Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 26, 2009

The J Street Conference

Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard is at the event and has been filing some must-read reports. Apparently the conference, especially the blogger panel, is living up to expectations. Elie Wiesel has been mocked, Walt and Mearsheimer have been defended, Jeffrey Goldberg has been repudiated, and the “one-state solution” has been applauded. Sounds pro-Israel to me.

Click here to read more.

Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard is at the event and has been filing some must-read reports. Apparently the conference, especially the blogger panel, is living up to expectations. Elie Wiesel has been mocked, Walt and Mearsheimer have been defended, Jeffrey Goldberg has been repudiated, and the “one-state solution” has been applauded. Sounds pro-Israel to me.

Click here to read more.

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Just About There

What happens when the Ditherer in Chief meets the Supreme Dawdler?

Iran hinted Monday it could agree to ship some low-enriched uranium abroad for processing as reactor fuel as the world awaited its reply on a U.N.-drafted nuclear plan aimed at easing tensions with the West. …

The two-sided scenario presented by [Foreign Minister Manouchehr ] Mottaki appeared part of Iran’s strategy to drag out negotiations over its nuclear program and leave the West guessing about its decision expected later this week.

Good thing there’s not a nuclear-weapons program hanging in the balance.

So Iran’s decision is expected later this week, huh? The anticipation is really too much bear. Although I could have sworn that the deadline for Iran’s response was supposed to be last Friday. You want to have fun? Google the words “Iran” and “deadline.” You’ll come up with headlines like “Iran: There was no IAEA deadline,”Iran Misses Nuke Deal Deadline,”  “Two-week Iran deadline not set ‘in stone': State Department,” “Waiting for the deadline on Iran – again” “UK sets Iran deadline to end nuclear bomb work,” “IAEA sets deadline for Iran to suspend nuke program.”

Those last two are from 2004. By my watch, that makes the ayatollahs about five years late. But I’m sure later this week is really the end of the line.

What happens when the Ditherer in Chief meets the Supreme Dawdler?

Iran hinted Monday it could agree to ship some low-enriched uranium abroad for processing as reactor fuel as the world awaited its reply on a U.N.-drafted nuclear plan aimed at easing tensions with the West. …

The two-sided scenario presented by [Foreign Minister Manouchehr ] Mottaki appeared part of Iran’s strategy to drag out negotiations over its nuclear program and leave the West guessing about its decision expected later this week.

Good thing there’s not a nuclear-weapons program hanging in the balance.

So Iran’s decision is expected later this week, huh? The anticipation is really too much bear. Although I could have sworn that the deadline for Iran’s response was supposed to be last Friday. You want to have fun? Google the words “Iran” and “deadline.” You’ll come up with headlines like “Iran: There was no IAEA deadline,”Iran Misses Nuke Deal Deadline,”  “Two-week Iran deadline not set ‘in stone': State Department,” “Waiting for the deadline on Iran – again” “UK sets Iran deadline to end nuclear bomb work,” “IAEA sets deadline for Iran to suspend nuke program.”

Those last two are from 2004. By my watch, that makes the ayatollahs about five years late. But I’m sure later this week is really the end of the line.

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Re: We Are Ahead! Really?

One thing Jennifer’s summary suggests is that all the saga needed was a spoofable name for Iran’s lately revealed uranium-enrichment site near Qom. And here it is: Fordo. In Iran, the name commemorates a town’s war dead. In the West, of course, it not only sounds like Tolkien’s Frodo but is the name of a minor character in the Star Wars series, something you know if you have a lot of nephews who like Star Wars and Legos. Some allusive levity is not inappropriate as a response to the international community’s solemn effort at the Fordo site. President Obama’s guns have already been spiked regarding this site, and now, with the UN inspection, we’re just putting administrative checks in the block.

The salient point about the site near Qom was that it was undeclared. According to the intelligence Obama himself cited, it was not, as of the end of September, thought to be even close to operational yet. With Iran having now declared it a nuclear-related site, an IAEA inspection that reveals it to be a nuclear-related site, but not yet an operational one, will confirm nothing Iran has not already had to face up to. In a political sense, the inspection process mainly gives Iran a cheap opportunity to appear truthful, if belatedly so.

Indeed, the intelligence estimate that no enrichment has yet started at Fordo means there is not even a basis for supposing that it has been deceptively scrubbed for the inspection. We are in agreement with Iran on what we expect to find there; confirming our expectations is meaningless to building an actionable case against Tehran’s nuclear program. In that sense, the value of the dramatic Qom announcement expired as soon as it was made.

What’s next after the inspection is reported out? With the site declared and inspected, there is no new basis for insisting that it or other nuclear facilities be closed. Fordo’s size — too small to enrich uranium on the scale needed for a peaceful reactor — was mainly a talking point when it was still undeclared, and therefore suspicious. There exists no enforcement standard for demanding closure of the site, as long as Iran will accept IAEA inspections. Nothing prevents Iran from enriching uranium in multiple smaller facilities if it chooses to; the enforcement issues are verifiable declaration and openness to inspection.

The status of the Fordo site became an issue we could not leverage to our advantage as soon as Iran declared it and agreed to permit inspections. Iran, on the other hand, can leverage the official process to establish documentary bona fides — and can then very likely use the site to enrich uranium under an IAEA inspection regime. Fordo is a sideshow; the negotiations over foreign processing of Iran’s existing stock of low-enriched uranium are the center ring. We either make progress in those negotiations, or not at all.

One thing Jennifer’s summary suggests is that all the saga needed was a spoofable name for Iran’s lately revealed uranium-enrichment site near Qom. And here it is: Fordo. In Iran, the name commemorates a town’s war dead. In the West, of course, it not only sounds like Tolkien’s Frodo but is the name of a minor character in the Star Wars series, something you know if you have a lot of nephews who like Star Wars and Legos. Some allusive levity is not inappropriate as a response to the international community’s solemn effort at the Fordo site. President Obama’s guns have already been spiked regarding this site, and now, with the UN inspection, we’re just putting administrative checks in the block.

The salient point about the site near Qom was that it was undeclared. According to the intelligence Obama himself cited, it was not, as of the end of September, thought to be even close to operational yet. With Iran having now declared it a nuclear-related site, an IAEA inspection that reveals it to be a nuclear-related site, but not yet an operational one, will confirm nothing Iran has not already had to face up to. In a political sense, the inspection process mainly gives Iran a cheap opportunity to appear truthful, if belatedly so.

