Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 19, 2009

Re: Firing at Fox, Shooting Themselves

As this round-up details, Pete, it isn’t just the Right that is somewhat aghast at the Fox bashing. The Left is a bit horrified too. Unstated, but hardly hidden, is the implication that the White House is only helping the archrival of the mainstream media. And that’s true. But liberals are, it seems, also taken aback by the White House’s obsession with its own coverage.

After all, it directly contradicts the stereotype of conservatives and the glorified image of Obama. He’s “sort of God,” and deities don’t really care about their coverage, do they? Well, they shouldn’t. Obama is supposed to be larger than life, bigger than politics, and more awesome than any figure on the planet. But he’s acting like a spoiled Hollywood starlet aggrieved that Variety didn’t fawn over his latest movie. This simply isn’t done!

Rather it’s Republican presidents who are usually portrayed as “defensive” or “thin-skinned.” They’re “embattled” and usually chided for unproductive wars with the mainstream media. It’s part of the image of cramped, sour conservatism. (And yes, sometimes Republican White Houses do their best to live up to the negative stereotype.)

But say this for the Obama team: it’s not every day that Pete and Helen Thomas are in full agreement. Really, what White House has brought people together like this?

As this round-up details, Pete, it isn’t just the Right that is somewhat aghast at the Fox bashing. The Left is a bit horrified too. Unstated, but hardly hidden, is the implication that the White House is only helping the archrival of the mainstream media. And that’s true. But liberals are, it seems, also taken aback by the White House’s obsession with its own coverage.

After all, it directly contradicts the stereotype of conservatives and the glorified image of Obama. He’s “sort of God,” and deities don’t really care about their coverage, do they? Well, they shouldn’t. Obama is supposed to be larger than life, bigger than politics, and more awesome than any figure on the planet. But he’s acting like a spoiled Hollywood starlet aggrieved that Variety didn’t fawn over his latest movie. This simply isn’t done!

Rather it’s Republican presidents who are usually portrayed as “defensive” or “thin-skinned.” They’re “embattled” and usually chided for unproductive wars with the mainstream media. It’s part of the image of cramped, sour conservatism. (And yes, sometimes Republican White Houses do their best to live up to the negative stereotype.)

But say this for the Obama team: it’s not every day that Pete and Helen Thomas are in full agreement. Really, what White House has brought people together like this?

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Attending to Attending

Abe, don’t get me wrong: Obama’s lack of attendance is perfectly consistent with his entire worldview and Not-Bush foreign policy. If George W. Bush, not to mention Ronald Reagan, supported defeating evil empires then, by gosh, it’s not something that interests Obama. (One suspects that if Bush had come up with a fix for global warming, we’d soon hear from the Obami that the whole climate thing is a hoax by people who don’t believe in real science.)

And that brings us to other attendings, the J Street confab for one. No, thank goodness, Obama isn’t going to that three-ring circus, even the cleaned-up version that’s trying to eliminate the crazier elements. But James Jones is going. Many are trying to counsel him not to, just as some have their fingers crossed that Obama will venture to the Berlin Wall reunion. (If they promised a crowd of several hundred thousand, would it make a difference? Nah!) But again, folks are missing the point. The Obami adore the J Street crowd. It’s the cover they need. The shills for do-nothing-ism on Iran and for one-sided bashing of Israel are much in demand in the White House these days.

So if clarity is important in politics, then it is, in a sense, a blessing that the Obami speak with their feet. Go or not go! Let the chips fall where they may.

Abe, don’t get me wrong: Obama’s lack of attendance is perfectly consistent with his entire worldview and Not-Bush foreign policy. If George W. Bush, not to mention Ronald Reagan, supported defeating evil empires then, by gosh, it’s not something that interests Obama. (One suspects that if Bush had come up with a fix for global warming, we’d soon hear from the Obami that the whole climate thing is a hoax by people who don’t believe in real science.)

And that brings us to other attendings, the J Street confab for one. No, thank goodness, Obama isn’t going to that three-ring circus, even the cleaned-up version that’s trying to eliminate the crazier elements. But James Jones is going. Many are trying to counsel him not to, just as some have their fingers crossed that Obama will venture to the Berlin Wall reunion. (If they promised a crowd of several hundred thousand, would it make a difference? Nah!) But again, folks are missing the point. The Obami adore the J Street crowd. It’s the cover they need. The shills for do-nothing-ism on Iran and for one-sided bashing of Israel are much in demand in the White House these days.

So if clarity is important in politics, then it is, in a sense, a blessing that the Obami speak with their feet. Go or not go! Let the chips fall where they may.

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An Un-Obama Middle East Policy

Today Mitt Romney will address AIPAC’s San Diego meeting, speaking about Israel and national security in general. He’s fresh from the Foreign Policy Initiative gathering in Washington, D.C., where he outlined his foreign-policy views. At the AIPAC meeting, he will plainly outline a non-Obama vision. His prepared text, which I was provided, is noteworthy as a comprehensive attack on Obama’s Middle East policy from a potential 2012 contender.

Obama has sought to put daylight between the U.S. and Israel and ingratiate himself with the Muslim World. Romney restated our historic ties to Israel:

America and Israel are bound together by common commitments and shared values. We believe in representative democracy and human rights. We believe in the rule of law–in learning, scholarship, and free inquiry. We believe in the dignity of the human soul and in its God-given right to ascend above government domination … with freedom to speak, worship, associate and think as one desires.

And because we share the same values, we also share many of the same adversaries. We reject oppression, terrorism, authoritarianism. Violent Jihadists have referred to America as the “great Satan” and to Israel as the “little Satan.” Of course, they don’t recognize the irony, committed as they are to the imposition of power over others, to violence, to brutality, to the subjugation of women and girls and to bigotry and racism.

Obama has been exerting enormous pressure on Israel “while putting no pressure on the Palestinians and the Arab world,” Romney argues. He asks: “Why is it that only Egypt and Jordan have peace agreements with Israel? What about Saudi Arabia? The Saudi government will not even sit in the same room as the Israelis, let alone normalize relations or work toward a realistic peace agreement.” He argues, in essence, that Obama’s Middle East policy is not hobbled by bad execution but by a fundamentally flawed view of who the parties are and what will bring about peace:

Inexplicably, the United States now places the burden on Israel to make still more unilateral concessions. At the United Nations, we decried the building of new Israeli settlements but ignored the launching of Palestinian rockets. How is this possible? Have we not yet learned from the concessions in Gaza, as well as from all recorded history, that giving in to the demands of oppressors always and only leads to more demands, not to peace?

We can encourage both parties in the conflict, but we must never forget which one is our ally. Nor must we forget that Hamas, like other violent Jihadists, does not have a two-state solution as its objective—it has the conquest and annihilation of Israel as its objective.

And unlike the Obama administration, his speech delivers nothing less than a full-throated attack on the UN’s propensity to Israel-bash and on the Goldstone report.

The Israel comments are one part of a speech devoted to dissecting Obama’s foreign policy — criticizing our “desultory” treatment of allies and weak-handed approach to Iran, arguing that the military option should remain on the table. (“The Iranian regime is unalloyed evil, run by people who are at once ruthless and fanatical. Stop thinking that a charm offensive will talk the Iranians out of their pursuit of nuclear weapons. It will not. And agreements, unenforceable and unverifiable, will have no greater impact here than they did in North Korea.”)

This is a serious and comprehensive response to the Obama approach. Those, especially within the Jewish community, who vouched for Obama’s Israel bona fides and who imagined he would be giving a speech like this should take note and engage in some soul-searching. And for others who wish to lead a conservative rebuttal to Obama’s anti-Israel gambit, they would do well to follow Romney’s lead.

The question for any candidate remains what he will do once in office. Obama talked a good game and has proved to be a disaster. There were clues that many of us picked up on — past associations and a worldview at odds with a robust approach on terror. The task for those looking for an alternative to Obama will be to see if beautiful and compelling words are more than words.

Today Mitt Romney will address AIPAC’s San Diego meeting, speaking about Israel and national security in general. He’s fresh from the Foreign Policy Initiative gathering in Washington, D.C., where he outlined his foreign-policy views. At the AIPAC meeting, he will plainly outline a non-Obama vision. His prepared text, which I was provided, is noteworthy as a comprehensive attack on Obama’s Middle East policy from a potential 2012 contender.

Obama has sought to put daylight between the U.S. and Israel and ingratiate himself with the Muslim World. Romney restated our historic ties to Israel:

America and Israel are bound together by common commitments and shared values. We believe in representative democracy and human rights. We believe in the rule of law–in learning, scholarship, and free inquiry. We believe in the dignity of the human soul and in its God-given right to ascend above government domination … with freedom to speak, worship, associate and think as one desires.

And because we share the same values, we also share many of the same adversaries. We reject oppression, terrorism, authoritarianism. Violent Jihadists have referred to America as the “great Satan” and to Israel as the “little Satan.” Of course, they don’t recognize the irony, committed as they are to the imposition of power over others, to violence, to brutality, to the subjugation of women and girls and to bigotry and racism.

