Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 4, 2009

The Places Stephen Walt Goes

A Norwegian university has decided to assemble a cast of Israel haters to teach a seminar on Israel. Ilan Pappe, of Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine notoriety, is involved. Pappe, a Marxist Israeli who left his native land for the UK—which is far more welcoming of people like him who support economic and academic boycotts and the destruction of Israel—will be joined by a group of similarly obscure quasi-academics whose major qualification is their hatred of Israel. As Haaretz reports,

Other speakers invited by NTNU Dean Torbjorn Digernes include Moshe Zuckermann, who in a January interview for Deutschlandradio—a widely-heard German program—said that operation Cast Lead cost hundreds of thousands of Gazan lives.

The members of the seminar’s organizing committee—Morten Levin, Ann Rudinow Saetnan and Rune Skarstein—have all signed a call for an academic boycott of Israel.

Who would feel comfortable sharing the stage with such people? Well, Stephen Walt, of course, who has joined the seminar as a lecturer. For someone who was once lauded as one of America’s greatest foreign-policy thinkers, it must be a little embarrassing to be forced to take your act to an obscure university set in a small city of a country whose major export is pacifistic moralizing. Or maybe Walt’s desire to participate in some high-octane Israel-bashing is so intense that he can only get his fix abroad, what with all the intimidation from the Israel lobby in the U.S. Who knows.

During the Chas Freeman controversy, one of Walt’s ways of defending Freeman was to compile lists of American Jews who opposed his nomination and accuse them of dual loyalties and then express puzzlement at how anyone could suspect him of animosity to Israel. After all, as he insisted, he and his co-author, John Mearsheimer,

have consistently declared our support for a Jewish state, said we “admired its many achievements,” and wrote that the United States “should come to Israel’s aid if its survival is ever in jeopardy.”

Stephen Walt is just a concerned friend, you see. Is it really possible that he is traveling all the way to Norway to appear next to Ilan Pappe so he can declare to the assembled his admiration for Israel’s many achievements and his support for the Jewish state?

A Norwegian university has decided to assemble a cast of Israel haters to teach a seminar on Israel. Ilan Pappe, of Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine notoriety, is involved. Pappe, a Marxist Israeli who left his native land for the UK—which is far more welcoming of people like him who support economic and academic boycotts and the destruction of Israel—will be joined by a group of similarly obscure quasi-academics whose major qualification is their hatred of Israel. As Haaretz reports,

Other speakers invited by NTNU Dean Torbjorn Digernes include Moshe Zuckermann, who in a January interview for Deutschlandradio—a widely-heard German program—said that operation Cast Lead cost hundreds of thousands of Gazan lives.

The members of the seminar’s organizing committee—Morten Levin, Ann Rudinow Saetnan and Rune Skarstein—have all signed a call for an academic boycott of Israel.

Who would feel comfortable sharing the stage with such people? Well, Stephen Walt, of course, who has joined the seminar as a lecturer. For someone who was once lauded as one of America’s greatest foreign-policy thinkers, it must be a little embarrassing to be forced to take your act to an obscure university set in a small city of a country whose major export is pacifistic moralizing. Or maybe Walt’s desire to participate in some high-octane Israel-bashing is so intense that he can only get his fix abroad, what with all the intimidation from the Israel lobby in the U.S. Who knows.

During the Chas Freeman controversy, one of Walt’s ways of defending Freeman was to compile lists of American Jews who opposed his nomination and accuse them of dual loyalties and then express puzzlement at how anyone could suspect him of animosity to Israel. After all, as he insisted, he and his co-author, John Mearsheimer,

have consistently declared our support for a Jewish state, said we “admired its many achievements,” and wrote that the United States “should come to Israel’s aid if its survival is ever in jeopardy.”

Stephen Walt is just a concerned friend, you see. Is it really possible that he is traveling all the way to Norway to appear next to Ilan Pappe so he can declare to the assembled his admiration for Israel’s many achievements and his support for the Jewish state?

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The Russia Connection

When he visited Moscow in August, Binyamin Netanyahu is reported to have handed over a list of Russian scientists who, according to Israeli intelligence, are working on Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The implications of this about Russia’s credibility as a partner in suppressing that program are obvious. But since neither Moscow nor Washington actually needed Bibi to point this information out, his visit was more likely a diplomatic confrontation than an advisory exchange.

Russia’s hand has been all over Iran’s nuclear program for years, from refurbishing the Bushehr reactor and supplying Iran with low-enriched uranium to Russian scientists providing blueprints for the plutonium reactor at Arak. Russia’s overt involvement has naturally created suspicion about covert involvement. So has a steady pattern of other developments.

Most of the global incidents of nuclear smuggling since the first major outbreak in 1994 map back in one way or another to Russia. Since 2003, meanwhile, Iran has been the main potential customer. Smuggling of dual-use technology and even fissile material continued through the mid-2000s, and has not been confined to the machinations of Pakistanis. British and German criminal cases opened in 2007 revealed networks that involved not just Russian-originated material, but smuggling routes into Iran through Russia.

The U.S. sought to interdict Russia’s nuclear sales to Iran back in the mid-1990s, and launched programs under Clinton and Bush to reduce Russia’s uranium stockpiles and find work for Russian scientists. However, Congress concluded in 2008 that we were, in effect, paying for the participation of Russian scientists in Iran’s nuclear program. This policy inconsistency was spotlighted in October 2008 by the IAEA revelation that one of its “Western intelligence documents” detailed a Russian scientist’s participation in nuclear warhead tests in Iran. In the wake of the Russia-Georgia war, the IAEA disclosure prompted Bush to suspend activities under the “Megatons to Megawatts” program.

We have predicated policy for years on Russian involvement in multiple ways—some nefarious—in Iran’s nuclear program. Even if we accept the theory that some of these activities are not approved by the Kremlin, Moscow’s failure to control them cannot possibly be cast in a positive light. Neither complicity nor ineptitude argues for Russian utility as a negotiating partner. Amenability in Moscow to “partnership” parses best as a means of stringing both Iran and the West along. It may be that we can’t dispense with Russian partnership in dealing with Iran; but we could at least resume the Clinton-Bush policy of buying it with cash, rather than paying for it with concessions on our deterrence posture and security. Cash was a better measure of what it has been worth.

When he visited Moscow in August, Binyamin Netanyahu is reported to have handed over a list of Russian scientists who, according to Israeli intelligence, are working on Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The implications of this about Russia’s credibility as a partner in suppressing that program are obvious. But since neither Moscow nor Washington actually needed Bibi to point this information out, his visit was more likely a diplomatic confrontation than an advisory exchange.