Indeed, the intelligence estimate that no enrichment has yet started at Fordo means there is not even a basis for supposing that it has been deceptively scrubbed for the inspection. We are in agreement with Iran on what we expect to find there; confirming our expectations is meaningless to building an actionable case against Tehran’s nuclear program. In that sense, the value of the dramatic Qom announcement expired as soon as it was made.

What’s next after the inspection is reported out? With the site declared and inspected, there is no new basis for insisting that it or other nuclear facilities be closed. Fordo’s size — too small to enrich uranium on the scale needed for a peaceful reactor — was mainly a talking point when it was still undeclared, and therefore suspicious. There exists no enforcement standard for demanding closure of the site, as long as Iran will accept IAEA inspections. Nothing prevents Iran from enriching uranium in multiple smaller facilities if it chooses to; the enforcement issues are verifiable declaration and openness to inspection.

The status of the Fordo site became an issue we could not leverage to our advantage as soon as Iran declared it and agreed to permit inspections. Iran, on the other hand, can leverage the official process to establish documentary bona fides — and can then very likely use the site to enrich uranium under an IAEA inspection regime. Fordo is a sideshow; the negotiations over foreign processing of Iran’s existing stock of low-enriched uranium are the center ring. We either make progress in those negotiations, or not at all.

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Is He Going Rogue?

Harry Reid is pushing the public option. The White House, which desperately tried to lure in Olympia Snowe, is upset. So who’s in charge? It’s hard to tell. And then there’s the House. There were 50-60 Democrats who feared for their (political) lives and rejected the public option, but maybe Reid can persuade them to take the plunge.

But it’s more complicated than that. Reid has multiple ideas for a public option. We could have an opt-in public option. Or an opt-out public option. We’ll see. And if he has only 56-58 votes, does he think he can get the public option through under the guise of reconciliation? Well, that’s supposed to be limited to tax and spending items, not major policy measures. But again, we’ll see.

If it seems sort of blurry, it is. But Sen. Mitch McConnell did cut to the chase, describing what we’re talking about here, even if none of the variations on the public option makes it through: “While final details of this bill are still unknown, here’s what we do know: It will be a thousand-page, trillion-dollar bill that raises premiums, raises taxes and slashes Medicare for our seniors to create new government spending programs.”

Let’s keep one thing in mind: Reid swore he had the votes for the Medicare doctors’ “fix” and was embarrassed when he lost a chunk of his caucus on a cloture vote. There’s a first for everything, but so far there’s reason to doubt that Reid has the legislative skill — or the votes — to get this through.

Harry Reid is pushing the public option. The White House, which desperately tried to lure in Olympia Snowe, is upset. So who’s in charge? It’s hard to tell. And then there’s the House. There were 50-60 Democrats who feared for their (political) lives and rejected the public option, but maybe Reid can persuade them to take the plunge.

But it’s more complicated than that. Reid has multiple ideas for a public option. We could have an opt-in public option. Or an opt-out public option. We’ll see. And if he has only 56-58 votes, does he think he can get the public option through under the guise of reconciliation? Well, that’s supposed to be limited to tax and spending items, not major policy measures. But again, we’ll see.

If it seems sort of blurry, it is. But Sen. Mitch McConnell did cut to the chase, describing what we’re talking about here, even if none of the variations on the public option makes it through: “While final details of this bill are still unknown, here’s what we do know: It will be a thousand-page, trillion-dollar bill that raises premiums, raises taxes and slashes Medicare for our seniors to create new government spending programs.”

Let’s keep one thing in mind: Reid swore he had the votes for the Medicare doctors’ “fix” and was embarrassed when he lost a chunk of his caucus on a cloture vote. There’s a first for everything, but so far there’s reason to doubt that Reid has the legislative skill — or the votes — to get this through.

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“He Is Dead”

That stark assessment of Creigh Deeds’s candidacy in the Virginia gubernatorial race comes from the Democratic website Not Larry Sabato. And that’s Deeds‘s side.

Deeds has run a poor race, filled with equivocation and lacking any positive policies. And he said (before he waffled and did the backflip thing) that he was going to raise taxes. And he staked his race on a 20-year-old college paper. But, really: in politics, one expects some degree of stiff-upper-lipness, if only to spare the down-ticket candidates from being wiped out in the storm. It’s bad enough coming from a blogger, but we’ve also seen it right out of the White House, which is desperate to declare Deeds unrescuable. Perhaps he is, but the other Virginia Democrats on the ballot would be a lot happier if all the grave-dancing took place after the polls closed a week from tomorrow.

That stark assessment of Creigh Deeds’s candidacy in the Virginia gubernatorial race comes from the Democratic website Not Larry Sabato. And that’s Deeds‘s side.

Deeds has run a poor race, filled with equivocation and lacking any positive policies. And he said (before he waffled and did the backflip thing) that he was going to raise taxes. And he staked his race on a 20-year-old college paper. But, really: in politics, one expects some degree of stiff-upper-lipness, if only to spare the down-ticket candidates from being wiped out in the storm. It’s bad enough coming from a blogger, but we’ve also seen it right out of the White House, which is desperate to declare Deeds unrescuable. Perhaps he is, but the other Virginia Democrats on the ballot would be a lot happier if all the grave-dancing took place after the polls closed a week from tomorrow.

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In Failure, Obama Works Miracles

Just to follow up on Jennifer’s post: the New York Times’s David Sanger, apparently filing from an alterate universe, writes about negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, “The rare public argument under way in Iran about how to deal with the demands suggests that Mr. Obama has already achieved one of the major objectives of his engagement strategy: to force out into the open the splits in the Iranian leadership.”

Two things. First, “rare public argument” has been rendered a misnomer by the fraudulent election of June 12 and the unrest of its aftermath. Iran’s fractured leadership constitutes the central political spectacle in that country. Dissenting clerics are being treated as heretics and criminals by the Ahmadinejad-Basij-Khamenei thugocracy. It is arguably the most closely watched and most important international political upheaval on the world’s radar.

Second, not only has the split in Iranian leadership been public since June 12, but no public figure has done more to minimize the importance of that split than Barack Obama. He views any challenge to the ruling regime as an obstacle to engagement on the nuclear issue. Obama has bent over backward to help Tehran move past the post-election turmoil. As Basij batons cracked Iranian skulls and Basij bullets pierced Iranian hearts, the American president adopted an ameliorating tone, “bearing witness” to murderous injustice and, of course, the political split that lay behind it. Heaven forbid that American opinion be used as a “political football.”

