Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 6, 2009

Perez Confirmed — What Next?

Thomas Perez was confirmed as head of Justice’s Civil Rights Division by a 72-22 vote. This is a shabby showing by Senate Republicans, lifting a hold, refusing to force a cloture vote, and then voting overwhelmingly to confirm him. As detailed here, Perez holds extreme views of civil rights law and has long advocated racial quotas even for jobs for which merit should be the sole criterion (e.g., doctors, firefighters). Moreover, this was perhaps the only leverage Republicans had to extract cooperation from the Justice Department with efforts by members of Congress and the U.S. Civil Rights Commission to investigate the dismissal of the New Black Panther Party case.

Keep your eye out now for potential personnel changes now that Perez has his ticket to the Justice Department. Observers with knowledge of the Civil Rights Division explain that once Perez is confirmed, the Obama team may look to replace Christopher Coates, the Voting Section chief, who has been, as one informed attorney describes him, “the Department’s chief champion for applying federal civil rights laws in a racially fair and neutral fashion.” The attorney explains that Coates “oversaw the New Black Panther case and was an aggressive advocate for pursuing a complete remedy against all defendants.”

If Coates is removed, it will be a clear statement about the Obama administration’s efforts to remake civil-rights enforcement and adopt the Left’s view that the laws only run in one direction — against white perpetrators. Keep in mind also that, once Perez is sworn in, there is a 120-day cooling-off period that freezes personnel shifts at the section level. However, before Perez is sworn in, all bets are off. Stay tuned.

Thomas Perez was confirmed as head of Justice’s Civil Rights Division by a 72-22 vote. This is a shabby showing by Senate Republicans, lifting a hold, refusing to force a cloture vote, and then voting overwhelmingly to confirm him. As detailed here, Perez holds extreme views of civil rights law and has long advocated racial quotas even for jobs for which merit should be the sole criterion (e.g., doctors, firefighters). Moreover, this was perhaps the only leverage Republicans had to extract cooperation from the Justice Department with efforts by members of Congress and the U.S. Civil Rights Commission to investigate the dismissal of the New Black Panther Party case.

Keep your eye out now for potential personnel changes now that Perez has his ticket to the Justice Department. Observers with knowledge of the Civil Rights Division explain that once Perez is confirmed, the Obama team may look to replace Christopher Coates, the Voting Section chief, who has been, as one informed attorney describes him, “the Department’s chief champion for applying federal civil rights laws in a racially fair and neutral fashion.” The attorney explains that Coates “oversaw the New Black Panther case and was an aggressive advocate for pursuing a complete remedy against all defendants.”

If Coates is removed, it will be a clear statement about the Obama administration’s efforts to remake civil-rights enforcement and adopt the Left’s view that the laws only run in one direction — against white perpetrators. Keep in mind also that, once Perez is sworn in, there is a 120-day cooling-off period that freezes personnel shifts at the section level. However, before Perez is sworn in, all bets are off. Stay tuned.

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Well, Then There Is Reality

In case you were feeling all warm and fuzzy about the “peace process” and thought the photo of Obama, Netanyahu, and Abbas shaking hands looked promising, you might want to reconsider. Belatedly, even the mainstream media have woken up to the reality: it’s all pretty meaningless so long as Hamas digs in and the Palestinian “negotiators” don’t really have the authority to reach binding deals with the Jewish state on behalf of the Palestinians.

And Hamas is digging in. The Washington Post reviews Hamas’s record of eradicating competing clans, solidifying control of Gaza, and weathering a war with Israel, concluding:

That combination of durability and unwillingness to compromise has created a deep-seated stalemate that has left top Israeli intelligence and political officials perplexed about what to do, and posed a steep obstacle for U.S. peace envoy George J. Mitchell. While Mitchell’s work in Northern Ireland in the 1990s included intense negotiations to bring the most militant parties into the process, his eight months of talks about Israeli-Palestinian peace have so far avoided any obvious effort to do the same with Hamas, and have been conducted, in effect, with only half of the Palestinian political leadership.

Translation: The “peace process” is a charade, conducted in a vacuum without regard to the parties or circumstances on the ground. There is no “peace” so long as the Palestinians negotiate without full authority to reach a “deal” — and without the will or ability to enforce any such deal. Mitchell would rather carp about settlements, a red herring unrelated to the central barrier to peace (i.e., Arab refusal to recognize a Jewish state) and the ongoing threat of terrorism. But if he admitted that there was nothing more to do so long as Hamas remains firmly entrenched, he’d have nothing to do, right?

In case you were feeling all warm and fuzzy about the “peace process” and thought the photo of Obama, Netanyahu, and Abbas shaking hands looked promising, you might want to reconsider. Belatedly, even the mainstream media have woken up to the reality: it’s all pretty meaningless so long as Hamas digs in and the Palestinian “negotiators” don’t really have the authority to reach binding deals with the Jewish state on behalf of the Palestinians.

And Hamas is digging in. The Washington Post reviews Hamas’s record of eradicating competing clans, solidifying control of Gaza, and weathering a war with Israel, concluding:

That combination of durability and unwillingness to compromise has created a deep-seated stalemate that has left top Israeli intelligence and political officials perplexed about what to do, and posed a steep obstacle for U.S. peace envoy George J. Mitchell. While Mitchell’s work in Northern Ireland in the 1990s included intense negotiations to bring the most militant parties into the process, his eight months of talks about Israeli-Palestinian peace have so far avoided any obvious effort to do the same with Hamas, and have been conducted, in effect, with only half of the Palestinian political leadership.

Translation: The “peace process” is a charade, conducted in a vacuum without regard to the parties or circumstances on the ground. There is no “peace” so long as the Palestinians negotiate without full authority to reach a “deal” — and without the will or ability to enforce any such deal. Mitchell would rather carp about settlements, a red herring unrelated to the central barrier to peace (i.e., Arab refusal to recognize a Jewish state) and the ongoing threat of terrorism. But if he admitted that there was nothing more to do so long as Hamas remains firmly entrenched, he’d have nothing to do, right?

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Not Very Sporting

Watching Europe’s descent into identity hell:

A French gay soccer team says its members were victims of homophobia when a team of Muslim players refused to play a match against them.

The Paris Foot Gay team says Tuesday it received an e-mail from the Creteil Bebel club canceling a match scheduled for last Sunday.

“Because of the principles of our team, which is a team of devout Muslims, we can’t play against you,” the e-mail said, according to Paris Foot Gay. The e-mail received Saturday said, “Our convictions are much more important than a simple football match.”

The Muslim team is off to find more appropriate hot sweaty men in shorts to chase and bump up against.

Watching Europe’s descent into identity hell:

A French gay soccer team says its members were victims of homophobia when a team of Muslim players refused to play a match against them.

The Paris Foot Gay team says Tuesday it received an e-mail from the Creteil Bebel club canceling a match scheduled for last Sunday.

“Because of the principles of our team, which is a team of devout Muslims, we can’t play against you,” the e-mail said, according to Paris Foot Gay. The e-mail received Saturday said, “Our convictions are much more important than a simple football match.”

The Muslim team is off to find more appropriate hot sweaty men in shorts to chase and bump up against.

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Re: Hushing the Generals

I fully concur with your comments, Jen, and wanted to add some additional thoughts on Michael O’Hanlon’s excellent piece in the Washington Post, in which he writes:

Some might agree with all this yet say that McChrystal still had no business wading into policy waters at this moment. It is true that commanders, as a rule, should not do so. But when truly bad ideas or those already tried and discredited are debated as serious proposals, they do not deserve intellectual sanctuary. McChrystal is personally responsible for the lives of 100,000 NATO troops who are suffering severe losses partially as a result of eight years of a failed counterterrorism strategy under a different name. He has a right to speak if a policy debate becomes too removed from reality. Put another way, we need to hear from him because he understands this reality far better than most in Washington.

Many of those criticizing McChrystal wish, in retrospect, that our military command in 2002-03 had been more vocal in opposing Donald Rumsfeld’s planning for the Iraq invasion, which assumed a minimal need for post-invasion stabilizing forces. This was an unusually bad idea that military leadership went along with, at least publicly, partly out of a sense that they had no prerogative to intercede. The result was one of the most botched operations in U.S. military history until the 2007 surge partially salvaged things.

One of our problems in the Bush administration was that we had a string of generals in key positions in Iraq — including Ricardo Sanchez and George Casey — who were advocating the wrong strategy (what became known as the “light footprint”). But O’Hanlon is quite right; some military commanders didn’t speak out when, in retrospect, their voices could have made a difference. It was our failure that they didn’t feel they could do so without going cross-wise of the secretary of defense.

