nuclear annihilation and anything that interferes with this is “destabilizing.” Actually the missile-defense sites posed no threat to Russia’s vast missile arsenal, and Putin undoubtedly knew this.

His constant harping on the issue was, I believe, nothing more than cynical opportunism—a convenient way for him to brainwash his own people into thinking that they were being “encircled” by NATO and that only a strongman in the Kremlin could defend them from this (nonexistent) threat. That Obama has now bowed to Putin’s demands sends a dangerous signal of irresoluteness and weakness—similar to the signal another young president sent when he met with a Russian leader in Vienna in 1961. Nikita Khrushchev emerged from his summit with John F. Kennedy convinced that the president was “very inexperienced, even immature” and that he could be rolled. We all know the result: the Cuban Missile Crisis.

There is a danger that Obama is now sending a similar signal of weakness—one that will discourage our allies in Eastern Europe, who went out on a limb to stand with the United States, and one that will encourage our enemies, who will conclude that the U.S. will back down under duress. We can only hope that Obama received some secret concessions from the Russians on the subject of the Iranian nuclear program or some other pressing issue. If he yanked the missile-defense sites without getting anything in return, simply in the hope of engendering “goodwill” among the criminal clique in the Kremlin, that would be the height of naiveté.

The Obama administration’s decision to scrap the missile-defense sites planned for Poland and the Czech Republic is bad news. Not so much because the sites are vital to the defense of America or our allies. The administration is undoubtedly right when it says that the immediate threat posed by Iranian missiles is more short-range and that it will be a while before Iran has longer-range missiles capable of hitting Europe. Thus it makes sense to concentrate for the moment on building shorter-range missile defenses. And even longer-range sites don’t necessarily have to be located in Eastern Europe for maximum effectiveness.

All that is true. It is also irrelevant. For the issue of the missile-defense sites had long ago taken on a life of its own. They had occasioned endless bluster and threats from Putin and his gang in the Kremlin who believed, or pretended to believe, that this small number of interceptors was somehow a threat to Russia. How a purely defensive system could threaten another country remains to be understood. The Russians apparently think they have a divine right to threaten Europe with nuclear annihilation and anything that interferes with this is “destabilizing.” Actually the missile-defense sites posed no threat to Russia’s vast missile arsenal, and Putin undoubtedly knew this.

His constant harping on the issue was, I believe, nothing more than cynical opportunism—a convenient way for him to brainwash his own people into thinking that they were being “encircled” by NATO and that only a strongman in the Kremlin could defend them from this (nonexistent) threat. That Obama has now bowed to Putin’s demands sends a dangerous signal of irresoluteness and weakness—similar to the signal another young president sent when he met with a Russian leader in Vienna in 1961. Nikita Khrushchev emerged from his summit with John F. Kennedy convinced that the president was “very inexperienced, even immature” and that he could be rolled. We all know the result: the Cuban Missile Crisis.

There is a danger that Obama is now sending a similar signal of weakness—one that will discourage our allies in Eastern Europe, who went out on a limb to stand with the United States, and one that will encourage our enemies, who will conclude that the U.S. will back down under duress. We can only hope that Obama received some secret concessions from the Russians on the subject of the Iranian nuclear program or some other pressing issue. If he yanked the missile-defense sites without getting anything in return, simply in the hope of engendering “goodwill” among the criminal clique in the Kremlin, that would be the height of naiveté.

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Czar Mania Gets Some Attention

Despite the spin of Obama’s mainstream-media friends that to complain about the proliferation of czars are simply a partisan issue cooked up by Republicans, more Democrats are stepping forward to raise concerns as well. Politico reports that Sen. Russ Feingold “joined the anti-czar chorus” and wants to know why Obama “believes the use of czars is consistent with the Senate’s constitutional power to offer advice and consent on top-level executive branch officials.” Sen. Diane Feinstein offered more tepid comments but still thinks there needs to be better oversight and definition of what they do. She says, “I don’t know what a car czar does, for example.”

Well, all that is nice. But where are the brave defenders of the Constitution in Congress, those charged with oversight in the first place, who tut-tutted the Bush administration’s use of executive power (in an area where the Constitution actually gives broad authority to the executive branch)? We have had no hearing or inquiry from either the Senate or House Judiciary Committees. One wonders why so mum. But there is no mystery, of course. The Senate and House leadership, at least for now, remain mute as the administration appropriates more and more power and allows less and less congressional oversight. But they may regret it. As the Van Jones episode showed, there is a real purpose served by congressional oversight: vetting and confirmation weeds out many of  the bad apples.

Oh, and when a Republican gets back into the White House one day, Democrats may regret having acceded to the creation of so many unaccountable officials.

