Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 16, 2009

Jones Joins the 9-11 Truther Set

J Street’s conference next week has become a Rorschach test of sorts. More and more members of Congress are dropping out, having discovered just who will be speaking — such as this “poet” who finds Gaza to be another fascistic ghetto, complete with numbers written “on the wrists of babies.” And then there is the 9-11 “truther.” So Sens. Schumer, Gillibrand, Lincoln, and Cochran have bugged out, as have a growing list of congressmen.

But not the administration. The Obami are to be represented by National Security Adviser James Jones, who has no problem appearing on the same stage with those who wax lyrical about Guantanamo being Auschwitz and who find noxious any sanctions against Iran.

This of course is the gang who awarded Mary Robinson America’s highest honor. Hobnobbing with Israel bashers, therefore, is nothing new. But it does remind those who vouched for Obama just how misguided they were about his instincts and internal radar where Israel is concerned.

J Street’s conference next week has become a Rorschach test of sorts. More and more members of Congress are dropping out, having discovered just who will be speaking — such as this “poet” who finds Gaza to be another fascistic ghetto, complete with numbers written “on the wrists of babies.” And then there is the 9-11 “truther.” So Sens. Schumer, Gillibrand, Lincoln, and Cochran have bugged out, as have a growing list of congressmen.

But not the administration. The Obami are to be represented by National Security Adviser James Jones, who has no problem appearing on the same stage with those who wax lyrical about Guantanamo being Auschwitz and who find noxious any sanctions against Iran.

This of course is the gang who awarded Mary Robinson America’s highest honor. Hobnobbing with Israel bashers, therefore, is nothing new. But it does remind those who vouched for Obama just how misguided they were about his instincts and internal radar where Israel is concerned.

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Lecturing on “Smart Power” in Moscow

Jennifer and Peter, your concerns about the “seminar presidency” that the Obama administration has become are not likely to be assuaged by the discourse on smart power that Hillary Clinton gave at the town-hall meeting at Moscow State University — just before she left empty-handed from the latest “smart power” exercise.

In response to a question, Clinton gave a 700-word description of smart power that began with its underlying rationale: “avoiding the use of hard power whenever possible, using diplomacy and other approaches to try to prevent having to use military force.”

In the course of her comments, she provided this example of trying to “be smarter than our past”:

Some of you may have seen in the press that we are making an in-depth review of our policy in Afghanistan. There were some things that we inherited from the prior administration that we are (inaudible). But we are committed. Our goal is to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaida and their extremist allies. But who exactly are (inaudible)? Who is really part of the sort of global jihadist movement, and who may be fighting for some other reason?

Here was her concluding description of what “smart power” means:

So that’s what smart power means — take nothing for granted, ask all the questions you can possibly have, come up with the best answer that’s humanly possible, (inaudible) knowing that (inaudible) may not get 100 percent right, and then make the best decisions you can to implement them. So we are very committed to engaging in this smart power approach and doing everything we can to work with our partners around the world on (inaudible).

Smart power is, of course, smart (by definition), and coming up with the best answer humanly possible seems like a good approach. But adversaries are likely to be unimpressed with statements about tough diplomacy or crippling sanctions, especially when they know you are focused on avoiding hard power — and watching you respond to a recommended troop increase by holding a seminar on who really is part of “the sort of global jihadist movement” and seeing you trade missile-defense systems in Eastern Europe for magic smart-power beans. Adversaries know that such sanctions have yet to work in Cuba or North Korea (and actually turned a profit for Saddam Hussein) and that smart power will always permit extended talks before resorting to them.

Hillary ended her discourse by assuring her audience that the U.S. is “very committed to engaging in this smart power approach.” The irony is that smart power may have a chance of success only if adversaries think there is a likelihood that hard power will be applied if it fails.

Jennifer and Peter, your concerns about the “seminar presidency” that the Obama administration has become are not likely to be assuaged by the discourse on smart power that Hillary Clinton gave at the town-hall meeting at Moscow State University — just before she left empty-handed from the latest “smart power” exercise.

In response to a question, Clinton gave a 700-word description of smart power that began with its underlying rationale: “avoiding the use of hard power whenever possible, using diplomacy and other approaches to try to prevent having to use military force.”

In the course of her comments, she provided this example of trying to “be smarter than our past”:

Some of you may have seen in the press that we are making an in-depth review of our policy in Afghanistan. There were some things that we inherited from the prior administration that we are (inaudible). But we are committed. Our goal is to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaida and their extremist allies. But who exactly are (inaudible)? Who is really part of the sort of global jihadist movement, and who may be fighting for some other reason?

Here was her concluding description of what “smart power” means:

So that’s what smart power means — take nothing for granted, ask all the questions you can possibly have, come up with the best answer that’s humanly possible, (inaudible) knowing that (inaudible) may not get 100 percent right, and then make the best decisions you can to implement them. So we are very committed to engaging in this smart power approach and doing everything we can to work with our partners around the world on (inaudible).

Smart power is, of course, smart (by definition), and coming up with the best answer humanly possible seems like a good approach. But adversaries are likely to be unimpressed with statements about tough diplomacy or crippling sanctions, especially when they know you are focused on avoiding hard power — and watching you respond to a recommended troop increase by holding a seminar on who really is part of “the sort of global jihadist movement” and seeing you trade missile-defense systems in Eastern Europe for magic smart-power beans. Adversaries know that such sanctions have yet to work in Cuba or North Korea (and actually turned a profit for Saddam Hussein) and that smart power will always permit extended talks before resorting to them.

Hillary ended her discourse by assuring her audience that the U.S. is “very committed to engaging in this smart power approach.” The irony is that smart power may have a chance of success only if adversaries think there is a likelihood that hard power will be applied if it fails.

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Hillary Vaults Over Obama

Obama’s foreign-policy team may remind us of the fight scenes from the old Batman TV series  (“There’s Honduras — Kapow!” “Holy double cross — the Russians!!”), but Hillary Clinton is riding high. Well, higher than the president. Gallup tells us that Clinton’s approval (62 percent at the time of the survey) bests Obama’s (56 percent at survey time and now descending to 53 percent as the Nobel Prize bounce fades):

Now operating in a much less bright spotlight than Obama does, the former first lady’s and U.S. senator’s favorable rating remains strong at 62%, little changed since she became secretary of state. Clinton’s current favorable rating ranks among her best in the 17 years Gallup has polled Americans about her. Her highest favorable rating of 67% came in late December 1998, just after her husband, President Bill Clinton, was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Well, it might just be that she does best when she’s in the middle of a disaster area — impeachment or the Obama foreign policy. But most likely, she doesn’t seem to be responsible for any bad things, and she looks so cheery traveling to all those exotic spots. Naturally, many people think, okay, she’s doing a swell job — always smiling!

In fact, the idea of Clinton — a strong and competent woman — is a good deal better than the reality of Clinton — and inept candidate and marginalized and incompetent secretary of state. But maybe if she lays low for a while (i.e., keeps doing what she’s doing), she’ll be all set for the 2016 race. But she said she’d never run! Yeah, right.