Obama has been exerting enormous pressure on Israel “while putting no pressure on the Palestinians and the Arab world,” Romney argues. He asks: “Why is it that only Egypt and Jordan have peace agreements with Israel? What about Saudi Arabia? The Saudi government will not even sit in the same room as the Israelis, let alone normalize relations or work toward a realistic peace agreement.” He argues, in essence, that Obama’s Middle East policy is not hobbled by bad execution but by a fundamentally flawed view of who the parties are and what will bring about peace:

Inexplicably, the United States now places the burden on Israel to make still more unilateral concessions. At the United Nations, we decried the building of new Israeli settlements but ignored the launching of Palestinian rockets. How is this possible? Have we not yet learned from the concessions in Gaza, as well as from all recorded history, that giving in to the demands of oppressors always and only leads to more demands, not to peace?

We can encourage both parties in the conflict, but we must never forget which one is our ally. Nor must we forget that Hamas, like other violent Jihadists, does not have a two-state solution as its objective—it has the conquest and annihilation of Israel as its objective.

And unlike the Obama administration, his speech delivers nothing less than a full-throated attack on the UN’s propensity to Israel-bash and on the Goldstone report.

The Israel comments are one part of a speech devoted to dissecting Obama’s foreign policy — criticizing our “desultory” treatment of allies and weak-handed approach to Iran, arguing that the military option should remain on the table. (“The Iranian regime is unalloyed evil, run by people who are at once ruthless and fanatical. Stop thinking that a charm offensive will talk the Iranians out of their pursuit of nuclear weapons. It will not. And agreements, unenforceable and unverifiable, will have no greater impact here than they did in North Korea.”)

This is a serious and comprehensive response to the Obama approach. Those, especially within the Jewish community, who vouched for Obama’s Israel bona fides and who imagined he would be giving a speech like this should take note and engage in some soul-searching. And for others who wish to lead a conservative rebuttal to Obama’s anti-Israel gambit, they would do well to follow Romney’s lead.

The question for any candidate remains what he will do once in office. Obama talked a good game and has proved to be a disaster. There were clues that many of us picked up on — past associations and a worldview at odds with a robust approach on terror. The task for those looking for an alternative to Obama will be to see if beautiful and compelling words are more than words.

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Afghanistan: The Eight-Man Football Team?

I want to pass along a great line I heard from an American colonel while I’ve been touring Afghanistan this past week. Needless to say, American troops, or at least their officers, are watching the debate in Washington over Afghanistan with great interest and not a little consternation. They know they need more help to win — and they know they might not get it. That concern is expressed in typical soldiers’ wisecracks like this one: “Not implementing the McChrystal plan is like knowing that the rules call for 11 on 11 but deciding you’d rather play with eight — and count on knocking the opposing quarterback out of the game on the first play.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

I want to pass along a great line I heard from an American colonel while I’ve been touring Afghanistan this past week. Needless to say, American troops, or at least their officers, are watching the debate in Washington over Afghanistan with great interest and not a little consternation. They know they need more help to win — and they know they might not get it. That concern is expressed in typical soldiers’ wisecracks like this one: “Not implementing the McChrystal plan is like knowing that the rules call for 11 on 11 but deciding you’d rather play with eight — and count on knocking the opposing quarterback out of the game on the first play.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Celebrities Got to Stick Together

The latest celebration of Barack Obama’s celebrity Nobel Prize came from a predictable source: a celebrity philanthropist. The Irish pop singer Bono, who is the front man not so much for a band these days but for Western guilt about third-world poverty, weighed in with a lengthy paean to the greatness of Obama in Sunday’s New York Times.

Much of this is the usual pap about how “the virtual Obama is the real Obama” who “might deserve the hype” because he represents the America of “King, M.L., Jr., and Dylan, Bob,” as opposed to the bad America that Obama swept away last November. Bono is all for a “rebrand, restart, reboot” of this country, by which he means in no small part the “administration’s approach to fighting nuclear proliferation and climate change, improving relations in the Middle East,” though, for all intents and purposes, the former is nothing more than an ineffectual attempt to appease Iran, and the latter is a policy that has alienated and isolated the state of Israel.

Yet in the midst of an anecdote in the piece that was meant to impress readers with the author’s importance, Bono undermines his rebranding argument. While informing us that Gen. James Jones called him for advice after leaving NATO and before joining the Obama administration, he lets drop that the model of “smarter aid” that he supports was actually a program championed by the president that his Nobel-laureate hero uses as the template for everything that was wrong about America. That’s right, according to Bono, the one concrete example of something good that America is doing was “President George W. Bush’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief and the Millennium Challenge Corporation,” which was, according to the singer, “beginning to save lives and change the game for many countries.” He goes on to explain that “this was a moment when America couldn’t get its cigarette lighted in polite European nations like Norway; but even then, in the developing world, the United States was still seen as a positive, even transformative, presence.” He neglects to add that if this is the case, perhaps the fact that the good burghers of Oslo don’t like Bush’s America has more to do with their own ideological baggage than our actual shortcomings.

The point is, the bad America that Europe and professional do-gooders like Bono — who for all of his championing of “smart” aid here exemplifies the drive to pump traditional dumb aid to the third world, which does nothing to aid the people or the economies of those nations but does enrich local elites while allowing Western elites who support such measures to feel better about themselves — despise was actually good for the third world.

Bono repeats the usual claptrap that in an age of counterinsurgency conflict in which American “might doesn’t make right,” it is Obama’s celebrity power that will keep us safe. But he forgets that it was American military power that stopped the genocide of Muslims in the Balkans and liberated Afghanistan from the rule of the Taliban (a victory that may be thrown away if Obama listens to Joe Biden), not multilateral diplomacy. And it is the absence of American will to use that power to stop genocide in Sudan (as was the case in Rwanda in the 1990s) that allows genocide in the third world to continue, not an insufficient amount of American apologies or appeasement of Islamist sensibilities that has the world so upbeat about Obama.

Bono is right that America remains a powerful symbol of good for the rest of the world. But the power of the idea of America is one that is based on its being a beacon of political and economic liberty, not a nation that defers to Europeans who mistake appeasement and shameless appeals for popularity for principle.

The latest celebration of Barack Obama’s celebrity Nobel Prize came from a predictable source: a celebrity philanthropist. The Irish pop singer Bono, who is the front man not so much for a band these days but for Western guilt about third-world poverty, weighed in with a lengthy paean to the greatness of Obama in Sunday’s New York Times.

Much of this is the usual pap about how “the virtual Obama is the real Obama” who “might deserve the hype” because he represents the America of “King, M.L., Jr., and Dylan, Bob,” as opposed to the bad America that Obama swept away last November. Bono is all for a “rebrand, restart, reboot” of this country, by which he means in no small part the “administration’s approach to fighting nuclear proliferation and climate change, improving relations in the Middle East,” though, for all intents and purposes, the former is nothing more than an ineffectual attempt to appease Iran, and the latter is a policy that has alienated and isolated the state of Israel.

Yet in the midst of an anecdote in the piece that was meant to impress readers with the author’s importance, Bono undermines his rebranding argument. While informing us that Gen. James Jones called him for advice after leaving NATO and before joining the Obama administration, he lets drop that the model of “smarter aid” that he supports was actually a program championed by the president that his Nobel-laureate hero uses as the template for everything that was wrong about America. That’s right, according to Bono, the one concrete example of something good that America is doing was “President George W. Bush’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief and the Millennium Challenge Corporation,” which was, according to the singer, “beginning to save lives and change the game for many countries.” He goes on to explain that “this was a moment when America couldn’t get its cigarette lighted in polite European nations like Norway; but even then, in the developing world, the United States was still seen as a positive, even transformative, presence.” He neglects to add that if this is the case, perhaps the fact that the good burghers of Oslo don’t like Bush’s America has more to do with their own ideological baggage than our actual shortcomings.

The point is, the bad America that Europe and professional do-gooders like Bono — who for all of his championing of “smart” aid here exemplifies the drive to pump traditional dumb aid to the third world, which does nothing to aid the people or the economies of those nations but does enrich local elites while allowing Western elites who support such measures to feel better about themselves — despise was actually good for the third world.

Bono repeats the usual claptrap that in an age of counterinsurgency conflict in which American “might doesn’t make right,” it is Obama’s celebrity power that will keep us safe. But he forgets that it was American military power that stopped the genocide of Muslims in the Balkans and liberated Afghanistan from the rule of the Taliban (a victory that may be thrown away if Obama listens to Joe Biden), not multilateral diplomacy. And it is the absence of American will to use that power to stop genocide in Sudan (as was the case in Rwanda in the 1990s) that allows genocide in the third world to continue, not an insufficient amount of American apologies or appeasement of Islamist sensibilities that has the world so upbeat about Obama.