Despite the spin of Obama’s mainstream-media friends that to complain about the proliferation of czars are simply a partisan issue cooked up by Republicans, more Democrats are stepping forward to raise concerns as well. Politico reports that Sen. Russ Feingold “joined the anti-czar chorus” and wants to know why Obama “believes the use of czars is consistent with the Senate’s constitutional power to offer advice and consent on top-level executive branch officials.” Sen. Diane Feinstein offered more tepid comments but still thinks there needs to be better oversight and definition of what they do. She says, “I don’t know what a car czar does, for example.”

Well, all that is nice. But where are the brave defenders of the Constitution in Congress, those charged with oversight in the first place, who tut-tutted the Bush administration’s use of executive power (in an area where the Constitution actually gives broad authority to the executive branch)? We have had no hearing or inquiry from either the Senate or House Judiciary Committees. One wonders why so mum. But there is no mystery, of course. The Senate and House leadership, at least for now, remain mute as the administration appropriates more and more power and allows less and less congressional oversight. But they may regret it. As the Van Jones episode showed, there is a real purpose served by congressional oversight: vetting and confirmation weeds out many of  the bad apples.

Oh, and when a Republican gets back into the White House one day, Democrats may regret having acceded to the creation of so many unaccountable officials.

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More Friends Betrayed

Just when you think the Obama administration’s foreign policy cannot get more feckless or timid, the Obama team tops itself. The New York Times reports:

The Obama administration plans to announce on Thursday that it will scrap former President George W. Bush’s planned missile defense system in Eastern Europe and instead deploy a reconfigured system aimed more at intercepting shorter-range Iranian missiles, according to people familiar with the plans.

President Obama decided not to deploy a sophisticated radar system in the Czech Republic or 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland, as Mr. Bush had planned. Instead, the new system his administration is developing would deploy smaller SM-3 missiles, at first aboard ships and later probably either in southern Europe or Turkey, those familiar with the plans said.

The White House will announce the decision Thursday morning and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who was first appointed by Mr. Bush, will then discuss it with reporters at 10:30 a.m. It amounts to one of the biggest national security reversals by the new administration, one that will aggravate Czech and Polish allies and possibly please Russia, which has adamantly objected to the Bush system. But administration officials stressed that they are not abandoning missile defense, only redesigning it to meet the more immediate Iranian threat.

“Aggravate” indeed! One hardly knows where to begin. George W. Bush established, as even the Times concedes, “a special relationship” with Eastern Europe. After all, these are countries that emerged from the yoke of Communism and struggled to establish new market-based economies that avoided the errors of their Western socialist neighbors. And these countries again and again demonstrated their pro-American bona fides. The missile shield was intended as a check against Russian aggression and a symbol of their robust relationship with the U.S.

So much for that. Obama is in the business of kowtowing to the world’s bullies. Russia didn’t like the missile shield, so no more missile shield. Do we think we “got something” for this? I’d be shocked if we did, given the obvious willingness of the U.S. to prostrate itself before rivals.

What do our Eastern European friends have to say? They are not pleased:

Policymakers in Eastern Europe, however, are concerned about Mr. Obama’s priorities, viewing him as someone less interested in the region — and less willing to stand up to Russia — than his predecessor. Compounding sensitivities in Poland was that Thursday was the 70th anniversary of the Russian invasion of Poland, after the Nazis attacked from the west.

The administration that promised to restore our standing in the world is on quite a roll. Open hostility toward Israel. Bullying Honduras. Reneging on promises to Eastern Europe. A strange policy indeed that dumps on our friends in the vain effort to incur the goodwill of our enemies. And if one is a “realist,” not a fabulist, it should be apparent that this is a losing proposition. We will lose our friends and gain nothing. Weakness and the betrayal of our allies do not ameliorate tensions with our adversaries. We had a Cold War topped off by the Carter administration to prove that. But Obama’s never been very good at history.

Just when you think the Obama administration’s foreign policy cannot get more feckless or timid, the Obama team tops itself. The New York Times reports:

The Obama administration plans to announce on Thursday that it will scrap former President George W. Bush’s planned missile defense system in Eastern Europe and instead deploy a reconfigured system aimed more at intercepting shorter-range Iranian missiles, according to people familiar with the plans.

President Obama decided not to deploy a sophisticated radar system in the Czech Republic or 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland, as Mr. Bush had planned. Instead, the new system his administration is developing would deploy smaller SM-3 missiles, at first aboard ships and later probably either in southern Europe or Turkey, those familiar with the plans said.