Having worked in three administrations, I understand the agitation that a story like McChrystal’s can cause. But having worked in three administrations I can also testify that it’s imperative that there be open, honest, and rigorous debate; that different points of view be considered; that the strongest arguments against any case be amassed and made; and that what people should say ought to be judged on the merits rather than on the short-term political furor it creates. That’s fairly easy to say from the outside, when you’re not being pounded by the political class or feeling as if you have been boxed into a corner.

But what matters in the end is getting the policy right — and if a painful process leads to a better outcome in the end, it’s more than worth it. That’s easy to forget when you’re working at the highest levels of government and in the line of fire. But it’s precisely because you’re working at the highest level of government and in the line of fire that those lessons need to learned, internalized, and acted on.

If I were working in the Obama administration, I imagine that my first reaction to General McChrystal’s comments would have been negative. But I hope, on reflection, that I would see something else as well — that while McChrystal’s comments may have made life more difficult in the short run for the Obama administration, McChrystal has, in fact, done the administration and the public a favor. Stanley McChrystal deserves to be praised, not criticized, for his candor. We need more of it, at every level of government. It helps, of course, that he also happens to be quite right in his recommendation.

I fully concur with your comments, Jen, and wanted to add some additional thoughts on Michael O’Hanlon’s excellent piece in the Washington Post, in which he writes:

Some might agree with all this yet say that McChrystal still had no business wading into policy waters at this moment. It is true that commanders, as a rule, should not do so. But when truly bad ideas or those already tried and discredited are debated as serious proposals, they do not deserve intellectual sanctuary. McChrystal is personally responsible for the lives of 100,000 NATO troops who are suffering severe losses partially as a result of eight years of a failed counterterrorism strategy under a different name. He has a right to speak if a policy debate becomes too removed from reality. Put another way, we need to hear from him because he understands this reality far better than most in Washington.

Many of those criticizing McChrystal wish, in retrospect, that our military command in 2002-03 had been more vocal in opposing Donald Rumsfeld’s planning for the Iraq invasion, which assumed a minimal need for post-invasion stabilizing forces. This was an unusually bad idea that military leadership went along with, at least publicly, partly out of a sense that they had no prerogative to intercede. The result was one of the most botched operations in U.S. military history until the 2007 surge partially salvaged things.

One of our problems in the Bush administration was that we had a string of generals in key positions in Iraq — including Ricardo Sanchez and George Casey — who were advocating the wrong strategy (what became known as the “light footprint”). But O’Hanlon is quite right; some military commanders didn’t speak out when, in retrospect, their voices could have made a difference. It was our failure that they didn’t feel they could do so without going cross-wise of the secretary of defense.

Having worked in three administrations, I understand the agitation that a story like McChrystal’s can cause. But having worked in three administrations I can also testify that it’s imperative that there be open, honest, and rigorous debate; that different points of view be considered; that the strongest arguments against any case be amassed and made; and that what people should say ought to be judged on the merits rather than on the short-term political furor it creates. That’s fairly easy to say from the outside, when you’re not being pounded by the political class or feeling as if you have been boxed into a corner.

But what matters in the end is getting the policy right — and if a painful process leads to a better outcome in the end, it’s more than worth it. That’s easy to forget when you’re working at the highest levels of government and in the line of fire. But it’s precisely because you’re working at the highest level of government and in the line of fire that those lessons need to learned, internalized, and acted on.

If I were working in the Obama administration, I imagine that my first reaction to General McChrystal’s comments would have been negative. But I hope, on reflection, that I would see something else as well — that while McChrystal’s comments may have made life more difficult in the short run for the Obama administration, McChrystal has, in fact, done the administration and the public a favor. Stanley McChrystal deserves to be praised, not criticized, for his candor. We need more of it, at every level of government. It helps, of course, that he also happens to be quite right in his recommendation.

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About that Pledge …

Republicans have been making hay of the Baucus bill’s array of massive tax hikes on those making less than $250,000 — something candidate Barack Obama swore he’d never agree to. A new poll suggests that the GOP’s position is quite popular and that the Democrats would proceed at their own risk if they want to break the Obama tax pledge:

Fifty-nine percent (59%) of U.S. voters favor putting a provision in the health-care reform plan that would prohibit any new taxes, fees or penalties on families who make less than $250,000 a year. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 22% of voters oppose such a provision. Nineteen percent (19%) are not sure.

If the health-care bill becomes a referendum on liberal tax policies, Obama and the Democrats will face a horde of angry voters — those town-hall attendees and their friends and relations. A massive new tax on the not-rich is a political loser for the Democrats, which is why you will hear more and more about this from conservative critics of ObamaCare. And the Democrats? They’ll try to change the topic and mumble something about Republicans’ favoring the status quo. But the status quo will begin to look better and better if the alternative is a huge tax hike on working-class Americans.

Republicans have been making hay of the Baucus bill’s array of massive tax hikes on those making less than $250,000 — something candidate Barack Obama swore he’d never agree to. A new poll suggests that the GOP’s position is quite popular and that the Democrats would proceed at their own risk if they want to break the Obama tax pledge:

Fifty-nine percent (59%) of U.S. voters favor putting a provision in the health-care reform plan that would prohibit any new taxes, fees or penalties on families who make less than $250,000 a year. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 22% of voters oppose such a provision. Nineteen percent (19%) are not sure.

If the health-care bill becomes a referendum on liberal tax policies, Obama and the Democrats will face a horde of angry voters — those town-hall attendees and their friends and relations. A massive new tax on the not-rich is a political loser for the Democrats, which is why you will hear more and more about this from conservative critics of ObamaCare. And the Democrats? They’ll try to change the topic and mumble something about Republicans’ favoring the status quo. But the status quo will begin to look better and better if the alternative is a huge tax hike on working-class Americans.

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Sullivan Needs Some Serious Self-Reflection

Andrew Sullivan had a post yesterday entitled “Why Did We Block Goldstone’s Report?” It consisted of an excerpt from a Marc Lynch column questioning whether the Obama administration had considered how pressure on the Palestinian Authority about the report would affect the PA’s “legitimacy and efficacy” and “Obama’s credibility among Arab and Muslim audiences.” Lynch had written that the U.S. move was most likely in response to “the intense public and private Israeli campaign against the report.”

Sullivan commented as follows:

It appears at times that Obama does not have the final say over U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Israel does. At some point, it is not unreasonable to ask for a little help from our alleged friends.

(My first version of this sentence was intemperate and over-wrought. I apologize. My point is strong enough without stupid exaggerations.)

If the allegation that our “alleged” friend Israel has the “final say” over U.S. foreign policy was Sullivan’s second attempt at temperate writing, one wonders what the overwrought, stupid exaggerations were in the first one.

The original version is apparently here, which seems to be a feed from Sullivan’s original post. In this version, Sullivan’s post ends with these words:

Obama does not have the final say over U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Israel does. This country will do whatever Netanyahu demands. And the Congress, for all its alleged concern about settlements, will insist on it.

Sullivan — on reflection — added the words “It appears at times that” before his allegation that Israel controls American foreign policy. Then he substituted an assertion that Israel is an “alleged” friend and struck his assertion that Congress insists on whatever Netanyahu wants. The apology apparently was for the overwrought description of Congress, not Israel.

And what was the “help” Sullivan thought we might reasonably request from an “alleged” friend?  Sullivan’s reconsidered and redrafted thought was apparently that Israel should provide a little help in permitting the PA to use an egregiously one-sided report to demonize the Jewish state at the UN — unless this was another one of those times when Obama could not be permitted to have the final say over U.S. foreign policy. How temperate.

Andrew Sullivan had a post yesterday entitled “Why Did We Block Goldstone’s Report?” It consisted of an excerpt from a Marc Lynch column questioning whether the Obama administration had considered how pressure on the Palestinian Authority about the report would affect the PA’s “legitimacy and efficacy” and “Obama’s credibility among Arab and Muslim audiences.” Lynch had written that the U.S. move was most likely in response to “the intense public and private Israeli campaign against the report.”

Sullivan commented as follows:

It appears at times that Obama does not have the final say over U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Israel does. At some point, it is not unreasonable to ask for a little help from our alleged friends.

(My first version of this sentence was intemperate and over-wrought. I apologize. My point is strong enough without stupid exaggerations.)