Bono is right that America remains a powerful symbol of good for the rest of the world. But the power of the idea of America is one that is based on its being a beacon of political and economic liberty, not a nation that defers to Europeans who mistake appeasement and shameless appeals for popularity for principle.

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He Wouldn’t Dream of Attending

Rick and Jennifer, don’t hold your breath waiting for Barack Obama to change his mind and commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Obama sees it as his job to move us (as in the people of planet Earth) past the “the cleavages of a long gone Cold War.” That’s how he put it in his UN address a few weeks ago.

The Cold War is not merely ancient history to our president; its memory constitutes an obstacle to a “reset” with Russia and to his vision of a mutually collaborative future for all nations. Let’s not dwell on the past — too many skeletons in the imperial closet. A communist world versus a free one, you say? Don’t be so dramatic. Washington and Moscow were the Hatfields and McCoys, fighting so long they forgot what they were fighting about. No need to rub the Kremlin’s face in defeat. Putin might get sore and stop telling us what to do next.

As for Germany and Merkel, Obama covered that at the UN too: “alignments of nations” rooted in that same ancient Cold War “make no sense.” Why give a friendly European democracy the false impression that we’re on its side? What would all the unfriendly autocratic regimes think?

For Obama, the 40th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall presents a spectacular opportunity: to place himself, and America as he sees it, outside the constraints of history, where the important work of Utopianism can be properly undertaken. He wouldn’t miss missing it for the world.

Rick and Jennifer, don’t hold your breath waiting for Barack Obama to change his mind and commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Obama sees it as his job to move us (as in the people of planet Earth) past the “the cleavages of a long gone Cold War.” That’s how he put it in his UN address a few weeks ago.

The Cold War is not merely ancient history to our president; its memory constitutes an obstacle to a “reset” with Russia and to his vision of a mutually collaborative future for all nations. Let’s not dwell on the past — too many skeletons in the imperial closet. A communist world versus a free one, you say? Don’t be so dramatic. Washington and Moscow were the Hatfields and McCoys, fighting so long they forgot what they were fighting about. No need to rub the Kremlin’s face in defeat. Putin might get sore and stop telling us what to do next.

As for Germany and Merkel, Obama covered that at the UN too: “alignments of nations” rooted in that same ancient Cold War “make no sense.” Why give a friendly European democracy the false impression that we’re on its side? What would all the unfriendly autocratic regimes think?

For Obama, the 40th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall presents a spectacular opportunity: to place himself, and America as he sees it, outside the constraints of history, where the important work of Utopianism can be properly undertaken. He wouldn’t miss missing it for the world.

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Firing at Fox, Shooting Themselves

The White House’s effort to target a news organization like Fox is vaguely Nixonian. The case put forward by the pro-Mao political theorist Anita Dunn is filled with errors and erroneous statements. (See Chris Wallace’s comments during this segment.) And the willingness of liberal commentators like Jacob Weisberg to act as an attack poodle on behalf of the Obama White House is both predictable and discrediting. Frankly, we’re seeing “progressives” explode in outrage at Fox not only because their previous media monopoly has ended but also because Fox is so enormously popular (it’s home to the top-10-rated cable-news programs in America and 13 of the top 15).

It is one thing to set the record straight when specific false charges are made by individual reporters and commentators. But the tactic of a blanket attack against a network like Fox will, I think, end up damaging Barack Obama. The public generally wants its president to act as an adult, mature and relatively high-minded, focused on the problems of the day rather than on targeting media outlets. And it is more evidence of the fictional claim by Obama that he would “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long”; that “the times are too serious, the stakes are too high” for the same old political-attack tricks; and that he alone would elevate public discourse and serve as a unifying figure for America. Barack Obama is, in fact, turning into one of our most divisive political figures in memory – and he’s become that in less than nine months.

This whole anti-Fox gambit will come across to a lot of people as misguided and petty, the product of a White House that is unusually thin-skinned and somewhat paranoid – and, perhaps, as one that can’t be trusted with power.

The White House’s effort to target a news organization like Fox is vaguely Nixonian. The case put forward by the pro-Mao political theorist Anita Dunn is filled with errors and erroneous statements. (See Chris Wallace’s comments during this segment.) And the willingness of liberal commentators like Jacob Weisberg to act as an attack poodle on behalf of the Obama White House is both predictable and discrediting. Frankly, we’re seeing “progressives” explode in outrage at Fox not only because their previous media monopoly has ended but also because Fox is so enormously popular (it’s home to the top-10-rated cable-news programs in America and 13 of the top 15).

It is one thing to set the record straight when specific false charges are made by individual reporters and commentators. But the tactic of a blanket attack against a network like Fox will, I think, end up damaging Barack Obama. The public generally wants its president to act as an adult, mature and relatively high-minded, focused on the problems of the day rather than on targeting media outlets. And it is more evidence of the fictional claim by Obama that he would “resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long”; that “the times are too serious, the stakes are too high” for the same old political-attack tricks; and that he alone would elevate public discourse and serve as a unifying figure for America. Barack Obama is, in fact, turning into one of our most divisive political figures in memory – and he’s become that in less than nine months.

This whole anti-Fox gambit will come across to a lot of people as misguided and petty, the product of a White House that is unusually thin-skinned and somewhat paranoid – and, perhaps, as one that can’t be trusted with power.

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The Limits of Bush-Bashing

Charles Krauthammer, recounting Obama’s missteps on everything from the failed stimulus plan to dithering on Afghanistan (notice how the word “dithering” has made a huge comeback in the Obama era?), finds it unfitting for the Obami still blame George W. Bush for their travails: “I think it’s a little bit unseemly to walk around as president once you are in office this length and to pretend it is all the fault of your predecessor.” One wonders why Obama, who ran on the promise of a break from the past, is so obsessed with it.

Well, the Obama team has never quite grasped that there is a difference (or should be) in stature and tone between that of a president and that of a candidate. The Obama White House attacks individual media figures and an entire news network, something a frustrated campaign might do but that is rarely — if ever — done once in office. In the health-care debate, the White House’s disinclination to fact-check itself and its willingness to stoop to name-calling again befits a bare-knuckled campaign, not a sitting president. The “blame Bush” strategy is therefore symptomatic of a larger problem that bedevils the White House: a preference for campaigning over governance. Given the choice between formulating an attack on the Bushies and answering pressing policy concerns (McChrystal or Biden? Public option or bipartisan, targeted health care?), it invariably chooses the former.

But is it smart? The public, I suspect, has long moved on from the Bush era. I doubt blaming Bush for unemployment will work when Obama promised that his stimulus plan would hold unemployment to 8 percent. And it makes even less sense to blame Bush for the shabby results of Obama’s anti-Bush foreign-policy gambits.

The likely result of all this will be to reduce, not enhance, the president’s stature and to annoy voters, especially independents who don’t much like partisan snipping. It doesn’t mean the White House will stop doing it — any more than it will resist the urge to send Obama on more talk shows. But in both instances, it’s a strategy of diminishing returns.

Charles Krauthammer, recounting Obama’s missteps on everything from the failed stimulus plan to dithering on Afghanistan (notice how the word “dithering” has made a huge comeback in the Obama era?), finds it unfitting for the Obami still blame George W. Bush for their travails: “I think it’s a little bit unseemly to walk around as president once you are in office this length and to pretend it is all the fault of your predecessor.” One wonders why Obama, who ran on the promise of a break from the past, is so obsessed with it.

Well, the Obama team has never quite grasped that there is a difference (or should be) in stature and tone between that of a president and that of a candidate. The Obama White House attacks individual media figures and an entire news network, something a frustrated campaign might do but that is rarely — if ever — done once in office. In the health-care debate, the White House’s disinclination to fact-check itself and its willingness to stoop to name-calling again befits a bare-knuckled campaign, not a sitting president. The “blame Bush” strategy is therefore symptomatic of a larger problem that bedevils the White House: a preference for campaigning over governance. Given the choice between formulating an attack on the Bushies and answering pressing policy concerns (McChrystal or Biden? Public option or bipartisan, targeted health care?), it invariably chooses the former.

But is it smart? The public, I suspect, has long moved on from the Bush era. I doubt blaming Bush for unemployment will work when Obama promised that his stimulus plan would hold unemployment to 8 percent. And it makes even less sense to blame Bush for the shabby results of Obama’s anti-Bush foreign-policy gambits.

The likely result of all this will be to reduce, not enhance, the president’s stature and to annoy voters, especially independents who don’t much like partisan snipping. It doesn’t mean the White House will stop doing it — any more than it will resist the urge to send Obama on more talk shows. But in both instances, it’s a strategy of diminishing returns.

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THE OBAMA CHALLENGE—Hello, Dennis Prager Listeners

If you are/were listening to the Dennis Prager radio program and wish to attend tomorrow night’s Commentary Forum in Los Angeles, “The Obama Challenge: Israel, Iran, and American Jews,” featuring me, Jennifer Rubin, and Rick Richman, at 7 p.m. at the Skirball Cultural Center, please click here to register — or look to your right and click on the ad. Admission is $10. Please let me know if you come that you heard me on Dennis’s show.