The White House will announce the decision Thursday morning and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who was first appointed by Mr. Bush, will then discuss it with reporters at 10:30 a.m. It amounts to one of the biggest national security reversals by the new administration, one that will aggravate Czech and Polish allies and possibly please Russia, which has adamantly objected to the Bush system. But administration officials stressed that they are not abandoning missile defense, only redesigning it to meet the more immediate Iranian threat.

“Aggravate” indeed! One hardly knows where to begin. George W. Bush established, as even the Times concedes, “a special relationship” with Eastern Europe. After all, these are countries that emerged from the yoke of Communism and struggled to establish new market-based economies that avoided the errors of their Western socialist neighbors. And these countries again and again demonstrated their pro-American bona fides. The missile shield was intended as a check against Russian aggression and a symbol of their robust relationship with the U.S.

So much for that. Obama is in the business of kowtowing to the world’s bullies. Russia didn’t like the missile shield, so no more missile shield. Do we think we “got something” for this? I’d be shocked if we did, given the obvious willingness of the U.S. to prostrate itself before rivals.

What do our Eastern European friends have to say? They are not pleased:

Policymakers in Eastern Europe, however, are concerned about Mr. Obama’s priorities, viewing him as someone less interested in the region — and less willing to stand up to Russia — than his predecessor. Compounding sensitivities in Poland was that Thursday was the 70th anniversary of the Russian invasion of Poland, after the Nazis attacked from the west.

The administration that promised to restore our standing in the world is on quite a roll. Open hostility toward Israel. Bullying Honduras. Reneging on promises to Eastern Europe. A strange policy indeed that dumps on our friends in the vain effort to incur the goodwill of our enemies. And if one is a “realist,” not a fabulist, it should be apparent that this is a losing proposition. We will lose our friends and gain nothing. Weakness and the betrayal of our allies do not ameliorate tensions with our adversaries. We had a Cold War topped off by the Carter administration to prove that. But Obama’s never been very good at history.

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A Small Price to Pay

The president may be igniting a trade war with China by his decision to institute rubber-tire tariffs. He does this, of course, as he’s desperately seeking Big Labor’s help on health-care reform and has yet to deliver on organized labor’s much-desired card-check legislation. David Broder explains:

The larger question is what this decision tells us about Obama’s approach to trade. In the campaign, he was deliberately murky, promising to expand exports but at times endorsing plainly protectionist measures. Since the election, we have heard nothing about his demagogic promise to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. But his administration has not pushed for action on pending trade agreements left over from the George W. Bush years.

Bill Clinton was similarly mushy at the start, but in the end he became a strong advocate of expanded world trade. The powerful forces reshaping the global economy will probably push Obama in the same direction. But his party is increasingly skeptical about the benefits of trade, and he is likely to duck and dodge more than he sets a straight course.

The editors of Broder’s Washington Post are even more harsh:

The question is: Exactly what is he doing to advance additional market-opening agreements that are clearly in the U.S. interest, such as pending deals with Colombia, South Korea and Panama? Or the Doha talks on reducing global tariffs? So far, the answer is somewhere between not much and nothing. Just as the tariff against Chinese tires reflects the unilateral urging of the United Steelworkers of America — not U.S. tire companies — so does Mr. Obama’s broader trade policy seem pretty close to that of organized labor, which adamantly opposes all of the above-mentioned deals.

What this says, quite plainly, is that domestic political considerations and the good opinion of his base are more important to Obama than just about any other concern. That seems to be the motivating factor in a lot of what he does. The international apology tour is catnip for his Left-leaning academic friends, who are delighted that we finally have a president who “understands” there isn’t anything special about America. He unleashes another investigation on CIA operatives, cheering the “get the Bushies” netroot crowd. He selects an entirely mediocre Supreme Court judge because the Hispanic vote could use a boost. And despite what must be the advice of free-traders within his administration, he has no qualms about risking economic retaliation from China to mollify his Big Labor patrons.

During the campaign, Obama’s supporters assured us that Obama was intensely “practical” and therefore would make fact-based decisions devoid of ideology. The reality is that he persistently tends to the whims and demands of his Left-leaning base (whose views he, in any case, sympathizes with), the result being a series of policy choices that send a thrill up the legs of union bosses and Harvard professors. If we trigger a trade war or throw the intelligence community into a tailspin, well, that’s a small price for keeping the base quiet.

The president may be igniting a trade war with China by his decision to institute rubber-tire tariffs. He does this, of course, as he’s desperately seeking Big Labor’s help on health-care reform and has yet to deliver on organized labor’s much-desired card-check legislation. David Broder explains:

The larger question is what this decision tells us about Obama’s approach to trade. In the campaign, he was deliberately murky, promising to expand exports but at times endorsing plainly protectionist measures. Since the election, we have heard nothing about his demagogic promise to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. But his administration has not pushed for action on pending trade agreements left over from the George W. Bush years.