If the allegation that our “alleged” friend Israel has the “final say” over U.S. foreign policy was Sullivan’s second attempt at temperate writing, one wonders what the overwrought, stupid exaggerations were in the first one.

The original version is apparently here, which seems to be a feed from Sullivan’s original post. In this version, Sullivan’s post ends with these words:

Obama does not have the final say over U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Israel does. This country will do whatever Netanyahu demands. And the Congress, for all its alleged concern about settlements, will insist on it.

Sullivan — on reflection — added the words “It appears at times that” before his allegation that Israel controls American foreign policy. Then he substituted an assertion that Israel is an “alleged” friend and struck his assertion that Congress insists on whatever Netanyahu wants. The apology apparently was for the overwrought description of Congress, not Israel.

And what was the “help” Sullivan thought we might reasonably request from an “alleged” friend?  Sullivan’s reconsidered and redrafted thought was apparently that Israel should provide a little help in permitting the PA to use an egregiously one-sided report to demonize the Jewish state at the UN — unless this was another one of those times when Obama could not be permitted to have the final say over U.S. foreign policy. How temperate.

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E.J. Dionne, Then & Now

In his most recent column, the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne Jr. reports that at a White House dinner with a group of historians at the beginning of summer, Robert Dallek offered a “chilling comment” to President Obama:

“In my judgment,” he recalls saying, “war kills off great reform movements.” The American record is pretty clear: World War I brought the Progressive Era to a close. When Franklin D. Roosevelt was waging World War II, he was candid in saying that “Dr. New Deal” had given way to “Dr. Win the War.” Korea ended Harry Truman’s Fair Deal, and Vietnam brought Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society to an abrupt halt. . . . Dallek’s point helps explain why Obama is right to have grave qualms about an extended commitment of many more American troops to Afghanistan . Obama was elected not to escalate a war but to end one. The change and hope he promised did not involve a vast new campaign to transform Afghanistan

Dionne goes on to argue against the war not because it will prevent nationalized health care from getting through but because the Afghanistan war might come to define his presidency “more than any victory he wins on health care.”

So you can now add Mr. Dionne to the pundits who once thought Afghanistan was the “good war” but now view it as the Inconvenient War. The shift on Afghanistan by E.J. and other “progressives” is head-snapping. For example, on October 5, 2007, Dionne wrote:

The plan [an Iraq-war surtax pushed by Representative David Obey] does not ask for a tax to cover the $45 billion in Mr. Bush’s supplemental request to pay for the war in Afghanistan. “There are legitimate expenditures on which we don’t mind sharing the costs with future generations,” Mr. Obey says, noting that there is a broad consensus that the fight in Afghanistan is in the long-term interest of the country.

On March 20, 2007, he wrote this:

None of this means that American opinion has become isolationist. The country’s determination to defeat terrorism has not slackened. Most Americans still believe the war in Afghanistan was a proper response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and wonder why it was left unfinished so the ideologues could go off in pursuit of Utopia on the Euphrates.

On September 15, 2006, he wrote this:

Both [Joe Biden and John Kerry] emphasized what should be a central element in the debate, the potential disaster looming in Afghanistan. The administration, Mr. Biden said last week, “has picked the wrong fights at the wrong times, failing to finish the job in Afghanistan, which the world agreed was the central front in the war on radical fundamentalism, and instead rushing to war in Iraq, which was not a central front in that struggle.” On Saturday, Mr. Kerry condemned the administration’s “stand-still-and-lose strategy” and called on the administration to send 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan to quell the Taliban insurgency. . . . These speeches reflect a growing consensus among many Democrats: First, that Iraq is a blind alley, a distraction from the war on terror, not its “central front.” Second, that the United States needs a responsible way to disengage from Iraq , re-engage in Afghanistan, and prepare itself to deal with the rising power of Iran , so far a real winner from Mr. Bush’s Iraq policies.

On June 22, 2004, he wrote this:

Most Americans, including this one, supported the war in Afghanistan because the ties between the Taliban regime and Osama bin Laden were obvious. If Saddam was connected to 9/11, then the war against him could be defended as a logical response to the terrorist attacks.

And on October 9, 2001, Dionne wrote this:

And a president who has said he is not “into” nation-building has shown signs of understanding that a narrow war against bin Laden and Afghanistan’s Taliban regime will not be good enough. Dropping relief packages to starving Afghans should not be dismissed as a propaganda exercise. The administration seems to understand that our failure to help rebuild Afghanistan after the defeat of the Soviet Union in the 1980s laid the groundwork for the rise of the very forces we now oppose. We shouldn’t make the same mistake this time. That there is a practical side to humanitarianism, and yes, even nation-building, is a sentiment shared across party lines. But it is especially important to Bush’s new Democratic allies.

There is more — but what’s clear is that what was once a “war of necessity” is now, for liberals, a tiresome and troublesome war. Not that long ago, success in Afghanistan was in the vital long-term interest of the country. It was the “central front” in the war against militant Islam, a just conflict in which to re-engage (including by sending more troops). Nation-building was in — especially for “Bush’s new Democratic allies.” Failure to rebuild Afghanistan would be a grave error. And Iraq was a mistake in part because it left the Afghan war “unfinished.” Apparently those arguments have become inoperative.

Why the volte-face? And why the frantic efforts to urge Obama to reject the recommendation by General Stanley McChrystal, who believes that without additional troops our mission in Afghanistan “will likely result in failure” and “risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.” Perhaps, as the great Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami has written, the “good war” of Afghanistan was “the club with which the Iraq war was battered.” Regardless of the reason, the inconsistency and inconstancy on Afghanistan by Dionne and his fellow liberals are both obvious and damning. They are reminding us, one more time, why they cannot be trusted on matters of national security.

In his most recent column, the Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne Jr. reports that at a White House dinner with a group of historians at the beginning of summer, Robert Dallek offered a “chilling comment” to President Obama:

“In my judgment,” he recalls saying, “war kills off great reform movements.” The American record is pretty clear: World War I brought the Progressive Era to a close. When Franklin D. Roosevelt was waging World War II, he was candid in saying that “Dr. New Deal” had given way to “Dr. Win the War.” Korea ended Harry Truman’s Fair Deal, and Vietnam brought Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society to an abrupt halt. . . . Dallek’s point helps explain why Obama is right to have grave qualms about an extended commitment of many more American troops to Afghanistan . Obama was elected not to escalate a war but to end one. The change and hope he promised did not involve a vast new campaign to transform Afghanistan

Dionne goes on to argue against the war not because it will prevent nationalized health care from getting through but because the Afghanistan war might come to define his presidency “more than any victory he wins on health care.”

So you can now add Mr. Dionne to the pundits who once thought Afghanistan was the “good war” but now view it as the Inconvenient War. The shift on Afghanistan by E.J. and other “progressives” is head-snapping. For example, on October 5, 2007, Dionne wrote:

The plan [an Iraq-war surtax pushed by Representative David Obey] does not ask for a tax to cover the $45 billion in Mr. Bush’s supplemental request to pay for the war in Afghanistan. “There are legitimate expenditures on which we don’t mind sharing the costs with future generations,” Mr. Obey says, noting that there is a broad consensus that the fight in Afghanistan is in the long-term interest of the country.

On March 20, 2007, he wrote this:

None of this means that American opinion has become isolationist. The country’s determination to defeat terrorism has not slackened. Most Americans still believe the war in Afghanistan was a proper response to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and wonder why it was left unfinished so the ideologues could go off in pursuit of Utopia on the Euphrates.

On September 15, 2006, he wrote this:

Both [Joe Biden and John Kerry] emphasized what should be a central element in the debate, the potential disaster looming in Afghanistan. The administration, Mr. Biden said last week, “has picked the wrong fights at the wrong times, failing to finish the job in Afghanistan, which the world agreed was the central front in the war on radical fundamentalism, and instead rushing to war in Iraq, which was not a central front in that struggle.” On Saturday, Mr. Kerry condemned the administration’s “stand-still-and-lose strategy” and called on the administration to send 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan to quell the Taliban insurgency. . . . These speeches reflect a growing consensus among many Democrats: First, that Iraq is a blind alley, a distraction from the war on terror, not its “central front.” Second, that the United States needs a responsible way to disengage from Iraq , re-engage in Afghanistan, and prepare itself to deal with the rising power of Iran , so far a real winner from Mr. Bush’s Iraq policies.