It’s one thing to say Obama’s negotiation bid was worth a shot and, therefore, he was being pragmatic about ignoring the schism in Iran. It’s quite another to say the negotiation’s failure demonstrates that Obama has single-handedly freed the tongues of dissenters in Tehran. While Obama’s poll numbers drop, the adoring press finds more craven ways to rescue its hero. But if we end up on the wrong side of Iranian liberation, don’t expect the people of Iran to buy into the bailout.

Just to follow up on Jennifer’s post: the New York Times’s David Sanger, apparently filing from an alterate universe, writes about negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, “The rare public argument under way in Iran about how to deal with the demands suggests that Mr. Obama has already achieved one of the major objectives of his engagement strategy: to force out into the open the splits in the Iranian leadership.”

Two things. First, “rare public argument” has been rendered a misnomer by the fraudulent election of June 12 and the unrest of its aftermath. Iran’s fractured leadership constitutes the central political spectacle in that country. Dissenting clerics are being treated as heretics and criminals by the Ahmadinejad-Basij-Khamenei thugocracy. It is arguably the most closely watched and most important international political upheaval on the world’s radar.

Second, not only has the split in Iranian leadership been public since June 12, but no public figure has done more to minimize the importance of that split than Barack Obama. He views any challenge to the ruling regime as an obstacle to engagement on the nuclear issue. Obama has bent over backward to help Tehran move past the post-election turmoil. As Basij batons cracked Iranian skulls and Basij bullets pierced Iranian hearts, the American president adopted an ameliorating tone, “bearing witness” to murderous injustice and, of course, the political split that lay behind it. Heaven forbid that American opinion be used as a “political football.”

It’s one thing to say Obama’s negotiation bid was worth a shot and, therefore, he was being pragmatic about ignoring the schism in Iran. It’s quite another to say the negotiation’s failure demonstrates that Obama has single-handedly freed the tongues of dissenters in Tehran. While Obama’s poll numbers drop, the adoring press finds more craven ways to rescue its hero. But if we end up on the wrong side of Iranian liberation, don’t expect the people of Iran to buy into the bailout.

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We Are Ahead! Really?

This New York Times report on the Iran negotiations provides insight into the administration and elite opinion. It is also a cautionary tale for those who have convinced themselves, because the alternative is too frightening, that our leaders are savvy and skilled enough to face the Iranian nuclear threat.

The Times’s framework is a redux of the Cold War — through the prism of the Left, which assumes the problem is mutual mistrust. We think the Iranians are up to no good. But they have fears and concerns too. The West might “cheat” (how?) or steal the mullah’s uranium, which we have graciously agreed to reprocess for them (no receipts?). If only we could learn to get along.

The context is a long-awaited UN inspection of Qom. It has been weeks since the revelation of the site. So no doubt the place has been scrubbed, cleaned, and redecorated. (Nothing to see here. Let’s move along.) We are now in the realm of playacting. Does anyone really believe that inspections are meaningful when the Iranians have had weeks to prepare? This farce reveals only our strong commitment to the kabuki dance of gestures and rhetoric. Meanwhile, the Iranian nuclear program grows, at sites both known and unknown.

But wait. We are told the Obama team is keenly aware of the trap. They know — really! — the score: “They are acutely aware of the fact that the clock is ticking: While talks continue, Iran is steadily enriching more uranium, the fuel it would need if it ever decided to sprint for the bomb, much as Israel and India did 30 years ago, followed by Pakistan and North Korea.” But then why don’t they do something about it? And why conceal the existence of the Qom site to allow the playacting to continue?

Well, the Obama administration thinks it’s winning. No, honestly. William Burns proclaims: “I think that for the first time, the Iranians are really on the defensive.” Well, this is the man who threw himself at the feet of the Iranian negotiators to seek a one-on-one meeting, so perhaps his views of international power politics are a bit skewed. But, of course, this is nonsense on stilts. The Ahmadinejad regime has been acknowledged as the legitimate government of Iran, there are no sanctions for having concealed Qom and violated previous UN declarations, the Iranian delegation is commended for coming to the table, and the mullahs have repeatedly defied negotiating deadlines with no consequences. And after all, even the Times must concede:

Many people at the negotiating table expect Iran to try to drag out the process. Yet even if Iran took the deal, it would only buy time; it would not solve the nuclear standoff. If 2,600 pounds of enriched uranium leaves the country, as the plan calls for, it would take Tehran roughly a year to replace it. That is not much time, but since American intelligence estimates say that Iran could produce a weapon between 2010 and 2015, even a year’s delay helps. The Iranians say time is on their side in this dispute, and as long as their government holds together in the face of rising protests, they may be right.

The only whiff of reality in the hermetic dome of White House self-delusion is this: the Obami are nervous they will be blamed for allowing Iran to go nuclear. (“Few in the White House doubt how the narrative will be written if the Iranians actually gain a weapons ability on Mr. Obama’s watch.”) If we reach this point (an increasingly likely possibility given the delusional behavior of our negotiators), the Obama team will, as with everything else, blame others.

It’s true that the Bush administration left office with this issue unresolved. But if a revolutionary Islamic state dedicated to the destruction of Israel and to regional hegemony gets a nuclear weapon before Obama’s term in office ends, make no mistake — this president will be held accountable, especially considering the opportunities that were lost as he prattled on about “engagement” and “disarmament.” If we are very fortunate, the realization of accountability will shake the administration from its slumber and spur a change in policy, which to date has not put Iran on the defensive but the West.

This New York Times report on the Iran negotiations provides insight into the administration and elite opinion. It is also a cautionary tale for those who have convinced themselves, because the alternative is too frightening, that our leaders are savvy and skilled enough to face the Iranian nuclear threat.

The Times’s framework is a redux of the Cold War — through the prism of the Left, which assumes the problem is mutual mistrust. We think the Iranians are up to no good. But they have fears and concerns too. The West might “cheat” (how?) or steal the mullah’s uranium, which we have graciously agreed to reprocess for them (no receipts?). If only we could learn to get along.

The context is a long-awaited UN inspection of Qom. It has been weeks since the revelation of the site. So no doubt the place has been scrubbed, cleaned, and redecorated. (Nothing to see here. Let’s move along.) We are now in the realm of playacting. Does anyone really believe that inspections are meaningful when the Iranians have had weeks to prepare? This farce reveals only our strong commitment to the kabuki dance of gestures and rhetoric. Meanwhile, the Iranian nuclear program grows, at sites both known and unknown.