Obama’s foreign-policy team may remind us of the fight scenes from the old Batman TV series  (“There’s Honduras — Kapow!” “Holy double cross — the Russians!!”), but Hillary Clinton is riding high. Well, higher than the president. Gallup tells us that Clinton’s approval (62 percent at the time of the survey) bests Obama’s (56 percent at survey time and now descending to 53 percent as the Nobel Prize bounce fades):

Now operating in a much less bright spotlight than Obama does, the former first lady’s and U.S. senator’s favorable rating remains strong at 62%, little changed since she became secretary of state. Clinton’s current favorable rating ranks among her best in the 17 years Gallup has polled Americans about her. Her highest favorable rating of 67% came in late December 1998, just after her husband, President Bill Clinton, was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Well, it might just be that she does best when she’s in the middle of a disaster area — impeachment or the Obama foreign policy. But most likely, she doesn’t seem to be responsible for any bad things, and she looks so cheery traveling to all those exotic spots. Naturally, many people think, okay, she’s doing a swell job — always smiling!

In fact, the idea of Clinton — a strong and competent woman — is a good deal better than the reality of Clinton — and inept candidate and marginalized and incompetent secretary of state. But maybe if she lays low for a while (i.e., keeps doing what she’s doing), she’ll be all set for the 2016 race. But she said she’d never run! Yeah, right.

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Par for the Course

Over at the clown rodeo, formally known as the Human Rights Council, there is disappointment. Richard Goldstone is miffed:

Richard Goldstone condemned the U.N. Human Rights Council for endorsing his report while ignoring his findings on Hamas war crimes. The Human Rights Council voted 25 to 6 Thursday to endorse the report and recommend that other U.N. bodies heed its recommendations. The report recommends that Israel and authorities in the Gaza Strip prosecute fighters for alleged war crimes committed during last winter’s Gaza war and, should that not happen within six months, for the U.N. Security Council pursue such prosecutions. The Human Rights Council resolution cites only Israel.

The United States, Italy, the Netherlands, Hungary, Slovakia, and Ukraine voted against the resolution. The beacons of human rights that voted in its favor include Russia, China, Argentina, and Egypt. This is the “international community” in all its glory. This is the gang from whom the Obami hope to obtain consensus on a range of issues, from global warming to terrorism to Iran. Well, we see the sort of consensus that emerges when the community gathers for a pow-wow — it is inevitably anti-Israel.

Expecting anything better from the UN and especially the Human Rights Council (which Obama rejoined after the Bush administration had withdrawn) is foolish. Elevating the profile of the “international community” and bestowing some sort of moral good-housekeeping stamp of approval to its views is shameful.

Over at the clown rodeo, formally known as the Human Rights Council, there is disappointment. Richard Goldstone is miffed:

Richard Goldstone condemned the U.N. Human Rights Council for endorsing his report while ignoring his findings on Hamas war crimes. The Human Rights Council voted 25 to 6 Thursday to endorse the report and recommend that other U.N. bodies heed its recommendations. The report recommends that Israel and authorities in the Gaza Strip prosecute fighters for alleged war crimes committed during last winter’s Gaza war and, should that not happen within six months, for the U.N. Security Council pursue such prosecutions. The Human Rights Council resolution cites only Israel.

The United States, Italy, the Netherlands, Hungary, Slovakia, and Ukraine voted against the resolution. The beacons of human rights that voted in its favor include Russia, China, Argentina, and Egypt. This is the “international community” in all its glory. This is the gang from whom the Obami hope to obtain consensus on a range of issues, from global warming to terrorism to Iran. Well, we see the sort of consensus that emerges when the community gathers for a pow-wow — it is inevitably anti-Israel.

Expecting anything better from the UN and especially the Human Rights Council (which Obama rejoined after the Bush administration had withdrawn) is foolish. Elevating the profile of the “international community” and bestowing some sort of moral good-housekeeping stamp of approval to its views is shameful.

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A Graphic Depiction of Job Losses

As Jennifer points out, the liberal spinners are having trouble dealing with the fact that “we’ve lost millions of new jobs since January, and unemployment is at a 26-year high.”

If you’d like to see just how bad it is, try this remarkable graph showing how employment has grown and shrunk since January 2004. Republican spinners should have no trouble making devastating TV ads out of animated graphs like this one, which allow the instant comprehension of complex data over time.  As Glenn Reynolds points out, the last few months look “like some sort of nuclear-war animation.”

Ronald Reagan won the White House by asking, over and over, the simple question “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” With the new technology of animated graphs, it is now possible to pound the answer home as never before.

As Jennifer points out, the liberal spinners are having trouble dealing with the fact that “we’ve lost millions of new jobs since January, and unemployment is at a 26-year high.”

If you’d like to see just how bad it is, try this remarkable graph showing how employment has grown and shrunk since January 2004. Republican spinners should have no trouble making devastating TV ads out of animated graphs like this one, which allow the instant comprehension of complex data over time.  As Glenn Reynolds points out, the last few months look “like some sort of nuclear-war animation.”

Ronald Reagan won the White House by asking, over and over, the simple question “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” With the new technology of animated graphs, it is now possible to pound the answer home as never before.

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She Came Not to Bury Mao but to Praise Him

I have written before why I think Glenn Beck is harmful to the conservative movement But this video that he played on his program of Anita Dunn, communications director for the White House, explaining earlier this year why Mao Zedong is one of her two favorite political philosophers, is a public service. The praise for Mao isn’t a throwaway line by Miss Dunn; she actually explains why he is one of the two people (along with Mother Teresa!) she turns to most when it comes to “fighting your own war.” Everybody has his or her own path, you see; you don’t have to accept the definition of how to do things. It’s about your choices and your path. You figure out what’s right for you. Mao did it his way, and you should do it your way. So sayeth Anita Dunn, philosopher.

In his October 2005 essay in COMMENTARY, Arthur Waldron describes the architect of China’s Cultural Revolution this way: “Mao was the greatest mass murderer of the 20th century. Much of the killing was direct, as in the torture and purges at Yan’an. After the Communist seizure of power in 1949, the practice became countrywide. Mao set his numerical targets openly, and stressed the ‘revolutionary’ importance of killing.” It is said of Mao — who was responsible for the death of some 70 million Chinese — that he derived a “sadistic pleasure” from seeing people put to death in horrible ways.

All this goes uncommented upon by Miss Dunn. Her praise for Mao — unqualified and without caveats, based on the excerpts of her speech — is quite extraordinary. For a senior member of the White House to hold these views is more extraordinary still. Perhaps Pol Pot will be the subject of Dunn’s next favorable meditation.

You might assume that the White House press corps would think this is a matter worth exploring — but you would (so far) be wrong. I won’t speculate as to why that’s the case; I will only say that its lack of curiosity and interest on this matter is, well, worth noting.

