Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 13, 2009

Right Idea

Engagement is all the rage in the administration. Once thought to be a necessary step, a prelude to sanctions if needed, it has become an end in itself. We are slowly but steadily being dragged into the quicksand of negotiations with despots who have perfected the art of stalling. Jeffery Herf describes in the New Republic the lack of symmetry when secretive, despotic regimes sit down to negotiate with democracies. He observes:

Iranian negotiators have proven themselves to be skillful tacticians, and they are likely to exploit this asymmetry by doing two things: playing for time and raising the issue of Israel’s nuclear weapons. Their rationale for doing the former is obvious: The absence of freedom in Iran will only become more and more of a tactical advantage the longer negotiations continue, as pressures for compromise build up on only one side. As for the latter: By pointing to Israel’s nuclear weapons, Iran knows that it can exploit the existing hostility toward Israel in many European countries.

And sure enough, down the slippery slope we tumble. Chasing a deal that is always elusive and bickering over what it was we agreed to. And the gambit here, Herf predicts, will be to turn the tables on Israel and push for a “nuclear free” Middle East. That’s a nonstarter, so the proposed solution is to allow Iran to get a nuclear arsenal, too.

What about sanctions? Herf rightly sees this as too little and too late. Then there are the unhelpful powers China and Russia, which aren’t impressed with the Nobel laureate’s entreaties. So what then? Well, there’s the military option, much pooh-poohed by the Obama team, which wants desperately to do nothing more than chat. Herf argues:

This brings us to the one policy option that Tehran truly fears–and thus the only one that gives these negotiations any realistic chance of success: a credible threat of military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities by the United States, perhaps joined by Britain and France, or Israel. If the Iranian leadership believed that such an attack was a real possibility, it, or some parts of it, might be persuaded to change course.

Unfortunately, Obama’s threats, even if he could be persuaded to disappoint the Left here and abroad, wouldn’t exactly ring true. Obama draw a line in the sand? The president who can’t send troops to win a war we’re already in? He’s not about to make them cower in Iran after all the Supreme Leader hooey and the we-are-the-not-Bush-administration lingo.

Herf is right: the military option, or the threat of it, is the only option. Unfortunately, the man in the Oval Office isn’t the one to execute it.

Engagement is all the rage in the administration. Once thought to be a necessary step, a prelude to sanctions if needed, it has become an end in itself. We are slowly but steadily being dragged into the quicksand of negotiations with despots who have perfected the art of stalling. Jeffery Herf describes in the New Republic the lack of symmetry when secretive, despotic regimes sit down to negotiate with democracies. He observes:

Iranian negotiators have proven themselves to be skillful tacticians, and they are likely to exploit this asymmetry by doing two things: playing for time and raising the issue of Israel’s nuclear weapons. Their rationale for doing the former is obvious: The absence of freedom in Iran will only become more and more of a tactical advantage the longer negotiations continue, as pressures for compromise build up on only one side. As for the latter: By pointing to Israel’s nuclear weapons, Iran knows that it can exploit the existing hostility toward Israel in many European countries.

And sure enough, down the slippery slope we tumble. Chasing a deal that is always elusive and bickering over what it was we agreed to. And the gambit here, Herf predicts, will be to turn the tables on Israel and push for a “nuclear free” Middle East. That’s a nonstarter, so the proposed solution is to allow Iran to get a nuclear arsenal, too.

What about sanctions? Herf rightly sees this as too little and too late. Then there are the unhelpful powers China and Russia, which aren’t impressed with the Nobel laureate’s entreaties. So what then? Well, there’s the military option, much pooh-poohed by the Obama team, which wants desperately to do nothing more than chat. Herf argues:

This brings us to the one policy option that Tehran truly fears–and thus the only one that gives these negotiations any realistic chance of success: a credible threat of military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities by the United States, perhaps joined by Britain and France, or Israel. If the Iranian leadership believed that such an attack was a real possibility, it, or some parts of it, might be persuaded to change course.

Unfortunately, Obama’s threats, even if he could be persuaded to disappoint the Left here and abroad, wouldn’t exactly ring true. Obama draw a line in the sand? The president who can’t send troops to win a war we’re already in? He’s not about to make them cower in Iran after all the Supreme Leader hooey and the we-are-the-not-Bush-administration lingo.

Herf is right: the military option, or the threat of it, is the only option. Unfortunately, the man in the Oval Office isn’t the one to execute it.

Read Less

Melted Snowe

Anyone who has followed Olympia Snowe’s career would not be surprised by her vote in favor of Baucus’s health-care bill or by her squirming afterward that her vote on the floor wasn’t assured. Yeah. Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Lieberman says “no” for now on the Baucus bill. It does, after all, raise taxes on millions of people not remotely rich, and it will increase the cost of health-care insurance. Big Labor will oppose the bill as long as it would tax its members’ generous health-care plans.

The question for Democrats remains simple: Will they pass a bill this bad for the sake of passing something? If the outlines of the Baucus bill remain in place, seniors will see Medicare Advantage slashed. Millions of voters will have a new obligation to buy health insurance and will suffer a hefty tax if they don’t. The federal government will send scrambling for new coverage all those whose health-care plans don’t measure up to new standards (as well as those whose coverage is too good, and thus subject to tax). In other words, the cure for the made-up health-care crisis will be far worse than what many voters have now. Republicans can safely say they tried to stop it. But what about those Democrats in unsafe seats? Stay tuned.

Anyone who has followed Olympia Snowe’s career would not be surprised by her vote in favor of Baucus’s health-care bill or by her squirming afterward that her vote on the floor wasn’t assured. Yeah. Meanwhile, Sen. Joe Lieberman says “no” for now on the Baucus bill. It does, after all, raise taxes on millions of people not remotely rich, and it will increase the cost of health-care insurance. Big Labor will oppose the bill as long as it would tax its members’ generous health-care plans.

The question for Democrats remains simple: Will they pass a bill this bad for the sake of passing something? If the outlines of the Baucus bill remain in place, seniors will see Medicare Advantage slashed. Millions of voters will have a new obligation to buy health insurance and will suffer a hefty tax if they don’t. The federal government will send scrambling for new coverage all those whose health-care plans don’t measure up to new standards (as well as those whose coverage is too good, and thus subject to tax). In other words, the cure for the made-up health-care crisis will be far worse than what many voters have now. Republicans can safely say they tried to stop it. But what about those Democrats in unsafe seats? Stay tuned.

Read Less

Joe Klein’s Descent

If you want to understand how far Joe Klein has declined as a commentator, to the point of sometimes verging on incoherent arguments, you need look no further than here. It is Klein’s response to Charles Krauthammer’s extraordinary speech (later turned into a Weekly Standard essay) on American liberalism and American decline. In his blog entry, Klein writes this:

In the end, the real problem with Krauthammer’s rant is this: he really doesn’t want us to be exceptional. He wants us to be more brutal, more like other historically powerful countries, more like the Russians in Afghanistan or the British in Mesopotamia. His position on Iraq tips his hand, as he excoriates Obama for having

“. . . almost no interest in garnering the fruits of a very costly and very bloody success–namely, using our Strategic Framework Agreement to turn the new Iraq into a strategic partner and anchor for U.S. influence in the most volatile area of the world. Iraq is a prize–we can debate endlessly whether it was worth the cost–of great strategic significance that the administration seems to have no intention of exploiting in its determination to execute a full and final exit.”