If you are/were listening to the Dennis Prager radio program and wish to attend tomorrow night’s Commentary Forum in Los Angeles, “The Obama Challenge: Israel, Iran, and American Jews,” featuring me, Jennifer Rubin, and Rick Richman, at 7 p.m. at the Skirball Cultural Center, please click here to register — or look to your right and click on the ad. Admission is $10. Please let me know if you come that you heard me on Dennis’s show.

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Iran Is Winning

Via Michael Rubin, we get an account of the Iranian view of the Geneva talks. The mullahs are gloating, claiming that this is “a great victory and a sign of strength and dignity of the country [that] proved to the Westerners that they can’t bully the Islamic Republic of Iran.” A portrait of the U.S. chasing after a one-on-one meeting with Saeed Jalili, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, is also provided.

A final touch:

“The Deputy Foreign Minister of the United States at this meeting also said that some discussions about lack of respect for human rights are being discussed. Jalili addressing this American authority says that we too have heard that Obama has said that you will end torture in the United States, after which the American authority looked down …”

The accuracy of the details is unimportant (and once you’re arguing over just how desperate we were to get our solo meeting, you might as well throw in the towel). What is key is that we have given the Iranian regime precisely what it wanted: it is now the unquestioned and U.S.-approved legitimate government of Iran. It has traded headlines about brutality in the streets of Tehran for those showering accolades on both Iran and Obama for “constructive dialogue.” It has ensnared us in round after round of conversations about conversations. Our hapless secretary of state spouts that now is not the time for sanctions. Iran’s secret enrichment site was uncovered, and it suffered no adverse consequences. The Iranian government now has new propaganda material to use internally. It’s an embarrassment of riches given to those in power in Iran.

As for the U.S. — it’s just embarrassing. The most well-meaning and optimistic Obama supporters didn’t think this is what would occur. We were told: “You have to go through the motions!” There isn’t any way to proceed with sanctions unless we had “exhausted negotiations,” we were told. There could be a progression from talks to sanctions to other options, we were assured. Well, that hasn’t worked out as planned, has it?

There are two views as to how this all happened. One suggests that the Obama team was really trying the talks/sanctions/other options route and simply, as in virtually everything else they’ve attempted, got tripped up in the execution. This is the theory of perpetual incompetence. There is much evidence (3 a.m. phone calls to Poland on missile defense, backing the lunatic in Honduras) to support this interpretation. The other is more cynical: Everyone will get involved in the process of engagement with Iran, and the heat will be off the Obama administration to do anything more serious. The Obama team will declare at some point that all this is inevitable and that the talks somehow demonstrate we can do business with Iran and learn to live with a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state. And that’s believable, too, given the concealment by Obama of the Qom site and his foot-dragging, even to the point of annoying the French and the British.

Whichever theory you favor, two things are clear. First, we are not winning at this; the Iranians are. Second, those who counseled patience with an engagement plan were very wrong. It was entirely predictable — at least to everyone other than the Obami and their enablers.

Via Michael Rubin, we get an account of the Iranian view of the Geneva talks. The mullahs are gloating, claiming that this is “a great victory and a sign of strength and dignity of the country [that] proved to the Westerners that they can’t bully the Islamic Republic of Iran.” A portrait of the U.S. chasing after a one-on-one meeting with Saeed Jalili, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, is also provided.

A final touch:

“The Deputy Foreign Minister of the United States at this meeting also said that some discussions about lack of respect for human rights are being discussed. Jalili addressing this American authority says that we too have heard that Obama has said that you will end torture in the United States, after which the American authority looked down …”

The accuracy of the details is unimportant (and once you’re arguing over just how desperate we were to get our solo meeting, you might as well throw in the towel). What is key is that we have given the Iranian regime precisely what it wanted: it is now the unquestioned and U.S.-approved legitimate government of Iran. It has traded headlines about brutality in the streets of Tehran for those showering accolades on both Iran and Obama for “constructive dialogue.” It has ensnared us in round after round of conversations about conversations. Our hapless secretary of state spouts that now is not the time for sanctions. Iran’s secret enrichment site was uncovered, and it suffered no adverse consequences. The Iranian government now has new propaganda material to use internally. It’s an embarrassment of riches given to those in power in Iran.

As for the U.S. — it’s just embarrassing. The most well-meaning and optimistic Obama supporters didn’t think this is what would occur. We were told: “You have to go through the motions!” There isn’t any way to proceed with sanctions unless we had “exhausted negotiations,” we were told. There could be a progression from talks to sanctions to other options, we were assured. Well, that hasn’t worked out as planned, has it?

There are two views as to how this all happened. One suggests that the Obama team was really trying the talks/sanctions/other options route and simply, as in virtually everything else they’ve attempted, got tripped up in the execution. This is the theory of perpetual incompetence. There is much evidence (3 a.m. phone calls to Poland on missile defense, backing the lunatic in Honduras) to support this interpretation. The other is more cynical: Everyone will get involved in the process of engagement with Iran, and the heat will be off the Obama administration to do anything more serious. The Obama team will declare at some point that all this is inevitable and that the talks somehow demonstrate we can do business with Iran and learn to live with a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state. And that’s believable, too, given the concealment by Obama of the Qom site and his foot-dragging, even to the point of annoying the French and the British.

Whichever theory you favor, two things are clear. First, we are not winning at this; the Iranians are. Second, those who counseled patience with an engagement plan were very wrong. It was entirely predictable — at least to everyone other than the Obami and their enablers.

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The Poll Says: They Hate It

A new poll from the Galen Institute provides fresh evidence the public isn’t buying what Democrats are pushing. The poll tells us:

Seventy-one percent of those surveyed said they would oppose “a new law saying that everyone either would have to obtain private or public health insurance approved by the government or pay a tax of $750 or more every year.” Only 21 percent said they would support the law. More than half (54 percent) of all respondents indicate a “strong” opposition to the individual mandate, including 58 percent of those 45-54 years of age and 58 percent of those 55 years and older.

Sixty-eight percent don’t like the idea of reducing “some health insurance benefits for senior citizens in order to expand health insurance for some people who are uninsured.” That includes 86 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of Independents, and 59 percent of Democrats. By a 58 to 39 percent margin, respondents disagree (44 percent “strongly”) with the idea of “an increase in taxes on the working and middle class if it would help provide health insurance to more Americans.” Seventy-one percent are worried that their health care will change if Congress passes health-care-reform legislation. And 49 percent like a “targeted approach that addresses a few problems at a time.”

Yet the Democrats seem determined to push through — along party lines and with a parliamentary sleight of hand — a bill that the majority of Americans don’t want. It’s an almost unprecedented act of political hubris, butit’s also politically reckless. Democrats seem to think everyone will “learn to like it” and have to live with it once it’s in place. But of course they won’t have to; there’s always another election, and there are consequences for legislative malpractice. The only question remains whether moderate and conservative Democrats can be strong-armed into voting for a bill that may well provide the grounds for a political backlash. They may not care greatly if the bill is antithetical to Americans’ interests, but they’ll at least pause before voting for something that is potentially contrary to their own.

A new poll from the Galen Institute provides fresh evidence the public isn’t buying what Democrats are pushing. The poll tells us:

Seventy-one percent of those surveyed said they would oppose “a new law saying that everyone either would have to obtain private or public health insurance approved by the government or pay a tax of $750 or more every year.” Only 21 percent said they would support the law. More than half (54 percent) of all respondents indicate a “strong” opposition to the individual mandate, including 58 percent of those 45-54 years of age and 58 percent of those 55 years and older.

Sixty-eight percent don’t like the idea of reducing “some health insurance benefits for senior citizens in order to expand health insurance for some people who are uninsured.” That includes 86 percent of Republicans, 66 percent of Independents, and 59 percent of Democrats. By a 58 to 39 percent margin, respondents disagree (44 percent “strongly”) with the idea of “an increase in taxes on the working and middle class if it would help provide health insurance to more Americans.” Seventy-one percent are worried that their health care will change if Congress passes health-care-reform legislation. And 49 percent like a “targeted approach that addresses a few problems at a time.”

Yet the Democrats seem determined to push through — along party lines and with a parliamentary sleight of hand — a bill that the majority of Americans don’t want. It’s an almost unprecedented act of political hubris, butit’s also politically reckless. Democrats seem to think everyone will “learn to like it” and have to live with it once it’s in place. But of course they won’t have to; there’s always another election, and there are consequences for legislative malpractice. The only question remains whether moderate and conservative Democrats can be strong-armed into voting for a bill that may well provide the grounds for a political backlash. They may not care greatly if the bill is antithetical to Americans’ interests, but they’ll at least pause before voting for something that is potentially contrary to their own.

