Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 12, 2009

Who Won in the 23rd?

It’s not likely, but a huge embarrassment to Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama could be shaping up in the 23rd Congressional District of New York.

Doug Hoffman, the Conservative party candidate, conceded the race on election night when he was told that, with 93 percent of the vote counted, he was 5,300 votes behind and had barely carried his stronghold of Oswego County.

In fact he carried Oswego by 1,748 votes and, thanks to the recanvass, is now only 3,000 votes behind the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens. On election night, he was behind Owens by 300 votes in Jefferson County. He now leads there by over 400.

So it boils down to the absentee ballots that are yet to be counted. There were about 10,000 absentee ballots sent out. If half of them were returned — not an uncommon percentage — Hoffman would have to win over 80 percent of them to overturn Owens’s victory. Very unlikely, but not impossible.

If that were to happen, the political apparatchiks in the White House, who have been trying desperately to change the subject by saying that this election was the true test of national politics, not the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey, would have egg all over their faces. Worse, Nancy Pelosi would look like she played dirty by swearing in Bill Owns when there was no certificate of election from New York State. Each house is “the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own members,” but it is unusual not to wait for certification of the election by state election authorities. Pelosi didn’t in this case (or in the undisputed special House race in California), because she was desperate to have the two votes for the PelosiCare bill.

I haven’t the faintest idea if the vote of an improperly seated congressman counts (and it wouldn’t reverse the outcome in any case), but if Bill Owens was indeed improperly seated, it will be truly delicious.

It’s not likely, but a huge embarrassment to Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama could be shaping up in the 23rd Congressional District of New York.

Doug Hoffman, the Conservative party candidate, conceded the race on election night when he was told that, with 93 percent of the vote counted, he was 5,300 votes behind and had barely carried his stronghold of Oswego County.

In fact he carried Oswego by 1,748 votes and, thanks to the recanvass, is now only 3,000 votes behind the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens. On election night, he was behind Owens by 300 votes in Jefferson County. He now leads there by over 400.

So it boils down to the absentee ballots that are yet to be counted. There were about 10,000 absentee ballots sent out. If half of them were returned — not an uncommon percentage — Hoffman would have to win over 80 percent of them to overturn Owens’s victory. Very unlikely, but not impossible.

If that were to happen, the political apparatchiks in the White House, who have been trying desperately to change the subject by saying that this election was the true test of national politics, not the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey, would have egg all over their faces. Worse, Nancy Pelosi would look like she played dirty by swearing in Bill Owns when there was no certificate of election from New York State. Each house is “the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own members,” but it is unusual not to wait for certification of the election by state election authorities. Pelosi didn’t in this case (or in the undisputed special House race in California), because she was desperate to have the two votes for the PelosiCare bill.

I haven’t the faintest idea if the vote of an improperly seated congressman counts (and it wouldn’t reverse the outcome in any case), but if Bill Owens was indeed improperly seated, it will be truly delicious.

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Confusion and Leaks Further Mar White House Afghan Policy

The Afghanistan policy review at the White House is getting more farcical — if that’s possible. It’s bizarre enough that every NSC meeting in this endless review is publicly announced and its contents are then leaked for public dissection in the next morning’s newspapers. Now we read in every major newspaper (see, e.g., in the Los Angeles Times, this) that Karl Eikenberry, the retired general who is the U.S. ambassador in Kabul, “has warned in classified cables against any further buildup of American forces in the country … saying that additional troops would be unwise because of the corruption and ineffectiveness of the Afghan government.”

One would think that the merits of this position would have been hashed out long ago (like, say, back in March, when the results of the last Afghan policy review were announced) and that President Obama would have concluded by now that we can’t simply write off Afghanistan because of the “corruption and ineffectiveness” of its government. But, no, Eikenberry’s cables seem to have landed with the impact of a mortar round in the White House and, if leaks are to believed, they have further reinforced the president’s tendency toward hesitation and doubt.

It does not exactly inspire confidence to read this account of the latest NSC meeting, from the New York Times:

A central focus of Mr. Obama’s questions, officials said, was how long it would take to see results and be able to withdraw.

“He wants to know where the off-ramps are,” one official said.

So the president is already looking to leave Afghanistan before he has even committed more forces? He’s more interested in an exit strategy than a strategy for success? What a terrible message to send to our troops and what a heartening message to send to our enemies.

It’s hard to know, of course, if this is an accurate reflection of what the man in the Oval Office is thinking — or simply a reflection of what the aides who are providing all these quotes for the media are thinking. Whatever the case, this bespeaks an extraordinarily chaotic and undisciplined White House decision-making process, with the president’s most senior advisers playing out their disagreements in public even after Gen. Stanley McChrystal had been chastised for making his own views known.

Whatever the president now decides, it will place one of our senior representatives in Kabul in a very difficult position. If the president decides to send a large number of additional troops, that will undermine the standing of Eikenberry. If he decides not to send those troops, he will undermine the standing of McChrystal. Either way, it will be harder for the two men to work together after their differences have been so publicly aired.

The Afghanistan policy review at the White House is getting more farcical — if that’s possible. It’s bizarre enough that every NSC meeting in this endless review is publicly announced and its contents are then leaked for public dissection in the next morning’s newspapers. Now we read in every major newspaper (see, e.g., in the Los Angeles Times, this) that Karl Eikenberry, the retired general who is the U.S. ambassador in Kabul, “has warned in classified cables against any further buildup of American forces in the country … saying that additional troops would be unwise because of the corruption and ineffectiveness of the Afghan government.”

One would think that the merits of this position would have been hashed out long ago (like, say, back in March, when the results of the last Afghan policy review were announced) and that President Obama would have concluded by now that we can’t simply write off Afghanistan because of the “corruption and ineffectiveness” of its government. But, no, Eikenberry’s cables seem to have landed with the impact of a mortar round in the White House and, if leaks are to believed, they have further reinforced the president’s tendency toward hesitation and doubt.