A prize! Sounds sort of like Churchill in his most demented colonial moments: India, the jewel in the crown! (The fact that a duly elected Iraqi government wants us to leave is ignored.) Krauthammer’s sort of imperialism–a brutal and patronizing neo-colonialism–has never sat well with the American people.

Come again? Krauthammer’s essay is evidence that he wants us to be “more brutal,” “more like the Russians in Afghanistan”?

This charge — it is far too weak to warrant the designation of argument — can be fairly considered insane. Not only is there no shred of evidence to support what Klein asserts; for the record, Krauthammer supported the surge in Iraq when Klein opposed it. It was Klein who advocated policies that would have led to civil war and probably genocide in Iraq. It was Krauthammer who supported policies that kept those scenarios from materializing. So whose position qualifies as “brutal” in its effect?

In addition, insisting that turning Iraq into a strategic partner and anchor for U.S. influence in the most volatile area in the world is the moral equivalent of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is a peculiar and twisted worldview. What Krauthammer is championing is not some kind of imperial exploitation; rather, he is in favor of the elected government of Iraq cooperating with the United States in order to fight terrorism and counteract the disorders in the Middle East. (Only a simpleton would believe that withdrawing troops means an end to bilateral relations. Lots of nations work cooperatively with each other even when they do not have combat troops deployed in each-other’s territories.) Apparently Klein believes it is “brutal and patronizing neo-colonialism” to act in a manner that advances American national-security interests, the interests and well-being of Iraqis, and human dignity in general.

I cannot help adding that for Klein to call anyone’s work a “rant,” given his splenetic and sometimes deranged postings, is fairly amusing. To make that charge against the finest columnist of his generation (and one the very best this country has ever seen) makes it all the more risible. Whatever has happened to Joe Klein over the years — whatever caused him to descend into a roiling mix of rage, bitterness, and dishonesty — it is a sad thing to witness. A mind, after all, is a terrible thing to waste — or to lose.

If you want to understand how far Joe Klein has declined as a commentator, to the point of sometimes verging on incoherent arguments, you need look no further than here. It is Klein’s response to Charles Krauthammer’s extraordinary speech (later turned into a Weekly Standard essay) on American liberalism and American decline. In his blog entry, Klein writes this:

In the end, the real problem with Krauthammer’s rant is this: he really doesn’t want us to be exceptional. He wants us to be more brutal, more like other historically powerful countries, more like the Russians in Afghanistan or the British in Mesopotamia. His position on Iraq tips his hand, as he excoriates Obama for having

“. . . almost no interest in garnering the fruits of a very costly and very bloody success–namely, using our Strategic Framework Agreement to turn the new Iraq into a strategic partner and anchor for U.S. influence in the most volatile area of the world. Iraq is a prize–we can debate endlessly whether it was worth the cost–of great strategic significance that the administration seems to have no intention of exploiting in its determination to execute a full and final exit.”

A prize! Sounds sort of like Churchill in his most demented colonial moments: India, the jewel in the crown! (The fact that a duly elected Iraqi government wants us to leave is ignored.) Krauthammer’s sort of imperialism–a brutal and patronizing neo-colonialism–has never sat well with the American people.

Come again? Krauthammer’s essay is evidence that he wants us to be “more brutal,” “more like the Russians in Afghanistan”?

This charge — it is far too weak to warrant the designation of argument — can be fairly considered insane. Not only is there no shred of evidence to support what Klein asserts; for the record, Krauthammer supported the surge in Iraq when Klein opposed it. It was Klein who advocated policies that would have led to civil war and probably genocide in Iraq. It was Krauthammer who supported policies that kept those scenarios from materializing. So whose position qualifies as “brutal” in its effect?

In addition, insisting that turning Iraq into a strategic partner and anchor for U.S. influence in the most volatile area in the world is the moral equivalent of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is a peculiar and twisted worldview. What Krauthammer is championing is not some kind of imperial exploitation; rather, he is in favor of the elected government of Iraq cooperating with the United States in order to fight terrorism and counteract the disorders in the Middle East. (Only a simpleton would believe that withdrawing troops means an end to bilateral relations. Lots of nations work cooperatively with each other even when they do not have combat troops deployed in each-other’s territories.) Apparently Klein believes it is “brutal and patronizing neo-colonialism” to act in a manner that advances American national-security interests, the interests and well-being of Iraqis, and human dignity in general.

I cannot help adding that for Klein to call anyone’s work a “rant,” given his splenetic and sometimes deranged postings, is fairly amusing. To make that charge against the finest columnist of his generation (and one the very best this country has ever seen) makes it all the more risible. Whatever has happened to Joe Klein over the years — whatever caused him to descend into a roiling mix of rage, bitterness, and dishonesty — it is a sad thing to witness. A mind, after all, is a terrible thing to waste — or to lose.

Read Less

Re: Keep America Safe

In less than 12 hours, Liz Cheney has reduced her liberal critics to near tears. Michelle Cottle whines:

I hope the libs, moderates, and journalists who find themselves face-to-face with Liz in the coming months won’t be tempted to let her off easy just because she’s a sweet looking blonde chick out there defending dear ol’ dad. . . . Liz Cheney is a particularly dangerous combination of sweet-as-sugar looks and savage instincts. Going at her as roughly and directly as she does her opponents could backfire. But cutting her any slack–or sitting by as media types coo, gurgle, and make patronizing goo-goo eyes at her–is a good way to wind up stuck in the undercarriage of her SUV.

Conservatives can only dream of coverage that good. And yes, Cottle is probably right that Cheney is “just getting warmed up.” (Well, it didn’t hurt to roll out her organization on the day Hillary declares herself bound at the hip with Russia in disdain for sanctions on Iran.)

In less than 12 hours, Liz Cheney has reduced her liberal critics to near tears. Michelle Cottle whines:

I hope the libs, moderates, and journalists who find themselves face-to-face with Liz in the coming months won’t be tempted to let her off easy just because she’s a sweet looking blonde chick out there defending dear ol’ dad. . . . Liz Cheney is a particularly dangerous combination of sweet-as-sugar looks and savage instincts. Going at her as roughly and directly as she does her opponents could backfire. But cutting her any slack–or sitting by as media types coo, gurgle, and make patronizing goo-goo eyes at her–is a good way to wind up stuck in the undercarriage of her SUV.

Conservatives can only dream of coverage that good. And yes, Cottle is probably right that Cheney is “just getting warmed up.” (Well, it didn’t hurt to roll out her organization on the day Hillary declares herself bound at the hip with Russia in disdain for sanctions on Iran.)

Read Less

Moscow’s “No” Paints Obama and Clinton into a Corner on Iran

What was the bottom line of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov? America’s punting on a request for sanctions on Iran, as the Washington Post reported (and Jennifer discussed)? Or was it instead a case of “Russia Resists U.S. on Iran Sanctions,” as the Associated Press reported? Of course, both amount to the same thing. Clinton’s statement that it wasn’t yet time for sanctions on Iran to pressure it to stop its nuclear program is merely an admission that the administration’s plan to gain international support for restraining Iran is dead in the water. Russia may not be entirely pleased with the notion of a nuclear Iran, but its main foreign-policy goal since Vladimir Putin took power has been to thwart the United States and inflate Russia’s importance on the world stage. Because Iran’s nukes threaten America’s allies in the region, such as Israel, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, and the destabilization of the Middle East undermines American interests, stopping Tehran does not interest Moscow.