Russia’s hand has been all over Iran’s nuclear program for years, from refurbishing the Bushehr reactor and supplying Iran with low-enriched uranium to Russian scientists providing blueprints for the plutonium reactor at Arak. Russia’s overt involvement has naturally created suspicion about covert involvement. So has a steady pattern of other developments.

Most of the global incidents of nuclear smuggling since the first major outbreak in 1994 map back in one way or another to Russia. Since 2003, meanwhile, Iran has been the main potential customer. Smuggling of dual-use technology and even fissile material continued through the mid-2000s, and has not been confined to the machinations of Pakistanis. British and German criminal cases opened in 2007 revealed networks that involved not just Russian-originated material, but smuggling routes into Iran through Russia.

The U.S. sought to interdict Russia’s nuclear sales to Iran back in the mid-1990s, and launched programs under Clinton and Bush to reduce Russia’s uranium stockpiles and find work for Russian scientists. However, Congress concluded in 2008 that we were, in effect, paying for the participation of Russian scientists in Iran’s nuclear program. This policy inconsistency was spotlighted in October 2008 by the IAEA revelation that one of its “Western intelligence documents” detailed a Russian scientist’s participation in nuclear warhead tests in Iran. In the wake of the Russia-Georgia war, the IAEA disclosure prompted Bush to suspend activities under the “Megatons to Megawatts” program.

We have predicated policy for years on Russian involvement in multiple ways—some nefarious—in Iran’s nuclear program. Even if we accept the theory that some of these activities are not approved by the Kremlin, Moscow’s failure to control them cannot possibly be cast in a positive light. Neither complicity nor ineptitude argues for Russian utility as a negotiating partner. Amenability in Moscow to “partnership” parses best as a means of stringing both Iran and the West along. It may be that we can’t dispense with Russian partnership in dealing with Iran; but we could at least resume the Clinton-Bush policy of buying it with cash, rather than paying for it with concessions on our deterrence posture and security. Cash was a better measure of what it has been worth.

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Re: Listening to the Generals

Max, as you point out, it is remarkable when not simply current U.S. military leaders but former and allied commanders are all on the same page. This simply highlights the untenable spot which the president would find himself in should he reject the advice of the military experts he appointed and whose opinions are so widely shared. On Face the Nation, Rep. Ike Skelton, one of the few lawmakers who might properly be seen as a “Scoop Jackson Democrat,” had this to say today:

The war really didn’t start until March of this year when the president came forth with a strategy and frankly an excellent strategy. He chose General McChrystal who is the best in the business for this type of conflict. He asked General McChrystal for an assessment. And he got that assessment. Of course that became known — it was public. And in essence, he’s going to be asking for additional resources. . . I sent a letter to the president a number of days ago spelling out in great detail some six pages of a letter, spelling out basically, give the general what he needs. You see you have to have security in Afghanistan. You have to have governance in Afghanistan. If you don’t have both of them, your whole strategy falls apart. [Emphasis mine.]

Skelton is right to point out that what is at stake here is Obama’s own strategy and commitment to prevailing (Obama prefers to shy away from “victory’) in Afghanistan. The president is searching, almost desperately it seems, for an alternative approach to the only one which military experts across the board say is needed. And should he reverse himself by concocting some patchwork counter-terrorism gambit that is a pale imitation of what we have already tried in both Afghanistan and Iraq, it will only been seen as a retreat, a capitulation to the Left of his own party. As Fred and Kim Kagan remind us:

Obama ran on a platform that made giving Afghanistan the resources it needed an overriding American priority. President Obama has repeated that commitment many times. He appointed a new commander to execute the policy he enunciated in his March 27 speech, in which he noted: “To focus on the greatest threat to our people, America must no longer deny resources to Afghanistan because of the war in Iraq.” If he now rejects the request of his new commander for forces, his decision will be seen as the abandonment of the president’s own commitment to the conflict. . . A president who overrules the apparently unanimous recommendation of his senior generals and admirals [and now, British commanders as well] that he make good the resource shortfalls he himself called unacceptable can hardly convince others he is determined to succeed in Afghanistan. And if the United States is not determined to succeed, then, in the language of the region, it is getting ready to cut and run, whatever the president and his advisers may think or say.

It is ironic that conservatives are urging, pleading in fact, with Obama to remain resolute and not to expose himself to criticism that he is spineless. One would think his Democrats supporters who can hardly benefit from the image of a Jimmy Carter-esque figure in the White House would share the concern for, if nothing else, the president’s own prestige and authority. Both have taken a beating of late and one more episode of weakness in defiance of the advice from the best military minds available will hardly improve matters. It’s one thing to lose the Olympics, it’s another to lose a war.

Max, as you point out, it is remarkable when not simply current U.S. military leaders but former and allied commanders are all on the same page. This simply highlights the untenable spot which the president would find himself in should he reject the advice of the military experts he appointed and whose opinions are so widely shared. On Face the Nation, Rep. Ike Skelton, one of the few lawmakers who might properly be seen as a “Scoop Jackson Democrat,” had this to say today:

The war really didn’t start until March of this year when the president came forth with a strategy and frankly an excellent strategy. He chose General McChrystal who is the best in the business for this type of conflict. He asked General McChrystal for an assessment. And he got that assessment. Of course that became known — it was public. And in essence, he’s going to be asking for additional resources. . . I sent a letter to the president a number of days ago spelling out in great detail some six pages of a letter, spelling out basically, give the general what he needs. You see you have to have security in Afghanistan. You have to have governance in Afghanistan. If you don’t have both of them, your whole strategy falls apart. [Emphasis mine.]

Skelton is right to point out that what is at stake here is Obama’s own strategy and commitment to prevailing (Obama prefers to shy away from “victory’) in Afghanistan. The president is searching, almost desperately it seems, for an alternative approach to the only one which military experts across the board say is needed. And should he reverse himself by concocting some patchwork counter-terrorism gambit that is a pale imitation of what we have already tried in both Afghanistan and Iraq, it will only been seen as a retreat, a capitulation to the Left of his own party. As Fred and Kim Kagan remind us:

Obama ran on a platform that made giving Afghanistan the resources it needed an overriding American priority. President Obama has repeated that commitment many times. He appointed a new commander to execute the policy he enunciated in his March 27 speech, in which he noted: “To focus on the greatest threat to our people, America must no longer deny resources to Afghanistan because of the war in Iraq.” If he now rejects the request of his new commander for forces, his decision will be seen as the abandonment of the president’s own commitment to the conflict. . . A president who overrules the apparently unanimous recommendation of his senior generals and admirals [and now, British commanders as well] that he make good the resource shortfalls he himself called unacceptable can hardly convince others he is determined to succeed in Afghanistan. And if the United States is not determined to succeed, then, in the language of the region, it is getting ready to cut and run, whatever the president and his advisers may think or say.