It does not exactly inspire confidence to read this account of the latest NSC meeting, from the New York Times:

A central focus of Mr. Obama’s questions, officials said, was how long it would take to see results and be able to withdraw.

“He wants to know where the off-ramps are,” one official said.

So the president is already looking to leave Afghanistan before he has even committed more forces? He’s more interested in an exit strategy than a strategy for success? What a terrible message to send to our troops and what a heartening message to send to our enemies.

It’s hard to know, of course, if this is an accurate reflection of what the man in the Oval Office is thinking — or simply a reflection of what the aides who are providing all these quotes for the media are thinking. Whatever the case, this bespeaks an extraordinarily chaotic and undisciplined White House decision-making process, with the president’s most senior advisers playing out their disagreements in public even after Gen. Stanley McChrystal had been chastised for making his own views known.

Whatever the president now decides, it will place one of our senior representatives in Kabul in a very difficult position. If the president decides to send a large number of additional troops, that will undermine the standing of Eikenberry. If he decides not to send those troops, he will undermine the standing of McChrystal. Either way, it will be harder for the two men to work together after their differences have been so publicly aired.

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Chavez Agonistes

Hugo Chavez is reportedly refusing to take phone calls from Colombian president Alvaro Uribe. Uribe’s foreign minister can’t get a shout back from his Venezuelan counterpart either. The stonewalling from Caracas comes in the wake of Chavez’s other call on November 8, in his weekly media program, for the Venezuelan army to “prepare for war.” Chavez has been making this kind of call for several months, but last week he also moved 15,000 troops to the border with Colombia. Uribe has responded with 12,000 troops deployed on his side of the border and a request for the UN Security Council and the Organization of American States to rein in Chavez.

The issue, according to Chavez, is the October 30 agreement by Colombia to allow U.S. forces to use its military bases for counter-narcotics operations. Contrary to Chavez’s formulation of the matter, this does not involve a new introduction of American forces into the region. Our forces operated from Ecuador until August 2009 and continue to operate from El Salvador. Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, reelected in April after doing a “Chavez” on his country’s constitution, decided to let the basing agreement with the U.S. expire in August, and we negotiated the agreement to use Colombian bases this summer. So why is Chavez so frantic about what is, in effect, a shift of bases rather than a change in U.S. military posture?

Because he knows U.S. forces fighting the drug war in Colombia would have a pretext to pursue FARC guerrillas into Venezuela — as FARC was pursued by Colombian troops into Ecuador in 2008 — and that from Colombia, as opposed to Ecuador, American forces would be in a position to do so. It’s merely sound analysis to project that with U.S. forces using multiple Colombian bases, FARC will be increasingly pushed across borders. Venezuela’s is already hospitable; it would be extremely inconvenient to Chavez to try to close it, especially given the reliance of Hezbollah, the protégé of his great friend Iran, on its ties to FARC and the drug trade. Such developments would also interfere with Chavez’s own policy of supporting FARC as a means of weakening the center-right, U.S.-friendly Uribe government.

Ironically, the preference of many in the Obama administration for stand-off, cross-border raids and aerial attacks — as demonstrated in Pakistan — only strengthens the perception in Central America that the shift to Colombian bases will herald U.S. intervention of that kind. The U.S. preoccupation with forcing Honduras to take Manuel Zelaya back has reinforced, meanwhile, the impression that Obama will act in Latin America with a reflexive, high-handed cynicism.

Chavez would be quite correct, even without these factors, that U.S. forces based in Colombia are an impediment to his regional plans. He fears attack because he knows a valid pretext exists for attacking his territory. His antagonism should not stop us, but we had better be prepared for the actions it will prompt, and keep our own purposes and strategy clearly in mind.

Hugo Chavez is reportedly refusing to take phone calls from Colombian president Alvaro Uribe. Uribe’s foreign minister can’t get a shout back from his Venezuelan counterpart either. The stonewalling from Caracas comes in the wake of Chavez’s other call on November 8, in his weekly media program, for the Venezuelan army to “prepare for war.” Chavez has been making this kind of call for several months, but last week he also moved 15,000 troops to the border with Colombia. Uribe has responded with 12,000 troops deployed on his side of the border and a request for the UN Security Council and the Organization of American States to rein in Chavez.

The issue, according to Chavez, is the October 30 agreement by Colombia to allow U.S. forces to use its military bases for counter-narcotics operations. Contrary to Chavez’s formulation of the matter, this does not involve a new introduction of American forces into the region. Our forces operated from Ecuador until August 2009 and continue to operate from El Salvador. Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, reelected in April after doing a “Chavez” on his country’s constitution, decided to let the basing agreement with the U.S. expire in August, and we negotiated the agreement to use Colombian bases this summer. So why is Chavez so frantic about what is, in effect, a shift of bases rather than a change in U.S. military posture?

Because he knows U.S. forces fighting the drug war in Colombia would have a pretext to pursue FARC guerrillas into Venezuela — as FARC was pursued by Colombian troops into Ecuador in 2008 — and that from Colombia, as opposed to Ecuador, American forces would be in a position to do so. It’s merely sound analysis to project that with U.S. forces using multiple Colombian bases, FARC will be increasingly pushed across borders. Venezuela’s is already hospitable; it would be extremely inconvenient to Chavez to try to close it, especially given the reliance of Hezbollah, the protégé of his great friend Iran, on its ties to FARC and the drug trade. Such developments would also interfere with Chavez’s own policy of supporting FARC as a means of weakening the center-right, U.S.-friendly Uribe government.

Ironically, the preference of many in the Obama administration for stand-off, cross-border raids and aerial attacks — as demonstrated in Pakistan — only strengthens the perception in Central America that the shift to Colombian bases will herald U.S. intervention of that kind. The U.S. preoccupation with forcing Honduras to take Manuel Zelaya back has reinforced, meanwhile, the impression that Obama will act in Latin America with a reflexive, high-handed cynicism.