I have written before why I think Glenn Beck is harmful to the conservative movement But this video that he played on his program of Anita Dunn, communications director for the White House, explaining earlier this year why Mao Zedong is one of her two favorite political philosophers, is a public service. The praise for Mao isn’t a throwaway line by Miss Dunn; she actually explains why he is one of the two people (along with Mother Teresa!) she turns to most when it comes to “fighting your own war.” Everybody has his or her own path, you see; you don’t have to accept the definition of how to do things. It’s about your choices and your path. You figure out what’s right for you. Mao did it his way, and you should do it your way. So sayeth Anita Dunn, philosopher.

In his October 2005 essay in COMMENTARY, Arthur Waldron describes the architect of China’s Cultural Revolution this way: “Mao was the greatest mass murderer of the 20th century. Much of the killing was direct, as in the torture and purges at Yan’an. After the Communist seizure of power in 1949, the practice became countrywide. Mao set his numerical targets openly, and stressed the ‘revolutionary’ importance of killing.” It is said of Mao — who was responsible for the death of some 70 million Chinese — that he derived a “sadistic pleasure” from seeing people put to death in horrible ways.

All this goes uncommented upon by Miss Dunn. Her praise for Mao — unqualified and without caveats, based on the excerpts of her speech — is quite extraordinary. For a senior member of the White House to hold these views is more extraordinary still. Perhaps Pol Pot will be the subject of Dunn’s next favorable meditation.

You might assume that the White House press corps would think this is a matter worth exploring — but you would (so far) be wrong. I won’t speculate as to why that’s the case; I will only say that its lack of curiosity and interest on this matter is, well, worth noting.

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Roger Cohen Back to His Old Tricks: Whitewash Iran, Besmirch Israel

The New York Times‘s online columnist Roger Cohen has had some distractions this year, but he hasn’t let it deter him from his idée fixe about the State of Israel. Having started the year by claiming that a few interviews with a few no-doubt terrified representatives of the remnants of Iranian Jewry justified his view that Iran’s Islamic Republic was run by people who were not the vicious tyrants that Israelis and American conservatives claimed they were, events overwhelmed his thesis. Cohen’s reporting from Iran conjured up memories of his Times predecessor Walter Duranty (whose whitewashes of Stalin earned him a Pulitzer Prize) here and the disgust of observers across the political spectrum, but even he was forced to notice that the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad regime was not so nice after they stole an election and brutally repressed dissent.

But Cohen was and is undeterred, because the point of his bouquets thrown in the path of the mullahs was not so much a desire to make them look good but to make Israel look bad. His worry all along was that the justified concerns of both Israelis and Americans about Iran’s nuclear-weapons program would distract the world from what he thinks ought to be its priority: pressuring the Israelis to make concessions to Palestinians who don’t want to make peace with it and making sure that virtually every measure of Israeli self-defense is falsely branded as excessive or a war crime. Even after personally witnessing the horror enacted on the streets of Tehran by Ahmadinejad’s goon squads, what really gets Cohen’s goat is the sight of a leader of Israel standing up for his country and trying to draw the attention of the world to the barbarism that threatens its existence.

Thus, while Cohen’s column in today’s Times resurrects his familiar tropes about the leaders of Iran being “rational” and “proud” (phrases that were put in storage while the memories of this summer’s outrages were fresh in the public mind), his anger is reserved for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his speech that opened the current session of the Knesset this week in which he outlined the threats to his nation. Cohen is offended by Netanyahu’s invocation of the Holocaust even though slaughter of the Jews and extinction of their state remains the goal of its Islamist foes. He’s also particularly offended by what he considers to be “Israeli exceptionalism” — the idea that the Jewish state is an isolated outpost of democracy and civilization surrounded by hostile neighbors and terrorist organizations and states that want to turn back the clock to the Middle Ages. That’s too dramatic for Cohen’s taste. Though he can’t claim that Netanyahu’s statements are false, he still feels that its Arab and Islamic enemies aren’t so bad and that the Israelis aren’t so good. What he wants from Israel is what he thinks Barack Obama is doing for the United States, so perhaps he thinks Netanyahu should go on an apology tour, during which he can say how sorry the Jews are for persisting in their effort to survive.

Not unsurprisingly, Cohen concludes with praise for Richard Goldstone, another South African Jew who, like the columnist, has been enlisted in the service of those who wish to destroy the Jewish state. Though Goldstone’s United Nations–sponsored report about Israel’s counteroffensive in Gaza last winter to halt the terrorist missile attacks has been rejected as a biased farrago of Palestinian propaganda by Israelis from across the political spectrum as well as by the United States, Cohen accepts it without question. Indeed, Cohen thinks the chutzpah of Israelis in refusing to acquiesce to lies about its justified attempt to defend its people is, in Cohen’s formulation, symbolic of their refusal to think of themselves as a normal nation. But, of course, the opposite is true. Normality is exactly what Israelis want. And like any normal nation, they think they have a right to use force to stop terrorists from shelling their southern towns and villages, as well as a right to live without the threat of nuclear attack or blackmail from Islamist radicals. But that’s the sort of Israel that Roger Cohen just can’t stand.

The New York Times‘s online columnist Roger Cohen has had some distractions this year, but he hasn’t let it deter him from his idée fixe about the State of Israel. Having started the year by claiming that a few interviews with a few no-doubt terrified representatives of the remnants of Iranian Jewry justified his view that Iran’s Islamic Republic was run by people who were not the vicious tyrants that Israelis and American conservatives claimed they were, events overwhelmed his thesis. Cohen’s reporting from Iran conjured up memories of his Times predecessor Walter Duranty (whose whitewashes of Stalin earned him a Pulitzer Prize) here and the disgust of observers across the political spectrum, but even he was forced to notice that the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad regime was not so nice after they stole an election and brutally repressed dissent.

But Cohen was and is undeterred, because the point of his bouquets thrown in the path of the mullahs was not so much a desire to make them look good but to make Israel look bad. His worry all along was that the justified concerns of both Israelis and Americans about Iran’s nuclear-weapons program would distract the world from what he thinks ought to be its priority: pressuring the Israelis to make concessions to Palestinians who don’t want to make peace with it and making sure that virtually every measure of Israeli self-defense is falsely branded as excessive or a war crime. Even after personally witnessing the horror enacted on the streets of Tehran by Ahmadinejad’s goon squads, what really gets Cohen’s goat is the sight of a leader of Israel standing up for his country and trying to draw the attention of the world to the barbarism that threatens its existence.