It is ironic that conservatives are urging, pleading in fact, with Obama to remain resolute and not to expose himself to criticism that he is spineless. One would think his Democrats supporters who can hardly benefit from the image of a Jimmy Carter-esque figure in the White House would share the concern for, if nothing else, the president’s own prestige and authority. Both have taken a beating of late and one more episode of weakness in defiance of the advice from the best military minds available will hardly improve matters. It’s one thing to lose the Olympics, it’s another to lose a war.

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Annals of (Climate) Science

It is looking more and more as if there has been a major case of scientific fraud in the data supporting the idea of anthropogenic global warming. The famous “hockey stick” chart shows a major increase in average global temperatures in recent decades and one of the major contributors to the data underlying the chart is Keith Briffa, a dendrochronologist from the University of East Anglia.

While widely published in such prestigious publications as Science, Briffa has consistently refused to release the raw data on which his studies have been based. That alone should have been enough to disqualify him, as that is about as serious a breach of the scientific method as you can commit. But, perhaps because his studies undergirded the received wisdom regarding climate change, he got away with it. Until he published a paper in a publication of the Royal Society. The society has a policy:

As a condition of acceptance authors agree to honour any reasonable request by other researchers for materials, methods, or data necessary to verify the conclusion of the article… Supplementary data up to 10 Mb is placed on the Society’s website free of charge and is publicly accessible. Large datasets must be deposited in a recognised public domain database by the author prior to submission. The accession number should be provided for inclusion in the published article.

Steve McIntyre, a statistician and noted climate-change skeptic who has been repeatedly denied access to the data by Briffa for 10 years, wrote the Royal Society, which was embarrassed that this requirement had not been enforced. Briffa was eventually forced to comply (the details of McIntyre’s pursuit of the data he should have been given freely can be found in narrative form here). It appears (and I am no statistician, let alone a dendrochronologist) that the data was seriously cherry-picked to produce a desired result. When a larger and more logical data set is used, the hockey stick disappears (scroll down to see the chart). The late 20th century does not look any different from earlier times.

If this turns out to be the case, it will be interesting to see how long it takes the mainstream media to begin reporting what should be a huge story. The great Piltdown fraud of the 20th century is probably the most famous scientific fraud, but it had few real-world consequences. It just led human paleontology down the wrong path for four decades. But climate change fraud could have trillions of dollars of real-world consequences, the cap-and-trade bill now stalled in Congress by no means the least of them.

It is looking more and more as if there has been a major case of scientific fraud in the data supporting the idea of anthropogenic global warming. The famous “hockey stick” chart shows a major increase in average global temperatures in recent decades and one of the major contributors to the data underlying the chart is Keith Briffa, a dendrochronologist from the University of East Anglia.

While widely published in such prestigious publications as Science, Briffa has consistently refused to release the raw data on which his studies have been based. That alone should have been enough to disqualify him, as that is about as serious a breach of the scientific method as you can commit. But, perhaps because his studies undergirded the received wisdom regarding climate change, he got away with it. Until he published a paper in a publication of the Royal Society. The society has a policy:

As a condition of acceptance authors agree to honour any reasonable request by other researchers for materials, methods, or data necessary to verify the conclusion of the article… Supplementary data up to 10 Mb is placed on the Society’s website free of charge and is publicly accessible. Large datasets must be deposited in a recognised public domain database by the author prior to submission. The accession number should be provided for inclusion in the published article.

Steve McIntyre, a statistician and noted climate-change skeptic who has been repeatedly denied access to the data by Briffa for 10 years, wrote the Royal Society, which was embarrassed that this requirement had not been enforced. Briffa was eventually forced to comply (the details of McIntyre’s pursuit of the data he should have been given freely can be found in narrative form here). It appears (and I am no statistician, let alone a dendrochronologist) that the data was seriously cherry-picked to produce a desired result. When a larger and more logical data set is used, the hockey stick disappears (scroll down to see the chart). The late 20th century does not look any different from earlier times.

If this turns out to be the case, it will be interesting to see how long it takes the mainstream media to begin reporting what should be a huge story. The great Piltdown fraud of the 20th century is probably the most famous scientific fraud, but it had few real-world consequences. It just led human paleontology down the wrong path for four decades. But climate change fraud could have trillions of dollars of real-world consequences, the cap-and-trade bill now stalled in Congress by no means the least of them.

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General Tony Zinni Speaks Up

Following up on the theme of listening to generals, I was struck by the comments of retired General Tony Zinni, a former head of Central Command, on Face the Nation today. He urged President Obama to make a rapid decision in favor of giving General McChrystal the troops he needs. “I think we have to be careful how long this goes on,” he said. “It could be seen not only out there in the region but our allies, even [by] the enemy, as being indecisive, unable to make a decision.”

Why isn’t the White House listening to its own handpicked general, he demanded to know? “We have a general out there who is probably the best qualified we could have that’s telling us what we need on the ground to have the security space and the time to get those non-military things done. I just don’t understand why we’re questioning that judgment at this point. I hope this doesn’t go on much longer.”

Zinni, who has been known for his cutting attacks in the past on “neocons” and his opposition to the invasion of Iraq, is not someone who can be conveniently pigeonholed. He is very much an idiosyncratic, independent thinker. The White House should find it significant that he is joining the chorus of respected generals, active-duty and retired, who urge the president to support General McChrystal.

Following up on the theme of listening to generals, I was struck by the comments of retired General Tony Zinni, a former head of Central Command, on Face the Nation today. He urged President Obama to make a rapid decision in favor of giving General McChrystal the troops he needs. “I think we have to be careful how long this goes on,” he said. “It could be seen not only out there in the region but our allies, even [by] the enemy, as being indecisive, unable to make a decision.”

Why isn’t the White House listening to its own handpicked general, he demanded to know? “We have a general out there who is probably the best qualified we could have that’s telling us what we need on the ground to have the security space and the time to get those non-military things done. I just don’t understand why we’re questioning that judgment at this point. I hope this doesn’t go on much longer.”