On June 22, 2004, he wrote this:

Most Americans, including this one, supported the war in Afghanistan because the ties between the Taliban regime and Osama bin Laden were obvious. If Saddam was connected to 9/11, then the war against him could be defended as a logical response to the terrorist attacks.

And on October 9, 2001, Dionne wrote this:

And a president who has said he is not “into” nation-building has shown signs of understanding that a narrow war against bin Laden and Afghanistan’s Taliban regime will not be good enough. Dropping relief packages to starving Afghans should not be dismissed as a propaganda exercise. The administration seems to understand that our failure to help rebuild Afghanistan after the defeat of the Soviet Union in the 1980s laid the groundwork for the rise of the very forces we now oppose. We shouldn’t make the same mistake this time. That there is a practical side to humanitarianism, and yes, even nation-building, is a sentiment shared across party lines. But it is especially important to Bush’s new Democratic allies.

There is more — but what’s clear is that what was once a “war of necessity” is now, for liberals, a tiresome and troublesome war. Not that long ago, success in Afghanistan was in the vital long-term interest of the country. It was the “central front” in the war against militant Islam, a just conflict in which to re-engage (including by sending more troops). Nation-building was in — especially for “Bush’s new Democratic allies.” Failure to rebuild Afghanistan would be a grave error. And Iraq was a mistake in part because it left the Afghan war “unfinished.” Apparently those arguments have become inoperative.

Why the volte-face? And why the frantic efforts to urge Obama to reject the recommendation by General Stanley McChrystal, who believes that without additional troops our mission in Afghanistan “will likely result in failure” and “risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.” Perhaps, as the great Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami has written, the “good war” of Afghanistan was “the club with which the Iraq war was battered.” Regardless of the reason, the inconsistency and inconstancy on Afghanistan by Dionne and his fellow liberals are both obvious and damning. They are reminding us, one more time, why they cannot be trusted on matters of national security.

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Failure in Iran

The official line out of Tehran is that no deal to process low enriched uranium outside of the country was reached last week during the P5+1 discussions in Geneva. A spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council gave an exclusive statement to Iran’s Press TV saying that reports of any such agreement are false.

Had the reports been true, the Obama administration would have arguably (some disagree) made significant progress in derailing Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. But now that an off-site processing deal is officially the breakthrough that wasn’t, the U.S. needs to get serious about putting all options back on the table.

Here’s the good news: We know what doesn’t work. When Obama came to office he said he would restore science to its rightful place. If we look at his protracted Iran engagement gambit as an experiment in conflict-resolution theory, we can learn something from the results: all that university-level talk about showing mutual respect and finding common ground turns into a dangerous debacle outside the classroom. For eight months the president of the United States played doormat to an unhinged anti-democratic, anti-American, anti-Semitic thug with dreams of nuclear apocalypse, only to lose significant ground for the American position.

Obama had supposedly set September as the deadline for Iran to show any willingness to talk about its nuclear program in earnest. The deadline came and went and Obama decided he’d go talk to Tehran anyway. If the lesson of the lost Olympics bid was that you don’t go to a meeting unless you know you’re getting something out of it, that much goes triply for nuclear summitry.

The bad news is that the Obama administration has a weak plan B (ineffective sanctions) and no plan C (military action). Even if turning our backs on Central European missile defense managed to get the Kremlin on board with potential Iran sanctions (and there is no reason to think this is the case), no sanctions regime without China would be effective. China, for its part, is cutting gas-refining deals to help Iran survive sanctions.

As for the military option, Obama’s all-out engagement track has cost us a lot. Fearful that talk of, or preparation for, an air strike on Iran would make the mullahs less likely to give in to his charms, the president seems to have not planned a thing. It is doubtful, given Obama’s ideological inclinations, that he would ever okay such a strike, but had the credible threat been in the air over these eight months, perhaps it would have made Iran less stubborn.

The engagement failure has cost us more than military preparedness. In a futile effort to assure the Tehran regime that we mean it no harm, Obama has ignored the suffering of Iranian democrats. The administration has just cut off funding for the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. This is a first in the organization’s five years of documenting the torture and assassination of Iranian democrats. “If there is one time that I expected to get funding, this was it,’’ said the organization’s director. But President Obama is only concerned with “bearing witness” to abuses of human rights; not with meddling. With diplomacy a dead letter, sanctions doomed, and military action not even an option, the president will have an opportunity to bare witness as Iran obtains a nuclear weapon during his administration.

The official line out of Tehran is that no deal to process low enriched uranium outside of the country was reached last week during the P5+1 discussions in Geneva. A spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council gave an exclusive statement to Iran’s Press TV saying that reports of any such agreement are false.

Had the reports been true, the Obama administration would have arguably (some disagree) made significant progress in derailing Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons. But now that an off-site processing deal is officially the breakthrough that wasn’t, the U.S. needs to get serious about putting all options back on the table.

Here’s the good news: We know what doesn’t work. When Obama came to office he said he would restore science to its rightful place. If we look at his protracted Iran engagement gambit as an experiment in conflict-resolution theory, we can learn something from the results: all that university-level talk about showing mutual respect and finding common ground turns into a dangerous debacle outside the classroom. For eight months the president of the United States played doormat to an unhinged anti-democratic, anti-American, anti-Semitic thug with dreams of nuclear apocalypse, only to lose significant ground for the American position.

Obama had supposedly set September as the deadline for Iran to show any willingness to talk about its nuclear program in earnest. The deadline came and went and Obama decided he’d go talk to Tehran anyway. If the lesson of the lost Olympics bid was that you don’t go to a meeting unless you know you’re getting something out of it, that much goes triply for nuclear summitry.

The bad news is that the Obama administration has a weak plan B (ineffective sanctions) and no plan C (military action). Even if turning our backs on Central European missile defense managed to get the Kremlin on board with potential Iran sanctions (and there is no reason to think this is the case), no sanctions regime without China would be effective. China, for its part, is cutting gas-refining deals to help Iran survive sanctions.

As for the military option, Obama’s all-out engagement track has cost us a lot. Fearful that talk of, or preparation for, an air strike on Iran would make the mullahs less likely to give in to his charms, the president seems to have not planned a thing. It is doubtful, given Obama’s ideological inclinations, that he would ever okay such a strike, but had the credible threat been in the air over these eight months, perhaps it would have made Iran less stubborn.

The engagement failure has cost us more than military preparedness. In a futile effort to assure the Tehran regime that we mean it no harm, Obama has ignored the suffering of Iranian democrats. The administration has just cut off funding for the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. This is a first in the organization’s five years of documenting the torture and assassination of Iranian democrats. “If there is one time that I expected to get funding, this was it,’’ said the organization’s director. But President Obama is only concerned with “bearing witness” to abuses of human rights; not with meddling. With diplomacy a dead letter, sanctions doomed, and military action not even an option, the president will have an opportunity to bare witness as Iran obtains a nuclear weapon during his administration.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Thirty-Six Years Ago Today, Richard Nixon Saved Israel—but Got No Credit

Precise details of what transpired in Washington during the first week of the Yom Kippur War, launched by Egypt and Syria on October 6, 1973, are hard to come by, in no small measure owing to conflicting accounts given by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger regarding their respective roles.

What is clear, from the preponderance of information provided by those directly involved in the unfolding events, is that President Richard Nixon — overriding inter-administration objections and bureaucratic inertia — implemented a breathtaking transfer of arms, code-named Operation Nickel Grass, that over a four-week period involved hundreds of jumbo U.S. military aircraft delivering more than 22,000 tons of armaments.

This was accomplished, noted Walter J. Boyne in an article in the December 1998 issue of Air Force Magazine, while “Washington was in the throes of not only post-Vietnam moralizing on Capitol Hill but also the agony of Watergate. . . . Four days into the war, Washington was blindsided again by another political disaster — the forced resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew.”

“Both Kissinger and Nixon wanted to do [the airlift],” said former CIA deputy director Vernon Walters, “but Nixon gave it the greater sense of urgency. He said, ‘You get the stuff to Israel. Now. Now.’ ”

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

Precise details of what transpired in Washington during the first week of the Yom Kippur War, launched by Egypt and Syria on October 6, 1973, are hard to come by, in no small measure owing to conflicting accounts given by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger regarding their respective roles.

What is clear, from the preponderance of information provided by those directly involved in the unfolding events, is that President Richard Nixon — overriding inter-administration objections and bureaucratic inertia — implemented a breathtaking transfer of arms, code-named Operation Nickel Grass, that over a four-week period involved hundreds of jumbo U.S. military aircraft delivering more than 22,000 tons of armaments.