But wait. We are told the Obama team is keenly aware of the trap. They know — really! — the score: “They are acutely aware of the fact that the clock is ticking: While talks continue, Iran is steadily enriching more uranium, the fuel it would need if it ever decided to sprint for the bomb, much as Israel and India did 30 years ago, followed by Pakistan and North Korea.” But then why don’t they do something about it? And why conceal the existence of the Qom site to allow the playacting to continue?

Well, the Obama administration thinks it’s winning. No, honestly. William Burns proclaims: “I think that for the first time, the Iranians are really on the defensive.” Well, this is the man who threw himself at the feet of the Iranian negotiators to seek a one-on-one meeting, so perhaps his views of international power politics are a bit skewed. But, of course, this is nonsense on stilts. The Ahmadinejad regime has been acknowledged as the legitimate government of Iran, there are no sanctions for having concealed Qom and violated previous UN declarations, the Iranian delegation is commended for coming to the table, and the mullahs have repeatedly defied negotiating deadlines with no consequences. And after all, even the Times must concede:

Many people at the negotiating table expect Iran to try to drag out the process. Yet even if Iran took the deal, it would only buy time; it would not solve the nuclear standoff. If 2,600 pounds of enriched uranium leaves the country, as the plan calls for, it would take Tehran roughly a year to replace it. That is not much time, but since American intelligence estimates say that Iran could produce a weapon between 2010 and 2015, even a year’s delay helps. The Iranians say time is on their side in this dispute, and as long as their government holds together in the face of rising protests, they may be right.

The only whiff of reality in the hermetic dome of White House self-delusion is this: the Obami are nervous they will be blamed for allowing Iran to go nuclear. (“Few in the White House doubt how the narrative will be written if the Iranians actually gain a weapons ability on Mr. Obama’s watch.”) If we reach this point (an increasingly likely possibility given the delusional behavior of our negotiators), the Obama team will, as with everything else, blame others.

It’s true that the Bush administration left office with this issue unresolved. But if a revolutionary Islamic state dedicated to the destruction of Israel and to regional hegemony gets a nuclear weapon before Obama’s term in office ends, make no mistake — this president will be held accountable, especially considering the opportunities that were lost as he prattled on about “engagement” and “disarmament.” If we are very fortunate, the realization of accountability will shake the administration from its slumber and spur a change in policy, which to date has not put Iran on the defensive but the West.

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Thinking About What Needs to Be Thinkable

At the Washington Institute’s Weinberg Founders Conference on October 18, Gen. (Ret.) Charles Wald, former deputy commander of the U.S. European Command, participated in a keynote debate on preventive military action against Iran. (The video is here; the excerpts below are from the Federal News Service transcript.)

Asked directly if such action is feasible, Wald responded in part as follows:

Yeah, I think it is. I mean, I think it would be very difficult. I think the consequences would be problematic to a certain extent. It wouldn’t be easy. It wouldn’t be one strike. …

On the other hand, for people that think just because there isn’t one single target that somebody could go after – frankly the United States – that it’s undoable is false. And I think for us to allow that belief to perpetuate is a dangerous thing. …

And certainly I think people here believe it’s possible they could have [a nuclear weapon] by next summer. And in military terms, something that’s possible that could happen has to be considered as something that’s going to occur. You can’t just kind of put it aside.

Wald later expressed concern about the limited time frame for resolving this issue:

My concern – and I’m not in the military anymore and don’t speak for the administration or the United States military, but as a U.S. citizen and a former military person, my concern is that the Israelis consider this an existential threat, which if I were in Israel I would worry about this. …

So I know there’s a lot of discussions going on with our great ally, Israel, but the pressures are going to mount over the next six months to a year.

Asked if diplomacy can work, Wald endorsed it but said, “You have to have all the different tools all at once”:

I mean, nobody wants to start another front, let’s say, in the Middle East. And the Iranians know this. The Iranians know the American public has quite a bit of [war] fatigue. …

But [the Iranians] need to believe that [they could be subject to military action], and it should be true too. So I think Iran needs to know there are other tools that could be used. … Sanctions are a nice thing but an embargo or potentially a blockade – a blockade is an act of war so you’d need to be ready to go. …

And the other thing, I think Iran – and we should say this in public – is Iran needs to realize – and you can have your opinion about Iraq or Afghanistan or any of those things, but in 2001, our presence was basically in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia to a certain extent, some ships in the North Arabian Sea, the Persian Gulf, and that was it.

Today we have a presence in Iraq. We have a presence in Afghanistan. We have a presence in the Gulf. And if we’re smart we would have a presence in Azerbaijan as well. If I’m Iran, I’m getting a little nervous about the fact that the U.S. has a presence there. We should take advantage of that.

The reference to the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is a reminder that as Iran considers its nuclear-weapons program, its evaluation of the American commander in chief will be affected by his coming decision on Afghanistan: to follow the advice of Gen. Stanley McChrystal or that of Gen. J.R. Biden Jr. or to vote “present” by sending 10,000 to 20,000 troops (enough to neither win nor lose). It is not only the Taliban and al-Qaeda that are watching Obama in his third month of self-reflection about his self-declared war of necessity. Iran is watching as well.

At the Washington Institute’s Weinberg Founders Conference on October 18, Gen. (Ret.) Charles Wald, former deputy commander of the U.S. European Command, participated in a keynote debate on preventive military action against Iran. (The video is here; the excerpts below are from the Federal News Service transcript.)

Asked directly if such action is feasible, Wald responded in part as follows:

Yeah, I think it is. I mean, I think it would be very difficult. I think the consequences would be problematic to a certain extent. It wouldn’t be easy. It wouldn’t be one strike. …

On the other hand, for people that think just because there isn’t one single target that somebody could go after – frankly the United States – that it’s undoable is false. And I think for us to allow that belief to perpetuate is a dangerous thing. …

And certainly I think people here believe it’s possible they could have [a nuclear weapon] by next summer. And in military terms, something that’s possible that could happen has to be considered as something that’s going to occur. You can’t just kind of put it aside.

Wald later expressed concern about the limited time frame for resolving this issue:

My concern – and I’m not in the military anymore and don’t speak for the administration or the United States military, but as a U.S. citizen and a former military person, my concern is that the Israelis consider this an existential threat, which if I were in Israel I would worry about this. …

So I know there’s a lot of discussions going on with our great ally, Israel, but the pressures are going to mount over the next six months to a year.