Zinni, who has been known for his cutting attacks in the past on “neocons” and his opposition to the invasion of Iraq, is not someone who can be conveniently pigeonholed. He is very much an idiosyncratic, independent thinker. The White House should find it significant that he is joining the chorus of respected generals, active-duty and retired, who urge the president to support General McChrystal.

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Now They Tell Us

For years we heard from the ACLU as well as from the hired legal guns and radical law professors taking up the terrorists’ cause (with hearty support from the Lefty bloggers) that Guantanamo was a living hell. Inhumane! Mental torture! We had to move them. It was not befitting the U.S. to incarcerate people in this manner. We should be ashamed. Well, as is the case with much of the hue and crying from the Left, the reality is different — tragically so.

This report explains:

For up to four hours a day, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, can sit outside in the Caribbean sun and chat through a chain-link fence with the detainee in the neighboring exercise yard at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mohammed can also use that time to visit a media room to watch movies of his choice, read newspapers and books, or play handheld electronic games. He and other detainees have access to elliptical machines and stationary bikes. At Guantanamo, such recreational activities interrupt an otherwise bleak existence, according to a Pentagon report of conditions at Camp 7, which houses 16 high-value detainees. But even those privileges may soon vanish.

Why are we taking away the sun-bathing and exercise bikes? Because the Left insists that we move these terrorists — to facilities where such amenities don’t exist. Yes, that’s right:

While lawmakers and activist groups have been consumed with a debate over such a move, little attention has been paid to the conditions that Mohammed and other high-value detainees would face in the United States. And those conditions, it turns out, would be vastly more draconian than they are at Guantanamo Bay.

Like so much of what passes for high-minded policy making by the Obami and their fans, the moral preening is actually meant to make the preeners feel better, with only the mere afterthought given to the subject of their sympathies ( no, not Americans — the terrorists). We now hear that the Guantanamo detainees, if moved, will face “profound isolation” and will “have little or no human contact” except with guards. And this is supposed to make the terrorists’ advocates feel better?

Perhaps when that January deadline for closing Guantanamo slips by, the Obama team will finally consider how it is that we are supposed to be getting brownie points from would-be terrorists or in European coffeehouses by removing terrorists from state-of-the-art, cushy surroundings to SuperMax isolation. The answer from some on the Left is that we can’t keep these people at all. (And in any event, they need to be able, when the time comes, to die in their home country, like the Lockerbie butcher, right?)

For those who aren’t ready to jump that far off the moral diving board, it might be time finally to give up on the idea of closing Guantanamo. Let’s face it, it was simply another stick to beat the Bushies with — and they’re long gone. The “close Guantanamo act” is getting stale.

For years we heard from the ACLU as well as from the hired legal guns and radical law professors taking up the terrorists’ cause (with hearty support from the Lefty bloggers) that Guantanamo was a living hell. Inhumane! Mental torture! We had to move them. It was not befitting the U.S. to incarcerate people in this manner. We should be ashamed. Well, as is the case with much of the hue and crying from the Left, the reality is different — tragically so.

This report explains:

For up to four hours a day, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, can sit outside in the Caribbean sun and chat through a chain-link fence with the detainee in the neighboring exercise yard at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Mohammed can also use that time to visit a media room to watch movies of his choice, read newspapers and books, or play handheld electronic games. He and other detainees have access to elliptical machines and stationary bikes. At Guantanamo, such recreational activities interrupt an otherwise bleak existence, according to a Pentagon report of conditions at Camp 7, which houses 16 high-value detainees. But even those privileges may soon vanish.

Why are we taking away the sun-bathing and exercise bikes? Because the Left insists that we move these terrorists — to facilities where such amenities don’t exist. Yes, that’s right:

While lawmakers and activist groups have been consumed with a debate over such a move, little attention has been paid to the conditions that Mohammed and other high-value detainees would face in the United States. And those conditions, it turns out, would be vastly more draconian than they are at Guantanamo Bay.

Like so much of what passes for high-minded policy making by the Obami and their fans, the moral preening is actually meant to make the preeners feel better, with only the mere afterthought given to the subject of their sympathies ( no, not Americans — the terrorists). We now hear that the Guantanamo detainees, if moved, will face “profound isolation” and will “have little or no human contact” except with guards. And this is supposed to make the terrorists’ advocates feel better?

Perhaps when that January deadline for closing Guantanamo slips by, the Obama team will finally consider how it is that we are supposed to be getting brownie points from would-be terrorists or in European coffeehouses by removing terrorists from state-of-the-art, cushy surroundings to SuperMax isolation. The answer from some on the Left is that we can’t keep these people at all. (And in any event, they need to be able, when the time comes, to die in their home country, like the Lockerbie butcher, right?)

For those who aren’t ready to jump that far off the moral diving board, it might be time finally to give up on the idea of closing Guantanamo. Let’s face it, it was simply another stick to beat the Bushies with — and they’re long gone. The “close Guantanamo act” is getting stale.

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Listening to the Generals

General Sir David Richards, head of the British Army and  a well-respected former head of NATO’s force in Afghanistan, has added his voice to that of General Stanley McChrystal and other senior military figures warning that the West needs to make a bigger commitment in Afghanistan to avoid a disastrous defeat. The Daily Telegraph quotes him as saying that the consequence of defeat would be “enormous” and “unimaginable”:

If al-Qaeda and the Taliban believe they have defeated us – what next? Would they stop at Afghanistan? Pakistan is clearly a tempting target not least because of the fact that it is a nuclear-weaponed state and that is a terrifying prospect. Even if only a few of those (nuclear) weapons fell into their hands, believe me they would use them. The recent airlines plot has reminded us that there are people out there who would happily blow all of us up.

Sir David said Britain was prepared to put in more troops but only if the U.S. began to implement McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy. “If you put in more troops we can achieve the objectives laid upon us more quickly and with less casualties,” he said. He added that success was “certainly difficult” but not “mission impossible”: “Having spent the last five years more focused on Afghanistan than anything else, I’m convinced it is most certainly doable.” But Sir David, in common with American generals, does not believe the mission can be accomplished by Vice President Biden’s small-footprint counterterror strategy: “Sir David said this was a strategy which would not work.”