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The End of the World and Other Broken Promises

So the Los Angeles Times has performed a public service by reassuring its readers that life as we know it will not come to a literal crashing end on December 21, 2012. So ratchet down those anxiety levels: Earth is going to be here a good long time, or at least until the morning it’s announced I’ve won the lottery . . .

Is 2012 the end of the world? … Dozens of books and fake science websites are prophesying the arrival of doomsday that year, by means of a rogue planet colliding with the Earth or some other cataclysmic event. … “Two years ago, I got a question a week about it,” said NASA scientist David Morrison. … “Now I’m getting a dozen a day. Two teenagers said they didn’t want to see the end of the world so they were thinking of ending their lives.”

Morrison said he tries to reassure people that their fears are groundless, but has received so many inquiries that he has posted a list of 10 questions and answers on the website of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (www.astrosociety.org). Titled “Doomsday 2012, the Planet Nibiru and Cosmophobia,” the article breaks down the sources of the hysteria and assures people that the ancients didn’t actually know more about the cosmos than we do.

First they cast Seth Rogen as Britt Reid in the upcoming Green Hornet movie and now the world is not coming to an end. How much bad news can one man take before he simply goes mad?

And this is bad news:

  1. There goes my “See Ya, Wouldn’t Wanna Be Ya” party. (My wife is gonna kill me when she finds out I maxed out our MasterCard hiring a balloon-animal artist on the lam from PETA.)
  2. This is yet another setback for the Maya. Like watching the Conquistadores wipe out their civilization wasn’t bad enough, now their math is wrong.
  3. Al Gore can keep the global-warming doomsday scenario going indefinitely, despite evidence to the contrary. At least when you thought the world was really ending, you knew he’d have to clam up eventually.
  4. Sales of nutball books on the apocalypse will skyrocket. Yes, skyrocket, as this L.A. Times piece will be read as just the kind of “anti-endist” propaganda they were anticipating.
  5. I can’t find where I put the receipt for my Gore-Tex bomb shelter with recess lighting. And Target is merciless about stuff like that.
  6. You can now be accused of “cosmophobia” – a supposedly irrational fear of all the terrible things that threaten our existence, like stray comets, solar flares, or another season of So You Think You Can Dance.

The only good news here is that the Left won’t be able to claim that the End of All Things was a vast right-wing conspiracy to prevent a second term for Barack Obama. But if unemployment keeps climbing, and our foreign policy continues to resemble a round of goofy golf, the president won’t have to worry about rogue planets interfering with his agenda — he’ll blow himself up quite nicely. Assuming he doesn’t get us blown up first.

So the Los Angeles Times has performed a public service by reassuring its readers that life as we know it will not come to a literal crashing end on December 21, 2012. So ratchet down those anxiety levels: Earth is going to be here a good long time, or at least until the morning it’s announced I’ve won the lottery . . .

Is 2012 the end of the world? … Dozens of books and fake science websites are prophesying the arrival of doomsday that year, by means of a rogue planet colliding with the Earth or some other cataclysmic event. … “Two years ago, I got a question a week about it,” said NASA scientist David Morrison. … “Now I’m getting a dozen a day. Two teenagers said they didn’t want to see the end of the world so they were thinking of ending their lives.”

Morrison said he tries to reassure people that their fears are groundless, but has received so many inquiries that he has posted a list of 10 questions and answers on the website of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (www.astrosociety.org). Titled “Doomsday 2012, the Planet Nibiru and Cosmophobia,” the article breaks down the sources of the hysteria and assures people that the ancients didn’t actually know more about the cosmos than we do.

First they cast Seth Rogen as Britt Reid in the upcoming Green Hornet movie and now the world is not coming to an end. How much bad news can one man take before he simply goes mad?

And this is bad news:

  1. There goes my “See Ya, Wouldn’t Wanna Be Ya” party. (My wife is gonna kill me when she finds out I maxed out our MasterCard hiring a balloon-animal artist on the lam from PETA.)
  2. This is yet another setback for the Maya. Like watching the Conquistadores wipe out their civilization wasn’t bad enough, now their math is wrong.
  3. Al Gore can keep the global-warming doomsday scenario going indefinitely, despite evidence to the contrary. At least when you thought the world was really ending, you knew he’d have to clam up eventually.
  4. Sales of nutball books on the apocalypse will skyrocket. Yes, skyrocket, as this L.A. Times piece will be read as just the kind of “anti-endist” propaganda they were anticipating.
  5. I can’t find where I put the receipt for my Gore-Tex bomb shelter with recess lighting. And Target is merciless about stuff like that.
  6. You can now be accused of “cosmophobia” – a supposedly irrational fear of all the terrible things that threaten our existence, like stray comets, solar flares, or another season of So You Think You Can Dance.

The only good news here is that the Left won’t be able to claim that the End of All Things was a vast right-wing conspiracy to prevent a second term for Barack Obama. But if unemployment keeps climbing, and our foreign policy continues to resemble a round of goofy golf, the president won’t have to worry about rogue planets interfering with his agenda — he’ll blow himself up quite nicely. Assuming he doesn’t get us blown up first.

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Re: He Needs to Be There

Rick, for the reasons you enumerate, it is almost unimaginable that Obama has chosen to absent himself from the Berlin Wall commemoration. It is disappointing — and telling — considering how much he has relied on presidential presence as a tool of foreign policy.

Recall his heartfelt desire to travel to the “Muslim World” as part of his Middle East outreach and embrace of the Palestinian-ized view of history (e.g., enslaved victimhood, Israel’s legitimacy rests on the Holocaust). However objectionable and counterproductive the strategy, he well understood the symbolism of a presidential appearance.

So too at the UN Security Council, where he became the first American president to chair the proceedings. His message again was clear — multilateralism is swell, the U.S. takes the UN very seriously, and our aim is to integrate America into that “international community,” whose institutions have become our institutions and whose goals (global warming, international wealth redistribution) have become ours.

And think of the other high- and low-lights of Obama’s travels — sitting through Daniel Ortega’s rant and grinning with Hugo Chavez and bowing before the Saudi king spring to mind. The message — and his presence, his physical posture, in fact — conveyed his intentions: to humble America, reduce its status, bolster those who have been hostile to the U.S., and endear ourselves to those most antagonistic toward Israel.

So, Rick, the decision not to be present has superadded meaning: the triumph of the West and a reminder of Soviet imperialism are not part of the agenda. They are inconvenient truths that Obama would rather not dwell on. It is another in a series of unmistakable symbols that this president’s vision of America and its role in the world is radically different from that of his predecessors — and comes with potentially tragic consequences.

Rick, for the reasons you enumerate, it is almost unimaginable that Obama has chosen to absent himself from the Berlin Wall commemoration. It is disappointing — and telling — considering how much he has relied on presidential presence as a tool of foreign policy.

Recall his heartfelt desire to travel to the “Muslim World” as part of his Middle East outreach and embrace of the Palestinian-ized view of history (e.g., enslaved victimhood, Israel’s legitimacy rests on the Holocaust). However objectionable and counterproductive the strategy, he well understood the symbolism of a presidential appearance.

So too at the UN Security Council, where he became the first American president to chair the proceedings. His message again was clear — multilateralism is swell, the U.S. takes the UN very seriously, and our aim is to integrate America into that “international community,” whose institutions have become our institutions and whose goals (global warming, international wealth redistribution) have become ours.

And think of the other high- and low-lights of Obama’s travels — sitting through Daniel Ortega’s rant and grinning with Hugo Chavez and bowing before the Saudi king spring to mind. The message — and his presence, his physical posture, in fact — conveyed his intentions: to humble America, reduce its status, bolster those who have been hostile to the U.S., and endear ourselves to those most antagonistic toward Israel.

So, Rick, the decision not to be present has superadded meaning: the triumph of the West and a reminder of Soviet imperialism are not part of the agenda. They are inconvenient truths that Obama would rather not dwell on. It is another in a series of unmistakable symbols that this president’s vision of America and its role in the world is radically different from that of his predecessors — and comes with potentially tragic consequences.

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Others Are Watching

Jackson Diehl watches the Obama White House’s seminars on the Afghanistan war and reminds us that our allies are watching too:

They know that if the deployment goes forward, they will be asked to make their own difficult and politically costly contributions of soldiers or other personnel. But they are, if anything, even more worried that the American president will choose a feckless strategy for what they consider a critical mission. And they are frustrated that they must watch and wait — and wait and wait — for the president to make up his mind.

It seems that it took a timid, angst-ridden Obama to make Europeans long for American decisiveness and conviction. It’s not only the process or the potential for retreat that has caught their attention but also the foolhardiness of the non-McChrystal strategy championed by Joe Biden. Diehl observes:

[NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh] and other Europeans are also happy to speak up publicly against the strategy sometimes attributed to Vice President Biden, under which the United States would focus on counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda with drones or Special Forces. “Why are there no Predator strikes in Peshawar or Quetta? Because it can’t be done,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country currently represents the European Union. “But we know leaders of al-Qaeda and the Taliban are hiding in those urban areas. I fail to see that as a viable strategy.”