This was accomplished, noted Walter J. Boyne in an article in the December 1998 issue of Air Force Magazine, while “Washington was in the throes of not only post-Vietnam moralizing on Capitol Hill but also the agony of Watergate. . . . Four days into the war, Washington was blindsided again by another political disaster — the forced resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew.”

“Both Kissinger and Nixon wanted to do [the airlift],” said former CIA deputy director Vernon Walters, “but Nixon gave it the greater sense of urgency. He said, ‘You get the stuff to Israel. Now. Now.’ ”

Click here to read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive.

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Hushing the Generals

Michael O’Hanlon of Brookings, an early and effective advocate of the surge in Iraq, writes today in defense of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, whom Robert Gates, James Jones, and presumably the president too would rather pipe down. He concedes that, as a rule, military commanders shouldn’t wade into policy issues:

But when truly bad ideas or those already tried and discredited are debated as serious proposals, they do not deserve intellectual sanctuary. McChrystal is personally responsible for the lives of 100,000 NATO troops who are suffering severe losses partially as a result of eight years of a failed counterinsurgency under a different name.

O’Hanlon therefore argues that there isn’t merely a “right to speak if a policy debate becomes too far removed from reality” but, in essence, an obligation to do so. (“We need to hear from him because he understands this reality far better than most in Washington.”) And O’Hanlon reminds his fellow Democrats that they were the ones pleading with the military to step forward (testify in front of Congress before Donald Rumsfeld’s departure) when Bush’s Iraq policy was faltering.

McChrystal’s forthrightness and the defensive reaction of the White House tell us several things. First, the White House doesn’t have a good response on the merits. “Shut up” is not a policy analysis. Second, whatever processes exist within the White House for decision-making have stalled and malfunctioned, causing the debate to go public. Had a decision been promptly made, none of this would have occurred. And third, now the entire country knows the unified position of the military and understands that the opposition comes from the likes of Joe Biden. The public-relations problem for the White House has gotten much worse.

When we put aside the conflict between the military and the White House, we are still left with the underlying question: Will Obama implement the recommendation of his general to achieve his policy, and if not, why not? Eventually, if he rejects his commanders’ advice, the president will have to live with the consequences, both on the battlefield and at home. And right now, many voters are wondering why the White House is telling its most respected military leaders not to tell the public the unvarnished truth about a war that just seven weeks ago the president declared to be critical to our national security.

Michael O’Hanlon of Brookings, an early and effective advocate of the surge in Iraq, writes today in defense of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, whom Robert Gates, James Jones, and presumably the president too would rather pipe down. He concedes that, as a rule, military commanders shouldn’t wade into policy issues:

But when truly bad ideas or those already tried and discredited are debated as serious proposals, they do not deserve intellectual sanctuary. McChrystal is personally responsible for the lives of 100,000 NATO troops who are suffering severe losses partially as a result of eight years of a failed counterinsurgency under a different name.

O’Hanlon therefore argues that there isn’t merely a “right to speak if a policy debate becomes too far removed from reality” but, in essence, an obligation to do so. (“We need to hear from him because he understands this reality far better than most in Washington.”) And O’Hanlon reminds his fellow Democrats that they were the ones pleading with the military to step forward (testify in front of Congress before Donald Rumsfeld’s departure) when Bush’s Iraq policy was faltering.

McChrystal’s forthrightness and the defensive reaction of the White House tell us several things. First, the White House doesn’t have a good response on the merits. “Shut up” is not a policy analysis. Second, whatever processes exist within the White House for decision-making have stalled and malfunctioned, causing the debate to go public. Had a decision been promptly made, none of this would have occurred. And third, now the entire country knows the unified position of the military and understands that the opposition comes from the likes of Joe Biden. The public-relations problem for the White House has gotten much worse.

When we put aside the conflict between the military and the White House, we are still left with the underlying question: Will Obama implement the recommendation of his general to achieve his policy, and if not, why not? Eventually, if he rejects his commanders’ advice, the president will have to live with the consequences, both on the battlefield and at home. And right now, many voters are wondering why the White House is telling its most respected military leaders not to tell the public the unvarnished truth about a war that just seven weeks ago the president declared to be critical to our national security.

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Why No Jobs?

Both the Washington Post and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm are stumped: the governor is trying so hard (tax credits, Super Bowl ticket giveaways, and more!) and there are so many government-directed programs to create jobs in Michigan, yet none of it is working. Remarkably, Michigan has lost 870,000 jobs, 632,000 during Granholm’s term. Its unemployment rate is the nation’s highest — 15.2 percent. But how can this be when state government is doing so much?

For starters, it is one of the more heavily unionized states around. The UAW did its number on the car industry, and any employer coming into the state will have a similar experience with Big Labor. Given the choice between a right-to-work Sun Belt state and a Big Labor–dominated Rust Belt one, most employers will (and do) choose the former. That reality doesn’t make it into the Post story, nor, I suspect, onto Granholm’s to-do list. Think for a moment (aside from the political impossibility of it) what would happen if the state passed a right-to-work law allowing employees to refuse to join a union. I’d imagine employers might take another look at Michigan.

But there is also another mega-factor: liberal spending and high taxes. Granholm and the Michigan legislature have run a mini-California — spending more than they could afford and raising taxes as they went. Granholm is reduced to concocting tax breaks and giveaways, but the state income tax has been going up. And she’s at it again – hawking hundreds of millions in new taxes, including hikes in business taxes.

The lesson to be learned: if your tax, spending, labor, and regulatory policies are anti-employer, you are going to lose jobs no matter how energetic and attractive your chief executive is. There’s a lesson there for the other 49 states.

Both the Washington Post and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm are stumped: the governor is trying so hard (tax credits, Super Bowl ticket giveaways, and more!) and there are so many government-directed programs to create jobs in Michigan, yet none of it is working. Remarkably, Michigan has lost 870,000 jobs, 632,000 during Granholm’s term. Its unemployment rate is the nation’s highest — 15.2 percent. But how can this be when state government is doing so much?

For starters, it is one of the more heavily unionized states around. The UAW did its number on the car industry, and any employer coming into the state will have a similar experience with Big Labor. Given the choice between a right-to-work Sun Belt state and a Big Labor–dominated Rust Belt one, most employers will (and do) choose the former. That reality doesn’t make it into the Post story, nor, I suspect, onto Granholm’s to-do list. Think for a moment (aside from the political impossibility of it) what would happen if the state passed a right-to-work law allowing employees to refuse to join a union. I’d imagine employers might take another look at Michigan.

But there is also another mega-factor: liberal spending and high taxes. Granholm and the Michigan legislature have run a mini-California — spending more than they could afford and raising taxes as they went. Granholm is reduced to concocting tax breaks and giveaways, but the state income tax has been going up. And she’s at it again – hawking hundreds of millions in new taxes, including hikes in business taxes.

The lesson to be learned: if your tax, spending, labor, and regulatory policies are anti-employer, you are going to lose jobs no matter how energetic and attractive your chief executive is. There’s a lesson there for the other 49 states.

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Enough with Negative Ads, Creigh

You know things aren’t going well for Democrat Creigh Deeds in the Virginia gubernatorial race when Rep. Jim Moran, brother of Deeds’s former primary rival, tells him publicly to knock off the negative ads. Well, there are lots of them. Living in northern Virginia, you are bombarded with Deeds’s grainy, ominous-sounding TV ads filled with frightened women (think “thesis-gate”!). Even the lawn signs are nasty (“McDonnell Cuts Education!”).

Moran, in the pages of the Washington Post (which made thesis-gate the defining — and negative — focus of Deeds’s campaign), reminds Deeds that he won the primary by being the “nice guy” in the race. And Moran comes right out with this tidbit: “People know about the thesis — the people who care about the thesis, they’re in Northern Virginia and they read the Post and they know. But there’s got to be more. He’s got to give people a reason to vote for Creigh.” (Another irony: Moran’s brother Brian ran an exceptionally negative primary campaign, losing to Deeds, who was distinguished by sunny, offbeat ads that made him seem rather normal for a politician.)

The problem with running a negative campaign about nothing is that voters, not to mention editorial pages around the state, don’t like a purely negative campaign, especially when the candidate never defined himself. Deeds wasted the summer months and, unlike his opponent, failed to come up with substantive policy proposals. So all voters really know about him is that he’s a Democrat (not a plus right now in the swing state of Virginia) and that he’s running those horrid ads. Maybe Deeds will take the advice and go positive for the final stretch. But it may be too late. Perhaps, when all is said and done, the Post and its thesis crusade did Deeds no favor.