Thus, while Cohen’s column in today’s Times resurrects his familiar tropes about the leaders of Iran being “rational” and “proud” (phrases that were put in storage while the memories of this summer’s outrages were fresh in the public mind), his anger is reserved for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his speech that opened the current session of the Knesset this week in which he outlined the threats to his nation. Cohen is offended by Netanyahu’s invocation of the Holocaust even though slaughter of the Jews and extinction of their state remains the goal of its Islamist foes. He’s also particularly offended by what he considers to be “Israeli exceptionalism” — the idea that the Jewish state is an isolated outpost of democracy and civilization surrounded by hostile neighbors and terrorist organizations and states that want to turn back the clock to the Middle Ages. That’s too dramatic for Cohen’s taste. Though he can’t claim that Netanyahu’s statements are false, he still feels that its Arab and Islamic enemies aren’t so bad and that the Israelis aren’t so good. What he wants from Israel is what he thinks Barack Obama is doing for the United States, so perhaps he thinks Netanyahu should go on an apology tour, during which he can say how sorry the Jews are for persisting in their effort to survive.

Not unsurprisingly, Cohen concludes with praise for Richard Goldstone, another South African Jew who, like the columnist, has been enlisted in the service of those who wish to destroy the Jewish state. Though Goldstone’s United Nations–sponsored report about Israel’s counteroffensive in Gaza last winter to halt the terrorist missile attacks has been rejected as a biased farrago of Palestinian propaganda by Israelis from across the political spectrum as well as by the United States, Cohen accepts it without question. Indeed, Cohen thinks the chutzpah of Israelis in refusing to acquiesce to lies about its justified attempt to defend its people is, in Cohen’s formulation, symbolic of their refusal to think of themselves as a normal nation. But, of course, the opposite is true. Normality is exactly what Israelis want. And like any normal nation, they think they have a right to use force to stop terrorists from shelling their southern towns and villages, as well as a right to live without the threat of nuclear attack or blackmail from Islamist radicals. But that’s the sort of Israel that Roger Cohen just can’t stand.

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Astroturfing

That is what they call a phony grassroots campaign cooked up by special interests or political parties afraid to show their own faces. That’s what liberals claimed the tea parties and then the town-hall events were. Fake. The attendees were flunkies. It turns out that liberals were projecting. Politico tells us:

At a meeting last April with corporate lobbyists, aides to President Barack Obama and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) helped set in motion a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign, primarily financed by industry groups, that has played a key role in bolstering public support for health care reform. . . .

The Democratic officials made no overt demands. Rather, they brought together the players and laid the groundwork for the creation of the coalition, and that was followed by more-direct solicitations from an outside Democratic consultant, Nick Baldick, retained by Healthy Economy Now, asking attendees at the meeting to join the coalition and contribute to its ad campaigns.

They concocted two groups — Americans for Stable Quality Care and its predecessor, Healthy Economy Now (I think the term is “front organization”) — to push the White House’s health-care agenda.

That’s as good an example of astroturfing as you’re going to find. There’s nothing illegal about it (unless campaign-finance laws were broken, for which we have seen no evidence), but it’s fundamentally dishonest. The White House orchestrated support, played to the support, and crowed about the support, used the front groups to fund advertising, and then used all that to convince real voters there was a groundswell of “support” for its proposals. Not surprisingly, an ethics expert interviewed by Politico (we need experts because ethics is a subspecialty, knowledge of which is not commonly found among ordinary politicians) thinks the whole thing raises “questions.” Yeah.

That is what they call a phony grassroots campaign cooked up by special interests or political parties afraid to show their own faces. That’s what liberals claimed the tea parties and then the town-hall events were. Fake. The attendees were flunkies. It turns out that liberals were projecting. Politico tells us:

At a meeting last April with corporate lobbyists, aides to President Barack Obama and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) helped set in motion a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign, primarily financed by industry groups, that has played a key role in bolstering public support for health care reform. . . .

The Democratic officials made no overt demands. Rather, they brought together the players and laid the groundwork for the creation of the coalition, and that was followed by more-direct solicitations from an outside Democratic consultant, Nick Baldick, retained by Healthy Economy Now, asking attendees at the meeting to join the coalition and contribute to its ad campaigns.

They concocted two groups — Americans for Stable Quality Care and its predecessor, Healthy Economy Now (I think the term is “front organization”) — to push the White House’s health-care agenda.

That’s as good an example of astroturfing as you’re going to find. There’s nothing illegal about it (unless campaign-finance laws were broken, for which we have seen no evidence), but it’s fundamentally dishonest. The White House orchestrated support, played to the support, and crowed about the support, used the front groups to fund advertising, and then used all that to convince real voters there was a groundswell of “support” for its proposals. Not surprisingly, an ethics expert interviewed by Politico (we need experts because ethics is a subspecialty, knowledge of which is not commonly found among ordinary politicians) thinks the whole thing raises “questions.” Yeah.

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Oops

I made a mistake in a blog post two days ago when I called the University of Chicago economist Robert Lucas the father of the “efficient markets hypothesis.” As reader Kevin Bell points out, it was Eugene Fama, not Lucas, who devised the theory. Lucas, in effect, created a school of thinking that is informed by and that informs the “efficient markets hypothesis.” This mistake is even more glaring when you consider that COMMENTARY just published a brilliant piece on the subject by John H. Makin, called ‘The Keynes Bubble,” which I edited and which you can read here.

I made a mistake in a blog post two days ago when I called the University of Chicago economist Robert Lucas the father of the “efficient markets hypothesis.” As reader Kevin Bell points out, it was Eugene Fama, not Lucas, who devised the theory. Lucas, in effect, created a school of thinking that is informed by and that informs the “efficient markets hypothesis.” This mistake is even more glaring when you consider that COMMENTARY just published a brilliant piece on the subject by John H. Makin, called ‘The Keynes Bubble,” which I edited and which you can read here.

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Deeds’s No-Good, Horrible Campaign

Creigh Deeds is in trouble. Obama comes to Virginia and doesn’t appear with him. Democratic officials are criticizing him in public. Liberal activists are saying it’s curtains. And now comes word that his opponent, Bob McDonnell, has tons more cash. “According to finance reports due to the state Thursday, McDonnell began this month with $4.5 million to spend before the election Nov. 3, compared with $2.7 million for Deeds.” As the Washington Post (which tried its best with in-kind donations of multiple front-page stories) explains:

Money doesn’t guarantee electoral success — Kilgore outraised Kaine in 2005, and Deeds won the Democratic nomination despite being significantly outspent. But McDonnell’s advantage has been extended by an aggressive independent effort on his behalf by the Republican Governors Association, which has aired $4 million worth of ads for the former attorney general in recent weeks.

That is not to say that Deeds hasn’t been showered with Big Labor money. He has. (“Deeds got $500,000 last month from the Democratic Governors Association — which also ran a multimillion-dollar ad campaign in the spring to ding McDonnell while the Democrats were occupied with their primary.”) In fact, he has hauled in $1.9 million from organized labor, a stunning figure in a state still covered by right-to-work legislation.

The telltale sign of impending defeat, however, is the absence of prominent national Democrats willing to campaign for Deeds. Aside from Joe Biden (vice presidents traditionally get funeral duty), Deeds is a lonely figure these days. That’s politics. No one wants to be very close to an imploding campaign.