Asked if diplomacy can work, Wald endorsed it but said, “You have to have all the different tools all at once”:

I mean, nobody wants to start another front, let’s say, in the Middle East. And the Iranians know this. The Iranians know the American public has quite a bit of [war] fatigue. …

But [the Iranians] need to believe that [they could be subject to military action], and it should be true too. So I think Iran needs to know there are other tools that could be used. … Sanctions are a nice thing but an embargo or potentially a blockade – a blockade is an act of war so you’d need to be ready to go. …

And the other thing, I think Iran – and we should say this in public – is Iran needs to realize – and you can have your opinion about Iraq or Afghanistan or any of those things, but in 2001, our presence was basically in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia to a certain extent, some ships in the North Arabian Sea, the Persian Gulf, and that was it.

Today we have a presence in Iraq. We have a presence in Afghanistan. We have a presence in the Gulf. And if we’re smart we would have a presence in Azerbaijan as well. If I’m Iran, I’m getting a little nervous about the fact that the U.S. has a presence there. We should take advantage of that.

The reference to the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is a reminder that as Iran considers its nuclear-weapons program, its evaluation of the American commander in chief will be affected by his coming decision on Afghanistan: to follow the advice of Gen. Stanley McChrystal or that of Gen. J.R. Biden Jr. or to vote “present” by sending 10,000 to 20,000 troops (enough to neither win nor lose). It is not only the Taliban and al-Qaeda that are watching Obama in his third month of self-reflection about his self-declared war of necessity. Iran is watching as well.

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Conservative Still

Gallup offers us this interesting survey information:

Conservatives continue to outnumber moderates and liberals in the American populace in 2009, confirming a finding that Gallup first noted in June. Forty percent of Americans describe their political views as conservative, 36% as moderate, and 20% as liberal. This marks a shift from 2005 through 2008, when moderates were tied with conservatives as the most prevalent group.

What is more, independent voters are tilting Right. (“The 35% of independents describing their views as conservative in 2009 is up from 29% in 2008.”) And on a host of issues, voters seems to be adopting a more conservative perspective. For example, the percentage who say there is too much government regulation of business and industry has gone up from 38 percent to 45 percent in the past year, and the percentages of those who want less power for labor unions and fewer restrictions on gun sales have also increased.

This raises a few serious issues for the White House and the Congress. First, as the Democratic-controlled government is racing to the Left, the country is moving Right. The latter may well be a backlash against the very policies pushed by the Obama team, and against those policies’ consequences (e.g., more debt, bigger government). And the decline in the approval rating of both the president and the Congress may well reflect the public’s aversion to their liberal agenda. Second, lawmakers can read the polls too, and at some point those who have been buffaloed into voting for liberal measures (e.g., cap-and-trade) for the sake of party unity will resist further entreaties to cast votes at odds with the voters’ tilt. Third, the notion that the country’s political center was shifted and reset in 2008 apparently was just wishful thinking. Remember that Obama ran a campaign drenched in moderate rhetoric and that he rejected key positions that he has now embraced (e.g., taxes on those making less than $250,000). This suggests he was able to win precisely because voters didn’t know what was really in store for them.

These voters see what a liberal congressional majority and president in fact have in mind, and the tension between the Democrats’ governing philosophy and the voters’ political philosophy will need to be resolved. Either elected officials will need to move Right or, more likely, the voters will select leaders whose political philosophy more closely resembles their own.

Gallup offers us this interesting survey information:

Conservatives continue to outnumber moderates and liberals in the American populace in 2009, confirming a finding that Gallup first noted in June. Forty percent of Americans describe their political views as conservative, 36% as moderate, and 20% as liberal. This marks a shift from 2005 through 2008, when moderates were tied with conservatives as the most prevalent group.

What is more, independent voters are tilting Right. (“The 35% of independents describing their views as conservative in 2009 is up from 29% in 2008.”) And on a host of issues, voters seems to be adopting a more conservative perspective. For example, the percentage who say there is too much government regulation of business and industry has gone up from 38 percent to 45 percent in the past year, and the percentages of those who want less power for labor unions and fewer restrictions on gun sales have also increased.

This raises a few serious issues for the White House and the Congress. First, as the Democratic-controlled government is racing to the Left, the country is moving Right. The latter may well be a backlash against the very policies pushed by the Obama team, and against those policies’ consequences (e.g., more debt, bigger government). And the decline in the approval rating of both the president and the Congress may well reflect the public’s aversion to their liberal agenda. Second, lawmakers can read the polls too, and at some point those who have been buffaloed into voting for liberal measures (e.g., cap-and-trade) for the sake of party unity will resist further entreaties to cast votes at odds with the voters’ tilt. Third, the notion that the country’s political center was shifted and reset in 2008 apparently was just wishful thinking. Remember that Obama ran a campaign drenched in moderate rhetoric and that he rejected key positions that he has now embraced (e.g., taxes on those making less than $250,000). This suggests he was able to win precisely because voters didn’t know what was really in store for them.

These voters see what a liberal congressional majority and president in fact have in mind, and the tension between the Democrats’ governing philosophy and the voters’ political philosophy will need to be resolved. Either elected officials will need to move Right or, more likely, the voters will select leaders whose political philosophy more closely resembles their own.

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The Baghdad Blasts in Context

I happened to be few miles away from the terrible bomb blasts that went off in central Baghdad on Sunday, but I first became aware of them when word spread around the conference room in the U.S. embassy, where I was being briefed.

This reminds me of what I learned long ago in Iraq: acts of violence that occur a few blocks away might as well be a world away. Once again, I learned the details from CNN, just as observers back in the U.S. did. I did not feel the roar of the explosion, nor see the smoke. Nor, I should add, did the vast majority of Baghdadis, much less of Iraqis. That is not meant to minimize the horror of what happened or to downplay its significance. It is simply to place it in some context and urge readers not to lose sight of the big picture: Attacks are still down to their lowest level since 2003-2004. Life has returned to a semblance of normality in Baghdad and other areas. A few high-profile attacks — this one or the one in August — do not change the fundamental, day-to-day reality of life getting better.

I will have more to say on this in the future, but for now I have to get my body armor and head for the Black Hawks to take a trip to southern Iraq.

I happened to be few miles away from the terrible bomb blasts that went off in central Baghdad on Sunday, but I first became aware of them when word spread around the conference room in the U.S. embassy, where I was being briefed.

This reminds me of what I learned long ago in Iraq: acts of violence that occur a few blocks away might as well be a world away. Once again, I learned the details from CNN, just as observers back in the U.S. did. I did not feel the roar of the explosion, nor see the smoke. Nor, I should add, did the vast majority of Baghdadis, much less of Iraqis. That is not meant to minimize the horror of what happened or to downplay its significance. It is simply to place it in some context and urge readers not to lose sight of the big picture: Attacks are still down to their lowest level since 2003-2004. Life has returned to a semblance of normality in Baghdad and other areas. A few high-profile attacks — this one or the one in August — do not change the fundamental, day-to-day reality of life getting better.