Of course, Russia’s indifference to the threat of a nuclear Iran is not news. The Russians have been making it clear for years that neither they nor their allies-of-convenience on this issue in Beijing will allow the West to use the UN to orchestrate the sort of “crippling sanctions” that have a chance to bring the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime to heel. Our Nobel-laureate president and his secretary of state have made diplomacy and “engagement” with Iran the centerpiece of their foreign policy, but they have also maintained that such a stance will serve American interests because, by eschewing the “cowboy diplomacy” of the Bush administration (an ironic accusation, since W. outsourced diplomacy on Iran to the French and Germans with predictable results), they will be able to pursue a multilateral approach to all the world’s problems.

This charade may have earned Obama a great deal of applause as well as a certain peace prize. But the Russian refusal to play along has painted the administration into a corner. Though the United States has already betrayed its Eastern European allies by unilaterally abandoning strategic missile-defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic at Russia’s behest, Hillary’s meeting with Lavrov confirms that Iran will be allowed to continue to prevaricate while its nuclear program progresses with no real threat of international punishment. Though the administration continues to speak of deadlines — albeit constantly shifting them — for Tehran today’s comedy skit in Moscow illustrates just how empty America’s demands are. The only winners in this exchange are Russia and Iran. Israelis and others who rightly fear the consequences of an America content to let the Iranian nuclear program proceed while they talk about talking can only regard these latest developments with horror.

What was the bottom line of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov? America’s punting on a request for sanctions on Iran, as the Washington Post reported (and Jennifer discussed)? Or was it instead a case of “Russia Resists U.S. on Iran Sanctions,” as the Associated Press reported? Of course, both amount to the same thing. Clinton’s statement that it wasn’t yet time for sanctions on Iran to pressure it to stop its nuclear program is merely an admission that the administration’s plan to gain international support for restraining Iran is dead in the water. Russia may not be entirely pleased with the notion of a nuclear Iran, but its main foreign-policy goal since Vladimir Putin took power has been to thwart the United States and inflate Russia’s importance on the world stage. Because Iran’s nukes threaten America’s allies in the region, such as Israel, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, and the destabilization of the Middle East undermines American interests, stopping Tehran does not interest Moscow.

Of course, Russia’s indifference to the threat of a nuclear Iran is not news. The Russians have been making it clear for years that neither they nor their allies-of-convenience on this issue in Beijing will allow the West to use the UN to orchestrate the sort of “crippling sanctions” that have a chance to bring the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime to heel. Our Nobel-laureate president and his secretary of state have made diplomacy and “engagement” with Iran the centerpiece of their foreign policy, but they have also maintained that such a stance will serve American interests because, by eschewing the “cowboy diplomacy” of the Bush administration (an ironic accusation, since W. outsourced diplomacy on Iran to the French and Germans with predictable results), they will be able to pursue a multilateral approach to all the world’s problems.

This charade may have earned Obama a great deal of applause as well as a certain peace prize. But the Russian refusal to play along has painted the administration into a corner. Though the United States has already betrayed its Eastern European allies by unilaterally abandoning strategic missile-defense sites in Poland and the Czech Republic at Russia’s behest, Hillary’s meeting with Lavrov confirms that Iran will be allowed to continue to prevaricate while its nuclear program progresses with no real threat of international punishment. Though the administration continues to speak of deadlines — albeit constantly shifting them — for Tehran today’s comedy skit in Moscow illustrates just how empty America’s demands are. The only winners in this exchange are Russia and Iran. Israelis and others who rightly fear the consequences of an America content to let the Iranian nuclear program proceed while they talk about talking can only regard these latest developments with horror.

Read Less

Was Qaddafi Paid Off?

No, I’m not talking about the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, though some very stinging questions have been raised about just how, exactly, the release was related to BP’s negotiation with Libya about an oil-exploration deal. I’m talking about the 1970s.

I don’t normally place much faith in the Independent as a news source, but this story is backed up by just-released documents from the UK’s National Archives. According to them, Britain, in a personal letter from Prime Minister Harold Wilson, offered to pay Moammar Qaddafi £14 million in return for settling various claims against the UK and ending Libyan military support for the IRA.

Predictably, the offer went nowhere, even as Britain became increasingly desperate to settle up so as to get “a share of the latest Libyan five-year plan.” By the end of the decade, Qaddafi, sensing he had the British on the run, was holding out for £51 million — that’s about £1.5 billion in today’s money — and continuing to carry on just as before.

It’s an all-too-familiar story from the 1970s, one that repeats the theme of Germany’s pathetic collaboration with the PLO, which allowed the escape of the surviving terrorists after the Munich Massacre: don’t hurt us and we’ll give you what you want. Sometimes the bad guys cash the check. Sometimes they just laugh at the offer. But whatever they do, they don’t stop causing trouble. Britain, BP, and the Labour Government — if it lasts long enough — will have occasion to find that out when the returns come in from their latest Libyan adventure.

No, I’m not talking about the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, though some very stinging questions have been raised about just how, exactly, the release was related to BP’s negotiation with Libya about an oil-exploration deal. I’m talking about the 1970s.

I don’t normally place much faith in the Independent as a news source, but this story is backed up by just-released documents from the UK’s National Archives. According to them, Britain, in a personal letter from Prime Minister Harold Wilson, offered to pay Moammar Qaddafi £14 million in return for settling various claims against the UK and ending Libyan military support for the IRA.

Predictably, the offer went nowhere, even as Britain became increasingly desperate to settle up so as to get “a share of the latest Libyan five-year plan.” By the end of the decade, Qaddafi, sensing he had the British on the run, was holding out for £51 million — that’s about £1.5 billion in today’s money — and continuing to carry on just as before.

It’s an all-too-familiar story from the 1970s, one that repeats the theme of Germany’s pathetic collaboration with the PLO, which allowed the escape of the surviving terrorists after the Munich Massacre: don’t hurt us and we’ll give you what you want. Sometimes the bad guys cash the check. Sometimes they just laugh at the offer. But whatever they do, they don’t stop causing trouble. Britain, BP, and the Labour Government — if it lasts long enough — will have occasion to find that out when the returns come in from their latest Libyan adventure.

Read Less

Re: Re: Turns Out Obama Doesn’t Want Sanctions Anyway

Jen, I disagree slightly with your take on Hillary’s Russian train wreck. I suspect that the Obama administration wants the leverage of tougher sanctions with Iran. The problem is that they now have no leverage with Russia.

All the diplomatic pillow talk about “cooperation” and “encouragement” is cover for Obama’s Russia gambit’s having gone down in flames. Smiling through failure is becoming the default occupation of the Obama State Department, and no one seems more enthused to be at the center of the wreckage than Hillary Clinton. She is pure spin, no success.

There are two looming questions: Will the day come when the Obama administration accepts that doormat power has failed? And if so, how does the U.S. go from being a doormat back to being a global player? As to the first question, reality must intervene at some point, if for no other reason than optics: Obama is keenly aware that he’s starting to look soft even to ardent supporters.

The second question is trickier. Every failed attempt to curry favor through self-debasement puts us further behind the eight ball. We are not merely failing to get the world to act in accordance with our wishes; we are enabling enemies who work against us and forcing former allies to defy us. By the time Obama and Hillary are forced to admit failure, America will have emptied its toolbox, antagonists will be enjoying a golden age of cooperation, and allies will have cynically adjusted to American indifference.

Jen, I disagree slightly with your take on Hillary’s Russian train wreck. I suspect that the Obama administration wants the leverage of tougher sanctions with Iran. The problem is that they now have no leverage with Russia.