Generals are rarely unanimous about anything, but insofar as I can tell, there is a striking unanimity among senior generals, American and allied, familiar with the war in Afghanistan. They are in favor of giving McChrystal the resources needed to carry out his strategy. Wasn’t it only a few  years ago that Democrats were chiding President Bush for supposedly not listening to his generals? Well, who’s not listening now?

General Sir David Richards, head of the British Army and  a well-respected former head of NATO’s force in Afghanistan, has added his voice to that of General Stanley McChrystal and other senior military figures warning that the West needs to make a bigger commitment in Afghanistan to avoid a disastrous defeat. The Daily Telegraph quotes him as saying that the consequence of defeat would be “enormous” and “unimaginable”:

If al-Qaeda and the Taliban believe they have defeated us – what next? Would they stop at Afghanistan? Pakistan is clearly a tempting target not least because of the fact that it is a nuclear-weaponed state and that is a terrifying prospect. Even if only a few of those (nuclear) weapons fell into their hands, believe me they would use them. The recent airlines plot has reminded us that there are people out there who would happily blow all of us up.

Sir David said Britain was prepared to put in more troops but only if the U.S. began to implement McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy. “If you put in more troops we can achieve the objectives laid upon us more quickly and with less casualties,” he said. He added that success was “certainly difficult” but not “mission impossible”: “Having spent the last five years more focused on Afghanistan than anything else, I’m convinced it is most certainly doable.” But Sir David, in common with American generals, does not believe the mission can be accomplished by Vice President Biden’s small-footprint counterterror strategy: “Sir David said this was a strategy which would not work.”

Generals are rarely unanimous about anything, but insofar as I can tell, there is a striking unanimity among senior generals, American and allied, familiar with the war in Afghanistan. They are in favor of giving McChrystal the resources needed to carry out his strategy. Wasn’t it only a few  years ago that Democrats were chiding President Bush for supposedly not listening to his generals? Well, who’s not listening now?

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Correcting Course — with a Vengeance

The Washington Post finally lets on — the candidate Creigh Deeds they have been vigorously rooting for in the Virginia gubernatorial race is “stammering,” “tentative,” and “not sure where he stood.” He “has spent a career trimming and finessing his positions.”  (And then the Post confesses that his opponent, whom the Post has savaged, “soared on a reputation of steadfast conviction that has especially captivated Republicans and social conservatives.”) Weeks after it was reported in the Weekly Standard, the Post lets on that Deed has flip-flopped on gay rights — first against, then for, and then running ads denying he supported “‘special rights for gay people.’” A sample of Deeds in action:

Faced with mounting criticism for his support of the [gay rights] amendment, Deeds offered a new statement shortly after the controversy erupted: He declared he had come to be troubled by the possible consequences of the measure. But the question of why he voted to put it on the ballot to begin with was still plaguing him years later when he sat down in the conference room.

What is your own view on same-sex marriages and civil unions? he was asked.

He stammered a little. He looked down at the conference table. He said that, for himself, marriage was between a man and a woman, then went on: “I, I, I support . . . making sure everybody has equal rights. Down the road, in the big picture, and this is an area where my thought has evolved a lot, I’m not as convinced as I used to be that government should even be in the marriage business. . . . But the reality is that Virginia law does define marriage. And I’m not on a crusade to — “

And, of course, there was the campaign’s defining moment, at the end of a recent debate with McDonnell:

He had said during the debate that he would not raise taxes. But suddenly he suggested that he might raise them — although not “general fund taxes,” he said. The term was opaque. Confusion momentarily reigned. At last, getting to the heart of the matter, someone asked whether a gas tax was a general fund tax. A weary-looking Deeds said no. So gas taxes could be raised? he was pressed. The question asked Deeds to go further than he wanted to go. He wheeled on the questioner and flashed irritation. “I think I’ve made myself clear, young lady,” he snapped.

Now, granted, the Post tries to put all that in a favorable context — Deeds is a  bridge builder, or self-effacing, or politically nimble, you see. But it is on the whole a devastating portrait — albeit late in coming. But not too late. Perhaps the Post is reading the tea leaves and sees that its Deeds boosterism is faltering and that its man is slipping backward in the polls. Could be time for a course correction for the Post, a face-saver in advance of an election to prevent the  “What was the Post thinking?” post-mortems should Deeds go down to defeat. And if the voters come to believe the Post‘s portrait of Deeds’s feebleness and spinelessness, that’s surely what will happen.

The Washington Post finally lets on — the candidate Creigh Deeds they have been vigorously rooting for in the Virginia gubernatorial race is “stammering,” “tentative,” and “not sure where he stood.” He “has spent a career trimming and finessing his positions.”  (And then the Post confesses that his opponent, whom the Post has savaged, “soared on a reputation of steadfast conviction that has especially captivated Republicans and social conservatives.”) Weeks after it was reported in the Weekly Standard, the Post lets on that Deed has flip-flopped on gay rights — first against, then for, and then running ads denying he supported “‘special rights for gay people.’” A sample of Deeds in action:

Faced with mounting criticism for his support of the [gay rights] amendment, Deeds offered a new statement shortly after the controversy erupted: He declared he had come to be troubled by the possible consequences of the measure. But the question of why he voted to put it on the ballot to begin with was still plaguing him years later when he sat down in the conference room.

What is your own view on same-sex marriages and civil unions? he was asked.

He stammered a little. He looked down at the conference table. He said that, for himself, marriage was between a man and a woman, then went on: “I, I, I support . . . making sure everybody has equal rights. Down the road, in the big picture, and this is an area where my thought has evolved a lot, I’m not as convinced as I used to be that government should even be in the marriage business. . . . But the reality is that Virginia law does define marriage. And I’m not on a crusade to — “

And, of course, there was the campaign’s defining moment, at the end of a recent debate with McDonnell:

He had said during the debate that he would not raise taxes. But suddenly he suggested that he might raise them — although not “general fund taxes,” he said. The term was opaque. Confusion momentarily reigned. At last, getting to the heart of the matter, someone asked whether a gas tax was a general fund tax. A weary-looking Deeds said no. So gas taxes could be raised? he was pressed. The question asked Deeds to go further than he wanted to go. He wheeled on the questioner and flashed irritation. “I think I’ve made myself clear, young lady,” he snapped.