I will have more to say on this in the future, but for now I have to get my body armor and head for the Black Hawks to take a trip to southern Iraq.

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Re: The Afghanistan War Lies

Ed Gillespie is the latest official from the Bush administration to come forward and call out the Obama team for lying about the failure of the Bush White House to deliver an Afghanistan war plan to the incoming administration. The question from CNN’s John King is almost as interesting as the answer in this exchange:

KING: My phone and my e-mail have been going nuts, been an overload all week from people who worked in the administration and were close to your administration, the former administration, saying, essentially, hogwash, that we actually did [have] a very detailed review and we gave it to them.

GILLESPIE: That’s exactly right. And, in fact, in mid-September, there was a two-month review process, interview process, and then an analysis of that. And the fact is Rahm Emanuel, last Sunday, was either uninformed or willfully misleading in what he said because he knows full well, I suspect, that there was a proposal given and a review given that took into account the Afghan national army, the politics over there, the policing, the international framework.

Several things are clear here. First, multiple people aware of the facts confirm that the Bush team left a detailed plan that became the basis for Obama’s March announcement on its approach to Afghanistan. Second, the Obama team knows that multiple people are aware of the facts and chose to lie anyway. There’s a good deal of hubris in risking the credibility of the presidency on such a blatant and easily revealed lie. And third, this is a big deal. The issue is why the administration concocts excuses for delaying the announcement and implementation of its war strategy. It is unseemly in the extreme to shirk the obligations of commander in chief to provide timely decisions. And to do so based on a blatant misrepresentation is extraordinary.

It leaves one puzzled: Is the president’s staff so engulfed by political spin and the perpetual desire to blame everything on the Bush team that they would play roulette with the president’s credibility? It seems so.

Ed Gillespie is the latest official from the Bush administration to come forward and call out the Obama team for lying about the failure of the Bush White House to deliver an Afghanistan war plan to the incoming administration. The question from CNN’s John King is almost as interesting as the answer in this exchange:

KING: My phone and my e-mail have been going nuts, been an overload all week from people who worked in the administration and were close to your administration, the former administration, saying, essentially, hogwash, that we actually did [have] a very detailed review and we gave it to them.

GILLESPIE: That’s exactly right. And, in fact, in mid-September, there was a two-month review process, interview process, and then an analysis of that. And the fact is Rahm Emanuel, last Sunday, was either uninformed or willfully misleading in what he said because he knows full well, I suspect, that there was a proposal given and a review given that took into account the Afghan national army, the politics over there, the policing, the international framework.

Several things are clear here. First, multiple people aware of the facts confirm that the Bush team left a detailed plan that became the basis for Obama’s March announcement on its approach to Afghanistan. Second, the Obama team knows that multiple people are aware of the facts and chose to lie anyway. There’s a good deal of hubris in risking the credibility of the presidency on such a blatant and easily revealed lie. And third, this is a big deal. The issue is why the administration concocts excuses for delaying the announcement and implementation of its war strategy. It is unseemly in the extreme to shirk the obligations of commander in chief to provide timely decisions. And to do so based on a blatant misrepresentation is extraordinary.

It leaves one puzzled: Is the president’s staff so engulfed by political spin and the perpetual desire to blame everything on the Bush team that they would play roulette with the president’s credibility? It seems so.

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It’s Back!

The buzz in Washington is that Democrats are going to put the public option back into the health-care bill, whether it makes sense or not and whether Blue Dogs want it or not. We will put aside the politics for a moment to consider the substance.

As Robert J. Samuelson puts it, the idea of a government competitor for private health care is based on a fallacy that a government monopoly is an aid to cost containment. He writes:

Its political brilliance is to use free-market rhetoric (more “choice” and “competition”) to expand government power. But why would a plan tied to Medicare control health spending, when Medicare hasn’t? From 1970 to 2007, Medicare spending per beneficiary rose 9.2 percent annually compared to the 10.4 percent of private insurers — and the small difference partly reflects cost shifting. Congress periodically improves Medicare benefits, and there’s a limit to how much squeezing reimbursement rates can check costs. Doctors and hospitals already complain that low payments limit services or discourage physicians from taking Medicare patients

But the real issue here is the “option” part of the public option. Even by its proponents’ honest admission, it’s nothing more than a stalking horse for a single-payer system, as the public plan squeezes out private insurers. As Fred Hiatt explains, the most likely scenario would be a plan that “uses government power to demand lower prices from hospitals and drug companies, those providers may lower quality or seek to make up the difference from private payers.” The result isn’t hard to predict: “Private companies would have to raise their rates, so more people would choose the public plan, so private rates would rise further — and we could end up with only the public option and no competition at all.”

So it is this sort of reform — one that doesn’t do what it claims (control costs) and does do what it claims it doesn’t (create a government-run health-care system) that is supposed to attract a majority of votes in both houses of Congress. Perhaps the Democratic leadership has enough chits and tricks to evade the filibuster and strong-arm its moderate and conservative members, who will then face a tsunami of opposition and the potential loss of their seats. Well, stranger things have happened. But it seems far more likely that eventually even lawmakers will wise up and see that, both on the merits and on the politics, the “public option” makes little sense.

The buzz in Washington is that Democrats are going to put the public option back into the health-care bill, whether it makes sense or not and whether Blue Dogs want it or not. We will put aside the politics for a moment to consider the substance.

As Robert J. Samuelson puts it, the idea of a government competitor for private health care is based on a fallacy that a government monopoly is an aid to cost containment. He writes:

Its political brilliance is to use free-market rhetoric (more “choice” and “competition”) to expand government power. But why would a plan tied to Medicare control health spending, when Medicare hasn’t? From 1970 to 2007, Medicare spending per beneficiary rose 9.2 percent annually compared to the 10.4 percent of private insurers — and the small difference partly reflects cost shifting. Congress periodically improves Medicare benefits, and there’s a limit to how much squeezing reimbursement rates can check costs. Doctors and hospitals already complain that low payments limit services or discourage physicians from taking Medicare patients

But the real issue here is the “option” part of the public option. Even by its proponents’ honest admission, it’s nothing more than a stalking horse for a single-payer system, as the public plan squeezes out private insurers. As Fred Hiatt explains, the most likely scenario would be a plan that “uses government power to demand lower prices from hospitals and drug companies, those providers may lower quality or seek to make up the difference from private payers.” The result isn’t hard to predict: “Private companies would have to raise their rates, so more people would choose the public plan, so private rates would rise further — and we could end up with only the public option and no competition at all.”