All the diplomatic pillow talk about “cooperation” and “encouragement” is cover for Obama’s Russia gambit’s having gone down in flames. Smiling through failure is becoming the default occupation of the Obama State Department, and no one seems more enthused to be at the center of the wreckage than Hillary Clinton. She is pure spin, no success.

There are two looming questions: Will the day come when the Obama administration accepts that doormat power has failed? And if so, how does the U.S. go from being a doormat back to being a global player? As to the first question, reality must intervene at some point, if for no other reason than optics: Obama is keenly aware that he’s starting to look soft even to ardent supporters.

The second question is trickier. Every failed attempt to curry favor through self-debasement puts us further behind the eight ball. We are not merely failing to get the world to act in accordance with our wishes; we are enabling enemies who work against us and forcing former allies to defy us. By the time Obama and Hillary are forced to admit failure, America will have emptied its toolbox, antagonists will be enjoying a golden age of cooperation, and allies will have cynically adjusted to American indifference.

Read Less

Just Don’t Call It “Stimulus”

The Democrats are getting nervous about the unemployment numbers. No, the stimulus plan didn’t stimulate the jobs, as it promised. Remember the 2.5 — or was it 3 or 4? — million jobs to be saved or created? No one can argue with a straight face (other than Joe Biden, that is) that it was a success.

But sure enough, there’s talk of a second stimulus plan. It’s just important to get the labeling right, Roll Call tells us:

Just don’t call the as-yet-unwritten new proposal “stimulus,” they insist. “The Speaker never used the word stimulus,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s spokesman, Nadeam Elshami, moments after the California Democrat listed a laundry list of stimulus items under consideration last week, including an extension of unemployment benefits. Not that they have a name yet for what they want to call the package. “It’s an ongoing effort to build on the recovery package and other measures we passed this year to grow the economy and create jobs after years of mismanagement by Republicans,” Elshami insisted later. “It’s about jobs.”

They think calling a government boondoggle by another name and going to the well of Bush-bashing will do the trick. But that probably won’t work. As Roll Call notes, this posturing has merely “opened the door to a fresh flood of criticism from Republicans who have declared the earlier $787 billion stimulus package a failure and set off a race to the trough by every K Street lobbyist worth his or her salt.” Understandably, Republican lawmakers are having a field day, and they are more than content not only to point out the failure of the original stimulus but to focus on the mound of debt as well.

The Democrats could, of course, rip up the old stimulus and redirect that money to more useful endeavors. The F-22 production line, for example, if reactivated would save 95,000 jobs right off the bat.  Or they could forget the junk pile of liberal programs and instead enact some across-the-board tax relief for employers. Better yet: put the kabosh on any new taxes — including all those in the health-care tax-a-thon.

Well, none of that is happening while the Democrats are in charge. And that, one can safely predict, will be what the 2010 elections are all about.

The Democrats are getting nervous about the unemployment numbers. No, the stimulus plan didn’t stimulate the jobs, as it promised. Remember the 2.5 — or was it 3 or 4? — million jobs to be saved or created? No one can argue with a straight face (other than Joe Biden, that is) that it was a success.

But sure enough, there’s talk of a second stimulus plan. It’s just important to get the labeling right, Roll Call tells us:

Just don’t call the as-yet-unwritten new proposal “stimulus,” they insist. “The Speaker never used the word stimulus,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s spokesman, Nadeam Elshami, moments after the California Democrat listed a laundry list of stimulus items under consideration last week, including an extension of unemployment benefits. Not that they have a name yet for what they want to call the package. “It’s an ongoing effort to build on the recovery package and other measures we passed this year to grow the economy and create jobs after years of mismanagement by Republicans,” Elshami insisted later. “It’s about jobs.”

They think calling a government boondoggle by another name and going to the well of Bush-bashing will do the trick. But that probably won’t work. As Roll Call notes, this posturing has merely “opened the door to a fresh flood of criticism from Republicans who have declared the earlier $787 billion stimulus package a failure and set off a race to the trough by every K Street lobbyist worth his or her salt.” Understandably, Republican lawmakers are having a field day, and they are more than content not only to point out the failure of the original stimulus but to focus on the mound of debt as well.

The Democrats could, of course, rip up the old stimulus and redirect that money to more useful endeavors. The F-22 production line, for example, if reactivated would save 95,000 jobs right off the bat.  Or they could forget the junk pile of liberal programs and instead enact some across-the-board tax relief for employers. Better yet: put the kabosh on any new taxes — including all those in the health-care tax-a-thon.

Well, none of that is happening while the Democrats are in charge. And that, one can safely predict, will be what the 2010 elections are all about.

Read Less

Re: Turns Out Obama Doesn’t Want Sanctions Anyway

Further comments from the Russians reveal just what an abject failure Obama’s effort to bribe them by retreating on missile defense was. This report explains: “Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said today that the threat of sanctions against Iran would be counterproductive, resisting U.S. efforts to win agreement for measures if Iran fails to prove that its nuclear program is peaceful.”

It seems, however, that we’re going to give the Russians even more of what they want — namely, reductions in our nuclear arsenal:

Beyond Iran, Lavrov said the U.S. and Russia have made “considerable” progress toward reaching agreement on a new strategic arms treaty. The 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, expires in December and negotiators have been racing to reach agreement on a successor. The two diplomats also discussed a recent Obama administration decision to scale back a Bush-era proposal for an anti-missile shield in Europe.

So what was it that smart diplomacy got us? Oh — alienating our friends and the chance to talk to the Russians about more and more concessions. It’s a reset, certainly. Not since before the Soviets’ Afghanistan invasion have we had an administration so willing to accede to Moscow’s whims and so naive about what doing so entails for America’s security.

Further comments from the Russians reveal just what an abject failure Obama’s effort to bribe them by retreating on missile defense was. This report explains: “Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said today that the threat of sanctions against Iran would be counterproductive, resisting U.S. efforts to win agreement for measures if Iran fails to prove that its nuclear program is peaceful.”

It seems, however, that we’re going to give the Russians even more of what they want — namely, reductions in our nuclear arsenal:

Beyond Iran, Lavrov said the U.S. and Russia have made “considerable” progress toward reaching agreement on a new strategic arms treaty. The 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START, expires in December and negotiators have been racing to reach agreement on a successor. The two diplomats also discussed a recent Obama administration decision to scale back a Bush-era proposal for an anti-missile shield in Europe.

So what was it that smart diplomacy got us? Oh — alienating our friends and the chance to talk to the Russians about more and more concessions. It’s a reset, certainly. Not since before the Soviets’ Afghanistan invasion have we had an administration so willing to accede to Moscow’s whims and so naive about what doing so entails for America’s security.

Read Less

Turns Out Obama Doesn’t Want Sanctions Anyway

If there were ever any doubt about how unserious the Obama administration is about depriving Iran of nuclear weapons, Hillary Clinton cleared that up. Placing the administration far to the Left of Sen. Charles Schumer, Rep. Howard Berman, and Sen. Robert Menendez, Clinton said the Obama team doesn’t need any sanctions legislation. After all the talk of “crippling sanctions,” the administration does not want the leverage, at least not so long as we are making all this “progress” in chatting with Iran. We learn:

Clinton, on her first visit to Russia since taking her post, quoted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as saying sanctions against Iran might be inevitable, adding: “But we are not at that point yet. That is not a conclusion we have reached. And we want to be very clear that it is our preference that Iran works with the international community . . . to fulfill its obligation on inspections.”