There is more than a little irony here. Obama ran a campaign castigating the Bush administration for allegedly employing a go-it-alone foreign policy and alienating other nations. Obama was going to restore confidence in America and our standing in the world. But it is hard to see how things have improved. We’ve frustrated the Europeans over Afghanistan, betrayed Poland and the Czech Republic over missile defense, driven the Brits and the French to distraction over our foot-dragging on Iran, alienated Israel, and forced Honduras into a corner. And it’s only October. Are we popular yet?

But if even our friends see amateurishness and a lack of seriousness in Afghanistan-war-policy formulation and elsewhere, imagine what our foes must be thinking. They too can see that Obama is indecisive, swayed by the far Left, prone to contriving excuses to avoid carrying out our committments, and entranced with discredited war strategies. That is the real price of dithering: the emboldening of our adversaries.

Jackson Diehl watches the Obama White House’s seminars on the Afghanistan war and reminds us that our allies are watching too:

They know that if the deployment goes forward, they will be asked to make their own difficult and politically costly contributions of soldiers or other personnel. But they are, if anything, even more worried that the American president will choose a feckless strategy for what they consider a critical mission. And they are frustrated that they must watch and wait — and wait and wait — for the president to make up his mind.

It seems that it took a timid, angst-ridden Obama to make Europeans long for American decisiveness and conviction. It’s not only the process or the potential for retreat that has caught their attention but also the foolhardiness of the non-McChrystal strategy championed by Joe Biden. Diehl observes:

[NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh] and other Europeans are also happy to speak up publicly against the strategy sometimes attributed to Vice President Biden, under which the United States would focus on counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda with drones or Special Forces. “Why are there no Predator strikes in Peshawar or Quetta? Because it can’t be done,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country currently represents the European Union. “But we know leaders of al-Qaeda and the Taliban are hiding in those urban areas. I fail to see that as a viable strategy.”

There is more than a little irony here. Obama ran a campaign castigating the Bush administration for allegedly employing a go-it-alone foreign policy and alienating other nations. Obama was going to restore confidence in America and our standing in the world. But it is hard to see how things have improved. We’ve frustrated the Europeans over Afghanistan, betrayed Poland and the Czech Republic over missile defense, driven the Brits and the French to distraction over our foot-dragging on Iran, alienated Israel, and forced Honduras into a corner. And it’s only October. Are we popular yet?

But if even our friends see amateurishness and a lack of seriousness in Afghanistan-war-policy formulation and elsewhere, imagine what our foes must be thinking. They too can see that Obama is indecisive, swayed by the far Left, prone to contriving excuses to avoid carrying out our committments, and entranced with discredited war strategies. That is the real price of dithering: the emboldening of our adversaries.

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Stupid Power

Smart power spends an awful lot of its time struggling up the hills graded for it by stupid power. The latest eruption of the latter is today’s insurgent bombing in southeastern Iran, which targeted a large contingent of senior Revolutionary Guard officers who were meeting in the region. The bombing appears to have been undertaken for the simplest of insurgent reasons: a vengeful general-purpose attack on representatives of the central government. It was carried out by Baluchi insurgents, a group known as Jundallah, whose grievances are related to ethnic tribalism and the regional narcotics trade as much as to sectarian differences (the Baluchis are Sunni). But its effect on the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and on the conditions under which the Obama team makes its decisions on strategy and troop levels, could be enduring.

Ahmadinejad has naturally sworn vengeance for the attack, amid Iranian allegations that the U.S. and U.K. are behind it. Just as important, though, the bombing has raised Iran’s stake in the outcome of our Afghanistan policy. Besides reeling from popular unrest after the June election, the Tehran regime faces the prospect of a succession crisis on the Guardian Council. It cannot tolerate destabilization from a spillover of the Taliban guerrillas fleeing Pakistan’s internal crackdown. That spillover, probably seen as both a problem and an opportunity, is what brought the Revolutionary Guard’s leadership to the southeastern region this weekend for a strategy meeting.

Iran and Pakistan, after mutual finger-pointing, may well find their solution in a common stance on the Taliban problem. The insurgents fleeing Pakistan will have to go somewhere, and the longer we wait to strengthen our posture, the more likely that somewhere is to be Afghanistan. Iran would have no qualms, in fact, about facilitating at least some Taliban movement into Afghanistan, particularly if Pakistan were to make its western border inhospitable to Jundallah guerrillas. The incentive for Tehran and Islamabad to work together and funnel the Taliban into Afghanistan grows with each insurgent attack on their territory.

The U.S., of course, didn’t have to leave Pakistan to launch its current military push with a single-minded approach and no containment of the consequences. Neither do we have to wait for Iran and Pakistan to shape conditions in Afghanistan for us, in the pursuit of their own interests. But momentum is building for alternatives to our strategic leadership. Truly smart power would recognize that if we do not get a decision made and start shaping this situation ourselves, it will begin dictating terms to us very soon.

Smart power spends an awful lot of its time struggling up the hills graded for it by stupid power. The latest eruption of the latter is today’s insurgent bombing in southeastern Iran, which targeted a large contingent of senior Revolutionary Guard officers who were meeting in the region. The bombing appears to have been undertaken for the simplest of insurgent reasons: a vengeful general-purpose attack on representatives of the central government. It was carried out by Baluchi insurgents, a group known as Jundallah, whose grievances are related to ethnic tribalism and the regional narcotics trade as much as to sectarian differences (the Baluchis are Sunni). But its effect on the situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and on the conditions under which the Obama team makes its decisions on strategy and troop levels, could be enduring.

Ahmadinejad has naturally sworn vengeance for the attack, amid Iranian allegations that the U.S. and U.K. are behind it. Just as important, though, the bombing has raised Iran’s stake in the outcome of our Afghanistan policy. Besides reeling from popular unrest after the June election, the Tehran regime faces the prospect of a succession crisis on the Guardian Council. It cannot tolerate destabilization from a spillover of the Taliban guerrillas fleeing Pakistan’s internal crackdown. That spillover, probably seen as both a problem and an opportunity, is what brought the Revolutionary Guard’s leadership to the southeastern region this weekend for a strategy meeting.

Iran and Pakistan, after mutual finger-pointing, may well find their solution in a common stance on the Taliban problem. The insurgents fleeing Pakistan will have to go somewhere, and the longer we wait to strengthen our posture, the more likely that somewhere is to be Afghanistan. Iran would have no qualms, in fact, about facilitating at least some Taliban movement into Afghanistan, particularly if Pakistan were to make its western border inhospitable to Jundallah guerrillas. The incentive for Tehran and Islamabad to work together and funnel the Taliban into Afghanistan grows with each insurgent attack on their territory.

The U.S., of course, didn’t have to leave Pakistan to launch its current military push with a single-minded approach and no containment of the consequences. Neither do we have to wait for Iran and Pakistan to shape conditions in Afghanistan for us, in the pursuit of their own interests. But momentum is building for alternatives to our strategic leadership. Truly smart power would recognize that if we do not get a decision made and start shaping this situation ourselves, it will begin dictating terms to us very soon.

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The Price of Engagement

John Bolton observes that the UN Human Rights Council, in its latest spasm of Israel-bashing, has further damaged the so-called Middle East peace process. (It isn’t like things were going swimmingly, but leave it to the UN to make things worse.) He writes:

In the month since the report’s release, it has roiled the Middle East peace process. An Israeli spokesman said “it will make it impossible for us to take any risks for the sake of peace,” perhaps foreshadowing Israeli withdrawal from negotiations while the report remains under active U.N. consideration.

The HRC resolution endorsing the report’s recommendations repeatedly lacerated Israel, leading Mr. Goldstone himself to cringe, saying he was “saddened” the resolution contained “not a single phrase condemning Hamas as we have done in the report.” A U.S. State Department spokesman conceded that the adopted text “went beyond even the scope of the Goldstone Report itself.”

But this is what one expects of the HRC — and why the Bush administration thought it best not to give credence to the body. But, as Bolton observes, it is not simply out of solidarity with the Jewish state that it would be a good idea to bug out. It is rather in our own self-interest to do so:

The Goldstone Report has important implications for America. In the U.N., Israel frequently serves as a surrogate target in lieu of the U.S., particularly concerning the use of military force pre-emptively or in self-defense. Accordingly, U.N. decisions on ostensibly Israel-specific issues can lay a predicate for subsequent action against, or efforts to constrain, the U.S. Mr. Goldstone’s recommendation to convoke the International Criminal Court is like putting a loaded pistol to Israel’s head—or, in the future, to America’s.

Bolton’s observation highlights a key problem with Obama’s push to put that “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel. As we aim to ingratiate ourselves with Israel’s foes, we also do great damage to our own interests, which, despite the Obamis’ moral and geopolitical obtuseness, are closely aligned with Israel’s. The Goldstone report strikes at the heart of democratic societies’ ability to wage wars of self-defense against terrorists who would use woman and children as shields (and thereby maximize the body count of both for propaganda value). Wouldn’t this be a bad precedent to set for America, which is, after all, engaged in wars against those who employ the very same tactics? You’d think our rhetoric would be more robust in condemning the Goldstone report, and our toleration much less for the HRC’s anti-terror-fighting gambit.