So it is this sort of reform — one that doesn’t do what it claims (control costs) and does do what it claims it doesn’t (create a government-run health-care system) that is supposed to attract a majority of votes in both houses of Congress. Perhaps the Democratic leadership has enough chits and tricks to evade the filibuster and strong-arm its moderate and conservative members, who will then face a tsunami of opposition and the potential loss of their seats. Well, stranger things have happened. But it seems far more likely that eventually even lawmakers will wise up and see that, both on the merits and on the politics, the “public option” makes little sense.

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Getting to “Yes” — with Plenty of Spin

While Sen. John McCain, for reasons not entirely clear, doesn’t like former Dick Cheney’s use of “dithering” to describe the paralysis that has gripped the White House on implementation of a new Afghanistan-war strategy, his analysis differs not at all from Cheney’s:

We are not operating in a vacuum now. Americans are still — 68,000 Americans are there already. Eight young Americans were killed in a firefight — one of the reasons is they didn’t have adequate support — just recently. You know, one thing — a funny thing about insurgencies, it’s usually governments that are not credible that breed insurgencies. We have a lot of work to do on governance. We have a lot of work to do in motivating the Karzai government, if he is indeed — wins the run-off, which it appears that he’s going to, in eliminating corruption. But the sooner we get the people over there — the sooner the decision is made, the sooner we get people over there and are able to implement the strategy that will succeed.

Nor does McCain buy the spin that somehow Joe Biden’s counterterrorism notions can be merged with Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s counterinsurgency plan into some sort of “hybrid” plan:

I don’t know how you make them hybrid. There are elements of counterterrorism in counterinsurgency, but fundamentally, counterinsurgency will require the implementation of the strategy that General McChrystal has recommended, in my view. And the counterterrorism strategy, killing people and then returning to base, has been proven to be a very disastrous strategy in Iraq and in other places.

Talk of a “hybrid” plan smacks of spin cooked up by domestic political consultants — as does much of what comes out of the White House on this issue. If Obama intends to ultimately reject Biden’s advice, which was so lacking in merit that only his own staff was willing to make the case for it in writing, he will need, the reasoning goes, to show that he didn’t merely capitulate to the chorus of military advice within the administration and conservatives outside the White House. How would it look, after all that, if the president simply agreed with the advice given to him weeks ago? It might suggest that the “seminar” process was a waste of time, politically concocted, and that it did nothing other than delay critical implementation of a new war strategy.

So we’ll get, perhaps, a “not-exactly-McChrystal” plan that we could have set in motion weeks ago. Gens. Biden, Axelrod, and Emanuel will then be dispatched to explain what insightful questions the president posed and what enhancements were made to the plan they all strenuously opposed. It’s a heck of a way to run a war, isn’t it?

While Sen. John McCain, for reasons not entirely clear, doesn’t like former Dick Cheney’s use of “dithering” to describe the paralysis that has gripped the White House on implementation of a new Afghanistan-war strategy, his analysis differs not at all from Cheney’s:

We are not operating in a vacuum now. Americans are still — 68,000 Americans are there already. Eight young Americans were killed in a firefight — one of the reasons is they didn’t have adequate support — just recently. You know, one thing — a funny thing about insurgencies, it’s usually governments that are not credible that breed insurgencies. We have a lot of work to do on governance. We have a lot of work to do in motivating the Karzai government, if he is indeed — wins the run-off, which it appears that he’s going to, in eliminating corruption. But the sooner we get the people over there — the sooner the decision is made, the sooner we get people over there and are able to implement the strategy that will succeed.

Nor does McCain buy the spin that somehow Joe Biden’s counterterrorism notions can be merged with Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s counterinsurgency plan into some sort of “hybrid” plan:

I don’t know how you make them hybrid. There are elements of counterterrorism in counterinsurgency, but fundamentally, counterinsurgency will require the implementation of the strategy that General McChrystal has recommended, in my view. And the counterterrorism strategy, killing people and then returning to base, has been proven to be a very disastrous strategy in Iraq and in other places.

Talk of a “hybrid” plan smacks of spin cooked up by domestic political consultants — as does much of what comes out of the White House on this issue. If Obama intends to ultimately reject Biden’s advice, which was so lacking in merit that only his own staff was willing to make the case for it in writing, he will need, the reasoning goes, to show that he didn’t merely capitulate to the chorus of military advice within the administration and conservatives outside the White House. How would it look, after all that, if the president simply agreed with the advice given to him weeks ago? It might suggest that the “seminar” process was a waste of time, politically concocted, and that it did nothing other than delay critical implementation of a new war strategy.

So we’ll get, perhaps, a “not-exactly-McChrystal” plan that we could have set in motion weeks ago. Gens. Biden, Axelrod, and Emanuel will then be dispatched to explain what insightful questions the president posed and what enhancements were made to the plan they all strenuously opposed. It’s a heck of a way to run a war, isn’t it?

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Down to the Wire

As this report details, Gov. Jon Corzine has gobs of money, a huge advantage for Democrats in voter registration, a compliant media, and a third-party candidate dividing the anti-Corzine vote. And with all that going for him, he’s in a dead heat. The reasons for his dilemma are clear: a prickly personality, a Wall Street résumé that’s no longer an asset, a fiscal mess in Trenton, and the ongoing stench of corruption. A sample of his woes:

Corzine remains associated with New Jersey’s heavy tax burden, especially the onerous property levies that he promised to reduce when campaigning four years ago. Those plans were largely undone by the recession, which left the state with a $7 billion shortfall and the governor’s approval ratings mired in the low 30s.”He’s a failure,” said Bob Armstrong, 63, an engineer from Howell. “He made promises that he hasn’t kept. The state has, if not the highest taxes in the country, we’re right there. Property taxes are through the roof.”

The revenue pinch also hurt Corzine with state employees, a usually reliable Democratic constituency that was angered when he reopened contracts to remove automatic raises.

The election is a dead heat and may come down to two October developments — the conviction of a Corzine political ally and an incident involving a gun in the car of the independent candidate, Chris Daggett, who has been drawing double-digit support. The former may remind New Jersey voters of the perils of one-state rule. And the latter may take some of the wind out of Daggett, who is siphoning off badly needed votes from Republican Chris Christie. Ultimately the election will come down to a referendum on Corzine and that recurring question for New Jersey voters: How bad must a Democratic incumbent be to get the boot?