The location where she made her comments is important. She’s in Russia hitting that reset button, supposedly. But wait — weren’t we supposed to get help from the Russians with sanctions in exchange for selling some of our Eastern European allies down the river on missile defense? Well, it turns out the Obama administration isn’t interested in sanctions. Someday, maybe. But not now.  So presto — we get along great with Russia! And if you think this is an exaggeration, Clinton provides the unintentionally hilarious confirmation:

“I feel very good about the so-called reset,” she said. . . . “We did not ask for anything today. We reviewed the situation and where it stood, which I think was the appropriate timing for what this process entails,” Clinton said.

Got that? This is what constitutes smart diplomacy: pull the rug out from under your friends, renounce your own interests, defer confronting enemies of the U.S., and then declare the wonders of interdependence and multilateral cooperation. It’s the stuff of Nobel Peace prizes.

If there were ever any doubt about how unserious the Obama administration is about depriving Iran of nuclear weapons, Hillary Clinton cleared that up. Placing the administration far to the Left of Sen. Charles Schumer, Rep. Howard Berman, and Sen. Robert Menendez, Clinton said the Obama team doesn’t need any sanctions legislation. After all the talk of “crippling sanctions,” the administration does not want the leverage, at least not so long as we are making all this “progress” in chatting with Iran. We learn:

Clinton, on her first visit to Russia since taking her post, quoted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev as saying sanctions against Iran might be inevitable, adding: “But we are not at that point yet. That is not a conclusion we have reached. And we want to be very clear that it is our preference that Iran works with the international community . . . to fulfill its obligation on inspections.”

The location where she made her comments is important. She’s in Russia hitting that reset button, supposedly. But wait — weren’t we supposed to get help from the Russians with sanctions in exchange for selling some of our Eastern European allies down the river on missile defense? Well, it turns out the Obama administration isn’t interested in sanctions. Someday, maybe. But not now.  So presto — we get along great with Russia! And if you think this is an exaggeration, Clinton provides the unintentionally hilarious confirmation:

“I feel very good about the so-called reset,” she said. . . . “We did not ask for anything today. We reviewed the situation and where it stood, which I think was the appropriate timing for what this process entails,” Clinton said.

Got that? This is what constitutes smart diplomacy: pull the rug out from under your friends, renounce your own interests, defer confronting enemies of the U.S., and then declare the wonders of interdependence and multilateral cooperation. It’s the stuff of Nobel Peace prizes.

Read Less

Overpromising and Underdelivering

Jennifer refers to the New York Times lead article this morning on a brewing civil war among Congressional Democrats as they struggle to get a health-care reform bill through the legislative process. This, of course, is what happens when you promise, as President Obama has repeatedly, to put in place a new health-care system that covers more people, costs less money, provides more services, and allows all who like the status quo to continue with what they have.

This is why I like engineers more than I like politicians. Engineers live in the real world. What they design has to actually function as advertised. So they don’t promise an airplane that is extremely fast, extremely fuel efficient, extremely quiet, and extremely safe. Those goals, each desirable individually, are mutually incompatible given the laws of physics. Politicians live in the political world and need only make sure that the bridges they build and the aircraft they design don’t crash in ruins before the next election. So they blithely ignore the laws of economics and human nature in designing programs. The political press corps equally pretends these laws don’t exist.

But sometimes they slip up and allow a glimpse of the truth to peek through. The Times article, for instance, notes that,

The tax [on “Cadillac health plans”], a provision of the bill to be voted on Tuesday by the Senate Finance Committee, is one of the few remaining proposals under consideration by Congress that budget experts say could lead directly to a reduction in health care spending over the long term . . .

If one of the “few remaining proposals” that would actually help reduce spending is eliminated, what will reduce spending? Nothing to see here, folks, just move along. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain . . .

Jennifer refers to the New York Times lead article this morning on a brewing civil war among Congressional Democrats as they struggle to get a health-care reform bill through the legislative process. This, of course, is what happens when you promise, as President Obama has repeatedly, to put in place a new health-care system that covers more people, costs less money, provides more services, and allows all who like the status quo to continue with what they have.

This is why I like engineers more than I like politicians. Engineers live in the real world. What they design has to actually function as advertised. So they don’t promise an airplane that is extremely fast, extremely fuel efficient, extremely quiet, and extremely safe. Those goals, each desirable individually, are mutually incompatible given the laws of physics. Politicians live in the political world and need only make sure that the bridges they build and the aircraft they design don’t crash in ruins before the next election. So they blithely ignore the laws of economics and human nature in designing programs. The political press corps equally pretends these laws don’t exist.

But sometimes they slip up and allow a glimpse of the truth to peek through. The Times article, for instance, notes that,

The tax [on “Cadillac health plans”], a provision of the bill to be voted on Tuesday by the Senate Finance Committee, is one of the few remaining proposals under consideration by Congress that budget experts say could lead directly to a reduction in health care spending over the long term . . .

If one of the “few remaining proposals” that would actually help reduce spending is eliminated, what will reduce spending? Nothing to see here, folks, just move along. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain . . .

Read Less

Taxing Our Patients

As the New York Times reports, there is a jumbo fight brewing among Democrats over just how much they’re going to tax the middle class in the name of health-care reform. Senate Democrats want to tax so-called Cadillac health-care plans to pay for the gargantuan health-care bill, while House Democrats don’t think it’s a good idea to whack middle-class voters, and especially union members. Well, on this one, House Democrats have a point:

In a preliminary estimate, the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation calculated that absent any such employer efforts, 14 percent of family health policies and 19 percent of individual policies would be hit by the tax in 2013. By 2019, according to the estimate, 37 percent of family policies and 41 percent of individual policies would be affected. Those numbers rise over time in these calculations because although the initial tax threshold would increase with the economy’s overall inflation, premiums would be expected to rise even faster.

The tax really won’t be paid, because employers will start cutting back on health-care benefits, say supporters of the scheme. Turning Cadillac health-care plans into Yugo health-care plans won’t be so easy for unionized employers with collective bargaining obligations. But the idea that the problem will be “solved” by taking away current health-care benefits runs smack into Obama’s promise that we’ll all get to keep the health-care benefits we have. Apparently we won’t.

And let’s suppose all employers cut back so there aren’t so many Cadillac plans out there. Where is the money going to come from to pay for the whole scheme? We were promised, you recall, that this reform was going to save money. Well, not if the tax doesn’t materialize.

You can’t help but marvel at what’s going on here. The Democrats are fighting among themselves on how to tax and slash health-care benefits for their own constituents. Democrats fear doing nothing on health-care reform and that wary voters will punish them for inaction. But once voters catch on to what that action is, they may be very, very upset.

As the New York Times reports, there is a jumbo fight brewing among Democrats over just how much they’re going to tax the middle class in the name of health-care reform. Senate Democrats want to tax so-called Cadillac health-care plans to pay for the gargantuan health-care bill, while House Democrats don’t think it’s a good idea to whack middle-class voters, and especially union members. Well, on this one, House Democrats have a point:

In a preliminary estimate, the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation calculated that absent any such employer efforts, 14 percent of family health policies and 19 percent of individual policies would be hit by the tax in 2013. By 2019, according to the estimate, 37 percent of family policies and 41 percent of individual policies would be affected. Those numbers rise over time in these calculations because although the initial tax threshold would increase with the economy’s overall inflation, premiums would be expected to rise even faster.