Creigh Deeds is in trouble. Obama comes to Virginia and doesn’t appear with him. Democratic officials are criticizing him in public. Liberal activists are saying it’s curtains. And now comes word that his opponent, Bob McDonnell, has tons more cash. “According to finance reports due to the state Thursday, McDonnell began this month with $4.5 million to spend before the election Nov. 3, compared with $2.7 million for Deeds.” As the Washington Post (which tried its best with in-kind donations of multiple front-page stories) explains:

Money doesn’t guarantee electoral success — Kilgore outraised Kaine in 2005, and Deeds won the Democratic nomination despite being significantly outspent. But McDonnell’s advantage has been extended by an aggressive independent effort on his behalf by the Republican Governors Association, which has aired $4 million worth of ads for the former attorney general in recent weeks.

That is not to say that Deeds hasn’t been showered with Big Labor money. He has. (“Deeds got $500,000 last month from the Democratic Governors Association — which also ran a multimillion-dollar ad campaign in the spring to ding McDonnell while the Democrats were occupied with their primary.”) In fact, he has hauled in $1.9 million from organized labor, a stunning figure in a state still covered by right-to-work legislation.

The telltale sign of impending defeat, however, is the absence of prominent national Democrats willing to campaign for Deeds. Aside from Joe Biden (vice presidents traditionally get funeral duty), Deeds is a lonely figure these days. That’s politics. No one wants to be very close to an imploding campaign.

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Overtime at the Spin Factory

The liberal-blogger spin factory is going to blow a gasket. It’s huffing and puffing, working overtime and at a furious pace. The worry is that their beloved candidate peaked during the campaign and that, Nobelists’ adulation aside, he hasn’t done much of anything since then to warrant praise. So the job is to come up with enough froth to cover that lackluster record. Peter Beinart does his part with this sort of output:

So liberals should stop complaining that Obama hasn’t done anything. Sure, he hadn’t yet done much to bring world peace, but the stimulus bill—which includes vast sums for college tuition, renewable energy and mass transit—is one of the most important pieces of progressive domestic legislation in decades. And if Obama twins that with health care reform, he’ll have done more to rebuild the American welfare state in one year than his two Democratic predecessors, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, did in a combined twelve.

The stimulus is one of the most important pieces of progressive legislation in decades? Huh? That would be because millions of new jobs were created? Well, no. The best count they could come up with was 30,000. But that’s dwarfed by just one decision — Obama’s termination of the F-22 production line and its 95,000 jobs. Of course we’ve lost millions of new jobs since January, and unemployment is at a 26-year high. The “progressive” part is really the head-stratcher unless even liberals now equate “progressive” with boondoggle, junk legislation.

Notice that the complaint that he hasn’t “done anything” is explained away because he will pass health-care reform. This surely outpaces the Nobelists in the “A for effort” school of evaluation. (He also hasn’t done anything to repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” but is Beinart giving him credit for that, too, because . . . he’ll get around to it one day?)

What is curious, however, is the absence in the column of any mention of foreign-policy achievement, and Beinart writes voluminously on that topic. All we get is that Obama “hasn’t done much to bring world peace.” Much — or anything? The Obama foreign policy bears a striking resemblance to a demolition derby. Whoops . . . there’s the wreckage of our alliance with Eastern Europe. Uh oh, Honduras is on the brink of civil war. Oh, I guess the Middle East gambit was an utter failure. Ohh . . . look over there! The Russians are laughing uproariously, pockets bulging with goodies tossed their way. Put differently, we are hard-pressed to find a single successful foreign-policy endeavor. Well, one can see why Beinart is silent.

Maybe Beinart is looking for a slot on MSNBC or to fill in when the sycophant in chief takes a day off at the Atlantic to undertake more obstetrics training. But if he and other diligent workers in the Obama spin factory want to convince anyone who isn’t still clinging to the fantasy that Obama is the most wonderfulest president ever, they really are going to have to do better than this.

The liberal-blogger spin factory is going to blow a gasket. It’s huffing and puffing, working overtime and at a furious pace. The worry is that their beloved candidate peaked during the campaign and that, Nobelists’ adulation aside, he hasn’t done much of anything since then to warrant praise. So the job is to come up with enough froth to cover that lackluster record. Peter Beinart does his part with this sort of output:

So liberals should stop complaining that Obama hasn’t done anything. Sure, he hadn’t yet done much to bring world peace, but the stimulus bill—which includes vast sums for college tuition, renewable energy and mass transit—is one of the most important pieces of progressive domestic legislation in decades. And if Obama twins that with health care reform, he’ll have done more to rebuild the American welfare state in one year than his two Democratic predecessors, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, did in a combined twelve.

The stimulus is one of the most important pieces of progressive legislation in decades? Huh? That would be because millions of new jobs were created? Well, no. The best count they could come up with was 30,000. But that’s dwarfed by just one decision — Obama’s termination of the F-22 production line and its 95,000 jobs. Of course we’ve lost millions of new jobs since January, and unemployment is at a 26-year high. The “progressive” part is really the head-stratcher unless even liberals now equate “progressive” with boondoggle, junk legislation.

Notice that the complaint that he hasn’t “done anything” is explained away because he will pass health-care reform. This surely outpaces the Nobelists in the “A for effort” school of evaluation. (He also hasn’t done anything to repeal “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” but is Beinart giving him credit for that, too, because . . . he’ll get around to it one day?)

What is curious, however, is the absence in the column of any mention of foreign-policy achievement, and Beinart writes voluminously on that topic. All we get is that Obama “hasn’t done much to bring world peace.” Much — or anything? The Obama foreign policy bears a striking resemblance to a demolition derby. Whoops . . . there’s the wreckage of our alliance with Eastern Europe. Uh oh, Honduras is on the brink of civil war. Oh, I guess the Middle East gambit was an utter failure. Ohh . . . look over there! The Russians are laughing uproariously, pockets bulging with goodies tossed their way. Put differently, we are hard-pressed to find a single successful foreign-policy endeavor. Well, one can see why Beinart is silent.

Maybe Beinart is looking for a slot on MSNBC or to fill in when the sycophant in chief takes a day off at the Atlantic to undertake more obstetrics training. But if he and other diligent workers in the Obama spin factory want to convince anyone who isn’t still clinging to the fantasy that Obama is the most wonderfulest president ever, they really are going to have to do better than this.

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Iranian Dissidents Speak Out

Dick Cheney’s former  national security adviser, John Hannah, has an interesting op-ed in the L.A. Times that challenges the conventional wisdom that stiffer sanctions and, even more so, military action would only unite the Iranian people around their regime. That’s not the message he received from a gathering of Iranian dissidents in Europe last week. Their view:

Popular loathing of the regime has reached such levels that almost any negative development is likely to be seized on as ammunition to attack its gross misrule. Almost any outside action that further squeezes Iran’s tyrants and calls into question their legitimacy in the eyes of the world will be welcomed, even at the risk of imposing additional hardships on the Iranian people.

