Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 3, 2009

Lesson Unlearned

Let’s keep in mind that President Obama’s trip to Copenhagen to lobby for the Chicago Olympics is not the first time he’s flown off somewhere having done little preparation, only to find rejection. On June 3rd, the day before his Cairo speech, he dropped in almost unannounced on King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia to ask for Arab normalization gestures as part of the peace process.

And as happened in Copenhagen, Obama hadn’t laid he groundwork to assure a win, and Abdullah turned him down cold:

“The more time goes by, the more the Saudi meeting was a watershed event,” said the former U.S. official who recently traveled to Riyadh. “It was the first time that President Obama as a senator, candidate, or president was not able to get almost anything or any movement using his personal power of persuasion.” …

“Senior sources in the Saudi national security team,” he said, “think the president’s trip was poorly prepared.” From their perspective, “he was coming and asking them for big favors with no preparation,” but “the Saudis never give big” in that situation.

That was four months ago. You’d think he’d have learned something from it.

Let’s keep in mind that President Obama’s trip to Copenhagen to lobby for the Chicago Olympics is not the first time he’s flown off somewhere having done little preparation, only to find rejection. On June 3rd, the day before his Cairo speech, he dropped in almost unannounced on King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia to ask for Arab normalization gestures as part of the peace process.

And as happened in Copenhagen, Obama hadn’t laid he groundwork to assure a win, and Abdullah turned him down cold:

“The more time goes by, the more the Saudi meeting was a watershed event,” said the former U.S. official who recently traveled to Riyadh. “It was the first time that President Obama as a senator, candidate, or president was not able to get almost anything or any movement using his personal power of persuasion.” …

“Senior sources in the Saudi national security team,” he said, “think the president’s trip was poorly prepared.” From their perspective, “he was coming and asking them for big favors with no preparation,” but “the Saudis never give big” in that situation.

That was four months ago. You’d think he’d have learned something from it.

Read Less

Congress at Work

If you want a perfect example of what is wrong with Congress as an institution, you need look no further than a bill now making its way through the Senate. The bill, sponsored by four Democrats (Schumer of New York, Menendez of New Jersey, Landrieu of Louisiana, and Hagan of North Carolina) is called the Avoiding Life-Endangering and Reckless Texting by Drivers Act, or “ALERT Drivers” (Act, for short — I wonder how long it took Senator Schumer’s staff to think that up). It would effectively ban texting while driving. Schumer also wants to ban texting by public-transit drivers.

Now I’m all in favor of banning the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, especially for texting, which requires the driver to look away from the road. But exactly where in the Constitution is the authority for the federal government to enact such a law? The police power belongs to the states. Aware of this problem, the bill would actually require the states to enact such laws (14 states already have them) on pain of forfeiting 25 percent of their federal highway money. This is the same method used by Congress to force states to set the drinking age at 21. (When I was growing up in New York City, you had to be 18 to drink and 21 to vote. Now you have to be 21 to drink and 18 to vote. This is progress?)

Meanwhile, Congress is so busy minding what is the business of state legislatures that of the 12 annual appropriation bills for fiscal 2010, which began last Thursday, needed to fund government operations (you know, stuff like the Army, the State Department, national parks, etc.), Congress has passed exactly one: the one to fund Congress, giving itself a nice 8 percent increase over fiscal 2009. The rest of the government is operating under a “continuing resolution” that allows spending at the same level as last year until Congress gets around to doing its most important job.

This is not the most egregious use of a federal fiscal gun to the head of the sovereign states. When the ERA amendment to the Constitution was faltering, Rep. Bella Abzug actually proposed withholding federal moneys from those states that had not ratified it. Fortunately for the republic, that profoundly unconstitutional mischief got nowhere in Congress and the ERA died.