Bill Clinton was similarly mushy at the start, but in the end he became a strong advocate of expanded world trade. The powerful forces reshaping the global economy will probably push Obama in the same direction. But his party is increasingly skeptical about the benefits of trade, and he is likely to duck and dodge more than he sets a straight course.

The editors of Broder’s Washington Post are even more harsh:

The question is: Exactly what is he doing to advance additional market-opening agreements that are clearly in the U.S. interest, such as pending deals with Colombia, South Korea and Panama? Or the Doha talks on reducing global tariffs? So far, the answer is somewhere between not much and nothing. Just as the tariff against Chinese tires reflects the unilateral urging of the United Steelworkers of America — not U.S. tire companies — so does Mr. Obama’s broader trade policy seem pretty close to that of organized labor, which adamantly opposes all of the above-mentioned deals.

What this says, quite plainly, is that domestic political considerations and the good opinion of his base are more important to Obama than just about any other concern. That seems to be the motivating factor in a lot of what he does. The international apology tour is catnip for his Left-leaning academic friends, who are delighted that we finally have a president who “understands” there isn’t anything special about America. He unleashes another investigation on CIA operatives, cheering the “get the Bushies” netroot crowd. He selects an entirely mediocre Supreme Court judge because the Hispanic vote could use a boost. And despite what must be the advice of free-traders within his administration, he has no qualms about risking economic retaliation from China to mollify his Big Labor patrons.

During the campaign, Obama’s supporters assured us that Obama was intensely “practical” and therefore would make fact-based decisions devoid of ideology. The reality is that he persistently tends to the whims and demands of his Left-leaning base (whose views he, in any case, sympathizes with), the result being a series of policy choices that send a thrill up the legs of union bosses and Harvard professors. If we trigger a trade war or throw the intelligence community into a tailspin, well, that’s a small price for keeping the base quiet.

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Sarkozy Leads, Obama Stalls

It sounds like a joke, but it’s all too real: you know American foreign policy is unraveling when France is the stern international voice of sanity on Iran and Israel. This report (h/t Jeffrey Goldberg) explains:

French intelligence agencies are certain that Iran is hiding a nuclear weapons program, President Nicolas Sarkozy says.

“We cannot let Iran acquire nuclear” weapons because it would also be a threat to Israel, Sarkozy said during a meeting at the Elysee presidential palace with lawmakers from his conservative UMP party on Tuesday.

“It is a certainty to all of our secret services. Iran is working today on a nuclear (weapons) program,” he said.

The French leader also said he would not “shake the hand of someone who wants to wipe Israel off the map,” referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Unfortunately, the American president is not so clear. In fact, he is doing his best to be unclear—about what America will settle for and how far we will go with the charade of negotiations. Obama imagines that this buys time, but his procrastination is designed only to delay and delay the moment at which he will be obligated to take decisive action. (“Not yet—we’re still talking!”) And the Iranians happily accept the gift of time to continue developing their nuclear program, hoping to reach the point at which their nuclear program becomes a fait accompli.

Obama imagines that by shrinking from conflict and reducing America’s profile he will somehow endear himself to our adversaries. But all he is doing is ceding American leadership and signaling to our adversaries that they need not fear a robust response, even a rhetorical one, from the U.S.

It sounds like a joke, but it’s all too real: you know American foreign policy is unraveling when France is the stern international voice of sanity on Iran and Israel. This report (h/t Jeffrey Goldberg) explains:

French intelligence agencies are certain that Iran is hiding a nuclear weapons program, President Nicolas Sarkozy says.

“We cannot let Iran acquire nuclear” weapons because it would also be a threat to Israel, Sarkozy said during a meeting at the Elysee presidential palace with lawmakers from his conservative UMP party on Tuesday.

“It is a certainty to all of our secret services. Iran is working today on a nuclear (weapons) program,” he said.

The French leader also said he would not “shake the hand of someone who wants to wipe Israel off the map,” referring to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Unfortunately, the American president is not so clear. In fact, he is doing his best to be unclear—about what America will settle for and how far we will go with the charade of negotiations. Obama imagines that this buys time, but his procrastination is designed only to delay and delay the moment at which he will be obligated to take decisive action. (“Not yet—we’re still talking!”) And the Iranians happily accept the gift of time to continue developing their nuclear program, hoping to reach the point at which their nuclear program becomes a fait accompli.

Obama imagines that by shrinking from conflict and reducing America’s profile he will somehow endear himself to our adversaries. But all he is doing is ceding American leadership and signaling to our adversaries that they need not fear a robust response, even a rhetorical one, from the U.S.