The dissidents Hannah spoke to were generally more opposed to military strikes, but some suggested that they could be beneficial if they “spared civilians while destroying Iran’s nuclear installations as well as targets associated with the regime’s most repressive elements — the Revolutionary Guard and Basij militia.” Such bombing raids “might well accelerate the theocracy’s final unraveling at the hands of an already boiling population.”

These views are hardly dispositive. There is always good cause to wonder how authoritative are the opinions offered by Iranians abroad, many of whom presumably have not lived in Iran for years. Nevertheless, their views should be factored into the equation as the U.S. and its allies debate whether and what kinds of sanctions to impose, and as Israel debates whether to employ force against Iran’s nuclear program.

Dick Cheney’s former  national security adviser, John Hannah, has an interesting op-ed in the L.A. Times that challenges the conventional wisdom that stiffer sanctions and, even more so, military action would only unite the Iranian people around their regime. That’s not the message he received from a gathering of Iranian dissidents in Europe last week. Their view:

Popular loathing of the regime has reached such levels that almost any negative development is likely to be seized on as ammunition to attack its gross misrule. Almost any outside action that further squeezes Iran’s tyrants and calls into question their legitimacy in the eyes of the world will be welcomed, even at the risk of imposing additional hardships on the Iranian people.

The dissidents Hannah spoke to were generally more opposed to military strikes, but some suggested that they could be beneficial if they “spared civilians while destroying Iran’s nuclear installations as well as targets associated with the regime’s most repressive elements — the Revolutionary Guard and Basij militia.” Such bombing raids “might well accelerate the theocracy’s final unraveling at the hands of an already boiling population.”

These views are hardly dispositive. There is always good cause to wonder how authoritative are the opinions offered by Iranians abroad, many of whom presumably have not lived in Iran for years. Nevertheless, their views should be factored into the equation as the U.S. and its allies debate whether and what kinds of sanctions to impose, and as Israel debates whether to employ force against Iran’s nuclear program.

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Pandering to Seniors, Fooling No One

The president is proposing a bit of pathetic pandering: he’s going to give $250 to senior citizens — running up the already huge debt by another $13B — because their social security checks would otherwise go down. The Washington Post‘s editors are disgusted by another handout, which they rightly point out makes two giveaways this year (“seniors already got one such ‘economic recovery payment’ in the stimulus bill”). The editors conclude that the “best thing that can be said about the administration’s payoff is that it could have been worse.”

Well, thank goodness it wasn’t $500. But the mindset that suggests this sort of fiscal irresponsibility, and then comes up with ludicrous justifications, does not endear the administration, I would suspect, to anyone. The White House is already low on credibility these days. Voters already doubt the president’s pledge not to add a “dime to the deficit.” But what is this bribe, neatly timed in advance of ObamaCare’s proposed savaging of Medicare, other than $13B worth of dimes of new debt?

And it may be all for naught. Will seniors really be bought off by a one-time $250 check if their Medicare benefits are being transformed? I doubt it. This is the sort of half-baked idea that pleases no one — and serves only to confirm that the White House is desperate to stop the bleeding of support from key constituent groups (in this case, seniors). It’s the sort of idea that smells of political focus-group polling or a late-night brainstorming sessions. It is, in short, precisely the kind of craven and irresponsible governance that candidate Barack Obama would have ridiculed.

The president is proposing a bit of pathetic pandering: he’s going to give $250 to senior citizens — running up the already huge debt by another $13B — because their social security checks would otherwise go down. The Washington Post‘s editors are disgusted by another handout, which they rightly point out makes two giveaways this year (“seniors already got one such ‘economic recovery payment’ in the stimulus bill”). The editors conclude that the “best thing that can be said about the administration’s payoff is that it could have been worse.”

Well, thank goodness it wasn’t $500. But the mindset that suggests this sort of fiscal irresponsibility, and then comes up with ludicrous justifications, does not endear the administration, I would suspect, to anyone. The White House is already low on credibility these days. Voters already doubt the president’s pledge not to add a “dime to the deficit.” But what is this bribe, neatly timed in advance of ObamaCare’s proposed savaging of Medicare, other than $13B worth of dimes of new debt?

And it may be all for naught. Will seniors really be bought off by a one-time $250 check if their Medicare benefits are being transformed? I doubt it. This is the sort of half-baked idea that pleases no one — and serves only to confirm that the White House is desperate to stop the bleeding of support from key constituent groups (in this case, seniors). It’s the sort of idea that smells of political focus-group polling or a late-night brainstorming sessions. It is, in short, precisely the kind of craven and irresponsible governance that candidate Barack Obama would have ridiculed.

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Afghanistan and the Problem of Legitimacy

Before I came to Afghanistan, I thought that a runoff would be a good way to deal with the fallout from the disputed presidential election that took place in August. Now that I’ve been here a week, I’m not so sure. All the problems that plagued the first round of presidential balloting — fraud and insecurity — are likely to be present in the second round. They could even be worse because there will be less time to prepare for the second election. It would have to take place by mid-November at the latest, otherwise the onset of winter will make it impossible to distribute and collect the ballots. With little time to prepare or publicize, the turnout would be low, and fraud would no doubt occur — just as it did last time. The general feeling here is that Karzai would come out on top but that the voting would do little to enhance his legitimacy.

A better solution would be a power-sharing accord that brings his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, into the government. It is also important to appoint a chief of staff or some other senior official who would be charged with increasing the efficiency of Karzai’s highly inefficient administration. Ultimately, the people of Afghanistan will judge their government based not on the procedures that put it into office but on what it does in power. If Karzai can govern more competently and defer less to corrupt politicos and warlords, he will win the people’s trust.

The worst thing the Obama administration could do is throw up its hands in despair and claim we can’t win in Afghanistan because of Karzai’s problems. In fact, every counterinsurgency effort in history has faced a problem of governmental legitimacy; if the government were generally accepted as legitimate and efficient, there would be no insurgency to begin with. Enhancing governmental credibility is a tough task but by no means a mission impossible — we’ve helped achieve that outcome in countries as varied as Greece, the Philippines, and El Salvador. We can do it in Afghanistan, too, if we work behind the scenes with Karzai to rectify some of his government’s shortcomings.

Before I came to Afghanistan, I thought that a runoff would be a good way to deal with the fallout from the disputed presidential election that took place in August. Now that I’ve been here a week, I’m not so sure. All the problems that plagued the first round of presidential balloting — fraud and insecurity — are likely to be present in the second round. They could even be worse because there will be less time to prepare for the second election. It would have to take place by mid-November at the latest, otherwise the onset of winter will make it impossible to distribute and collect the ballots. With little time to prepare or publicize, the turnout would be low, and fraud would no doubt occur — just as it did last time. The general feeling here is that Karzai would come out on top but that the voting would do little to enhance his legitimacy.