If you want a perfect example of what is wrong with Congress as an institution, you need look no further than a bill now making its way through the Senate. The bill, sponsored by four Democrats (Schumer of New York, Menendez of New Jersey, Landrieu of Louisiana, and Hagan of North Carolina) is called the Avoiding Life-Endangering and Reckless Texting by Drivers Act, or “ALERT Drivers” (Act, for short — I wonder how long it took Senator Schumer’s staff to think that up). It would effectively ban texting while driving. Schumer also wants to ban texting by public-transit drivers.

Now I’m all in favor of banning the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, especially for texting, which requires the driver to look away from the road. But exactly where in the Constitution is the authority for the federal government to enact such a law? The police power belongs to the states. Aware of this problem, the bill would actually require the states to enact such laws (14 states already have them) on pain of forfeiting 25 percent of their federal highway money. This is the same method used by Congress to force states to set the drinking age at 21. (When I was growing up in New York City, you had to be 18 to drink and 21 to vote. Now you have to be 21 to drink and 18 to vote. This is progress?)

Meanwhile, Congress is so busy minding what is the business of state legislatures that of the 12 annual appropriation bills for fiscal 2010, which began last Thursday, needed to fund government operations (you know, stuff like the Army, the State Department, national parks, etc.), Congress has passed exactly one: the one to fund Congress, giving itself a nice 8 percent increase over fiscal 2009. The rest of the government is operating under a “continuing resolution” that allows spending at the same level as last year until Congress gets around to doing its most important job.

This is not the most egregious use of a federal fiscal gun to the head of the sovereign states. When the ERA amendment to the Constitution was faltering, Rep. Bella Abzug actually proposed withholding federal moneys from those states that had not ratified it. Fortunately for the republic, that profoundly unconstitutional mischief got nowhere in Congress and the ERA died.

Read Less

The Worst Choice, Except for All the Rest

The Obama team’s lackadaisical attitude toward Iran — concealing incriminating evidence, beginning the endless round of talks about talks, and hushing any discussion about a military option — suggests they really don’t have the will to deprive Iran of nuclear weapons. But what about those sanctions? Well, as Jackson Diehl points out, there are the difficulties in getting the “spoilers” China and Russia on board, and then there is the history of sanctions to consider:

The history of sanctions in the region also is not good: More than a decade of punishment, including regular airstrikes, had no positive impact on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Iran’s current rulers, many of whom came of age in the Revolutionary Guards during the Iran-Iraq war, sound convincing when they say they are ready for the country to suffer more austerity for the cause of Iranian greatness.

Now maybe sanctions (if ever negotiated, enacted, and enforced) would have some real impact and help destabilize the Iranian regime, given the degree to which it is loathed by its own people in the wake of the June 12 stolen election and the brutal repression that followed. But Diehl is right to be skeptical. And one senses the Obama team is as well.

So that leaves endless meetings and squabbles over the details of inspections. Meanwhile, the administration bad-mouths the military option because it is not a permanent and perfect response to the despotic regime’s determination to obtain nuclear weapons (the way fruitless negotiations are?). And, of course, the administration has already made clear that regime change is not an option because . . . well, because the mullahs might get peeved and not want to attend all those meetings.

Diehl may be right that the Obama team is inching closer to accepting the “inevitability” of a nuclear-armed Iran — with the fantasy that the threat can be “contained” as it was with the Soviets. This is a dangerous delusion, one that Israel can and never will share. Assuming this really is the game plan of the Obama brain trust, we can look forward to a serious clash between Israel and the U.S.

Those who are paying attention will note that the Obama administration is helping to manufacture a sense of inevitability about Iran’s nuclear-arms acquisition — on which the administration will then rely to insist we accept Iran, finally, as a nuclear power. The stalling and deception by the Obama team — to mask the stalling and deception by the Iranian regime — has allowed valuable time to slip by (which could have been used to test whether sanctions can “work”) and has allowed the Iranian regime to solidify its position.