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Happy Now, Mr. Holder?

What a mess. Everyone is electrified by the pervasive racism in the air, yet not one racist statement or action can be pinpointed amid the ambi-directional outrage.

Near misses are everywhere. Serena Williams blows up at a U.S. Open line judge of a different ethnicity. Rapper Kanye West interrupts the award acceptance speech of a white singer only to praise her black competitor. A white teen is beaten up by two black teens on a school bus in Illinois and the mostly black teenage audience cheers.

But those stories, from the worlds of sports, entertainment, and adolescence serve as the collective backdrop for the main near-miss events at the heart of American government. White House “green jobs czar” Van Jones accuses whites of polluting black neighborhoods. A “tea party” demonstration on the Washington Mall draws a massive crowd to protest, among other things, the liberal policies of our mixed-race president. On the same day, many attendees of a black family-reunion convention utilize an adjacent part of the mall (the Washington Post deadpans: “Protesters at the ‘tea party’ protest were mostly white; the reunion crowd was nearly all black”). And of course South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson levels a “You lie!” at the president during a joint session of Congress.

All the above has captivated both the Right and Left, and the topic of racism is now inescapable. Jimmy Carter, Maureen Dowd, and several Democratic lawmakers have labeled passionate criticism of the president simple racial intolerance. Media outlets like the Drudge Report can be relied upon for hourly updates on both the main and peripheral events.

But where’s the scandal? Throughout the 70s, John McEnroe and Ilie Nastase routinely upbraided tennis judges in the most uncivil manner. It was largely appreciated as part of the entertainment. Kanye West’s public record is clearly that of a man-child with an indiscriminate propensity for public rudeness. His latest offense was immediately condemned by virtually all blacks and whites in attendance. Police in Illinois have reversed their initial statement about the school-bus beating being racially motivated. Van Jones’s comment is not racism; it’s what passes as social science among post–World War II liberals of all races today. I personally walked through the tea party and the black-family-reunion event in Washington that day and witnessed not a whiff of racial discrimination in either quarter. In fact, I saw many protesters holding anti-Obama placards happily waiting on food-vendor lines in the reunion area. In order for Joe Wilson’s act of flagrant discourtesy to enter the racism circus, Maureen Down had to invent new lines for the congressman to speak. Jimmy Carter’s wisdom aside, Obama’s personal popularity remains significantly higher than that of his individual policies.

In February, Attorney General Eric Holder gave his first speech before the Justice Department and declared, “Average Americans simply do not talk enough with each other about race.” This, according to Holder, makes us “essentially a nation of cowards.”

O, the courage currently on display! What bravery from Democrats who label dissenters racists. What fortitude behind mega-font headlines blaring “White Student Beaten on School Bus; Crowd Cheers.” We are now talking about racism obsessively—in absence of any racism. This is, one presumes, what Eric Holder wanted. Good for him. As attorney general, he may never get to the bottom of resolving that little Guantánamo thing, but he managed to see the state of public discourse hit the low he had hoped for.

His boss, Barack Obama, is admirably less interested in dwelling on the invisible. In a statement that puts the president at odds with many of his more desperate supporters, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, “I’m just simply saying that I don’t think the president agrees with (Carter).” And in Obama’s single most likable moment, the president himself simply called Kanye West a “jackass.”

What a mess. Everyone is electrified by the pervasive racism in the air, yet not one racist statement or action can be pinpointed amid the ambi-directional outrage.

Near misses are everywhere. Serena Williams blows up at a U.S. Open line judge of a different ethnicity. Rapper Kanye West interrupts the award acceptance speech of a white singer only to praise her black competitor. A white teen is beaten up by two black teens on a school bus in Illinois and the mostly black teenage audience cheers.

But those stories, from the worlds of sports, entertainment, and adolescence serve as the collective backdrop for the main near-miss events at the heart of American government. White House “green jobs czar” Van Jones accuses whites of polluting black neighborhoods. A “tea party” demonstration on the Washington Mall draws a massive crowd to protest, among other things, the liberal policies of our mixed-race president. On the same day, many attendees of a black family-reunion convention utilize an adjacent part of the mall (the Washington Post deadpans: “Protesters at the ‘tea party’ protest were mostly white; the reunion crowd was nearly all black”). And of course South Carolina congressman Joe Wilson levels a “You lie!” at the president during a joint session of Congress.

All the above has captivated both the Right and Left, and the topic of racism is now inescapable. Jimmy Carter, Maureen Dowd, and several Democratic lawmakers have labeled passionate criticism of the president simple racial intolerance. Media outlets like the Drudge Report can be relied upon for hourly updates on both the main and peripheral events.