Nevertheless, we can surmise that an administration that sees benefit in putting daylight between America and another democracy beset by Islamic terrorists isn’t likely to put daylight between America and the HRC. In fact, the rush to “engage” Israel’s foes as well as our own, to smother them with words of affection and apologies at all costs, makes it impossible to disengage, even when their behavior is reprehensible, as is the case with the HRC.

By making “engagement” a central principle of American foreign policy, we hand the foes of democracy, human rights, and the West tremendous influence and immunity from retribution. They can engage in whenever outlandish behavior they see fit to without fear of detrimental consequences. After all, we’ve already told them we’re going to engage with them no matter what. Doesn’t seem like very smart diplomacy, does it?

John Bolton observes that the UN Human Rights Council, in its latest spasm of Israel-bashing, has further damaged the so-called Middle East peace process. (It isn’t like things were going swimmingly, but leave it to the UN to make things worse.) He writes:

In the month since the report’s release, it has roiled the Middle East peace process. An Israeli spokesman said “it will make it impossible for us to take any risks for the sake of peace,” perhaps foreshadowing Israeli withdrawal from negotiations while the report remains under active U.N. consideration.

The HRC resolution endorsing the report’s recommendations repeatedly lacerated Israel, leading Mr. Goldstone himself to cringe, saying he was “saddened” the resolution contained “not a single phrase condemning Hamas as we have done in the report.” A U.S. State Department spokesman conceded that the adopted text “went beyond even the scope of the Goldstone Report itself.”

But this is what one expects of the HRC — and why the Bush administration thought it best not to give credence to the body. But, as Bolton observes, it is not simply out of solidarity with the Jewish state that it would be a good idea to bug out. It is rather in our own self-interest to do so:

The Goldstone Report has important implications for America. In the U.N., Israel frequently serves as a surrogate target in lieu of the U.S., particularly concerning the use of military force pre-emptively or in self-defense. Accordingly, U.N. decisions on ostensibly Israel-specific issues can lay a predicate for subsequent action against, or efforts to constrain, the U.S. Mr. Goldstone’s recommendation to convoke the International Criminal Court is like putting a loaded pistol to Israel’s head—or, in the future, to America’s.

Bolton’s observation highlights a key problem with Obama’s push to put that “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel. As we aim to ingratiate ourselves with Israel’s foes, we also do great damage to our own interests, which, despite the Obamis’ moral and geopolitical obtuseness, are closely aligned with Israel’s. The Goldstone report strikes at the heart of democratic societies’ ability to wage wars of self-defense against terrorists who would use woman and children as shields (and thereby maximize the body count of both for propaganda value). Wouldn’t this be a bad precedent to set for America, which is, after all, engaged in wars against those who employ the very same tactics? You’d think our rhetoric would be more robust in condemning the Goldstone report, and our toleration much less for the HRC’s anti-terror-fighting gambit.

Nevertheless, we can surmise that an administration that sees benefit in putting daylight between America and another democracy beset by Islamic terrorists isn’t likely to put daylight between America and the HRC. In fact, the rush to “engage” Israel’s foes as well as our own, to smother them with words of affection and apologies at all costs, makes it impossible to disengage, even when their behavior is reprehensible, as is the case with the HRC.

By making “engagement” a central principle of American foreign policy, we hand the foes of democracy, human rights, and the West tremendous influence and immunity from retribution. They can engage in whenever outlandish behavior they see fit to without fear of detrimental consequences. After all, we’ve already told them we’re going to engage with them no matter what. Doesn’t seem like very smart diplomacy, does it?

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He Needs to Be There

President Obama has reportedly informed the German government that he will not travel to Berlin on November 9 to participate in the 20th-anniversary celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is an unfortunate decision on multiple counts.

First, it is another slight to another European ally — one that is going all-out to celebrate the event. The invitation to Obama was extended personally by Chancellor Angela Merkel last June.

Second, it is a failure to correct the historical misstatement of his citizen-of-the-world address last year in Berlin, when he credited the fall of the wall to the “world standing as one” and failed even to mention the names of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

Third, it is an embarrassment for the United States not to be represented at the highest level for the commemoration of an event of this magnitude. As Matt Welch writes in the November issue of Reason magazine, November 1989 was “the most liberating month of arguably the most liberating year in human history” — the end of the Soviet Union and communism in Europe and a 50-year Cold War that was a worldwide ideological battle. It was battle led by America.

Fourth, it is an opportunity for Obama to give a speech in which he does not apologize for his country but celebrates the triumph of freedom that has been the driving force of American history from its beginning through his own election. As a former president eloquently said, the power of liberty is one that “brought settlers on perilous journeys, inspired colonies to rebellion, ended the sin of slavery, and set our nation against the tyrannies of the 20th century.” The American president should be in Berlin on November 9 to celebrate a moment that was a triumph for America as well as Germany.

There is still time for Obama to reverse his decision. If he cannot bring himself to see the importance of this issue on the merits, perhaps his political advisers will consider the optics of his ending his first year in office with (1) a trip to Copenhagen on behalf of his hometown, (2) a trip to Oslo to pick up a prize he admits he does not deserve, and (3) a failure to take a trip to Berlin to help celebrate his country’s historic accomplishment. History will notice his absence, and the electorate may as well.

President Obama has reportedly informed the German government that he will not travel to Berlin on November 9 to participate in the 20th-anniversary celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is an unfortunate decision on multiple counts.

First, it is another slight to another European ally — one that is going all-out to celebrate the event. The invitation to Obama was extended personally by Chancellor Angela Merkel last June.

Second, it is a failure to correct the historical misstatement of his citizen-of-the-world address last year in Berlin, when he credited the fall of the wall to the “world standing as one” and failed even to mention the names of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan.

Third, it is an embarrassment for the United States not to be represented at the highest level for the commemoration of an event of this magnitude. As Matt Welch writes in the November issue of Reason magazine, November 1989 was “the most liberating month of arguably the most liberating year in human history” — the end of the Soviet Union and communism in Europe and a 50-year Cold War that was a worldwide ideological battle. It was battle led by America.

Fourth, it is an opportunity for Obama to give a speech in which he does not apologize for his country but celebrates the triumph of freedom that has been the driving force of American history from its beginning through his own election. As a former president eloquently said, the power of liberty is one that “brought settlers on perilous journeys, inspired colonies to rebellion, ended the sin of slavery, and set our nation against the tyrannies of the 20th century.” The American president should be in Berlin on November 9 to celebrate a moment that was a triumph for America as well as Germany.

There is still time for Obama to reverse his decision. If he cannot bring himself to see the importance of this issue on the merits, perhaps his political advisers will consider the optics of his ending his first year in office with (1) a trip to Copenhagen on behalf of his hometown, (2) a trip to Oslo to pick up a prize he admits he does not deserve, and (3) a failure to take a trip to Berlin to help celebrate his country’s historic accomplishment. History will notice his absence, and the electorate may as well.

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Strange Days

Yesterday, a suicide bomber in Iran detonated himself, killing seven — seven! — commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the personal terrorist army of the Iranian regime. The IRGC was created by Ayatollah Khomeini in the opening moments of his rule following the Iranian revolution in 1979. It first served as Khomeini’s personal goon squad for crushing internal rivals and protecting that rule. It soon graduated into international terrorism, serving as a training and advising cadre for Hezbollah and other groups. The IRGC has been all over Iraq in recent years and has a great deal of American blood on its hands.

It is curious that the State Department would leap into action upon hearing the news to say the following:

“We condemn this act of terrorism and mourn the loss of innocent lives,” State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said in a statement in Washington.

“Reports of alleged US involvement are completely false,” he added.

Why does the Obama administration work so hard to always reassure the Iranian regime that the U.S. has only its best interests at heart? And why did it take our government only moments to respond to the utterly non-tragic and thoroughly deserved killings of some hardened terrorists and murderers — but it took days to offer even the meekest criticism of the murders and beatings of anti-regime protesters in June? Under the Obama Doctrine, the worse you act, the better you’re treated.

Yesterday, a suicide bomber in Iran detonated himself, killing seven — seven! — commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the personal terrorist army of the Iranian regime. The IRGC was created by Ayatollah Khomeini in the opening moments of his rule following the Iranian revolution in 1979. It first served as Khomeini’s personal goon squad for crushing internal rivals and protecting that rule. It soon graduated into international terrorism, serving as a training and advising cadre for Hezbollah and other groups. The IRGC has been all over Iraq in recent years and has a great deal of American blood on its hands.

It is curious that the State Department would leap into action upon hearing the news to say the following:

“We condemn this act of terrorism and mourn the loss of innocent lives,” State Department Spokesman Ian Kelly said in a statement in Washington.