Chavez would be quite correct, even without these factors, that U.S. forces based in Colombia are an impediment to his regional plans. He fears attack because he knows a valid pretext exists for attacking his territory. His antagonism should not stop us, but we had better be prepared for the actions it will prompt, and keep our own purposes and strategy clearly in mind.

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Can the Palestinians Recite Them, Too?

In a letter to the International Herald Tribune, J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami urges the U.S. to finally close an Israeli-Palestinian deal, “the parameters of which we can all recite in our sleep.” So if everyone agrees on the parameters, how is it that 16 years of negotiations have yet to produce a deal?

The answer, of course, is that there is no such agreement — not on the parameters, and still less on the pesky details.

For instance, “everyone knows” — even Ben-Ami — that any deal requires the Palestinians to abandon their demand to resettle millions of descendants of refugees in Israel, as that would spell the end of the Jewish state. Everyone, that is, except the Palestinians, who have yet to budge on this demand.

And “everyone knows” that any deal must give the Palestinians control over the Temple Mount. (Well, actually, most Israelis disagree, but that doesn’t seem to matter to anyone — even their own prime ministers.) Yet every time Israel offers them the Mount, the Palestinians refuse to accept it, because they insist that it be accompanied by an Israeli renunciation of any Jewish connection to Judaism’s holiest site, to which Jews have prayed three times a day for millennia. In other words, they insist that Jews deny their history, religion, and cultural and spiritual heritage as the price of a deal.

Hence they rejected even the ridiculous and totally unenforceable Clinton compromise of Palestinian sovereignty atop the Mount and Israeli sovereignty underneath. That effectively gave the Palestinians full control, since if they control the top, nobody can prevent them from doing what they please underneath — nor can Israel gain access to exercise its underground rights. But since this compromise did acknowledge an Israeli connection to the Mount, even it was too much for the Palestinians.

They also rejected Ehud Olmert’s proposal last year that the Mount be controlled by a five-member international panel composed of “Palestine,” Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and Israel, on which Israel would obviously be permanently and automatically outvoted. But its very membership would acknowledge an Israeli connection to the Mount, and that was unacceptable to the Palestinians.

And then there’s the issue of borders. “Everyone knows” (except the Israeli majority, which doesn’t count) that the border must be based on the 1967 lines, with 1:1 territorial swaps for a few settlement blocs, since relocating 300,000 settlers is unfeasible. Yet the Palestinians rejected exactly that when Olmert offered it last year. Olmert proposed swaps equivalent to 6 percent of the West Bank, but the Palestinians say their maximum is 2-3 percent. It’s not enough for them to get the equivalent of 100 percent of the territory; they want the satisfaction of making Israel suffer by having to throw hundreds of thousands of Israelis out of their homes.

So it really doesn’t matter whether “everyone” knows the parameters or not. Because until someone manages to convince the Palestinians that Israel’s cultural, spiritual, and physical suicide isn’t part of the deal, there isn’t going to be one.

In a letter to the International Herald Tribune, J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami urges the U.S. to finally close an Israeli-Palestinian deal, “the parameters of which we can all recite in our sleep.” So if everyone agrees on the parameters, how is it that 16 years of negotiations have yet to produce a deal?

The answer, of course, is that there is no such agreement — not on the parameters, and still less on the pesky details.

For instance, “everyone knows” — even Ben-Ami — that any deal requires the Palestinians to abandon their demand to resettle millions of descendants of refugees in Israel, as that would spell the end of the Jewish state. Everyone, that is, except the Palestinians, who have yet to budge on this demand.

And “everyone knows” that any deal must give the Palestinians control over the Temple Mount. (Well, actually, most Israelis disagree, but that doesn’t seem to matter to anyone — even their own prime ministers.) Yet every time Israel offers them the Mount, the Palestinians refuse to accept it, because they insist that it be accompanied by an Israeli renunciation of any Jewish connection to Judaism’s holiest site, to which Jews have prayed three times a day for millennia. In other words, they insist that Jews deny their history, religion, and cultural and spiritual heritage as the price of a deal.

Hence they rejected even the ridiculous and totally unenforceable Clinton compromise of Palestinian sovereignty atop the Mount and Israeli sovereignty underneath. That effectively gave the Palestinians full control, since if they control the top, nobody can prevent them from doing what they please underneath — nor can Israel gain access to exercise its underground rights. But since this compromise did acknowledge an Israeli connection to the Mount, even it was too much for the Palestinians.

They also rejected Ehud Olmert’s proposal last year that the Mount be controlled by a five-member international panel composed of “Palestine,” Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the U.S., and Israel, on which Israel would obviously be permanently and automatically outvoted. But its very membership would acknowledge an Israeli connection to the Mount, and that was unacceptable to the Palestinians.

And then there’s the issue of borders. “Everyone knows” (except the Israeli majority, which doesn’t count) that the border must be based on the 1967 lines, with 1:1 territorial swaps for a few settlement blocs, since relocating 300,000 settlers is unfeasible. Yet the Palestinians rejected exactly that when Olmert offered it last year. Olmert proposed swaps equivalent to 6 percent of the West Bank, but the Palestinians say their maximum is 2-3 percent. It’s not enough for them to get the equivalent of 100 percent of the territory; they want the satisfaction of making Israel suffer by having to throw hundreds of thousands of Israelis out of their homes.

So it really doesn’t matter whether “everyone” knows the parameters or not. Because until someone manages to convince the Palestinians that Israel’s cultural, spiritual, and physical suicide isn’t part of the deal, there isn’t going to be one.

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Business Cards?

The Washington Post reports that Major Nadal Hasan’s apartment contained some business cards imprinted as follows:

Hasans Business Card

Behavioral Health — Mental Health — Life Skills

Nidal Hasan, MD, MPH

SoA(SWT)

Psychiatrist

The Post explains: “SoA refers to ‘soldier of Allah’ or ‘slave of Allah,’ and ‘SWT’ to an Arabic phrase meaning ‘glory to him, the exalted.'” Sometimes there is simply no way to explain away reality.