But where’s the scandal? Throughout the 70s, John McEnroe and Ilie Nastase routinely upbraided tennis judges in the most uncivil manner. It was largely appreciated as part of the entertainment. Kanye West’s public record is clearly that of a man-child with an indiscriminate propensity for public rudeness. His latest offense was immediately condemned by virtually all blacks and whites in attendance. Police in Illinois have reversed their initial statement about the school-bus beating being racially motivated. Van Jones’s comment is not racism; it’s what passes as social science among post–World War II liberals of all races today. I personally walked through the tea party and the black-family-reunion event in Washington that day and witnessed not a whiff of racial discrimination in either quarter. In fact, I saw many protesters holding anti-Obama placards happily waiting on food-vendor lines in the reunion area. In order for Joe Wilson’s act of flagrant discourtesy to enter the racism circus, Maureen Down had to invent new lines for the congressman to speak. Jimmy Carter’s wisdom aside, Obama’s personal popularity remains significantly higher than that of his individual policies.

In February, Attorney General Eric Holder gave his first speech before the Justice Department and declared, “Average Americans simply do not talk enough with each other about race.” This, according to Holder, makes us “essentially a nation of cowards.”

O, the courage currently on display! What bravery from Democrats who label dissenters racists. What fortitude behind mega-font headlines blaring “White Student Beaten on School Bus; Crowd Cheers.” We are now talking about racism obsessively—in absence of any racism. This is, one presumes, what Eric Holder wanted. Good for him. As attorney general, he may never get to the bottom of resolving that little Guantánamo thing, but he managed to see the state of public discourse hit the low he had hoped for.

His boss, Barack Obama, is admirably less interested in dwelling on the invisible. In a statement that puts the president at odds with many of his more desperate supporters, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, “I’m just simply saying that I don’t think the president agrees with (Carter).” And in Obama’s single most likable moment, the president himself simply called Kanye West a “jackass.”

Read Less

No Sale

Karl Rove observes that Obama’s big speech before Congress was no game changer. He explains:

A Gallup poll this week found that 38% of Americans say their representative should vote for ObamaCare [and] 40% want their member to vote against it. It was 37%-39% on the same question the day before Mr. Obama spoke.

Part of Mr. Obama’s problem is his language. His speech contained little new information and his tone was unpresidential. Instead of binding Americans to his cause, he called legitimate concerns “misinformation,” “false,” “demagoguery,” “distortion” or “tall tales.” Earlier in the week he declared them “lies.” This was like calling people with concerns stupid, and it’s not the way to win them over.

One wonders what Obama was really attempting to accomplish. Perhaps he was trying to rally his own side, throw red meat to partisan Democrats,  and antagonize Republicans. Then the harsh language and the refusal to officially jettison the public option might have made sense. But this supposes that liberals have the will and the votes to jam ObamaCare through, using procedural tricks in the face of hostile independent and moderate voters’ deep concerns. How likely is that? Polls show overwhelming majorities oppose a Democrat-only bill, and nervous Red State congressmen and senators show no sign that they’re ready to support some variation of the House Democrats’ bill. It therefore might have been cathartic for the president, but it was ill-conceived and a political nonstarter if this is what he was up to.

But if he intended to calm seniors, shore up independents, and curry favor with Blue Dogs and moderate Republicans—that is, actually try to construct an effective coalition—why did he give that speech? One possibility is that Obama’s team is tone deaf to the language and policy proposals that would appeal to such an array of interests. Another is that he has fallen victim to his own spin and doesn’t truly understand that the concerns of his critics are real and grounded in substantive disagreements with his vision of health care. Like the American tourist abroad, he therefore imagines he need only repeat himself—but louder—to get his point across.

So what does Obama do? He heads to the airwaves to do it all again. But to what end? As Rove observes:

And it’s not only Democrats in red districts who are questioning the president. California Reps. Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa followed the speech by saying it hadn’t swayed them. Mr. Obama carried their districts with 60% of the vote. Reps. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri and Artur Davis of Alabama, both African-Americans, voiced similar sentiments.

Mr. Obama will appear on five news shows on Sunday. His time might be better spent praying for more public support.

Or he could begin to take the critics and skeptics seriously. If he doesn’t, he’s not likely to do any better at persuading them.

Karl Rove observes that Obama’s big speech before Congress was no game changer. He explains:

A Gallup poll this week found that 38% of Americans say their representative should vote for ObamaCare [and] 40% want their member to vote against it. It was 37%-39% on the same question the day before Mr. Obama spoke.