A better solution would be a power-sharing accord that brings his main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister, into the government. It is also important to appoint a chief of staff or some other senior official who would be charged with increasing the efficiency of Karzai’s highly inefficient administration. Ultimately, the people of Afghanistan will judge their government based not on the procedures that put it into office but on what it does in power. If Karzai can govern more competently and defer less to corrupt politicos and warlords, he will win the people’s trust.

The worst thing the Obama administration could do is throw up its hands in despair and claim we can’t win in Afghanistan because of Karzai’s problems. In fact, every counterinsurgency effort in history has faced a problem of governmental legitimacy; if the government were generally accepted as legitimate and efficient, there would be no insurgency to begin with. Enhancing governmental credibility is a tough task but by no means a mission impossible — we’ve helped achieve that outcome in countries as varied as Greece, the Philippines, and El Salvador. We can do it in Afghanistan, too, if we work behind the scenes with Karzai to rectify some of his government’s shortcomings.

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Undeliberate Deliberations

Dana Milbank observes:

As the administration continues its extended deliberations in pursuit of a new strategy for the war, allies in Afghanistan have begun to grumble about American dithering. The pace of the policy review is causing worry in both parties on Capitol Hill. . . . There seems to be less urgency at the White House, where the president completed his fifth meeting on the subject this week. But the only thing that seems to emerge from these sessions are new adjectives the White House press office uses to describe the conversation.

Among those grumbling are Democrats who have the queasy feeling that the longer this goes on, the worse it looks and the less credible the commander in chief becomes. But this is par for the passive presidency. Milbank argues, “It has caused Obama’s Afghanistan policy to be made for him. . . . Obama is therefore left with various split-the-difference options that will please neither side — not unlike the way the health-care legislation has developed.”

The president could still do the right thing and implement his own strategy and the recommendation given to him by his handpicked general. But it sure seems like the president doesn’t want to. After all, it doesn’t take very long to say yes. And in the end, even if OBama does approve Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s recommendation (with some little tweak to save face and put his own stamp on the decision), our adversaries will sense hesitation, the netroots will have had their hopes raised for nothing, and the president will appear to have been dragged kicking and screaming to make the decision he should have made weeks ago.

Maybe there is some rhyme or reason to deferring to Nancy Pelosi on the stimulus, to everyone on health care, and to the White House seminars on a war. But the cumulative effect is to paint the president as weak and perhaps uncertain of what he wants. Obama wanted to be president, but now that he’s in office, what does he want to do with the presidency? Win a war or pinch pennies for his domestic spend-a-thon? Enact a bipartisan health-care bill or fulfill the Left’s historic dream of government-run health care? He hasn’t told us yet, but he will soon. Well . . . once he makes up his mind.

Dana Milbank observes:

As the administration continues its extended deliberations in pursuit of a new strategy for the war, allies in Afghanistan have begun to grumble about American dithering. The pace of the policy review is causing worry in both parties on Capitol Hill. . . . There seems to be less urgency at the White House, where the president completed his fifth meeting on the subject this week. But the only thing that seems to emerge from these sessions are new adjectives the White House press office uses to describe the conversation.

Among those grumbling are Democrats who have the queasy feeling that the longer this goes on, the worse it looks and the less credible the commander in chief becomes. But this is par for the passive presidency. Milbank argues, “It has caused Obama’s Afghanistan policy to be made for him. . . . Obama is therefore left with various split-the-difference options that will please neither side — not unlike the way the health-care legislation has developed.”

The president could still do the right thing and implement his own strategy and the recommendation given to him by his handpicked general. But it sure seems like the president doesn’t want to. After all, it doesn’t take very long to say yes. And in the end, even if OBama does approve Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s recommendation (with some little tweak to save face and put his own stamp on the decision), our adversaries will sense hesitation, the netroots will have had their hopes raised for nothing, and the president will appear to have been dragged kicking and screaming to make the decision he should have made weeks ago.

Maybe there is some rhyme or reason to deferring to Nancy Pelosi on the stimulus, to everyone on health care, and to the White House seminars on a war. But the cumulative effect is to paint the president as weak and perhaps uncertain of what he wants. Obama wanted to be president, but now that he’s in office, what does he want to do with the presidency? Win a war or pinch pennies for his domestic spend-a-thon? Enact a bipartisan health-care bill or fulfill the Left’s historic dream of government-run health care? He hasn’t told us yet, but he will soon. Well . . . once he makes up his mind.

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Reality Beckons the Obama Team

In an effort to wiggle out of the president’s own Afghanistan strategy and the requirements to implement it (i.e., many troops on the ground), the administration has started to make the argument that our beef is with al-Qaeda, not the Taliban, and that the two can be separated. Even the New York Times isn’t buying that, however:

A wave of attacks against top security installations over the last several days demonstrated that the Taliban, Al Qaeda and militant groups once nurtured by the government are tightening an alliance aimed at bringing down the Pakistani state, government officials and analysts said.

And meanwhile, the Obama administration hasn’t exactly done a bang-up job with our relationship with Pakistan:

The fresh violence highlights the expanding challenges as the Obama administration tries to bolster Pakistan’s civilian government and encourage the military to press its campaign against the Taliban. On Thursday, President Obama signed a civilian aid package for Pakistan of $7.5 billion over five years. The package has prompted friction over conditions for the aid — like greater civilian oversight of the military and demands that Pakistan drop support for militant groups — which army officers and politicians considered infringements on Pakistan’s sovereignty.

The White House issued a statement on Thursday noting the shared interests of the countries. However, in a sign of scant sympathy for the unappreciative reaction to the money, there was no signing ceremony.

One senses that the administration is struggling against the drip-drip of inconvenient truths. No, remote warfare by itself won’t work. No, the problem is not simply al-Qaeda forces that can be picked off by drones. We are facing a more extensive challenge and one that does not remotely mesh with a light-footprint strategy. As Cliff May details in a must-read firsthand account from Pakistan, that nation is on the front lines in the global war against Islamic terrorism. Some in the administration seem to be straining to minimize the dangers posed by the Taliban and to ignore the peril that Pakistan faces. But events are conspiring against the light-footprint, do-less faction.

If the Grey Lady can figure it out, certainly the Obami should be able to. Now the question remains whether they have the will to do what is necessary to avoid a catastrophic defeat.

In an effort to wiggle out of the president’s own Afghanistan strategy and the requirements to implement it (i.e., many troops on the ground), the administration has started to make the argument that our beef is with al-Qaeda, not the Taliban, and that the two can be separated. Even the New York Times isn’t buying that, however:

A wave of attacks against top security installations over the last several days demonstrated that the Taliban, Al Qaeda and militant groups once nurtured by the government are tightening an alliance aimed at bringing down the Pakistani state, government officials and analysts said.