The Washington Post reports that Major Nadal Hasan’s apartment contained some business cards imprinted as follows:

Hasans Business Card

Behavioral Health — Mental Health — Life Skills

Nidal Hasan, MD, MPH

SoA(SWT)

Psychiatrist

The Post explains: “SoA refers to ‘soldier of Allah’ or ‘slave of Allah,’ and ‘SWT’ to an Arabic phrase meaning ‘glory to him, the exalted.'” Sometimes there is simply no way to explain away reality.

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Obama’s Extraordinary Irresponsibility

I wanted to follow up on the comments by Jennifer and Max regarding President Obama’s seeming inability to make a decision on General McChrystal’s request for more troops in Afghanistan. To put things in context: the McChrystal report was sent to the Obama administration at the end of August. McChrystal was emphatic in his 66-page request: “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) — while Afghan security capacity matures — risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.”

According to our commanding general in Afghanistan, then, we have a window of 12 months to regain the initiative or we risk losing the war. We are now approaching the middle of November — two and a half months after McChrystal’s request — and based on media reports, President Obama does not plan to accept any of the Afghanistan war options presented by his national-security team. If true — and I know from my time in the White House that what is reported sometimes reflects, rather than the thinking of the president,  the views of aides trying to influence a decision via public leaks  — this is both stunning and reckless. As one person pointed out to me, the same president who wants to ram through health-care legislation, despite the fact that we don’t face a health-care emergency, seems unable to settle on a hugely consequential, time-sensitive decision in the midst of a war.

I have not begrudged President Obama the time to carefully think through a decision on Afghanistan — but this is ridiculous. This issue should have been front and center for the administration the moment it was clear Obama won the presidency. He has already presented (in March) his “new” strategy for Afghanistan. The fact that he wants to revisit his decision may be understandable, except for the fact that his foot-dragging is now harming us. Sometimes presidents are forced to make decisions based on external events and pressing outside needs. “The public life of every political figure is a continual struggle to rescue an element of choice from the pressure of circumstance,” Henry Kissinger wrote in the first volume of his memoirs, White House Years. Governing the nation does not afford you the luxuries you have when conducting a college seminar.

President Obama not only needs to make a decision soon; once he does, assuming he does, we face the logistical challenges of getting the troops in place. Precious time has already been lost. If after all the time that’s been lost, Obama is now jettisoning all the options he has been presented with, including the McChrystal option, then what we are witnessing is extraordinarily irresponsible. Sometimes you can lose a war by not choosing. And that is the path we may well be on right now, if media reports are correct.

President Obama needs to get a grip on this process soon. Decisions need to be made and a war needs to be won.

I wanted to follow up on the comments by Jennifer and Max regarding President Obama’s seeming inability to make a decision on General McChrystal’s request for more troops in Afghanistan. To put things in context: the McChrystal report was sent to the Obama administration at the end of August. McChrystal was emphatic in his 66-page request: “Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent momentum in the near-term (next 12 months) — while Afghan security capacity matures — risks an outcome where defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.”

According to our commanding general in Afghanistan, then, we have a window of 12 months to regain the initiative or we risk losing the war. We are now approaching the middle of November — two and a half months after McChrystal’s request — and based on media reports, President Obama does not plan to accept any of the Afghanistan war options presented by his national-security team. If true — and I know from my time in the White House that what is reported sometimes reflects, rather than the thinking of the president,  the views of aides trying to influence a decision via public leaks  — this is both stunning and reckless. As one person pointed out to me, the same president who wants to ram through health-care legislation, despite the fact that we don’t face a health-care emergency, seems unable to settle on a hugely consequential, time-sensitive decision in the midst of a war.

I have not begrudged President Obama the time to carefully think through a decision on Afghanistan — but this is ridiculous. This issue should have been front and center for the administration the moment it was clear Obama won the presidency. He has already presented (in March) his “new” strategy for Afghanistan. The fact that he wants to revisit his decision may be understandable, except for the fact that his foot-dragging is now harming us. Sometimes presidents are forced to make decisions based on external events and pressing outside needs. “The public life of every political figure is a continual struggle to rescue an element of choice from the pressure of circumstance,” Henry Kissinger wrote in the first volume of his memoirs, White House Years. Governing the nation does not afford you the luxuries you have when conducting a college seminar.

President Obama not only needs to make a decision soon; once he does, assuming he does, we face the logistical challenges of getting the troops in place. Precious time has already been lost. If after all the time that’s been lost, Obama is now jettisoning all the options he has been presented with, including the McChrystal option, then what we are witnessing is extraordinarily irresponsible. Sometimes you can lose a war by not choosing. And that is the path we may well be on right now, if media reports are correct.

President Obama needs to get a grip on this process soon. Decisions need to be made and a war needs to be won.

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Did I Write That?

Judith Miller and David Samuels write in the Los Angeles Times:

While no one explicitly suggested that Hasan’s alleged response was commensurate with the insults he suffered, the subtext of the coverage was that he was simply another traumatized victim of America’s wars — and that his alleged actions should prompt us to offer a collective mea culpa.

That’s absolutely ridiculous. But in taking aim at the evasive psycho-babble that dominated early news accounts, the right has engaged in an equally dangerous bias that conflates Hasan’s radicalism with the religious beliefs of mainstream Muslims. In their narrative, any Muslim might suddenly “snap,” as Hasan apparently did, and reveal himself to be the enemy within.

Attacking what she called “head-scratching and obfuscation,” Jennifer Rubin argued on Commentary’s website that the fear of appearing “anti-Muslim” had led the Army and the American media to ignore “the role of Maj. Hasan’s Muslim beliefs” in the Ft. Hood massacre.

Even the sophisticated analyst Tunku Varadarajan of Forbes.com observed that “Muslims may be more extreme because their religion is founded on bellicose conquest, a contempt for infidels and an obligation for piety that is more extensive than in other schemes.” He also coined the phrase “going Muslim” — a play on “going postal” that even he found disconcerting — to describe the orgy of violence in which Hasan allegedly engaged. Adding sensibly that not all Muslims might be so inclined, Rubin and Varadarajan left it to more primitive commentators to draw the inevitable conclusion that all Muslims in the U.S. military should be viewed as potential traitors.