The Obama team and its friendly spinners never tire of telling us that military options are dangerous and complicated and offer no guarantee of success. All that is true. But to paraphrase Winston Churchill on democracy, the military option may prove to be the worst possible option, except for all the rest. And here history offers some evidence that military measures, however imperfect and temporary, are sometimes precisely what is needed. Uri Dromi, former spokesman for Yitzhak Rabin, reminds us of the Israeli strike on Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981:

In 1981, when Israel attacked the Iraqi nuclear reactor, it had been condemned right and left, with the United Nations ruling that Israel should pay compensation to Iraq. Ten years later, in the wake of Desert Storm, then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney gave a photograph of the bombed reactor to Maj. Gen. David Ivry, who commanded the Israeli Air Force during the attack, on which he wrote, “With thanks and appreciation for the outstanding job [you] did on the Iraqi Nuclear Program in 1981 which made our job much easier in Desert Storm.”

The Obama administration’s policy — its “hollowness,” as Diehl describes it — assumes (falsely, I think) that the American public, our allies, and Israel will ultimately accept the unacceptable, a nuclear-armed Islamic revolutionary state dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state. When all else fails, there may be more consensus than Obama anticipates for a military operation, however problematic that move may be. And given Obama’s shoddy leadership and dithering, he will have done his part to make the military option look not so bad after all.

The Obama team’s lackadaisical attitude toward Iran — concealing incriminating evidence, beginning the endless round of talks about talks, and hushing any discussion about a military option — suggests they really don’t have the will to deprive Iran of nuclear weapons. But what about those sanctions? Well, as Jackson Diehl points out, there are the difficulties in getting the “spoilers” China and Russia on board, and then there is the history of sanctions to consider:

The history of sanctions in the region also is not good: More than a decade of punishment, including regular airstrikes, had no positive impact on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Iran’s current rulers, many of whom came of age in the Revolutionary Guards during the Iran-Iraq war, sound convincing when they say they are ready for the country to suffer more austerity for the cause of Iranian greatness.

Now maybe sanctions (if ever negotiated, enacted, and enforced) would have some real impact and help destabilize the Iranian regime, given the degree to which it is loathed by its own people in the wake of the June 12 stolen election and the brutal repression that followed. But Diehl is right to be skeptical. And one senses the Obama team is as well.

So that leaves endless meetings and squabbles over the details of inspections. Meanwhile, the administration bad-mouths the military option because it is not a permanent and perfect response to the despotic regime’s determination to obtain nuclear weapons (the way fruitless negotiations are?). And, of course, the administration has already made clear that regime change is not an option because . . . well, because the mullahs might get peeved and not want to attend all those meetings.

Diehl may be right that the Obama team is inching closer to accepting the “inevitability” of a nuclear-armed Iran — with the fantasy that the threat can be “contained” as it was with the Soviets. This is a dangerous delusion, one that Israel can and never will share. Assuming this really is the game plan of the Obama brain trust, we can look forward to a serious clash between Israel and the U.S.

Those who are paying attention will note that the Obama administration is helping to manufacture a sense of inevitability about Iran’s nuclear-arms acquisition — on which the administration will then rely to insist we accept Iran, finally, as a nuclear power. The stalling and deception by the Obama team — to mask the stalling and deception by the Iranian regime — has allowed valuable time to slip by (which could have been used to test whether sanctions can “work”) and has allowed the Iranian regime to solidify its position.

The Obama team and its friendly spinners never tire of telling us that military options are dangerous and complicated and offer no guarantee of success. All that is true. But to paraphrase Winston Churchill on democracy, the military option may prove to be the worst possible option, except for all the rest. And here history offers some evidence that military measures, however imperfect and temporary, are sometimes precisely what is needed. Uri Dromi, former spokesman for Yitzhak Rabin, reminds us of the Israeli strike on Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981:

In 1981, when Israel attacked the Iraqi nuclear reactor, it had been condemned right and left, with the United Nations ruling that Israel should pay compensation to Iraq. Ten years later, in the wake of Desert Storm, then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney gave a photograph of the bombed reactor to Maj. Gen. David Ivry, who commanded the Israeli Air Force during the attack, on which he wrote, “With thanks and appreciation for the outstanding job [you] did on the Iraqi Nuclear Program in 1981 which made our job much easier in Desert Storm.”