The tax really won’t be paid, because employers will start cutting back on health-care benefits, say supporters of the scheme. Turning Cadillac health-care plans into Yugo health-care plans won’t be so easy for unionized employers with collective bargaining obligations. But the idea that the problem will be “solved” by taking away current health-care benefits runs smack into Obama’s promise that we’ll all get to keep the health-care benefits we have. Apparently we won’t.

And let’s suppose all employers cut back so there aren’t so many Cadillac plans out there. Where is the money going to come from to pay for the whole scheme? We were promised, you recall, that this reform was going to save money. Well, not if the tax doesn’t materialize.

You can’t help but marvel at what’s going on here. The Democrats are fighting among themselves on how to tax and slash health-care benefits for their own constituents. Democrats fear doing nothing on health-care reform and that wary voters will punish them for inaction. But once voters catch on to what that action is, they may be very, very upset.

Read Less

Keep America Safe

Liz Cheney is making a splash today. She will be chairing a new organization — Keep America Safe — which she says will rally opposition to Obama’s “radical” foreign policy. The Weekly Standard‘s Bill Kristol will be on the board, as will Debra Burlingame, sister of Charles F. “Chic” Burlingame III, pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon on September 11. (She co-founded 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America and is a director of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum Foundation at the World Trade Center.) The group’s mission statement explains:

The mission of Keep American Safe is to provide information for concerned Americans about critical national security issues. Keep America Safe seeks to influence public policy by encouraging dialogue between American citizens and their elected representatives in order to produce legislation and executive action that enhances the national security of the United States.

“We are a nation at war,” the mission statement asserts, a sentiment that gets lost in the spasms of “interdependence” and “multilateralism” that stream from Foggy Bottom and the White House every day. The aim here, in case there was some notion afoot that we’re supposed to be lowering our profile in this multilateral world, is to advocate that we preserve and enhance America’s pre-eminent role in the world:

We know that America has, for 233 years, been an unparalleled force for good in the world, that our fighting forces are the best the world has ever known, and that the world is a safer place when America is trusted by our allies and feared and respected by our enemies. Keep America Safe will make the case for an unapologetic approach to fighting terrorism around the world, for victory in the wars this country fights, for democracy and human rights, and for a strong American military that is needed in the dangerous world in which we live.

That’s as succinct an explanation of American exceptionalism and as stark a contrast to the Obama foreign-policy perspective as you will find anywhere.

There are several noteworthy points. First, you’d have to be blind not to recognize this as a platform not only for a conservative perspective on national security but also for Cheney herself. She has become the Right’s rock star on national security, and this will serve to keep her in the spotlight. The organization is nonpartisan, but Cheney is soon to be on short and long lists for elected office.

Second, as noted above, there is a second effective conservative woman involved in the organization — Debra Burlingame. She has been in print and on TV an effective spokesperson for robust anti-terror policies and a frequent critic of efforts to undo the Bush-era policies. (Politico explains: “Burlingame, for her part, said the administration — like its predecessor- – has given into political correctness in refusing to name the ‘enemy’ as ‘a radical form of Islam.’ “) She too is a rising star on the Right. She is a New Yorker; Cheney is a Virginian. Might we see both in Senate races in the near future? Stay tuned.

Third, Obama’s predispositions on national security are now clear, and so is the challenge for conservatives. Cheney may be the first and most visible person to take on Obama’s national-security policies, but she certainly won’t be the only one. Any figure who seeks to lead the Right — or establish a foothold for 2012 — will need to articulate a rebuttal to Obama’s view of America’s role in the world. Obama has provided a plethora of targets for conservatives to aim at on the domestic front, but it may be on foreign policy, where the stakes are greatest and where his own performance and instincts are so shaky, that he is most vulnerable. (Recall his “debate” with former Vice President Dick Cheney and the ensuing Guantanamo debacle.) Whoever wants to make the most effective case against Obama will have to do at least as well as Dick Cheney did in debunking Obama’s foreign-policy assumptions and reminding Americans of the dangers we face.

Obama has his Peace Prize and the adulation of the American and international Left. He has achieved both, in large part, by repudiating American exceptionalism, soft-peddling American values, and denigrating the necessity of American military might. In time, the rest of the American electorate may very well come to see Obama’s foreign-policy approach as both unsettling and dangerous. And it’s up to Cheney, her organization, and other conservatives to explain what’s at stake if Obama’s vision takes hold, as well as to offer alternatives to his Nobelian views of America and the world.

Liz Cheney is making a splash today. She will be chairing a new organization — Keep America Safe — which she says will rally opposition to Obama’s “radical” foreign policy. The Weekly Standard‘s Bill Kristol will be on the board, as will Debra Burlingame, sister of Charles F. “Chic” Burlingame III, pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon on September 11. (She co-founded 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America and is a director of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum Foundation at the World Trade Center.) The group’s mission statement explains:

The mission of Keep American Safe is to provide information for concerned Americans about critical national security issues. Keep America Safe seeks to influence public policy by encouraging dialogue between American citizens and their elected representatives in order to produce legislation and executive action that enhances the national security of the United States.

“We are a nation at war,” the mission statement asserts, a sentiment that gets lost in the spasms of “interdependence” and “multilateralism” that stream from Foggy Bottom and the White House every day. The aim here, in case there was some notion afoot that we’re supposed to be lowering our profile in this multilateral world, is to advocate that we preserve and enhance America’s pre-eminent role in the world:

We know that America has, for 233 years, been an unparalleled force for good in the world, that our fighting forces are the best the world has ever known, and that the world is a safer place when America is trusted by our allies and feared and respected by our enemies. Keep America Safe will make the case for an unapologetic approach to fighting terrorism around the world, for victory in the wars this country fights, for democracy and human rights, and for a strong American military that is needed in the dangerous world in which we live.

That’s as succinct an explanation of American exceptionalism and as stark a contrast to the Obama foreign-policy perspective as you will find anywhere.

There are several noteworthy points. First, you’d have to be blind not to recognize this as a platform not only for a conservative perspective on national security but also for Cheney herself. She has become the Right’s rock star on national security, and this will serve to keep her in the spotlight. The organization is nonpartisan, but Cheney is soon to be on short and long lists for elected office.

Second, as noted above, there is a second effective conservative woman involved in the organization — Debra Burlingame. She has been in print and on TV an effective spokesperson for robust anti-terror policies and a frequent critic of efforts to undo the Bush-era policies. (Politico explains: “Burlingame, for her part, said the administration — like its predecessor- – has given into political correctness in refusing to name the ‘enemy’ as ‘a radical form of Islam.’ “) She too is a rising star on the Right. She is a New Yorker; Cheney is a Virginian. Might we see both in Senate races in the near future? Stay tuned.

Third, Obama’s predispositions on national security are now clear, and so is the challenge for conservatives. Cheney may be the first and most visible person to take on Obama’s national-security policies, but she certainly won’t be the only one. Any figure who seeks to lead the Right — or establish a foothold for 2012 — will need to articulate a rebuttal to Obama’s view of America’s role in the world. Obama has provided a plethora of targets for conservatives to aim at on the domestic front, but it may be on foreign policy, where the stakes are greatest and where his own performance and instincts are so shaky, that he is most vulnerable. (Recall his “debate” with former Vice President Dick Cheney and the ensuing Guantanamo debacle.) Whoever wants to make the most effective case against Obama will have to do at least as well as Dick Cheney did in debunking Obama’s foreign-policy assumptions and reminding Americans of the dangers we face.