I contacted Ms. Miller to point out that the column distorts — badly so — what I have written. Am I really among those who contend that “any Muslim might suddenly ‘snap,’ as Hasan apparently did, and reveal himself to be the enemy within”? Why no. In fact, as I pointed out to the authors of that line that my posts say the very opposite. In fact, I wrote here:

To be clear: it is the ultimate red herring, a straw man of gargantuan proportions, to suggest that those pointing to Hasan’s motives and announced intentions (“I am going to do good work for God“) are suggesting that Muslim soldiers as a group are untrustworthy or suspect. No, there is no “backlash” in the works. What there is, and what elite opinion makers should recognize before the public’s fury builds, is that ignoring signs of  Islamic-fundamentalist-inspired animus toward America will get people killed. It has. And it will again unless and until we stop tip-toeing around the obvious link between a murderous ideology and murder.

And here I wrote:

It is the diversity obsession and the give-no-offense mentality that, we fear, allowed Hasan to avoid a stringent inquiry. I suppose Robinson can satisfy himself and those like-minded, squeamish souls who can’t bear to think they’re trampling on the sensibilities of anyone. But let’s be clear: the Army didn’t fail the “Muslim community”; it failed 43 wounded or slain people and their families. And to prevent it from happening again, we need to get over the diversity fetish (which imagines that Americans are too dumb to distinguish between nonviolent Muslims and those who’ve adopted a murderous ideology) and get on with the business of fighting a war against those who want many, many more Fort Hoods.

In short, I did not “leave it to more primitive commentators to draw the inevitable conclusion that all Muslims in the U.S. military should be viewed as potential traitors.” I have written to dispute that conclusion and have criticized those who would deploy the red-herring argument.

The irony is not lost on me: if you are going to criticize others for employing imprecise or inflammatory analysis, it is best to be accurate yourself. The authors were unmoved by actual citations from my work — why let what I’ve actually written get in the way of a good LA Times column? — and appear disinclined to correct or amend their distortions. So be it.

Judith Miller and David Samuels write in the Los Angeles Times:

While no one explicitly suggested that Hasan’s alleged response was commensurate with the insults he suffered, the subtext of the coverage was that he was simply another traumatized victim of America’s wars — and that his alleged actions should prompt us to offer a collective mea culpa.

That’s absolutely ridiculous. But in taking aim at the evasive psycho-babble that dominated early news accounts, the right has engaged in an equally dangerous bias that conflates Hasan’s radicalism with the religious beliefs of mainstream Muslims. In their narrative, any Muslim might suddenly “snap,” as Hasan apparently did, and reveal himself to be the enemy within.

Attacking what she called “head-scratching and obfuscation,” Jennifer Rubin argued on Commentary’s website that the fear of appearing “anti-Muslim” had led the Army and the American media to ignore “the role of Maj. Hasan’s Muslim beliefs” in the Ft. Hood massacre.

Even the sophisticated analyst Tunku Varadarajan of Forbes.com observed that “Muslims may be more extreme because their religion is founded on bellicose conquest, a contempt for infidels and an obligation for piety that is more extensive than in other schemes.” He also coined the phrase “going Muslim” — a play on “going postal” that even he found disconcerting — to describe the orgy of violence in which Hasan allegedly engaged. Adding sensibly that not all Muslims might be so inclined, Rubin and Varadarajan left it to more primitive commentators to draw the inevitable conclusion that all Muslims in the U.S. military should be viewed as potential traitors.

I contacted Ms. Miller to point out that the column distorts — badly so — what I have written. Am I really among those who contend that “any Muslim might suddenly ‘snap,’ as Hasan apparently did, and reveal himself to be the enemy within”? Why no. In fact, as I pointed out to the authors of that line that my posts say the very opposite. In fact, I wrote here:

To be clear: it is the ultimate red herring, a straw man of gargantuan proportions, to suggest that those pointing to Hasan’s motives and announced intentions (“I am going to do good work for God“) are suggesting that Muslim soldiers as a group are untrustworthy or suspect. No, there is no “backlash” in the works. What there is, and what elite opinion makers should recognize before the public’s fury builds, is that ignoring signs of  Islamic-fundamentalist-inspired animus toward America will get people killed. It has. And it will again unless and until we stop tip-toeing around the obvious link between a murderous ideology and murder.

And here I wrote:

It is the diversity obsession and the give-no-offense mentality that, we fear, allowed Hasan to avoid a stringent inquiry. I suppose Robinson can satisfy himself and those like-minded, squeamish souls who can’t bear to think they’re trampling on the sensibilities of anyone. But let’s be clear: the Army didn’t fail the “Muslim community”; it failed 43 wounded or slain people and their families. And to prevent it from happening again, we need to get over the diversity fetish (which imagines that Americans are too dumb to distinguish between nonviolent Muslims and those who’ve adopted a murderous ideology) and get on with the business of fighting a war against those who want many, many more Fort Hoods.

In short, I did not “leave it to more primitive commentators to draw the inevitable conclusion that all Muslims in the U.S. military should be viewed as potential traitors.” I have written to dispute that conclusion and have criticized those who would deploy the red-herring argument.

The irony is not lost on me: if you are going to criticize others for employing imprecise or inflammatory analysis, it is best to be accurate yourself. The authors were unmoved by actual citations from my work — why let what I’ve actually written get in the way of a good LA Times column? — and appear disinclined to correct or amend their distortions. So be it.

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What Will It Take?

Daniel Henninger writes:

The only good news out of the Fort Hood massacre is that U.S. electronic surveillance technology was able to pick up Major Hasan’s phone calls to an al Qaeda-loving imam in Yemen. The bad news is the people and agencies listening to Hasan didn’t know what to do about it. Other than nothing.