The Obama administration’s policy — its “hollowness,” as Diehl describes it — assumes (falsely, I think) that the American public, our allies, and Israel will ultimately accept the unacceptable, a nuclear-armed Islamic revolutionary state dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state. When all else fails, there may be more consensus than Obama anticipates for a military operation, however problematic that move may be. And given Obama’s shoddy leadership and dithering, he will have done his part to make the military option look not so bad after all.

Read Less

Can He Learn?

Obama’s Olympics bid rebuff is a self-inflected wound, which may either come to personify a White House tripped up by its own arrogance and incompetency or serve as a wake-up call that narcissism is not the basis for a successful presidency.

For now, the media, even usually sympathetic cheerleaders, are having a field day. Several story lines are swirling. He shouldn’t have gone if this wasn’t in the bag. Or he shouldn’t have gone at all while unemployment is skyrocketing and Afghanistan policy is adrift. Or his staff failed him. Maybe “all of the above.”

The question now is whether the president can learn from his mega-gaffe. To date, he hasn’t shown that he can learn from his mistakes. He delegated drafting his stimulus bill to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid—and wound up with an embarrassing and ineffective grab bag of liberal junk programs. Did he learn from that? No. Cap-and-trade and health-care reform weren’t treated any differently. And sure enough, both of those agenda items are stalled in the congressional swamp.

On health-care reform, the August recess afforded time for self-reflection or readjustment after ObamaCare stalled. It wasn’t put to good use, however. The president came back in September to where he left off—hitting the airwaves, making vapid speeches, and refusing to spell out a detailed plan of his own. He learned nothing and ObamaCare continues to unwind.

What is the lesson to be learned from the Olympics? The Wall Street Journal editors offer this:

If Mr. Obama and the White House made a mistake, it was in their apparently boundless faith that somehow Mr. Obama’s personal popularity would carry the day. As if, merely by seeing the rock star in person, the delegate from, say, Egypt would abandon his simmering dislike for America, forget all the dinners and deals cut with the Rio Committee, and reward Chicago. In that sense, the Olympic defeat is a relatively painless reminder that interests trump charm or likability in world affairs. Better to relearn this lesson in a fight over a sporting event than over nuclear missiles.

We’ll see in the weeks ahead whether the IOU’s slap across the face shocks Obama into some recognition of the limits of his own persona and a proper appreciation for how a president should use his time. It is perhaps finally time to put away the celebrity routine and focus on governance at home and in international affairs.

Rather than lecturing us on racial profiling, boring us with another marathon run of TV appearances, or spinning Utopian tales for the UN, he might get down to the nitty-gritty of working on the four critical issues before him: addressing the worsening job situation, devising a minimal health-care package (that doesn’t make the job situation worse and that garners some bipartisan support), implementing promptly a winning strategy in Afghanistan, and coming up with a credible approach (endless talk doesn’t cut it) to halting Iran’s nuclear program.

This is not the stuff of mass rallies or TV appearances. Obama must step into the role of president. For probably the first time in his political career, Obama cannot get by on charm. These issues are not going to be solved because he’s a “historic” president or because of anything George W. Bush can be blamed for. All that might have been the key to getting elected, but it’s not the solution to what ails him now. What he needs is to discard incompetent staff and unworkable plans, govern from the center of the political spectrum, restore his image as a resolute commander in chief, and lead rather than follow. If the Olympic-bid fiasco can set him on the course to do all that, it will prove worth the temporary hit. And if not, it will mark the moment when the wheels finally came off the Obama presidency.

Obama’s Olympics bid rebuff is a self-inflected wound, which may either come to personify a White House tripped up by its own arrogance and incompetency or serve as a wake-up call that narcissism is not the basis for a successful presidency.