Part of Mr. Obama’s problem is his language. His speech contained little new information and his tone was unpresidential. Instead of binding Americans to his cause, he called legitimate concerns “misinformation,” “false,” “demagoguery,” “distortion” or “tall tales.” Earlier in the week he declared them “lies.” This was like calling people with concerns stupid, and it’s not the way to win them over.

One wonders what Obama was really attempting to accomplish. Perhaps he was trying to rally his own side, throw red meat to partisan Democrats,  and antagonize Republicans. Then the harsh language and the refusal to officially jettison the public option might have made sense. But this supposes that liberals have the will and the votes to jam ObamaCare through, using procedural tricks in the face of hostile independent and moderate voters’ deep concerns. How likely is that? Polls show overwhelming majorities oppose a Democrat-only bill, and nervous Red State congressmen and senators show no sign that they’re ready to support some variation of the House Democrats’ bill. It therefore might have been cathartic for the president, but it was ill-conceived and a political nonstarter if this is what he was up to.

But if he intended to calm seniors, shore up independents, and curry favor with Blue Dogs and moderate Republicans—that is, actually try to construct an effective coalition—why did he give that speech? One possibility is that Obama’s team is tone deaf to the language and policy proposals that would appeal to such an array of interests. Another is that he has fallen victim to his own spin and doesn’t truly understand that the concerns of his critics are real and grounded in substantive disagreements with his vision of health care. Like the American tourist abroad, he therefore imagines he need only repeat himself—but louder—to get his point across.

So what does Obama do? He heads to the airwaves to do it all again. But to what end? As Rove observes:

And it’s not only Democrats in red districts who are questioning the president. California Reps. Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa followed the speech by saying it hadn’t swayed them. Mr. Obama carried their districts with 60% of the vote. Reps. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri and Artur Davis of Alabama, both African-Americans, voiced similar sentiments.

Mr. Obama will appear on five news shows on Sunday. His time might be better spent praying for more public support.

Or he could begin to take the critics and skeptics seriously. If he doesn’t, he’s not likely to do any better at persuading them.

Read Less

At Odds with the People

An AP–National Constitution Center poll has some fascinating results. Respondents were asked, “If you thought it would help improve the economy, would you favor or oppose giving the President more power at the expense of the power of Congress and the courts?” Seventy-five percent answered “no,” only 24 percent said “yes.” Likewise, 71 percent answered “no” to this one: “Do you favor or oppose the Federal government taking partial ownership of private companies to prevent them from going out of business?” Even if a business failure would “seriously harm” the economy, 60 percent oppose a government takeover. Sixty-five percent think it is important to treat people equally even it means less diversity in the workplace.

The results are worth reviewing in full. But the overall impression one gets is that, despite personalities and party labels, Americans remain conservative in their disposition and closely wedded to limited government, the rule of law, and free-market capitalism. And this explains why an administration seeking to run roughshod over all three is encountering such resistance. Obama can castigate his critics and rail at Republicans, but his quarrel is really with the American people, who don’t consider a financial crisis sufficient reason to redesign government or to alter the fundamental relationship between the public and private sectors and between citizens and their government. If he persists in trying, his political problems will only worsen.

An AP–National Constitution Center poll has some fascinating results. Respondents were asked, “If you thought it would help improve the economy, would you favor or oppose giving the President more power at the expense of the power of Congress and the courts?” Seventy-five percent answered “no,” only 24 percent said “yes.” Likewise, 71 percent answered “no” to this one: “Do you favor or oppose the Federal government taking partial ownership of private companies to prevent them from going out of business?” Even if a business failure would “seriously harm” the economy, 60 percent oppose a government takeover. Sixty-five percent think it is important to treat people equally even it means less diversity in the workplace.

The results are worth reviewing in full. But the overall impression one gets is that, despite personalities and party labels, Americans remain conservative in their disposition and closely wedded to limited government, the rule of law, and free-market capitalism. And this explains why an administration seeking to run roughshod over all three is encountering such resistance. Obama can castigate his critics and rail at Republicans, but his quarrel is really with the American people, who don’t consider a financial crisis sufficient reason to redesign government or to alter the fundamental relationship between the public and private sectors and between citizens and their government. If he persists in trying, his political problems will only worsen.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

A new low: Obama refuses to meet with the Dalai Lama to avoid offending the Chinese, gaining the distinction as the only one to break the string of presidential visits dating back to George H.W. Bush. Does he really imagine that the Chinese will give him brownie points for this? Apparently, setting off a trade war over tires is fine (well, Big Labor wanted it), but a visit with the Dalai Lama is too great a “risk” for Obama. You can’t say his priorities aren’t clear.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid joins just about everyone else: he doesn’t like the health-care plan by Sen. Max Baucus either.