Obama has his Peace Prize and the adulation of the American and international Left. He has achieved both, in large part, by repudiating American exceptionalism, soft-peddling American values, and denigrating the necessity of American military might. In time, the rest of the American electorate may very well come to see Obama’s foreign-policy approach as both unsettling and dangerous. And it’s up to Cheney, her organization, and other conservatives to explain what’s at stake if Obama’s vision takes hold, as well as to offer alternatives to his Nobelian views of America and the world.

Read Less

Deeds vs. McDonnell

There was a debate in the Virginia gubernatorial race last night between Creigh Deeds and Bob McDonnell. Deeds needed a game changer. He didn’t get it. Even the fiercest Democratic booster could only muster: “Yawn. No big news tonight.” For McDonnell, it was time to press the tax issue. As the Washington Post reported:

“He’s taken everything off the table except for taxes,” McDonnell said. “Creigh, your only option really is to raise taxes a billion dollars, and in this recession I think that’s exactly the wrong policy. Families can’t afford it, businesses can’t afford it and seniors can’t afford it.” The Democrat opened himself to the line of attack at the two men’s last debate, Sept. 17, a daytime affair in Fairfax County where the Democratic state senator waffled while answering reporters’ questions about new taxes to pay for transportation projects just after the debate concluded. His hesitation, caught on video, has been turned by Republicans into a series of ads running in a virtually continuous loop on televisions across Virginia.

So Deeds didn’t exactly turn the tide last night. His confession that he’ll appoint a commission and that “If that commission comes forward with a plan to raise new revenue … I will sign it” won’t put the tax issue to bed. And once again, McDonnell ran against the Obama agenda — on health-care reform and on cap-and-trade — arguing that Deeds’s Democratic party will cost ordinary Virginia voters millions of dollars in the midst of a painful recession.

There are three weeks to go before Election Day. Unless something dramatic happens between now and then, McDonnell will be credited with reviving the GOP in a critical swing state. And the Democrats will be pointing fingers. With some justification, Obama spinners will be pointing to Deeds’s debate outings to support their claims that this was a winnable race lost by a very mediocre Democratic candidate.

There was a debate in the Virginia gubernatorial race last night between Creigh Deeds and Bob McDonnell. Deeds needed a game changer. He didn’t get it. Even the fiercest Democratic booster could only muster: “Yawn. No big news tonight.” For McDonnell, it was time to press the tax issue. As the Washington Post reported:

“He’s taken everything off the table except for taxes,” McDonnell said. “Creigh, your only option really is to raise taxes a billion dollars, and in this recession I think that’s exactly the wrong policy. Families can’t afford it, businesses can’t afford it and seniors can’t afford it.” The Democrat opened himself to the line of attack at the two men’s last debate, Sept. 17, a daytime affair in Fairfax County where the Democratic state senator waffled while answering reporters’ questions about new taxes to pay for transportation projects just after the debate concluded. His hesitation, caught on video, has been turned by Republicans into a series of ads running in a virtually continuous loop on televisions across Virginia.

So Deeds didn’t exactly turn the tide last night. His confession that he’ll appoint a commission and that “If that commission comes forward with a plan to raise new revenue … I will sign it” won’t put the tax issue to bed. And once again, McDonnell ran against the Obama agenda — on health-care reform and on cap-and-trade — arguing that Deeds’s Democratic party will cost ordinary Virginia voters millions of dollars in the midst of a painful recession.

There are three weeks to go before Election Day. Unless something dramatic happens between now and then, McDonnell will be credited with reviving the GOP in a critical swing state. And the Democrats will be pointing fingers. With some justification, Obama spinners will be pointing to Deeds’s debate outings to support their claims that this was a winnable race lost by a very mediocre Democratic candidate.

Read Less

Do-Goodism Would Be an Improvement

Bret Stephens argues that the Nobel Peace Prize committee’s selection of the president is fitting given the prize’s preference for “Goodists,” whom he describes as follows:

They are the people who believe all conflict stems from avoidable misunderstanding. Who think that the world’s evils spring from technologies, systems, complexes (as in “military-industrial”) and everything else except from the hearts of men, where love abides. Who mistake wishes for possibilities. Who put a higher premium on their own moral intentions than on the efficacy of their actions. Who champion education as the solution, whatever the problem. Above all, the Goodists are the people who like to be seen to be good.

Well, yes, there is something to that. But actually, Obama does identify the source of much of the world’s problems — the West, or America, more specifically. As even Richard Cohen admits:

For a while, he went on an apology bender, expressing regret for U.S. unilateralism — “We have at times been disengaged and at times sought to dictate our terms” — as well as for being “too easily distracted” and for America’s “failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world.” . . . He also took responsibility for the American contribution to the worldwide economic crisis — “even if I wasn’t president at the time” — implying that it wouldn’t have happened on his watch.

It was Obama who told us that America bears a special responsibility for nuclear proliferation because we’re the only nation to drop atomic bombs. (Well, it was to end a war and spare perhaps a million lives, but still . . . ) It was Obama who explained that America’s sordid history of meddling in Central America required that we rush to defend Manuel Zelaya.

So it’s no mere amorphous do-goodism that animates Obama; it is the heartfelt belief that America is responsible for much of what ails the world. We are too rich, too powerful, too bossy, too close to Israel, and too well-armed (it just makes others nervous and feel like they need nukes too). And by vigorously interrogating terrorists and detaining them in Guantanamo, we are the ones who jump-started terrorist recruitment.

It’s that nose for American imperfection and supposed error that endeared Obama to the Nobel Prize committee, as well as to the Left here and abroad. And it’s why conservatives find the award not simply unearned but deeply revealing about our president’s world vision.

Bret Stephens argues that the Nobel Peace Prize committee’s selection of the president is fitting given the prize’s preference for “Goodists,” whom he describes as follows:

They are the people who believe all conflict stems from avoidable misunderstanding. Who think that the world’s evils spring from technologies, systems, complexes (as in “military-industrial”) and everything else except from the hearts of men, where love abides. Who mistake wishes for possibilities. Who put a higher premium on their own moral intentions than on the efficacy of their actions. Who champion education as the solution, whatever the problem. Above all, the Goodists are the people who like to be seen to be good.

Well, yes, there is something to that. But actually, Obama does identify the source of much of the world’s problems — the West, or America, more specifically. As even Richard Cohen admits:

For a while, he went on an apology bender, expressing regret for U.S. unilateralism — “We have at times been disengaged and at times sought to dictate our terms” — as well as for being “too easily distracted” and for America’s “failure to appreciate Europe’s leading role in the world.” . . . He also took responsibility for the American contribution to the worldwide economic crisis — “even if I wasn’t president at the time” — implying that it wouldn’t have happened on his watch.

It was Obama who told us that America bears a special responsibility for nuclear proliferation because we’re the only nation to drop atomic bombs. (Well, it was to end a war and spare perhaps a million lives, but still . . . ) It was Obama who explained that America’s sordid history of meddling in Central America required that we rush to defend Manuel Zelaya.

So it’s no mere amorphous do-goodism that animates Obama; it is the heartfelt belief that America is responsible for much of what ails the world. We are too rich, too powerful, too bossy, too close to Israel, and too well-armed (it just makes others nervous and feel like they need nukes too). And by vigorously interrogating terrorists and detaining them in Guantanamo, we are the ones who jump-started terrorist recruitment.

It’s that nose for American imperfection and supposed error that endeared Obama to the Nobel Prize committee, as well as to the Left here and abroad. And it’s why conservatives find the award not simply unearned but deeply revealing about our president’s world vision.