For now, the media, even usually sympathetic cheerleaders, are having a field day. Several story lines are swirling. He shouldn’t have gone if this wasn’t in the bag. Or he shouldn’t have gone at all while unemployment is skyrocketing and Afghanistan policy is adrift. Or his staff failed him. Maybe “all of the above.”

The question now is whether the president can learn from his mega-gaffe. To date, he hasn’t shown that he can learn from his mistakes. He delegated drafting his stimulus bill to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid—and wound up with an embarrassing and ineffective grab bag of liberal junk programs. Did he learn from that? No. Cap-and-trade and health-care reform weren’t treated any differently. And sure enough, both of those agenda items are stalled in the congressional swamp.

On health-care reform, the August recess afforded time for self-reflection or readjustment after ObamaCare stalled. It wasn’t put to good use, however. The president came back in September to where he left off—hitting the airwaves, making vapid speeches, and refusing to spell out a detailed plan of his own. He learned nothing and ObamaCare continues to unwind.

What is the lesson to be learned from the Olympics? The Wall Street Journal editors offer this:

If Mr. Obama and the White House made a mistake, it was in their apparently boundless faith that somehow Mr. Obama’s personal popularity would carry the day. As if, merely by seeing the rock star in person, the delegate from, say, Egypt would abandon his simmering dislike for America, forget all the dinners and deals cut with the Rio Committee, and reward Chicago. In that sense, the Olympic defeat is a relatively painless reminder that interests trump charm or likability in world affairs. Better to relearn this lesson in a fight over a sporting event than over nuclear missiles.

We’ll see in the weeks ahead whether the IOU’s slap across the face shocks Obama into some recognition of the limits of his own persona and a proper appreciation for how a president should use his time. It is perhaps finally time to put away the celebrity routine and focus on governance at home and in international affairs.

Rather than lecturing us on racial profiling, boring us with another marathon run of TV appearances, or spinning Utopian tales for the UN, he might get down to the nitty-gritty of working on the four critical issues before him: addressing the worsening job situation, devising a minimal health-care package (that doesn’t make the job situation worse and that garners some bipartisan support), implementing promptly a winning strategy in Afghanistan, and coming up with a credible approach (endless talk doesn’t cut it) to halting Iran’s nuclear program.

This is not the stuff of mass rallies or TV appearances. Obama must step into the role of president. For probably the first time in his political career, Obama cannot get by on charm. These issues are not going to be solved because he’s a “historic” president or because of anything George W. Bush can be blamed for. All that might have been the key to getting elected, but it’s not the solution to what ails him now. What he needs is to discard incompetent staff and unworkable plans, govern from the center of the political spectrum, restore his image as a resolute commander in chief, and lead rather than follow. If the Olympic-bid fiasco can set him on the course to do all that, it will prove worth the temporary hit. And if not, it will mark the moment when the wheels finally came off the Obama presidency.

Read Less

When Do We Reset?

As with the rest of its wish-based foreign policy (they wish the world shared common values, they wish simply being not-George-Bush were the key to success, etc.), the Obama approach to Russia suffers from the unproven assumption that the differences between nations result only from misunderstandings, lack of effort, or eight years of George W. Bush in the White House. As Fred Hiatt explains, it might just be that Russia doesn’t see the world as we do and has interests that directly clash with ours, especially when it comes to Iran. And, he rightly notes, this is a bipartisan failure to correctly perceive Russian interests, which goes back over multiple administrations.

On Iran, he writes:

So far, however, the actions of Russia’s leaders have suggested that they don’t see things exactly as Americans believe they should. They consistently have dangled the possibility of cooperation with the United States while simultaneously undermining alliance unity and maintaining their connections to the Iranian regime. So it might be worth entertaining other theories about Moscow’s logic. It might be, for example, that Russia understands the value of keeping Iran nuclear-free, but values even more the fruits of its commercial and military trade with Iran.