You know things aren’t going well for Democrat Creigh Deeds in the Virginia gubernatorial race when Rep. Jim Moran, brother of Deeds’s former primary rival, tells him publicly to knock off the negative ads. Well, there are lots of them. Living in northern Virginia, you are bombarded with Deeds’s grainy, ominous-sounding TV ads filled with frightened women (think “thesis-gate”!). Even the lawn signs are nasty (“McDonnell Cuts Education!”).

Moran, in the pages of the Washington Post (which made thesis-gate the defining — and negative — focus of Deeds’s campaign), reminds Deeds that he won the primary by being the “nice guy” in the race. And Moran comes right out with this tidbit: “People know about the thesis — the people who care about the thesis, they’re in Northern Virginia and they read the Post and they know. But there’s got to be more. He’s got to give people a reason to vote for Creigh.” (Another irony: Moran’s brother Brian ran an exceptionally negative primary campaign, losing to Deeds, who was distinguished by sunny, offbeat ads that made him seem rather normal for a politician.)

The problem with running a negative campaign about nothing is that voters, not to mention editorial pages around the state, don’t like a purely negative campaign, especially when the candidate never defined himself. Deeds wasted the summer months and, unlike his opponent, failed to come up with substantive policy proposals. So all voters really know about him is that he’s a Democrat (not a plus right now in the swing state of Virginia) and that he’s running those horrid ads. Maybe Deeds will take the advice and go positive for the final stretch. But it may be too late. Perhaps, when all is said and done, the Post and its thesis crusade did Deeds no favor.

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Or We Could Make It Simple and Cheap

The monstrously complicated Democratic health-care bills costing upward of a trillion dollars are churning through Congress. They are too complicated for the average voter to fully comprehend and too voluminous for the average lawmaker to read. They spend money we don’t have and create enormous new bureaucracies to regulate, limit, control, and, yes, ration care. The actual cost of health care (as opposed to what the government will pay for it) isn’t addressed in any meaningful way. Medicare Advantage, a popular program, will be slashed. And millions will have huge new tax liabilities. There is something for everyone to hate, and a lot of people do.

Republicans and a few Democrats have offered insightful critiques. There are many, many ideas and proposals swirling from, among others, Sen. Tom Coburn, Sen. Jim DeMint, Rep. Tom Price, and Rep. Paul Ryan. But now Jeffrey Anderson has gone to the trouble of culling the best ideas and putting them on a single page. Yes, one page. These ideas have appeared in one form or another in Republican proposals and in pundit columns. And here’s the kicker: it doesn’t really cost a lot. Here’s the short version of the already short version of conservative health-care reform suggested by Anderson:

1. Leave employer-provided insurance as it is and give individuals a $2,500 tax credit to equalize tax treatment for individuals who buy their own insurance.

2. Allow individuals to buy insurance across state lines.

3. Extend COBRA for up to 30 months, allowing people to keep their insurance if they leave a job.

4. Remove government regulations limiting insurers from offering premium breaks for healthy lifestyle choices.

5. Enact real malpractice reform (limit punitive damages to $250,000 and all noneconomic damages to $750,000).

6. Provide help to encourage insurance pools for the hard to insure.

That’s it. Over 10 years Anderson’s plan would spend $75B and include $345M in tax cuts. The Baucus bill (one version of it, at least) would spend $856B and include a net increase of $352B in tax hikes and $47B in fines. Both the Anderson and the Baucus plans would insure 95 percent of Americans.

There is something to be said for simplicity — and a lot to be said for achieving the same results as Democrats are promising without a massive tax hike, a government takeover of health care, another massive hit to the budget, and thousands of pages of new federal regulations.

The monstrously complicated Democratic health-care bills costing upward of a trillion dollars are churning through Congress. They are too complicated for the average voter to fully comprehend and too voluminous for the average lawmaker to read. They spend money we don’t have and create enormous new bureaucracies to regulate, limit, control, and, yes, ration care. The actual cost of health care (as opposed to what the government will pay for it) isn’t addressed in any meaningful way. Medicare Advantage, a popular program, will be slashed. And millions will have huge new tax liabilities. There is something for everyone to hate, and a lot of people do.

Republicans and a few Democrats have offered insightful critiques. There are many, many ideas and proposals swirling from, among others, Sen. Tom Coburn, Sen. Jim DeMint, Rep. Tom Price, and Rep. Paul Ryan. But now Jeffrey Anderson has gone to the trouble of culling the best ideas and putting them on a single page. Yes, one page. These ideas have appeared in one form or another in Republican proposals and in pundit columns. And here’s the kicker: it doesn’t really cost a lot. Here’s the short version of the already short version of conservative health-care reform suggested by Anderson:

1. Leave employer-provided insurance as it is and give individuals a $2,500 tax credit to equalize tax treatment for individuals who buy their own insurance.

2. Allow individuals to buy insurance across state lines.

3. Extend COBRA for up to 30 months, allowing people to keep their insurance if they leave a job.

4. Remove government regulations limiting insurers from offering premium breaks for healthy lifestyle choices.

5. Enact real malpractice reform (limit punitive damages to $250,000 and all noneconomic damages to $750,000).

6. Provide help to encourage insurance pools for the hard to insure.

That’s it. Over 10 years Anderson’s plan would spend $75B and include $345M in tax cuts. The Baucus bill (one version of it, at least) would spend $856B and include a net increase of $352B in tax hikes and $47B in fines. Both the Anderson and the Baucus plans would insure 95 percent of Americans.

There is something to be said for simplicity — and a lot to be said for achieving the same results as Democrats are promising without a massive tax hike, a government takeover of health care, another massive hit to the budget, and thousands of pages of new federal regulations.

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If You Have to Ask How Much It Costs . . .

Word comes that the vote on the Baucus health-care plan will be pushed back a week or so because some lawmakers actually want to know how much the darn thing costs. The CBO, which has been uncomfortably honest for the White House’s tastes, will get another shot at debunking the numbers. Meanwhile, the road to a floor vote looks a bit rockier. Maybe the Senate Finance version will be combined with the version floating around in the Health, Education, Pension, and Labor Committee. (Is “HELP” really a good acronym for a serious legislative entity? I’m not sure an SOS signal is really a confidence builder.) As the AP described it:

It’s still not clear what the product will look like finally, including whether it embraces any version of a government-run plan. Whatever it looks like, it will face a barrage of amendments once it gets to the Senate floor, and it could easily go down in flames like former President Bill Clinton’s attempt at a health care overhaul in 1994.

While all this is going on, Democrats haven’t resolved their internal fight over the public option. The president really likes the idea, we are led to believe, but there won’t be any Republicans to support it, and dozens of Blue Dogs will likewise bolt if it is included. And what does the president want? He’s not telling us — still. He’s back on the dog-and-pony circuit, meeting with doctors and issuing the same tired platitudes. (You’d think everyone was weary, even inside the White House bubble, of hearing pabulum like “this reform effort is desperately needed.”)

But what is it going to cost, who’s going to pay for it, how are we going to control cost, and who really wants this thing to pass anyway? It is becoming a gigantic blur, as if everyone is simply going through the motions, hoping at the end of the day that legislators be overcome with a sense of urgency and decide to vote for the largest, most complicated, and expensive piece of legislation in history — without support from a majority of voters. It doesn’t quite seem as though we’re getting there, at least not yet.

Still, it’s a positive step that lawmakers at least get to see the price tag first. And then they might even want to know who’s going to pay for it and what the impact on hiring might be. Maybe we should even have some hearings and think about that for a while. After all, if the president can take his sweet time deciding strategy for a real crisis (a war), we shouldn’t rush into solving a contrived crisis (health care) before we are absolutely sure we are going to get it right. And it’s hard to get it right when you don’t know what is in the final never-need-to-ever-fix-it-again ObamaCare plan.

Word comes that the vote on the Baucus health-care plan will be pushed back a week or so because some lawmakers actually want to know how much the darn thing costs. The CBO, which has been uncomfortably honest for the White House’s tastes, will get another shot at debunking the numbers. Meanwhile, the road to a floor vote looks a bit rockier. Maybe the Senate Finance version will be combined with the version floating around in the Health, Education, Pension, and Labor Committee. (Is “HELP” really a good acronym for a serious legislative entity? I’m not sure an SOS signal is really a confidence builder.) As the AP described it:

It’s still not clear what the product will look like finally, including whether it embraces any version of a government-run plan. Whatever it looks like, it will face a barrage of amendments once it gets to the Senate floor, and it could easily go down in flames like former President Bill Clinton’s attempt at a health care overhaul in 1994.