And Reid is also signaling that the Senate might not get to cap-and-trade until 2010. You don’t think Reid’s distinct lack of enthusiasm for these power grabs by the government has anything to do with his standing in the polls, do you?

Osama bin Laden’s favorite author, Jimmy Carter, makes Democrats (among others) cringe—and reject his claim that conservative criticism of the president is racism.

While George Mitchell is straining to put together a summit, Israel is making life better for the Palestinians: “The Israel Defense Forces began razing about 100 ‘dirt mound’ roadblocks from the entrances to Palestinian villages across the West Bank on Wednesday, as part of an ongoing effort to improve life for Palestinians.” Maybe Obama should start focusing on what’s working rather than obsessively pursuing his settlement freeze. But no sign of that sort of “realism” yet.

Another failure for the bow-and-scrape Obama diplomatic offensive in the Middle East—Syria says no talks with Israel.

Meanwhile, Obama gets the back of the hand from Cuba: “Cuba will not make any political or policy concessions to improve relations with the U.S. — no matter how small, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said Wednesday, snubbing Washington’s suggestions that some reforms could lead to better ties. He told a news conference that the United States must lift its 47-year-old trade embargo without waiting for anything in return.” It seems a policy of apology, appeasement, and unilateral concessions doesn’t work in any hemisphere.

Charlie Crist is the only Republican with nice things to say about ACORN. Somehow, I don’t think this will play well in his Senate primary race.

Sen. Arlen Specter is back with card-check “lite.” That means quickie union elections, “intended to deny employees the kind of educated choice that comes with a proper discussion of the merits of unionization informed by both management and labor.” Throw in mandatory arbitration and new rules forcing employers to grant access to union organizers and you have a bill that’s not so “lite” on goodies for Big Labor after all. Not surprisingly, Red State senators aren’t any more enthusiastic about this than about the original card-check bill.

The Washington Post notices that Big Labor is pouring a ton of money into the Virginia gubernatorial race for Creigh Deeds. Unions deny they have their eye on changing the state’s right-to-work laws, but after that huge “investment,” you can bet they’ll want something significant in return.

A new low: Obama refuses to meet with the Dalai Lama to avoid offending the Chinese, gaining the distinction as the only one to break the string of presidential visits dating back to George H.W. Bush. Does he really imagine that the Chinese will give him brownie points for this? Apparently, setting off a trade war over tires is fine (well, Big Labor wanted it), but a visit with the Dalai Lama is too great a “risk” for Obama. You can’t say his priorities aren’t clear.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid joins just about everyone else: he doesn’t like the health-care plan by Sen. Max Baucus either.

And Reid is also signaling that the Senate might not get to cap-and-trade until 2010. You don’t think Reid’s distinct lack of enthusiasm for these power grabs by the government has anything to do with his standing in the polls, do you?

Osama bin Laden’s favorite author, Jimmy Carter, makes Democrats (among others) cringe—and reject his claim that conservative criticism of the president is racism.

While George Mitchell is straining to put together a summit, Israel is making life better for the Palestinians: “The Israel Defense Forces began razing about 100 ‘dirt mound’ roadblocks from the entrances to Palestinian villages across the West Bank on Wednesday, as part of an ongoing effort to improve life for Palestinians.” Maybe Obama should start focusing on what’s working rather than obsessively pursuing his settlement freeze. But no sign of that sort of “realism” yet.

Another failure for the bow-and-scrape Obama diplomatic offensive in the Middle East—Syria says no talks with Israel.

Meanwhile, Obama gets the back of the hand from Cuba: “Cuba will not make any political or policy concessions to improve relations with the U.S. — no matter how small, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said Wednesday, snubbing Washington’s suggestions that some reforms could lead to better ties. He told a news conference that the United States must lift its 47-year-old trade embargo without waiting for anything in return.” It seems a policy of apology, appeasement, and unilateral concessions doesn’t work in any hemisphere.

Charlie Crist is the only Republican with nice things to say about ACORN. Somehow, I don’t think this will play well in his Senate primary race.

Sen. Arlen Specter is back with card-check “lite.” That means quickie union elections, “intended to deny employees the kind of educated choice that comes with a proper discussion of the merits of unionization informed by both management and labor.” Throw in mandatory arbitration and new rules forcing employers to grant access to union organizers and you have a bill that’s not so “lite” on goodies for Big Labor after all. Not surprisingly, Red State senators aren’t any more enthusiastic about this than about the original card-check bill.

The Washington Post notices that Big Labor is pouring a ton of money into the Virginia gubernatorial race for Creigh Deeds. Unions deny they have their eye on changing the state’s right-to-work laws, but after that huge “investment,” you can bet they’ll want something significant in return.

Read Less




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