Or, as Hiatt muses, it might just be that Russia thinks it is inevitable that Iran will acquire nuclear arms and therefore is simply playing the U.S. for “concessions on missile defense, arms control and other matters for as long as possible.” In other words, the Russians are pursuing their own interests, more than happy to extract all manner of unilateral gifts tossed at them by the naive and unfocused Obama administration.

And what about the Obama team? It’s hard to imagine when they might decide to stop giving away things. First missile defense. Then there’s the START talks. The absence of concrete action or firm commitments by the Russians on issues of concern to the U.S. is no impediment to the Obama crowd. Like those ineffectual TV appearances, the answer to failure or inactivity is always “More of the same!”

George W. Bush was mocked for looking into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and seeing something or another that gave him reassurance. Obama came into office promising a reset in relations with Russia. It would be nice to think that included some newfound realism about Russia’s aims and conduct. So far, there’s precious little sign of that.

As with the rest of its wish-based foreign policy (they wish the world shared common values, they wish simply being not-George-Bush were the key to success, etc.), the Obama approach to Russia suffers from the unproven assumption that the differences between nations result only from misunderstandings, lack of effort, or eight years of George W. Bush in the White House. As Fred Hiatt explains, it might just be that Russia doesn’t see the world as we do and has interests that directly clash with ours, especially when it comes to Iran. And, he rightly notes, this is a bipartisan failure to correctly perceive Russian interests, which goes back over multiple administrations.

On Iran, he writes:

So far, however, the actions of Russia’s leaders have suggested that they don’t see things exactly as Americans believe they should. They consistently have dangled the possibility of cooperation with the United States while simultaneously undermining alliance unity and maintaining their connections to the Iranian regime. So it might be worth entertaining other theories about Moscow’s logic. It might be, for example, that Russia understands the value of keeping Iran nuclear-free, but values even more the fruits of its commercial and military trade with Iran.

Or, as Hiatt muses, it might just be that Russia thinks it is inevitable that Iran will acquire nuclear arms and therefore is simply playing the U.S. for “concessions on missile defense, arms control and other matters for as long as possible.” In other words, the Russians are pursuing their own interests, more than happy to extract all manner of unilateral gifts tossed at them by the naive and unfocused Obama administration.

And what about the Obama team? It’s hard to imagine when they might decide to stop giving away things. First missile defense. Then there’s the START talks. The absence of concrete action or firm commitments by the Russians on issues of concern to the U.S. is no impediment to the Obama crowd. Like those ineffectual TV appearances, the answer to failure or inactivity is always “More of the same!”

George W. Bush was mocked for looking into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and seeing something or another that gave him reassurance. Obama came into office promising a reset in relations with Russia. It would be nice to think that included some newfound realism about Russia’s aims and conduct. So far, there’s precious little sign of that.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Sen. John Kerry’s attempt to block Sen. Jim DeMint from going to Honduras to get a bird’s-eye view of the results of Obama pro-Zelaya policy (and to bully DeMint into lifting his hold on two State Department nominees) shows just how defensive the Democrats have become. Kerry’s scheme didn’t work (DeMint is going anyway) and DeMint made his point: the Obama policy is in utter disarray.

On the Olympics humiliation, Ben Smith figured it out: “There’s a reason the president is rarely dispatched to a summit whose outcome is uncertain.” There was no one in the White House who did in this case, however.

The David Axelrod whines about “politics” at the IOC. Hmm. Is he saying the president lacks political skills or that the whole thing was rigged (and therefore the president risked his prestige for nothing)? Sometimes, in a first-class political train wreck, it’s better to keep quiet.

Newt Gingrich piles on.

Josh Gerstein asks, “What was he thinking?” It’s the incompetency that’s really jaw-dropping: “Many political pros said they wouldn’t even consider letting Obama put his prestige, popularity and time on the line to go to Copenhagen unless he thought Chicago was a lock, or a near-lock.”