While all this is going on, Democrats haven’t resolved their internal fight over the public option. The president really likes the idea, we are led to believe, but there won’t be any Republicans to support it, and dozens of Blue Dogs will likewise bolt if it is included. And what does the president want? He’s not telling us — still. He’s back on the dog-and-pony circuit, meeting with doctors and issuing the same tired platitudes. (You’d think everyone was weary, even inside the White House bubble, of hearing pabulum like “this reform effort is desperately needed.”)

But what is it going to cost, who’s going to pay for it, how are we going to control cost, and who really wants this thing to pass anyway? It is becoming a gigantic blur, as if everyone is simply going through the motions, hoping at the end of the day that legislators be overcome with a sense of urgency and decide to vote for the largest, most complicated, and expensive piece of legislation in history — without support from a majority of voters. It doesn’t quite seem as though we’re getting there, at least not yet.

Still, it’s a positive step that lawmakers at least get to see the price tag first. And then they might even want to know who’s going to pay for it and what the impact on hiring might be. Maybe we should even have some hearings and think about that for a while. After all, if the president can take his sweet time deciding strategy for a real crisis (a war), we shouldn’t rush into solving a contrived crisis (health care) before we are absolutely sure we are going to get it right. And it’s hard to get it right when you don’t know what is in the final never-need-to-ever-fix-it-again ObamaCare plan.

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In Stereo Now

George Will observes that the Olympic-bid speeches by Obama and his wife were noteworthy for their dreadfulness. He writes:

Both Obamas gave heartfelt speeches about . . . themselves. Although the working of the committee’s mind is murky, it could reasonably have rejected Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Games on aesthetic grounds — unless narcissism has suddenly become an Olympic sport.

As Will notes, it wasn’t simply the egotism of the appearance but of the speeches themselves that should give us pause. A festival of “I” and “me” and personal tales of playing ball with dad. Who cares? Well, not the IOC.

This is, of course, nothing new. Obama’s entire presidential campaign was constructed on nonsensical rhetoric and an inflated sense of his own fabulousness. From “We are the change we have been waiting for” to the embarrassing Berlin rally to the knee-jerk “I am not George W. Bush” approach to nearly every issue of national security — it’s all been about him. And he has a remarkable lack of ideas and facts to impart. He lectures us on racial profiling because he knows best (but not the facts). He blankets the airwaves but with nothing much to say. He champions health care but lacks a plan with his name on it. And then he goes to the Olympics to tell us how swell it was when everyone came out to celebrate his election. He is the quintessential celebrity — famous for being famous but for not much else, and lacking enough material for anything beyond late-night talk-show interviews.

What was a vaguely creepy cult-of-personality approach to campaigning has become the stuff of parody. And what’s worse, we now get the narcissism in stereo — from both Obamas.

This might be more tolerable if this president had accomplished something. Every leader deserves a victory lap now and then. But considering all that he has actually done in office — passed an overstuffed and ineffective stimulus bill, alienated key allies around the world, picked a ranting lunatic as the favorite candidate in Honduras, gave the Iranians a free ride and an open invitation for chats in Geneva, and pitted the finest military leaders ever assembled against civilian leaders — it might be time for some humility. And a moratorium on TV appearances might help, too.

George Will observes that the Olympic-bid speeches by Obama and his wife were noteworthy for their dreadfulness. He writes:

Both Obamas gave heartfelt speeches about . . . themselves. Although the working of the committee’s mind is murky, it could reasonably have rejected Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Games on aesthetic grounds — unless narcissism has suddenly become an Olympic sport.

As Will notes, it wasn’t simply the egotism of the appearance but of the speeches themselves that should give us pause. A festival of “I” and “me” and personal tales of playing ball with dad. Who cares? Well, not the IOC.

This is, of course, nothing new. Obama’s entire presidential campaign was constructed on nonsensical rhetoric and an inflated sense of his own fabulousness. From “We are the change we have been waiting for” to the embarrassing Berlin rally to the knee-jerk “I am not George W. Bush” approach to nearly every issue of national security — it’s all been about him. And he has a remarkable lack of ideas and facts to impart. He lectures us on racial profiling because he knows best (but not the facts). He blankets the airwaves but with nothing much to say. He champions health care but lacks a plan with his name on it. And then he goes to the Olympics to tell us how swell it was when everyone came out to celebrate his election. He is the quintessential celebrity — famous for being famous but for not much else, and lacking enough material for anything beyond late-night talk-show interviews.

What was a vaguely creepy cult-of-personality approach to campaigning has become the stuff of parody. And what’s worse, we now get the narcissism in stereo — from both Obamas.

This might be more tolerable if this president had accomplished something. Every leader deserves a victory lap now and then. But considering all that he has actually done in office — passed an overstuffed and ineffective stimulus bill, alienated key allies around the world, picked a ranting lunatic as the favorite candidate in Honduras, gave the Iranians a free ride and an open invitation for chats in Geneva, and pitted the finest military leaders ever assembled against civilian leaders — it might be time for some humility. And a moratorium on TV appearances might help, too.

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SEIU Hit by ACORN

As the full extent of ACORN’s corruption and criminality is revealed, we are also learning about ACORN’s special friend, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of the most militant and active unions in the country. It turns out that the two organizations are quite chummy:

The SEIU’s parent organization has paid ACORN for training, voter registration and other organizing work, and SEIU locals have paid ACORN affiliates for their services, according to union reports. ACORN founder Wade Rathke was a top member of the SEIU’s board until last year and founded two SEIU locals — in Chicago and New Orleans. SEIU President Andy Stern serves on an advisory panel that was supposed to help ACORN fix financial problems after an embezzlement was discovered last year. Other leaders have served both ACORN and the SEIU, including Keith Kelleher, who headed SEIU Local 880 and also served in an ACORN staff position, and whose wife ran the ACORN office in Illinois.

Republicans are now calling for the federal government to sever its ties with not just ACORN but SEIU as well. That may be a tough order considering that Stern is very close to the president, bragging about meeting him every week. (Gen. McChrystal should be so lucky.) And consider that SEIU is so wired into the Democratic party that it played a critical role — one captured on tape, we are told — in the Blago corruption case. In fact, SEIU has had more than its share of scandals lately, so perhaps this should all come as no surprise.

But it does make it that much stickier for Big Labor’s friendly legislators to be doling out too many favors. Even card-check lite is going to be hard to bring up so long as the main beneficiaries are entwined in scandal after scandal. And those who received gobs of money from SEIU (Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds took in $200,000 from SEIU, for example) might consider whether they really want to be receiving funds from an ACORN partner.

As the full extent of ACORN’s corruption and criminality is revealed, we are also learning about ACORN’s special friend, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of the most militant and active unions in the country. It turns out that the two organizations are quite chummy:

The SEIU’s parent organization has paid ACORN for training, voter registration and other organizing work, and SEIU locals have paid ACORN affiliates for their services, according to union reports. ACORN founder Wade Rathke was a top member of the SEIU’s board until last year and founded two SEIU locals — in Chicago and New Orleans. SEIU President Andy Stern serves on an advisory panel that was supposed to help ACORN fix financial problems after an embezzlement was discovered last year. Other leaders have served both ACORN and the SEIU, including Keith Kelleher, who headed SEIU Local 880 and also served in an ACORN staff position, and whose wife ran the ACORN office in Illinois.

Republicans are now calling for the federal government to sever its ties with not just ACORN but SEIU as well. That may be a tough order considering that Stern is very close to the president, bragging about meeting him every week. (Gen. McChrystal should be so lucky.) And consider that SEIU is so wired into the Democratic party that it played a critical role — one captured on tape, we are told — in the Blago corruption case. In fact, SEIU has had more than its share of scandals lately, so perhaps this should all come as no surprise.

But it does make it that much stickier for Big Labor’s friendly legislators to be doling out too many favors. Even card-check lite is going to be hard to bring up so long as the main beneficiaries are entwined in scandal after scandal. And those who received gobs of money from SEIU (Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Creigh Deeds took in $200,000 from SEIU, for example) might consider whether they really want to be receiving funds from an ACORN partner.