Read Less

Not That There’s Anything Wrong with Being a Publicity Hound

Much was made of a Hillary Clinton interview with NBC’s Ann Curry in which Clinton ruled out a future presidential bid. But the most interesting part was her response to the question as to whether she has been “marginalized” in the Obama administration:

“Ann, I find it absurd. . . . I believe in delegating power. You know, I’m not one of these people who feels like I have to have my face in the front of the newspaper or on the TV every moment of the day. . . . My goal is to be a very positive force to implement the kind of changes that the president and I believe are in the best interests of our country. But that doesn’t mean that it all has to be me-me-me all the time. I like lifting people up. . . . I am part of the team that makes the decisions.”

In front of the newspaper and on TV every moment of the day? Me-me-me? Ahem. Are there some, er, unresolved issues between Hillary and her boss? (It does have the feel of a Saturday Night Live skit — “What, ME feel the need to do five talk shows and sit in every sports broadcast booth in America?! Not me!”)

Well, aside from the not-very-submerged hostility toward her supervisor, even Clinton can muster only the weak explanation that she’s “part of the team that makes the decisions.” Probably not exactly what she had in mind when she took the job, you know, from the man who feels that incessant need to be on TV all the time.

Much was made of a Hillary Clinton interview with NBC’s Ann Curry in which Clinton ruled out a future presidential bid. But the most interesting part was her response to the question as to whether she has been “marginalized” in the Obama administration:

“Ann, I find it absurd. . . . I believe in delegating power. You know, I’m not one of these people who feels like I have to have my face in the front of the newspaper or on the TV every moment of the day. . . . My goal is to be a very positive force to implement the kind of changes that the president and I believe are in the best interests of our country. But that doesn’t mean that it all has to be me-me-me all the time. I like lifting people up. . . . I am part of the team that makes the decisions.”

In front of the newspaper and on TV every moment of the day? Me-me-me? Ahem. Are there some, er, unresolved issues between Hillary and her boss? (It does have the feel of a Saturday Night Live skit — “What, ME feel the need to do five talk shows and sit in every sports broadcast booth in America?! Not me!”)

Well, aside from the not-very-submerged hostility toward her supervisor, even Clinton can muster only the weak explanation that she’s “part of the team that makes the decisions.” Probably not exactly what she had in mind when she took the job, you know, from the man who feels that incessant need to be on TV all the time.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

After playing ball with Obama, the health-care industry wakes up to the reality of ObamaCare: “Insurance companies aren’t playing nice anymore. Their dire message that health care legislation will drive up premiums for people who already have coverage comes as a warning shot at a crucial point in the debate, and threatens President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority. Democrats and their allies scrambled on Monday to knock down a new industry-funded study forecasting that Senate legislation, over time, will add thousands of dollars to the cost of a typical policy.”

And the insurers are right, says Yuval Levin. “In other words, the average family will be paying $4,000 more per year for health insurance premiums under the Baucus bill than if nothing were done. Rather than bring costs under control, as any reform worth its salt would have to do (and as reforms that would introduce real private sector competition into the insurance sector would do) the bill would actually increase the rate at which those costs are growing.”

Next, maybe hospitals and the AMA will wake up to the dangers of ObamaCare: “All of these lobbies should have known better.”

Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has a lead over his likely Democratic opponent in next year’s Senate race. That would be in Obama’s home state.

Megan McArdle: “Call me crazy, but I think that maybe to earn the Nobel prize, a million dollars, and all the associated prestige, you ought to have made efforts somewhat more heroic than chairing a meeting in which you said that you thought we ought to have fewer nuclear arms–even one in which you said that the US also thought we ought to have fewer nuclear arms. You should, I don’t know, deliver a deal or something.”

That Nobel Prize is well deserved, insists a Harvard professor: “It’s about setting the standard for a new style of leadership that recognizes the interdependence of the world we live in.” This is what passes for sophisticated opinion in the Ivy League, in Oslo, and, most tragically, in the White House.

James Taranto: “Why did Obama win the Nobel Peace Prize? Because he pandered to the prejudices of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Surely he didn’t do it with the Peace Prize (or at least this year’s Peace Prize) in mind. He did it because disparaging George W. Bush is a cheap way of winning approval among certain constituencies, both foreign and domestic.” (But have you noticed how many advice givers are urging Obama to find his inner Bush and buck up as commander in chief?)

The North Koreans fire more missiles. Don’t they know that Obama won the Peace Prize for raising the issue of nonproliferation?

From the Wall Street Journal forecasting survey: “The 48 surveyed economists expect the economy to bounce back from four quarters of contraction with 3.1% growth in gross domestic product at a seasonally adjusted annual rate in the just-ended third quarter. Expansion is seen continuing through the first half of 2010, though at a slower rate. But the massive downturn means the labor market will take years to heal. On average, the economists don’t expect unemployment to fall below 6% until 2013; unemployment hit 9.8% in September.”

After playing ball with Obama, the health-care industry wakes up to the reality of ObamaCare: “Insurance companies aren’t playing nice anymore. Their dire message that health care legislation will drive up premiums for people who already have coverage comes as a warning shot at a crucial point in the debate, and threatens President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority. Democrats and their allies scrambled on Monday to knock down a new industry-funded study forecasting that Senate legislation, over time, will add thousands of dollars to the cost of a typical policy.”

And the insurers are right, says Yuval Levin. “In other words, the average family will be paying $4,000 more per year for health insurance premiums under the Baucus bill than if nothing were done. Rather than bring costs under control, as any reform worth its salt would have to do (and as reforms that would introduce real private sector competition into the insurance sector would do) the bill would actually increase the rate at which those costs are growing.”

Next, maybe hospitals and the AMA will wake up to the dangers of ObamaCare: “All of these lobbies should have known better.”

Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has a lead over his likely Democratic opponent in next year’s Senate race. That would be in Obama’s home state.

Megan McArdle: “Call me crazy, but I think that maybe to earn the Nobel prize, a million dollars, and all the associated prestige, you ought to have made efforts somewhat more heroic than chairing a meeting in which you said that you thought we ought to have fewer nuclear arms–even one in which you said that the US also thought we ought to have fewer nuclear arms. You should, I don’t know, deliver a deal or something.”

That Nobel Prize is well deserved, insists a Harvard professor: “It’s about setting the standard for a new style of leadership that recognizes the interdependence of the world we live in.” This is what passes for sophisticated opinion in the Ivy League, in Oslo, and, most tragically, in the White House.

James Taranto: “Why did Obama win the Nobel Peace Prize? Because he pandered to the prejudices of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Surely he didn’t do it with the Peace Prize (or at least this year’s Peace Prize) in mind. He did it because disparaging George W. Bush is a cheap way of winning approval among certain constituencies, both foreign and domestic.” (But have you noticed how many advice givers are urging Obama to find his inner Bush and buck up as commander in chief?)

The North Koreans fire more missiles. Don’t they know that Obama won the Peace Prize for raising the issue of nonproliferation?

From the Wall Street Journal forecasting survey: “The 48 surveyed economists expect the economy to bounce back from four quarters of contraction with 3.1% growth in gross domestic product at a seasonally adjusted annual rate in the just-ended third quarter. Expansion is seen continuing through the first half of 2010, though at a slower rate. But the massive downturn means the labor market will take years to heal. On average, the economists don’t expect unemployment to fall below 6% until 2013; unemployment hit 9.8% in September.”

Read Less




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

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

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

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

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