Next week, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.) will convene the Homeland Security Committee to find out if someone in the Army or FBI dropped the ball on Hasan. At Ford Hood itself, grief has been turning to anger as news of possible dropped balls has emerged.

Henninger says that this is the price we paid for the bend-over-backward effort to avoid casting aspersions on those with a take-offense-at-everything lobby on their side. He holds out hope that we will get serious about the nature of our enemy and put an end to the “rancorous confusion about the enemy, the legal standing of the enemy, or the legal status and scope of the methods it wants to use to fight the enemy.” His suggestion: “President Obama should do two things: Call off the CIA investigation. Then call in the guys who didn’t make the right call on Hasan and ask why not. Then, whatever set the bar too high, lower it.”

How likely is that? Obama has been a prime malefactor in fanning confusion about the enemy and the means we will use to defend ourselves. He ran for president on pulling the plug on Iraq, although that was a central battlefield in the war against the same Islamic fundamentalists. Once in office, he not only declared war on the CIA by re-investigating its operatives and disclosing their methods, but he proposed closing Guantanamo and bringing detainees to the U.S. for trial and possible incarceration. In his grand address on health care, he tells the country it’s a shame we have to spend money fighting in Afghanistan. He has excised “war on terror” and “Islamic fundamentalist” from our official lexicon. And he has declared we won’t be using enhanced interrogation techniques to extract any useful information from those who would carry out dozens of Fort Hoods.

The conclusion is inescapable: Obama has embodied the confusion and unseriousness that Henninger identifies. Some might hope that this or that event or crisis will shake the president and bring him to his senses. The obligation to develop a war strategy? That’s not done the trick; in fact, it’s brought out his worst qualities and revealed his faulty instincts. An act of terrorism by a homegrown jihadist? Maybe, but the Obami’s rhetoric suggests that they are still deep in the weeds of confusion and reality avoidance.

The invasion of Afghanistan shocked Jimmy Carter: Ah, the Soviets were aggressive! What will wake up Obama and impress upon him the need to put childish rhetoric and left-wing talking points aside? If the Fort Hood massacre doesn’t, nothing will.

Daniel Henninger writes:

The only good news out of the Fort Hood massacre is that U.S. electronic surveillance technology was able to pick up Major Hasan’s phone calls to an al Qaeda-loving imam in Yemen. The bad news is the people and agencies listening to Hasan didn’t know what to do about it. Other than nothing.

Next week, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.) will convene the Homeland Security Committee to find out if someone in the Army or FBI dropped the ball on Hasan. At Ford Hood itself, grief has been turning to anger as news of possible dropped balls has emerged.

Henninger says that this is the price we paid for the bend-over-backward effort to avoid casting aspersions on those with a take-offense-at-everything lobby on their side. He holds out hope that we will get serious about the nature of our enemy and put an end to the “rancorous confusion about the enemy, the legal standing of the enemy, or the legal status and scope of the methods it wants to use to fight the enemy.” His suggestion: “President Obama should do two things: Call off the CIA investigation. Then call in the guys who didn’t make the right call on Hasan and ask why not. Then, whatever set the bar too high, lower it.”

How likely is that? Obama has been a prime malefactor in fanning confusion about the enemy and the means we will use to defend ourselves. He ran for president on pulling the plug on Iraq, although that was a central battlefield in the war against the same Islamic fundamentalists. Once in office, he not only declared war on the CIA by re-investigating its operatives and disclosing their methods, but he proposed closing Guantanamo and bringing detainees to the U.S. for trial and possible incarceration. In his grand address on health care, he tells the country it’s a shame we have to spend money fighting in Afghanistan. He has excised “war on terror” and “Islamic fundamentalist” from our official lexicon. And he has declared we won’t be using enhanced interrogation techniques to extract any useful information from those who would carry out dozens of Fort Hoods.

The conclusion is inescapable: Obama has embodied the confusion and unseriousness that Henninger identifies. Some might hope that this or that event or crisis will shake the president and bring him to his senses. The obligation to develop a war strategy? That’s not done the trick; in fact, it’s brought out his worst qualities and revealed his faulty instincts. An act of terrorism by a homegrown jihadist? Maybe, but the Obami’s rhetoric suggests that they are still deep in the weeds of confusion and reality avoidance.

The invasion of Afghanistan shocked Jimmy Carter: Ah, the Soviets were aggressive! What will wake up Obama and impress upon him the need to put childish rhetoric and left-wing talking points aside? If the Fort Hood massacre doesn’t, nothing will.

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Another Poll, Another Warning

The Pew Research poll has some sobering news for the Democratic Congress:

About half (52%) of registered voters would like to see their own representative re-elected next year, while 34% say that most members of Congress should be re-elected. Both measures are among the most negative in two decades of Pew Research surveys. Other low points were during the 1994 and 2006 election cycles, when the party in power suffered large losses in midterm elections.

Support for congressional incumbents is particularly low among political independents. Only 42% of independent voters want to see their own representative re-elected and just 25% would like to see most members of Congress re-elected. Both measures are near all-time lows in Pew Research surveys.

The voters are watching and don’t like what they see. They also don’t like how Obama is handling Afghanistan: “A majority (57%) now says the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan is going not too well or not at all well, up from 45% in January.” And they don’t like ObamCare either: “47% say they generally oppose the proposals being discussed in Congress, while 38% say they favor these proposals. About a third (34%) says they oppose the legislation very strongly while 24% favor it very strongly.”

Democrats in Congress can read these polls as well; unlike Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, they may decide to do something about it. That would entail attending to what concerns voters most (jobs), dumping what voters don’t like (PelosiCare), and moderating the tax-and-spend bonanza that has turned off independents.

Or they can keep on doing what their leaders ask of them and hope the voters learn to love it. Maybe New Jersey and Virginia were flukes — that’s what David Axelrod and Ruth Marcus keep telling them. Sure, that’s it. Give the voters PelosiCare as a “present” for Christmas. And then we’ll see just how serious the voters are about jettisoning lawmakers who persist in doing things they really don’t like.