Larry J. Sabato has a point: Shouldn’t someone important get fired over the Olympics debacle? “Let me get this straight. The White House puts a new President’s prestige on the line, flies POTUS, the First Lady, and half of the administration to Europe to underline the importance of the gambit—and then Chicago finishes fourth—dead last—in the Olympics voting? Will anyone’s head roll for causing Obama this acute embarrassment on the international stage?”

Fred Barnes thinks the mainstream media is on the spot, too: “The thriller in Copenhagen was not just a test of Obama. It’s a test of the media’s willingness to cover the president professionally and honestly when he stumbles. A love affair with a president should have its limits.”

The Foreign Policy Initiative generates an impressive list of signatories (including some noteworthy Democrats) for a letter to the president urging him to cushion the blow to our Central European allies delivered by his decision to yank certain missile-defense facilities. They suggest placing land-based SM-3 missile-defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, leaving “the door open to deploying Ground Based Interceptors should a long-range missile threat from Iran materialize sooner than you anticipate,” and moving ahead promptly with the planned deployment of a U.S. Patriot battery in Poland. They write: “Though the signatories of this bipartisan letter have varying views on the merits of your administration’s proposed missile defense architecture for Europe, we are united in our concern about the effect that even the perception of U.S. disengagement from Central Europe could have on our allies in the region.”

Obama calls the unemployment numbers a “sobering reminder.” Yes, it is. And here’s a handy and sobering chart to help remind us of what Obama promised.

Sen. John Kerry’s attempt to block Sen. Jim DeMint from going to Honduras to get a bird’s-eye view of the results of Obama pro-Zelaya policy (and to bully DeMint into lifting his hold on two State Department nominees) shows just how defensive the Democrats have become. Kerry’s scheme didn’t work (DeMint is going anyway) and DeMint made his point: the Obama policy is in utter disarray.

On the Olympics humiliation, Ben Smith figured it out: “There’s a reason the president is rarely dispatched to a summit whose outcome is uncertain.” There was no one in the White House who did in this case, however.

The David Axelrod whines about “politics” at the IOC. Hmm. Is he saying the president lacks political skills or that the whole thing was rigged (and therefore the president risked his prestige for nothing)? Sometimes, in a first-class political train wreck, it’s better to keep quiet.

Newt Gingrich piles on.

Josh Gerstein asks, “What was he thinking?” It’s the incompetency that’s really jaw-dropping: “Many political pros said they wouldn’t even consider letting Obama put his prestige, popularity and time on the line to go to Copenhagen unless he thought Chicago was a lock, or a near-lock.”

Larry J. Sabato has a point: Shouldn’t someone important get fired over the Olympics debacle? “Let me get this straight. The White House puts a new President’s prestige on the line, flies POTUS, the First Lady, and half of the administration to Europe to underline the importance of the gambit—and then Chicago finishes fourth—dead last—in the Olympics voting? Will anyone’s head roll for causing Obama this acute embarrassment on the international stage?”

Fred Barnes thinks the mainstream media is on the spot, too: “The thriller in Copenhagen was not just a test of Obama. It’s a test of the media’s willingness to cover the president professionally and honestly when he stumbles. A love affair with a president should have its limits.”

The Foreign Policy Initiative generates an impressive list of signatories (including some noteworthy Democrats) for a letter to the president urging him to cushion the blow to our Central European allies delivered by his decision to yank certain missile-defense facilities. They suggest placing land-based SM-3 missile-defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic, leaving “the door open to deploying Ground Based Interceptors should a long-range missile threat from Iran materialize sooner than you anticipate,” and moving ahead promptly with the planned deployment of a U.S. Patriot battery in Poland. They write: “Though the signatories of this bipartisan letter have varying views on the merits of your administration’s proposed missile defense architecture for Europe, we are united in our concern about the effect that even the perception of U.S. disengagement from Central Europe could have on our allies in the region.”

Obama calls the unemployment numbers a “sobering reminder.” Yes, it is. And here’s a handy and sobering chart to help remind us of what Obama promised.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.