Now, granted, the Post tries to put all that in a favorable context — Deeds is a  bridge builder, or self-effacing, or politically nimble, you see. But it is on the whole a devastating portrait — albeit late in coming. But not too late. Perhaps the Post is reading the tea leaves and sees that its Deeds boosterism is faltering and that its man is slipping backward in the polls. Could be time for a course correction for the Post, a face-saver in advance of an election to prevent the  “What was the Post thinking?” post-mortems should Deeds go down to defeat. And if the voters come to believe the Post‘s portrait of Deeds’s feebleness and spinelessness, that’s surely what will happen.

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Another Foreign-Policy Train Wreck

As CONTENTIONS contributor Jamie Kirchick aptly explains here, Obama’s Honduras policy was founded on an erroneous premise and has proved to be a humiliating failure. As many conservatives argued almost immediately following the ouster of Manuel Zelaya, a Library of Congress report “paints Zelaya’s removal as remarkably orderly and legalistic, especially in a region where the rule of law is so tenuous. The Obama administration’s position, predicated on its hasty conclusion that Zelaya’s removal was illegal, now appears squarely contradicted by the only known official analysis of the constitutional issues involved.” Oh, whoops.

Given the evidence that has come to light, as well as the heightened crisis, the intransigence of the Obama administration has been remarkable. It can be explained only as a desperate attempt to evade responsibility and avoid admitting error. The Obama administration’s refusal to accept new elections as a means of resolving the crisis unless Zelaya is returned to power is unprecedented — and has become hugely embarrassing, as Zelaya has proved to be not simply a Hugo Chavez flunky but also an anti-Semitic lunatic spouting paranoid nonsense from his new digs in the Brazilian embassy. The latest on that front comes from his chief propagandist, David Romero Ellner, who came out with these pearls of wisdom:

There are times when I ask myself if Hitler was or not correct in finishing with that race with the famous Holocaust. If there are people that do damage in this country, they are Jewish, the Israelis. I want to name, this afternoon here in Radio Globo, by name and last name, who are the two officers of the Jewish army who are working with the Armed Forces of our country and who are in charge of carrying out all these conspiracy activities and undercover actions and everything else that is happening to the President of the Republic.

After what I have learned, I ask myself why, why didn’t we let Hitler carry out his historic mission. Forgive me for the grotesque expression. But I ask myself after I have realized this and many other things. I believe it should have been fair and valid to let Hitler finish his historic vision…

That’s the side Obama is backing, insisting it be returned to power.

One can only ponder why the Obama team sized up the situation incorrectly at the beginning. (Knee-jerk identification with a leftist? Obsession with ingratiating ourselves with foes like Hugo Chavez?) But by doubling down on Zelaya and specifically ruling out the most obvious solution — going forward with already planned elections — the Obama team has dug an ever larger hole and handed its critics yet another issue. Sen. Jim DeMint (who managed to evade Sen. John Kerry’s interference) visited Honduras and will be returning with a report, apparently explaining that the interim government is “working hard to follow the rule of law, uphold its constitution, and to protect democracy for the people of Honduras” and urging the Obama administration to support the upcoming elections.

And that is now the only viable option. The Obama team — as it did on its demand for an Israeli settlement freeze — will have to climb down from its precarious and ill-conceived position. They might not even be able to swing a face-saving photo-op this time.

Another diplomatic train wreck, another democracy alienated by the Obama foreign-policy brain trust. One wonders why they are waiting so long to reveal all that smart diplomacy.

As CONTENTIONS contributor Jamie Kirchick aptly explains here, Obama’s Honduras policy was founded on an erroneous premise and has proved to be a humiliating failure. As many conservatives argued almost immediately following the ouster of Manuel Zelaya, a Library of Congress report “paints Zelaya’s removal as remarkably orderly and legalistic, especially in a region where the rule of law is so tenuous. The Obama administration’s position, predicated on its hasty conclusion that Zelaya’s removal was illegal, now appears squarely contradicted by the only known official analysis of the constitutional issues involved.” Oh, whoops.

Given the evidence that has come to light, as well as the heightened crisis, the intransigence of the Obama administration has been remarkable. It can be explained only as a desperate attempt to evade responsibility and avoid admitting error. The Obama administration’s refusal to accept new elections as a means of resolving the crisis unless Zelaya is returned to power is unprecedented — and has become hugely embarrassing, as Zelaya has proved to be not simply a Hugo Chavez flunky but also an anti-Semitic lunatic spouting paranoid nonsense from his new digs in the Brazilian embassy. The latest on that front comes from his chief propagandist, David Romero Ellner, who came out with these pearls of wisdom:

There are times when I ask myself if Hitler was or not correct in finishing with that race with the famous Holocaust. If there are people that do damage in this country, they are Jewish, the Israelis. I want to name, this afternoon here in Radio Globo, by name and last name, who are the two officers of the Jewish army who are working with the Armed Forces of our country and who are in charge of carrying out all these conspiracy activities and undercover actions and everything else that is happening to the President of the Republic.

After what I have learned, I ask myself why, why didn’t we let Hitler carry out his historic mission. Forgive me for the grotesque expression. But I ask myself after I have realized this and many other things. I believe it should have been fair and valid to let Hitler finish his historic vision…

That’s the side Obama is backing, insisting it be returned to power.

One can only ponder why the Obama team sized up the situation incorrectly at the beginning. (Knee-jerk identification with a leftist? Obsession with ingratiating ourselves with foes like Hugo Chavez?) But by doubling down on Zelaya and specifically ruling out the most obvious solution — going forward with already planned elections — the Obama team has dug an ever larger hole and handed its critics yet another issue. Sen. Jim DeMint (who managed to evade Sen. John Kerry’s interference) visited Honduras and will be returning with a report, apparently explaining that the interim government is “working hard to follow the rule of law, uphold its constitution, and to protect democracy for the people of Honduras” and urging the Obama administration to support the upcoming elections.

And that is now the only viable option. The Obama team — as it did on its demand for an Israeli settlement freeze — will have to climb down from its precarious and ill-conceived position. They might not even be able to swing a face-saving photo-op this time.

Another diplomatic train wreck, another democracy alienated by the Obama foreign-policy brain trust. One wonders why they are waiting so long to reveal all that smart diplomacy.

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Why Don’t We Know What They Know?

The New York Times reports:

Senior staff members of the United Nations nuclear agency have concluded in a confidential analysis that Iran has acquired “sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable” atom bomb. The report by experts in the International Atomic Energy Agency stresses in its introduction that its conclusions are tentative and subject to further confirmation of the evidence, which it says came from intelligence agencies and its own investigations. But the report’s conclusions, described by senior European officials, go well beyond the public positions taken by several governments, including the United States.