The Pew Research poll has some sobering news for the Democratic Congress:

About half (52%) of registered voters would like to see their own representative re-elected next year, while 34% say that most members of Congress should be re-elected. Both measures are among the most negative in two decades of Pew Research surveys. Other low points were during the 1994 and 2006 election cycles, when the party in power suffered large losses in midterm elections.

Support for congressional incumbents is particularly low among political independents. Only 42% of independent voters want to see their own representative re-elected and just 25% would like to see most members of Congress re-elected. Both measures are near all-time lows in Pew Research surveys.

The voters are watching and don’t like what they see. They also don’t like how Obama is handling Afghanistan: “A majority (57%) now says the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan is going not too well or not at all well, up from 45% in January.” And they don’t like ObamCare either: “47% say they generally oppose the proposals being discussed in Congress, while 38% say they favor these proposals. About a third (34%) says they oppose the legislation very strongly while 24% favor it very strongly.”

Democrats in Congress can read these polls as well; unlike Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, they may decide to do something about it. That would entail attending to what concerns voters most (jobs), dumping what voters don’t like (PelosiCare), and moderating the tax-and-spend bonanza that has turned off independents.

Or they can keep on doing what their leaders ask of them and hope the voters learn to love it. Maybe New Jersey and Virginia were flukes — that’s what David Axelrod and Ruth Marcus keep telling them. Sure, that’s it. Give the voters PelosiCare as a “present” for Christmas. And then we’ll see just how serious the voters are about jettisoning lawmakers who persist in doing things they really don’t like.

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Killing Terrorists Saves Lives

When four Knesset members proposed legislation last week to institute the death penalty for child murderers, it revived a long-dormant Israeli debate over the pros and cons of this penalty in general. The latest installment, in today’s Jerusalem Post, supports the current de facto ban on executions, arguing that they deter neither murderers nor terrorists.

Regardless of whether that’s true, it misses the point: Israel desperately needs a death penalty for hard-core terrorists — not as a deterrent but to prevent them from being released to kill again. And, equally important, to spare the country wrenching emotional blackmail over kidnapped soldiers.

While ordinary Israeli murderers usually serve their sentences in full, terrorists have an excellent chance of being released early — either in an effort to “bolster Palestinian moderates” or in exchange for Israelis (or their remains, or even a “sign of life”) kidnapped by terrorist organizations. Israel releases hundreds of terrorists for one or both of these reasons almost every year. Most recently, for instance, it freed 20 female terrorists in exchange for a mere videotape of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

There are no official statistics on what percentage of these freed terrorists return to kill again. While one would hope the security services track this data, no government has ever published it, possibly realizing that if the statistics were known, public support for prisoner releases would plummet. Unofficial statistics — leaked to journalists or compiled by private organizations — vary widely, ranging from 25-80 percent. But even the lower figure is hardly negligible.

And the anecdotal evidence is compelling. In 2007, for instance, the Almagor Terror Victims Association compiled a list of 30 attacks committed by freed terrorists in 2000-2005 that together killed 177 Israelis. IDF Col. Herzl Halevy said this September that terrorists freed in a 2004 swap with Hezbollah composed “the entire infrastructure of Islamic Jihad” in subsequent years — during which Islamic Jihad bombings killed at least 37 Israelis. In short, executing terrorists, and hence preventing their release, would save lives.

But beyond that, executions would also end the agonizing debate over whether to trade terrorists for kidnapped Israelis. Most Israelis, for instance, would have no objection to freeing minor offenders in exchange for Shalit; the problem is that Hamas is demanding hundreds of mass murderers — who, if freed, would almost certainly kill again. Had these terrorists been executed, however, they would not be available to trade. Hamas would either have to make do with low-level offenders or get out of the kidnapping business.

Might that not encourage terrorists to kill rather than kidnap? Well, do the math: over the past decade, terrorists have kidnapped exactly two live Israelis (plus five dead ones, for whose remains Israel also paid). During the same period, freed terrorists have killed hundreds. It may sound cold, but that’s a pretty good cost-benefit ratio.

The bottom line is that Israel needs a death penalty for terrorists now. Few things would do more to save Israeli lives.

When four Knesset members proposed legislation last week to institute the death penalty for child murderers, it revived a long-dormant Israeli debate over the pros and cons of this penalty in general. The latest installment, in today’s Jerusalem Post, supports the current de facto ban on executions, arguing that they deter neither murderers nor terrorists.

Regardless of whether that’s true, it misses the point: Israel desperately needs a death penalty for hard-core terrorists — not as a deterrent but to prevent them from being released to kill again. And, equally important, to spare the country wrenching emotional blackmail over kidnapped soldiers.

While ordinary Israeli murderers usually serve their sentences in full, terrorists have an excellent chance of being released early — either in an effort to “bolster Palestinian moderates” or in exchange for Israelis (or their remains, or even a “sign of life”) kidnapped by terrorist organizations. Israel releases hundreds of terrorists for one or both of these reasons almost every year. Most recently, for instance, it freed 20 female terrorists in exchange for a mere videotape of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.

There are no official statistics on what percentage of these freed terrorists return to kill again. While one would hope the security services track this data, no government has ever published it, possibly realizing that if the statistics were known, public support for prisoner releases would plummet. Unofficial statistics — leaked to journalists or compiled by private organizations — vary widely, ranging from 25-80 percent. But even the lower figure is hardly negligible.

And the anecdotal evidence is compelling. In 2007, for instance, the Almagor Terror Victims Association compiled a list of 30 attacks committed by freed terrorists in 2000-2005 that together killed 177 Israelis. IDF Col. Herzl Halevy said this September that terrorists freed in a 2004 swap with Hezbollah composed “the entire infrastructure of Islamic Jihad” in subsequent years — during which Islamic Jihad bombings killed at least 37 Israelis. In short, executing terrorists, and hence preventing their release, would save lives.