“Reports of alleged US involvement are completely false,” he added.

Why does the Obama administration work so hard to always reassure the Iranian regime that the U.S. has only its best interests at heart? And why did it take our government only moments to respond to the utterly non-tragic and thoroughly deserved killings of some hardened terrorists and murderers — but it took days to offer even the meekest criticism of the murders and beatings of anti-regime protesters in June? Under the Obama Doctrine, the worse you act, the better you’re treated.

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How Can It Be? Terrorist Recruitment Is Up!

The Washington Post reports:

U.S. and European counterterrorism officials say a rising number of Western recruits — including Americans — are traveling to Afghanistan and Pakistan to attend paramilitary training camps. The flow of recruits has continued unabated, officials said, in spite of an intensified campaign over the past year by the CIA to eliminate al-Qaeda and Taliban commanders in drone missile attacks.

This raises several queries about the premises under which the Obama administration is operating. First, wasn’t the great magnet for recruitment for terrorists supposed to be the Bush administration’s moral malfeasance? Now that Obama has pledged to close Guantanamo, ceased enhanced interrogations, and apologized around the globe for America’s delinquent behavior isn’t the recruitment supposed to dry up? If it’s a bigger problem than ever, maybe the real issue isn’t America’s willingness to defend itself but the murderous ideology of religious fanatics who have yet to be convinced they’re on the losing side of history.

Then there’s the tactical choice Gen. Joe Biden is pushing for:

Terrorism analysts said the CIA campaign to kill al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders had been generally effective, but warned that the strategy had its limitations and that missile attacks alone would not put an end to the training camps.

“The drone attacks seriously weaken these organizations, but you can’t rely on that alone,” said Guido Steinberg, a researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “They obviously have no problem recruiting new members. In the long run, they won’t have any problem replacing the leaders who have been killed.”

Oh. Well that’s not very encouraging. Maybe a robust counterinsurgency plan might do better, after all.

And then there’s the interrogation piece. We’re told that new and complex networks are being formed that span borders. What if we grab one of the recruits who has vital information about the networks of armed killers? Now we have interagency responsibility for high-value terrorists, which means no one has responsibility. And even if one agency did, it would be limited to utilizing the Army Field Manual. The questioning isn’t likely to elicit anything of any value. What’s your name? Is the cell warm enough? That’s about it.

Once again we see that the “realists” in the Obama administration aren’t very realistic about what motivates our enemies, what is required to defend ourselves, and what self-imposed restrictions on our intelligence-gathering means for the security of Americans. People should be talking about this, and how obtuse the Obama policies are that seem to be premised on the desire of liberal elites to feel better about themselves rather than on the requirements needed to defeat vicious enemies. At the very least, it seems like a good time to be talking about how to keep America safe.

The Washington Post reports:

U.S. and European counterterrorism officials say a rising number of Western recruits — including Americans — are traveling to Afghanistan and Pakistan to attend paramilitary training camps. The flow of recruits has continued unabated, officials said, in spite of an intensified campaign over the past year by the CIA to eliminate al-Qaeda and Taliban commanders in drone missile attacks.

This raises several queries about the premises under which the Obama administration is operating. First, wasn’t the great magnet for recruitment for terrorists supposed to be the Bush administration’s moral malfeasance? Now that Obama has pledged to close Guantanamo, ceased enhanced interrogations, and apologized around the globe for America’s delinquent behavior isn’t the recruitment supposed to dry up? If it’s a bigger problem than ever, maybe the real issue isn’t America’s willingness to defend itself but the murderous ideology of religious fanatics who have yet to be convinced they’re on the losing side of history.

Then there’s the tactical choice Gen. Joe Biden is pushing for:

Terrorism analysts said the CIA campaign to kill al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders had been generally effective, but warned that the strategy had its limitations and that missile attacks alone would not put an end to the training camps.

“The drone attacks seriously weaken these organizations, but you can’t rely on that alone,” said Guido Steinberg, a researcher at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. “They obviously have no problem recruiting new members. In the long run, they won’t have any problem replacing the leaders who have been killed.”

Oh. Well that’s not very encouraging. Maybe a robust counterinsurgency plan might do better, after all.

And then there’s the interrogation piece. We’re told that new and complex networks are being formed that span borders. What if we grab one of the recruits who has vital information about the networks of armed killers? Now we have interagency responsibility for high-value terrorists, which means no one has responsibility. And even if one agency did, it would be limited to utilizing the Army Field Manual. The questioning isn’t likely to elicit anything of any value. What’s your name? Is the cell warm enough? That’s about it.

Once again we see that the “realists” in the Obama administration aren’t very realistic about what motivates our enemies, what is required to defend ourselves, and what self-imposed restrictions on our intelligence-gathering means for the security of Americans. People should be talking about this, and how obtuse the Obama policies are that seem to be premised on the desire of liberal elites to feel better about themselves rather than on the requirements needed to defeat vicious enemies. At the very least, it seems like a good time to be talking about how to keep America safe.

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Medicine by the Numbers

Sen. Olympia Snowe, reveling in the attention that is lavished on any Republican who bucks both the party establishment and the populist base, tells the Washington Post that all that talk of “death panels” has “stunned” her and hasn’t “lived up to the standards that elected officials in the U.S. Congress should have in these monumental times.” Sniff. Sigh.

But it’s not simply the unwashed masses or a former vice-presidential candidate who is concerned about government bureaucrats regulating care. Physicians and some sophisticates that might travel in Snowe’s circle are too. Call the panels what you will, but the idea of “experts” (i.e., those not treating patients) intervening between doctors and patients is one of the more noxious aspects of ObamaCare.

Dr. Norman Gleicher writing in the Wall Street Journal observes that “the idea of inserting a government panel between patients and physicians remains contentious and with good reason. Inevitably, the panels’ guidelines will come to be seen as the industry’s ‘best practices’ and would therefore be adopted as a blueprint for which procedures health insurance should cover.” Medicine is not a cookie-cutter business amenable to one-size-fits-all regulators:

Evidence-based medicine has some value, but it can provide misleading information. Determining which studies to review, for example, can introduce biases. Whether investigators accept published data at face value or repeat primary data analyses also matters. If the data in a published study were poorly analyzed or, for argument’s sake, completely invented, relying on it can lead to faulty conclusions. It’s an unfortunate reality, but our medical literature is significantly contaminated by poorly conducted studies, inappropriate statistical methodologies, and sometimes scientific fraud.

As the doctor points out, everyone has personal experience of conventional medical wisdom that simply didn’t work out or would have proved disastrous, or at least knows of someone for whom that’s true. And it’s out of the experience of practicing doctors and individual patients that innovation and superlative care, hallmarks of the American health-care system, flourish. Olympia Snowe and her Democratic colleagues may welcome the imposition of a lowest-common-denominator medical system, but most of us do not. It might nevertheless be foisted upon us and then those who jammed it through will have to live with the public’s reaction to a health-care revolution they didn’t want and aren’t likely to embrace.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, reveling in the attention that is lavished on any Republican who bucks both the party establishment and the populist base, tells the Washington Post that all that talk of “death panels” has “stunned” her and hasn’t “lived up to the standards that elected officials in the U.S. Congress should have in these monumental times.” Sniff. Sigh.

But it’s not simply the unwashed masses or a former vice-presidential candidate who is concerned about government bureaucrats regulating care. Physicians and some sophisticates that might travel in Snowe’s circle are too. Call the panels what you will, but the idea of “experts” (i.e., those not treating patients) intervening between doctors and patients is one of the more noxious aspects of ObamaCare.

Dr. Norman Gleicher writing in the Wall Street Journal observes that “the idea of inserting a government panel between patients and physicians remains contentious and with good reason. Inevitably, the panels’ guidelines will come to be seen as the industry’s ‘best practices’ and would therefore be adopted as a blueprint for which procedures health insurance should cover.” Medicine is not a cookie-cutter business amenable to one-size-fits-all regulators:

Evidence-based medicine has some value, but it can provide misleading information. Determining which studies to review, for example, can introduce biases. Whether investigators accept published data at face value or repeat primary data analyses also matters. If the data in a published study were poorly analyzed or, for argument’s sake, completely invented, relying on it can lead to faulty conclusions. It’s an unfortunate reality, but our medical literature is significantly contaminated by poorly conducted studies, inappropriate statistical methodologies, and sometimes scientific fraud.

As the doctor points out, everyone has personal experience of conventional medical wisdom that simply didn’t work out or would have proved disastrous, or at least knows of someone for whom that’s true. And it’s out of the experience of practicing doctors and individual patients that innovation and superlative care, hallmarks of the American health-care system, flourish. Olympia Snowe and her Democratic colleagues may welcome the imposition of a lowest-common-denominator medical system, but most of us do not. It might nevertheless be foisted upon us and then those who jammed it through will have to live with the public’s reaction to a health-care revolution they didn’t want and aren’t likely to embrace.

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