The Obama administration, of course, has yet to repudiate the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which was meant to assure us that Iran had ceased pursuing a nuclear-weapons program. Our European allies no longer buy that narrative. And the president was forced to acknowledge as much when Iran disclosed the Qom facility, which Obama told us was not configured for peaceful purposes.

So is the American intelligence community missing something that others aren’t? Or has — what’s the phrase? — our intelligence analysis become “politicized”? If U.S. intelligence analysis is not only a step behind the IAEA and our allies but also, as if by magic, perfectly aligned with the administration’s go-slow, do-nothing  approach to Iran, that would seem to raise some serious concerns. In another administration — and if lawmakers were interested in current oversight rather than perpetuating a political blood feud with the prior administration — hard questions would be asked.

How did the 2007 NIE get it wrong? What do our allies know that we don’t, or is undue pressure being applied to our intelligence community not to reveal what they know? Good questions — unasked and unanswered for now.

The New York Times reports:

Senior staff members of the United Nations nuclear agency have concluded in a confidential analysis that Iran has acquired “sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable” atom bomb. The report by experts in the International Atomic Energy Agency stresses in its introduction that its conclusions are tentative and subject to further confirmation of the evidence, which it says came from intelligence agencies and its own investigations. But the report’s conclusions, described by senior European officials, go well beyond the public positions taken by several governments, including the United States.

The Obama administration, of course, has yet to repudiate the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, which was meant to assure us that Iran had ceased pursuing a nuclear-weapons program. Our European allies no longer buy that narrative. And the president was forced to acknowledge as much when Iran disclosed the Qom facility, which Obama told us was not configured for peaceful purposes.

So is the American intelligence community missing something that others aren’t? Or has — what’s the phrase? — our intelligence analysis become “politicized”? If U.S. intelligence analysis is not only a step behind the IAEA and our allies but also, as if by magic, perfectly aligned with the administration’s go-slow, do-nothing  approach to Iran, that would seem to raise some serious concerns. In another administration — and if lawmakers were interested in current oversight rather than perpetuating a political blood feud with the prior administration — hard questions would be asked.

How did the 2007 NIE get it wrong? What do our allies know that we don’t, or is undue pressure being applied to our intelligence community not to reveal what they know? Good questions — unasked and unanswered for now.

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No Master Plan at All

As the media and political observers pick over the remains of the failed Olympics-bid debacle, the debate has boiled down to this: Will it be a temporary embarrassment for the president or a long-term problem, an emblem of overreach and underachievement? There is more to this than simply predicting the toll it will take on Obama. Both the rebuff and the Obama team’s stunned reaction have stripped the veneer from the Obama mystique. Suddenly, the entire country realizes that there is no “master plan” behind what Obama does. In fact, there may be no plan at all. Read More

As the media and political observers pick over the remains of the failed Olympics-bid debacle, the debate has boiled down to this: Will it be a temporary embarrassment for the president or a long-term problem, an emblem of overreach and underachievement? There is more to this than simply predicting the toll it will take on Obama. Both the rebuff and the Obama team’s stunned reaction have stripped the veneer from the Obama mystique. Suddenly, the entire country realizes that there is no “master plan” behind what Obama does. In fact, there may be no plan at all.

Obama’s frosty demeanor, his upending of the Clinton machine in the Democratic primary, and his smooth presidential campaign helped create the myth that he was in control of all events and could see two or three moves ahead. If he procrastinated in dealing with the Reverend Wright flap, it was because he knew something we didn’t—or anticipated how events would play out. If he was mute during the financial crisis, it was because he intuitively understood that John McCain would knock himself out. There was a reason for everything.

The same assumptions prevailed once he got to the White House. He knew it was best to let Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid craft the stimulus. He was laying the groundwork for something or other. And he was not derelict in failing to spell out his own health-care scheme; this was a carefully orchestrated strategy to let Congress (just like McCain) knock itself out so he could finally step forward to save the day.

And all that genuflecting on the world stage and those unilateral concessions—there must be a game plan, a secret deal, with Russia. He’s got it wired. The same with that secret Iranian nuclear plant. Sure he knew about it and didn’t say anything, but it really was better—and he knew this all along—to delay the revelation and let months and months pass as the Iranian mullahs worked diligently to cement their regime and advance their nuclear program. Can’t you just hear the gears whizzing in the White House?

And this was true of  the Olympic-city bid as well. Observers were convinced that the deal to give it to Chicago was set, because no president would go—and no staff would let him go—to Copenhagen to be humiliated, right? Uhh, no. They hadn’t a clue and they had no game plan. They played roulette with the president’s prestige—and lost.

Could it be that there is less to Obama and his team of geniuses than we were led to believe? Maybe Obama’s domestic and foreign-policy agenda is all based on wishful thinking: a cost-neutral health-care plan will emerge from Congress, talks with Iran will produce results, sweet-talking the Russian bear will pan out, there is some magic pill to achieve victory in Afghanistan that has escaped the nation’s leading counterinsurgency gurus, and private-sector jobs will return despite the anti-employer policies flowing from Washington.

Could it be that Obama is not, in fact, a sophisticated analyst and astute policy wonk but merely has led a charmed political life, benefiting from a series of inept opponents (think Alan Keyes, the snarling infighters in Hillaryland, and the McCain gang-that-couldn’t-shoot-straight), a sycophantic media, and an electorate willing to give him every benefit of the doubt? It might just be that neither he nor his advisers have thought through much of anything because they convinced themselves that they had the secret weapon, the gravity-defying political colossus. Obama could get away with doing seemingly inexplicable things (e.g., picking a fight with Israel over the nonstarter settlement freeze, backing the lunatic Manuel Zelaya, allowing the left wing in Congress to write his agenda) because this charismatic leader would inevitably defy the odds (not to mention public opinion, geopolitical realities, and common sense) and get results that mere mortal politicians could not.

The IOU rebuff may turn out to be Obama’s man-behind-the-curtain moment, straight out of the Wizard of Oz. It may be that the whole Hope and Change routine has been little more than a lot of cheesy special effects—and a cynical game to convince the public that the great and powerful leader really is worthy of awe.