And meanwhile, the Obama administration hasn’t exactly done a bang-up job with our relationship with Pakistan:

The fresh violence highlights the expanding challenges as the Obama administration tries to bolster Pakistan’s civilian government and encourage the military to press its campaign against the Taliban. On Thursday, President Obama signed a civilian aid package for Pakistan of $7.5 billion over five years. The package has prompted friction over conditions for the aid — like greater civilian oversight of the military and demands that Pakistan drop support for militant groups — which army officers and politicians considered infringements on Pakistan’s sovereignty.

The White House issued a statement on Thursday noting the shared interests of the countries. However, in a sign of scant sympathy for the unappreciative reaction to the money, there was no signing ceremony.

One senses that the administration is struggling against the drip-drip of inconvenient truths. No, remote warfare by itself won’t work. No, the problem is not simply al-Qaeda forces that can be picked off by drones. We are facing a more extensive challenge and one that does not remotely mesh with a light-footprint strategy. As Cliff May details in a must-read firsthand account from Pakistan, that nation is on the front lines in the global war against Islamic terrorism. Some in the administration seem to be straining to minimize the dangers posed by the Taliban and to ignore the peril that Pakistan faces. But events are conspiring against the light-footprint, do-less faction.

If the Grey Lady can figure it out, certainly the Obami should be able to. Now the question remains whether they have the will to do what is necessary to avoid a catastrophic defeat.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

From the “about time” file: “U.S. spy agencies are considering whether to rewrite a controversial 2007 intelligence report that asserted Tehran halted its efforts to build nuclear weapons in 2003, current and former U.S. intelligence officials say. The intelligence agencies’ rethink comes as pressure is mounting on Capitol Hill, and among U.S. allies, for the Obama administration to redo the 2007 assessment, after a string of recent revelations about Tehran’s nuclear program.”

I guess health care isn’t all wrapped up yet: “The triumph of the Senate Finance Committee’s vote isn’t wearing particularly well. House liberals and labor unions are in open revolt over the public option. Centrist Democrats say they aren’t necessarily on board, after all. Friends are enemies and enemies aren’t friends, threats are promises and promises begin to sound like threats. And — just like before — with lots of sharp sticks around, someone has to blink. ” Seems like “the hard choices” are still being delayed.

Nor are the House and Senate on the same page: “Already at odds over healthcare, the Democratically controlled House and Senate are now on a collision course over legislation to require both chambers to pay for everything they pass. The Senate is looking to quickly move legislation costing more than $200 billion over 10 years that would adjust Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors, but it does not plan to pay for the bill with offsetting spending cuts or tax increases. The move tests the will of House leaders on pay-go and sets the stage for a standoff that could come in advance of what is already sure to be a difficult healthcare reform conference.”

Gloria Borger argues that the stimulus plan was supposed to bolster the public’s confidence in Obama’s ability to manage the economy: “Instead, the stimulus has become a handy target. Wall Street may be doing well, both conservatives and liberals rail, but the jobs elsewhere are not coming back. And as the president now moves to ask the nation to support an overhaul of health care, voters are still asking: Why should we trust the government to do that?”

The VFW wants Obama to stop dawdling over a strategy for Afghanistan. “In Afghanistan, the extremists are sensing weakness and indecision within the U.S. government, which plays into their hands, as evidenced by the increased attacks in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan. I fear that an emboldened enemy will now intensify their efforts to kill more U.S. soldiers.”

Kim Strassel on Creigh Deeds’s dependence on Big Labor: “In an 18-year state legislative career, he has a cumulative 92% rating on the Virginia AFL-CIO’s scorecard of votes. He’s refused to denounce national union priorities such as card check. During a rough-and-tumble Democratic primary earlier this year, he visited picketers outside a Hilton hotel.” But despite all the union cash flowing into Deeds’s coffers, ” the unions have clearly been more hurt than help.”

Charles Krauthammer sums up Obama’s foreign policy: “It is amateurishness, wrapped in naivete, inside credulity. In short, the very stuff of Nobels.”

Chris Christie ticks up to a 4-point lead in the latest poll. But it really comes down to how many anti-Corzine votes get thrown away on the independent candidate.

When it comes to cash on hand, Bob McDonnell has a big lead going into the final weeks of the Virginia gubernatorial campaign.

From the “about time” file: “U.S. spy agencies are considering whether to rewrite a controversial 2007 intelligence report that asserted Tehran halted its efforts to build nuclear weapons in 2003, current and former U.S. intelligence officials say. The intelligence agencies’ rethink comes as pressure is mounting on Capitol Hill, and among U.S. allies, for the Obama administration to redo the 2007 assessment, after a string of recent revelations about Tehran’s nuclear program.”

I guess health care isn’t all wrapped up yet: “The triumph of the Senate Finance Committee’s vote isn’t wearing particularly well. House liberals and labor unions are in open revolt over the public option. Centrist Democrats say they aren’t necessarily on board, after all. Friends are enemies and enemies aren’t friends, threats are promises and promises begin to sound like threats. And — just like before — with lots of sharp sticks around, someone has to blink. ” Seems like “the hard choices” are still being delayed.

Nor are the House and Senate on the same page: “Already at odds over healthcare, the Democratically controlled House and Senate are now on a collision course over legislation to require both chambers to pay for everything they pass. The Senate is looking to quickly move legislation costing more than $200 billion over 10 years that would adjust Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors, but it does not plan to pay for the bill with offsetting spending cuts or tax increases. The move tests the will of House leaders on pay-go and sets the stage for a standoff that could come in advance of what is already sure to be a difficult healthcare reform conference.”

Gloria Borger argues that the stimulus plan was supposed to bolster the public’s confidence in Obama’s ability to manage the economy: “Instead, the stimulus has become a handy target. Wall Street may be doing well, both conservatives and liberals rail, but the jobs elsewhere are not coming back. And as the president now moves to ask the nation to support an overhaul of health care, voters are still asking: Why should we trust the government to do that?”

The VFW wants Obama to stop dawdling over a strategy for Afghanistan. “In Afghanistan, the extremists are sensing weakness and indecision within the U.S. government, which plays into their hands, as evidenced by the increased attacks in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan. I fear that an emboldened enemy will now intensify their efforts to kill more U.S. soldiers.”

Kim Strassel on Creigh Deeds’s dependence on Big Labor: “In an 18-year state legislative career, he has a cumulative 92% rating on the Virginia AFL-CIO’s scorecard of votes. He’s refused to denounce national union priorities such as card check. During a rough-and-tumble Democratic primary earlier this year, he visited picketers outside a Hilton hotel.” But despite all the union cash flowing into Deeds’s coffers, ” the unions have clearly been more hurt than help.”

Charles Krauthammer sums up Obama’s foreign policy: “It is amateurishness, wrapped in naivete, inside credulity. In short, the very stuff of Nobels.”

Chris Christie ticks up to a 4-point lead in the latest poll. But it really comes down to how many anti-Corzine votes get thrown away on the independent candidate.

When it comes to cash on hand, Bob McDonnell has a big lead going into the final weeks of the Virginia gubernatorial campaign.

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