As this report details, Gov. Jon Corzine has gobs of money, a huge advantage for Democrats in voter registration, a compliant media, and a third-party candidate dividing the anti-Corzine vote. And with all that going for him, he’s in a dead heat. The reasons for his dilemma are clear: a prickly personality, a Wall Street résumé that’s no longer an asset, a fiscal mess in Trenton, and the ongoing stench of corruption. A sample of his woes:

Corzine remains associated with New Jersey’s heavy tax burden, especially the onerous property levies that he promised to reduce when campaigning four years ago. Those plans were largely undone by the recession, which left the state with a $7 billion shortfall and the governor’s approval ratings mired in the low 30s.”He’s a failure,” said Bob Armstrong, 63, an engineer from Howell. “He made promises that he hasn’t kept. The state has, if not the highest taxes in the country, we’re right there. Property taxes are through the roof.”

The revenue pinch also hurt Corzine with state employees, a usually reliable Democratic constituency that was angered when he reopened contracts to remove automatic raises.

The election is a dead heat and may come down to two October developments — the conviction of a Corzine political ally and an incident involving a gun in the car of the independent candidate, Chris Daggett, who has been drawing double-digit support. The former may remind New Jersey voters of the perils of one-state rule. And the latter may take some of the wind out of Daggett, who is siphoning off badly needed votes from Republican Chris Christie. Ultimately the election will come down to a referendum on Corzine and that recurring question for New Jersey voters: How bad must a Democratic incumbent be to get the boot?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Juan Williams is shocked to learn from Obama’s chief economic adviser, Christina Romer, that we’ve already gotten all the bang from the trillion bucks spent on the stimulus: “I was — I was kind of stunned by what she had to say. I didn’t get it, because I think they have laid out a set of expectations that said, ‘You know what? We’re going to spend a lot of the stimulus money in 2010, and therefore it’s going have tremendous impact, building infrastructure and the like. Look towards 2010 at the time in which you can anticipate the stimulus having its greatest impact.'” And Mara Liasson pipes up: “Not good for — not good for a party that controls all branches of government, and they’re up for re-election. It’s just not good.”

Dana Perino on the Obama war against Fox News: “That was a coordinated, calculated attack. It was unbecoming. And if you look at some of the coverage of what mainstream media covers when, for example, somebody like a Hugo Chavez shuts down television stations, he calls them illegitimate. Now, I’m not suggesting that this White House believes that they are going to come over here and shut down Fox News. But they are defining a narrative in their first year, and it’s going to be very hard to recover from it.”

As for another entity on the Obama enemies’ list: “A top official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce continued to decry the Obama administration’s opposition to the group, even though White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is scheduled to speak before its board of directors next month. … ‘We haven’t raised up the Cain; it came from their side of the street,’ he said. ‘We’re not going to take the bait and engage in a name-calling campaign here.'”

Some inconvenient political truths: “Americans seem to be cooling toward global warming. Just 57 percent think there is solid evidence the world is getting warmer, down 20 points in just three years, a new poll says. And the share of people who believe pollution caused by humans is causing temperatures to rise has also taken a dip, even as the U.S. and world forums gear up for possible action against climate change.”

If you keep spending, the red ink will keep gushing: “The White House disclosed the other day that the fiscal 2009 budget deficit clocked in at $1.4 trillion, amid the usual promises to do something about it. Yet even as budget director Peter Orszag was speaking, House Democrats were moving on a dozen spending bills for fiscal 2010 that total 12.1% in more domestic discretionary increases. Yes, 12.1%.”

On the public option: “Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) remains a thorn in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s side, saying Sunday he’s made no promises that he’ll vote to kill a GOP filibuster.”

When David Gergen and the CNN gang are discussing whether Obama resembles Jimmy Carter, you know a lot has changed.

Further evidence of dithering: “In its nine months in office, the Obama administration has been unable to turn the president’s vaunted popularity in much of the world into major new international commitments of troops. Now, just as the president is publicly agonizing over what the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan should be, some European leaders seem willing to consider making increased commitments to Afghanistan.”

Juan Williams is shocked to learn from Obama’s chief economic adviser, Christina Romer, that we’ve already gotten all the bang from the trillion bucks spent on the stimulus: “I was — I was kind of stunned by what she had to say. I didn’t get it, because I think they have laid out a set of expectations that said, ‘You know what? We’re going to spend a lot of the stimulus money in 2010, and therefore it’s going have tremendous impact, building infrastructure and the like. Look towards 2010 at the time in which you can anticipate the stimulus having its greatest impact.'” And Mara Liasson pipes up: “Not good for — not good for a party that controls all branches of government, and they’re up for re-election. It’s just not good.”

Dana Perino on the Obama war against Fox News: “That was a coordinated, calculated attack. It was unbecoming. And if you look at some of the coverage of what mainstream media covers when, for example, somebody like a Hugo Chavez shuts down television stations, he calls them illegitimate. Now, I’m not suggesting that this White House believes that they are going to come over here and shut down Fox News. But they are defining a narrative in their first year, and it’s going to be very hard to recover from it.”

As for another entity on the Obama enemies’ list: “A top official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce continued to decry the Obama administration’s opposition to the group, even though White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is scheduled to speak before its board of directors next month. … ‘We haven’t raised up the Cain; it came from their side of the street,’ he said. ‘We’re not going to take the bait and engage in a name-calling campaign here.'”

Some inconvenient political truths: “Americans seem to be cooling toward global warming. Just 57 percent think there is solid evidence the world is getting warmer, down 20 points in just three years, a new poll says. And the share of people who believe pollution caused by humans is causing temperatures to rise has also taken a dip, even as the U.S. and world forums gear up for possible action against climate change.”

If you keep spending, the red ink will keep gushing: “The White House disclosed the other day that the fiscal 2009 budget deficit clocked in at $1.4 trillion, amid the usual promises to do something about it. Yet even as budget director Peter Orszag was speaking, House Democrats were moving on a dozen spending bills for fiscal 2010 that total 12.1% in more domestic discretionary increases. Yes, 12.1%.”

On the public option: “Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) remains a thorn in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s side, saying Sunday he’s made no promises that he’ll vote to kill a GOP filibuster.”

When David Gergen and the CNN gang are discussing whether Obama resembles Jimmy Carter, you know a lot has changed.

Further evidence of dithering: “In its nine months in office, the Obama administration has been unable to turn the president’s vaunted popularity in much of the world into major new international commitments of troops. Now, just as the president is publicly agonizing over what the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan should be, some European leaders seem willing to consider making increased commitments to Afghanistan.”

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