The people are finally figuring out the act.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Elliott Abrams holds out hope for a Scoop Jackson–like revival to oppose Obama’s policy of appeasement and timidity on human rights. Sage advice for Obama’s opponents: “Be of good cheer. No whining, no nasty personal attacks. It’s a political mistake, it’s unattractive, it’s self-defeating, and it’s unwarranted. The American people think our country is indeed ‘defined by our differences’ with murderous Islamist groups and repressive regimes. They don’t agree that our ‘interests are shared’ with such groups, and they believe friends deserve better treatment than enemies. We’re on the American people’s side, and they’re on ours in this struggle over our country’s relations with the world.”

Cliff May makes the case for sanctions:”If sanctions were to cause Iran’s rulers to worry whether their drive for nuclear weapons is weakening — rather than strengthening—their hold on power, they could lead to a breakthrough.” In any case, he concludes: “If sanctions prove ineffective, at least we will know for certain that only two options remain. The first is bad: the use of force by the U.S. or, more likely, by Israel. The second is worse: watching passively for the second time in less than a hundred years as fanatical and ruthless tyrants acquire the capabilities to match their clearly stated intentions.”

Does John McCain’s former campaign chief, who oversaw a frenetic campaign devoid of a coherent message and who savaged his own vice-presidential candidate, really suppose conservatives listen to his advice?

Howard Kurtz muses about a double standard for sleazy David Letterman, teller of all manner of anti-Palin “white trash” jokes. Well, let’s just imagine if Letterman weren’t a “cool” lefty but a conservative—or a Catholic priest. They’d be calling for a CBS boycott. And that familiar silence from “pro-women’s groups”? Brings back memories of the Clinton era, no?

Yuval Levin on the Baucus health-care bill: “It is a massively ambitious, costly, intrusive, inefficient, and clumsy combination of mandates, taxes, subsidies, regulations, and new government programs intended over time to replace the American health insurance industry with an enormous new government entitlement. And it fails to address what even President Obama has said is the core of our health care dilemma: rising costs. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that the Baucus bill would actually increase the cost of health insurance premiums.”

Rep. Alan Grayson finally apologizes for comparing American health care to the Holocaust. No apology to Republicans for accusing them of wanting sick people to die quickly.

Stuart Rothenberg doesn’t think Jon Corzine is gaining any steam in the New Jersey gubernatorial race: “He hasn’t moved in the Quinnipiac University poll (or in other polls, for that matter) since the beginning of the year. Corzine’s chances of winning re-election now are no better than they were a month ago. The governor continues to be stuck between 38 percent and 42 percent in the ballot test, where he has been for many months, and the fundamentals of the race continue to favor the Republican challenger.”

Fred and Kim Kagan on Obama’s potential decision to renounce his own Afghanistan strategy: “Obama ran on a platform that made giving Afghanistan the resources it needed an overriding American priority. President Obama has repeated that commitment many times. He appointed a new commander to execute the policy he enunciated in his March 27 speech, in which he noted: ‘To focus on the greatest threat to our people, America must no longer deny resources to Afghanistan because of the war in Iraq.’ If he now rejects the request of his new commander for forces, his decision will be seen as the abandonment of the president’s own commitment to the conflict. . . . A president who overrules the apparently unanimous recommendation of his senior generals and admirals that he make good the resource shortfalls he himself called unacceptable can hardly convince others he is determined to succeed in Afghanistan.”

Elliott Abrams holds out hope for a Scoop Jackson–like revival to oppose Obama’s policy of appeasement and timidity on human rights. Sage advice for Obama’s opponents: “Be of good cheer. No whining, no nasty personal attacks. It’s a political mistake, it’s unattractive, it’s self-defeating, and it’s unwarranted. The American people think our country is indeed ‘defined by our differences’ with murderous Islamist groups and repressive regimes. They don’t agree that our ‘interests are shared’ with such groups, and they believe friends deserve better treatment than enemies. We’re on the American people’s side, and they’re on ours in this struggle over our country’s relations with the world.”

Cliff May makes the case for sanctions:”If sanctions were to cause Iran’s rulers to worry whether their drive for nuclear weapons is weakening — rather than strengthening—their hold on power, they could lead to a breakthrough.” In any case, he concludes: “If sanctions prove ineffective, at least we will know for certain that only two options remain. The first is bad: the use of force by the U.S. or, more likely, by Israel. The second is worse: watching passively for the second time in less than a hundred years as fanatical and ruthless tyrants acquire the capabilities to match their clearly stated intentions.”

Does John McCain’s former campaign chief, who oversaw a frenetic campaign devoid of a coherent message and who savaged his own vice-presidential candidate, really suppose conservatives listen to his advice?

Howard Kurtz muses about a double standard for sleazy David Letterman, teller of all manner of anti-Palin “white trash” jokes. Well, let’s just imagine if Letterman weren’t a “cool” lefty but a conservative—or a Catholic priest. They’d be calling for a CBS boycott. And that familiar silence from “pro-women’s groups”? Brings back memories of the Clinton era, no?

Yuval Levin on the Baucus health-care bill: “It is a massively ambitious, costly, intrusive, inefficient, and clumsy combination of mandates, taxes, subsidies, regulations, and new government programs intended over time to replace the American health insurance industry with an enormous new government entitlement. And it fails to address what even President Obama has said is the core of our health care dilemma: rising costs. Indeed, there is every reason to believe that the Baucus bill would actually increase the cost of health insurance premiums.”

Rep. Alan Grayson finally apologizes for comparing American health care to the Holocaust. No apology to Republicans for accusing them of wanting sick people to die quickly.

Stuart Rothenberg doesn’t think Jon Corzine is gaining any steam in the New Jersey gubernatorial race: “He hasn’t moved in the Quinnipiac University poll (or in other polls, for that matter) since the beginning of the year. Corzine’s chances of winning re-election now are no better than they were a month ago. The governor continues to be stuck between 38 percent and 42 percent in the ballot test, where he has been for many months, and the fundamentals of the race continue to favor the Republican challenger.”

Fred and Kim Kagan on Obama’s potential decision to renounce his own Afghanistan strategy: “Obama ran on a platform that made giving Afghanistan the resources it needed an overriding American priority. President Obama has repeated that commitment many times. He appointed a new commander to execute the policy he enunciated in his March 27 speech, in which he noted: ‘To focus on the greatest threat to our people, America must no longer deny resources to Afghanistan because of the war in Iraq.’ If he now rejects the request of his new commander for forces, his decision will be seen as the abandonment of the president’s own commitment to the conflict. . . . A president who overrules the apparently unanimous recommendation of his senior generals and admirals that he make good the resource shortfalls he himself called unacceptable can hardly convince others he is determined to succeed in Afghanistan.”

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