Read Less

Shut Up, He Explained

James Capretta notices two developments in the health-care debate. First, the president is telling us to shut up again. (“President Obama said today that the debate on health care has gone on long enough, and now is the time to pass something.”) Here’s the deal: setting the war strategy in Afghanistan is much more important than the made-up health-care “crisis,” and he’s had years on the campaign trail and nine months to think about it, so maybe he should get to that first. (And let’s recall that it was Obama who dumped this all in the lap of Congress,  so therefore complaining about the pace of sausage-making at this late date seems to be poor form.)

Second, Capretta points out the mammoth size of the tax associated with the Baucus plan. There’s the tax (yes, Mr. President, it is a tax) attached to the individual insurance mandate, and once you throw in income taxes and payroll taxes, we find out that “the effective, implicit tax rate for workers between 100 and 200 percent of the federal poverty line would quickly approach 70 percent — not even counting food stamps and housing vouchers.”

Is it any wonder that Obama wants us all to pipe down?

James Capretta notices two developments in the health-care debate. First, the president is telling us to shut up again. (“President Obama said today that the debate on health care has gone on long enough, and now is the time to pass something.”) Here’s the deal: setting the war strategy in Afghanistan is much more important than the made-up health-care “crisis,” and he’s had years on the campaign trail and nine months to think about it, so maybe he should get to that first. (And let’s recall that it was Obama who dumped this all in the lap of Congress,  so therefore complaining about the pace of sausage-making at this late date seems to be poor form.)

Second, Capretta points out the mammoth size of the tax associated with the Baucus plan. There’s the tax (yes, Mr. President, it is a tax) attached to the individual insurance mandate, and once you throw in income taxes and payroll taxes, we find out that “the effective, implicit tax rate for workers between 100 and 200 percent of the federal poverty line would quickly approach 70 percent — not even counting food stamps and housing vouchers.”

Is it any wonder that Obama wants us all to pipe down?

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Creigh Deeds trails by 11 points in the latest Virginia gubernatorial poll. Sen. Mark Warner stumps for him; Obama is absent. One suspects that an Obama appearance would do neither any good.

Jeffrey Goldberg, perhaps the first liberal to raise a fuss, sarcastically calls the decision to stiff the Dali Lama a “profile in courage.”

The latest Fox poll (h/t Mickey Kaus) shows that voters oppose the current health-care schemes by a 53 to 33 percent margin, and 74 percent are very concerned that they will be bad for them and their families. Sixty percent think government would be given too much power, and 62 percent say it costs too much. The White House communications gurus must be kicking themselves — if only Obama had done one more Sunday talk show!

Secretary Robert Gates says that once the president makes a decision on Afghanistan, the Defense Department will “salute and execute those decisions faithfully.” He is leaving out another option, right? Those who were hired to give their best advice — and whose advice was rebuffed — can resign. And then explain why there was no military rationale for the president’s decision.

What is apparent is that the administration is desperate to hush the military men, and there is now a vast gulf between civilian and military leaders. (“Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said on Monday that it is ‘imperative’ that the advice U.S. military and civilian leaders provide to President Obama as he contemplates strategy in Afghanistan remain private.”) Hmm, seems like something the National Security Adviser should have been on the lookout for.

Robert Gibbs is sent out to spin — no rift here, nothing to see. Move along. The White House certainly must know it will lose an open fight with the country’s most respected institution (the U.S. military) and its most respected military leaders.

So far, Obama isn’t even winning over liberals on this one. Richard Cohen observes, “Barack Obama’s trip to Copenhagen to pitch Chicago for the Olympics would have been a dumb move whatever the outcome. . . . Does he have the stomach and commitment for what is likely to continue to be an unpopular war? Will he send additional troops, but hedge by not sending enough — so that the dying will be in vain? What does he believe, and will he ask Americans to die for it? Only he knows the answers to these questions. But based on his zigzagging so far and the suggestion from the Copenhagen trip that the somber seriousness of the presidency has yet to sink in, we have reason to wonder.” He also doesn’t like Obama’s use of Gen. McChrystal as a “prop.”

The Right isn’t pleased either. James Carafano of Heritage: “The manner in which the war debate is playing out in the White House diminishes the president and puts us at risk. Basically, what is going on here is the president is asking his cabinet to grade the general’s homework. Here is the problem . . . war by committee sucks. It always leads to sub-optimal choices and political accommodations. The president simply cannot outsource the war to either his generals or Joe Biden. He has to learn how war works and how to lead in war. Now we learn he has squandered his first six months in office by putting the war on the back burner and treating it like a policy debate. Lincoln he is not.”

Obama has refused to meet with Republican leaders on health care, but when he may need them, on Afghanistan, presto — there is a White House confab. “Tuesday’s bipartisan, bicameral leadership briefing on Afghanistan will mark the first time in six months that House Republican leaders have been invited to the White House to discuss official business.” Six months?

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors notice the Obama administration’s spinelessness on human rights: “In nearly nine months in office, President Obama has found time to meet with Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega and Vladimir Putin. But this week he won’t see the Dalai Lama, a peaceful religious leader who has long been a friend to the U.S. and an advocate of human rights for China’s six million Tibetans. . . . This is of a piece with Mr. Obama’s other human-rights backsteps, in particular his muted support for democracy in Iran.”

Creigh Deeds trails by 11 points in the latest Virginia gubernatorial poll. Sen. Mark Warner stumps for him; Obama is absent. One suspects that an Obama appearance would do neither any good.

Jeffrey Goldberg, perhaps the first liberal to raise a fuss, sarcastically calls the decision to stiff the Dali Lama a “profile in courage.”

The latest Fox poll (h/t Mickey Kaus) shows that voters oppose the current health-care schemes by a 53 to 33 percent margin, and 74 percent are very concerned that they will be bad for them and their families. Sixty percent think government would be given too much power, and 62 percent say it costs too much. The White House communications gurus must be kicking themselves — if only Obama had done one more Sunday talk show!

Secretary Robert Gates says that once the president makes a decision on Afghanistan, the Defense Department will “salute and execute those decisions faithfully.” He is leaving out another option, right? Those who were hired to give their best advice — and whose advice was rebuffed — can resign. And then explain why there was no military rationale for the president’s decision.

What is apparent is that the administration is desperate to hush the military men, and there is now a vast gulf between civilian and military leaders. (“Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said on Monday that it is ‘imperative’ that the advice U.S. military and civilian leaders provide to President Obama as he contemplates strategy in Afghanistan remain private.”) Hmm, seems like something the National Security Adviser should have been on the lookout for.

Robert Gibbs is sent out to spin — no rift here, nothing to see. Move along. The White House certainly must know it will lose an open fight with the country’s most respected institution (the U.S. military) and its most respected military leaders.

So far, Obama isn’t even winning over liberals on this one. Richard Cohen observes, “Barack Obama’s trip to Copenhagen to pitch Chicago for the Olympics would have been a dumb move whatever the outcome. . . . Does he have the stomach and commitment for what is likely to continue to be an unpopular war? Will he send additional troops, but hedge by not sending enough — so that the dying will be in vain? What does he believe, and will he ask Americans to die for it? Only he knows the answers to these questions. But based on his zigzagging so far and the suggestion from the Copenhagen trip that the somber seriousness of the presidency has yet to sink in, we have reason to wonder.” He also doesn’t like Obama’s use of Gen. McChrystal as a “prop.”

The Right isn’t pleased either. James Carafano of Heritage: “The manner in which the war debate is playing out in the White House diminishes the president and puts us at risk. Basically, what is going on here is the president is asking his cabinet to grade the general’s homework. Here is the problem . . . war by committee sucks. It always leads to sub-optimal choices and political accommodations. The president simply cannot outsource the war to either his generals or Joe Biden. He has to learn how war works and how to lead in war. Now we learn he has squandered his first six months in office by putting the war on the back burner and treating it like a policy debate. Lincoln he is not.”

Obama has refused to meet with Republican leaders on health care, but when he may need them, on Afghanistan, presto — there is a White House confab. “Tuesday’s bipartisan, bicameral leadership briefing on Afghanistan will mark the first time in six months that House Republican leaders have been invited to the White House to discuss official business.” Six months?

The Wall Street Journal‘s editors notice the Obama administration’s spinelessness on human rights: “In nearly nine months in office, President Obama has found time to meet with Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega and Vladimir Putin. But this week he won’t see the Dalai Lama, a peaceful religious leader who has long been a friend to the U.S. and an advocate of human rights for China’s six million Tibetans. . . . This is of a piece with Mr. Obama’s other human-rights backsteps, in particular his muted support for democracy in Iran.”

Read Less




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