But beyond that, executions would also end the agonizing debate over whether to trade terrorists for kidnapped Israelis. Most Israelis, for instance, would have no objection to freeing minor offenders in exchange for Shalit; the problem is that Hamas is demanding hundreds of mass murderers — who, if freed, would almost certainly kill again. Had these terrorists been executed, however, they would not be available to trade. Hamas would either have to make do with low-level offenders or get out of the kidnapping business.

Might that not encourage terrorists to kill rather than kidnap? Well, do the math: over the past decade, terrorists have kidnapped exactly two live Israelis (plus five dead ones, for whose remains Israel also paid). During the same period, freed terrorists have killed hundreds. It may sound cold, but that’s a pretty good cost-benefit ratio.

The bottom line is that Israel needs a death penalty for terrorists now. Few things would do more to save Israeli lives.

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Don’t Wait for Obama to Make Up His Mind About Making Up His Mind

This quote from an unnamed White House official, reported in today’s New York Times, filled me with dread:

“I’m not saying that we’ll be in a perpetual state of review, but the time the president has taken so far should signal to people that he will not hesitate to take a hard look at things and question assumptions if things are not moving in the right direction,” a senior White House official said.

Please, please say it ain’t so — that we won’t see another review like the present one for a long, long time. Bad enough that the White House has been ostentatiously and publicly reviewing all options in Afghanistan since August — for the second time this year! — while efforts to win the war are effectively put on hold. Worse is the possibility that we could see another such process as soon as next year.

Every president reacts, I suppose, to the perceived mistakes of his predecessors. George W. Bush thought that Bill Clinton was too professorial and vowed not to hold any of the aimless, grad-school-type chat sessions that were a hallmark of the Clinton decision-making process. Bush styled himself as the decider-in-chief and placed a premium on reaching decisions with a minimum of hand-wringing or second thoughts. The result was, as we know, some terrible decisions — especially in Iraq between 2003 and 2007. So now Obama, reacting to what he perceives as the lack of thought and debate that characterized decision-making in the Bush White House, is going too far in the other direction by publicizing every permutation of his Afghanistan thought process, and letting his subordinates suggest that the second-guessing and questioning will never stop.

Obviously it’s a good thing to be thoughtful and reflective and to take all factors into account before reaching a decision. But at some point the commander in chief has to say, “Enough! I’ve reached my decision, and now I’m going to give my commanders time and room to carry out the plan.” President Obama has not yet reached that point, and as the quote from his unnamed aide suggests, he may never reach that point. If he doesn’t, he will be doing terrible damage to our war effort. Success in war requires determination and will above all — even more than resources. If the commander in chief does not convey the determination to prevail, no matter what setbacks may arise, then the commitment of extra resources will not be all that effective because our enemies will be encouraged to think that they can simply wait us out and expect our will to snap at some point not too far in the future.

This quote from an unnamed White House official, reported in today’s New York Times, filled me with dread:

“I’m not saying that we’ll be in a perpetual state of review, but the time the president has taken so far should signal to people that he will not hesitate to take a hard look at things and question assumptions if things are not moving in the right direction,” a senior White House official said.

Please, please say it ain’t so — that we won’t see another review like the present one for a long, long time. Bad enough that the White House has been ostentatiously and publicly reviewing all options in Afghanistan since August — for the second time this year! — while efforts to win the war are effectively put on hold. Worse is the possibility that we could see another such process as soon as next year.

Every president reacts, I suppose, to the perceived mistakes of his predecessors. George W. Bush thought that Bill Clinton was too professorial and vowed not to hold any of the aimless, grad-school-type chat sessions that were a hallmark of the Clinton decision-making process. Bush styled himself as the decider-in-chief and placed a premium on reaching decisions with a minimum of hand-wringing or second thoughts. The result was, as we know, some terrible decisions — especially in Iraq between 2003 and 2007. So now Obama, reacting to what he perceives as the lack of thought and debate that characterized decision-making in the Bush White House, is going too far in the other direction by publicizing every permutation of his Afghanistan thought process, and letting his subordinates suggest that the second-guessing and questioning will never stop.

Obviously it’s a good thing to be thoughtful and reflective and to take all factors into account before reaching a decision. But at some point the commander in chief has to say, “Enough! I’ve reached my decision, and now I’m going to give my commanders time and room to carry out the plan.” President Obama has not yet reached that point, and as the quote from his unnamed aide suggests, he may never reach that point. If he doesn’t, he will be doing terrible damage to our war effort. Success in war requires determination and will above all — even more than resources. If the commander in chief does not convey the determination to prevail, no matter what setbacks may arise, then the commitment of extra resources will not be all that effective because our enemies will be encouraged to think that they can simply wait us out and expect our will to snap at some point not too far in the future.

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Making Enemies, Influencing No One

The Obami foreign-policy gurus have perfected the art of annoying multiple parties in a number of international face-offs. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis have had it with the Obama settlement-freeze gambit. And now the Obama team’s handling of Honduras has brought howls from several quarters:

Less than two weeks after U.S. diplomats announced a historic agreement to reverse a coup in Honduras, the accord is in danger of collapse and both Honduran officials and U.S. lawmakers are blaming American missteps for some of the failure. Ousted president Manuel Zelaya, who was expelled by the military in June, said in a telephone interview that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had assured him as recently as last week that the U.S. government was seeking his return to the presidency. But he said that U.S. pressure had eased in recent days and that he no longer had faith in the agreement.

It’s not just Zelaya who’s peeved. The “international community” is annoyed too:

José Miguel Insulza, the head of the Organization of American States, which is helping implement the accord, said that negotiations between Zelaya and the de facto government had fallen apart and that he would not send a mission to Honduras to observe presidential elections at the end of the month. That added to the possibility that the previously scheduled elections will not be internationally recognized — and that Honduras’s five-month-old crisis will continue.

Sen. John Kerry and others who took seriously the deal to have Zelaya reinstated are also chagrined to find out that the State Department isn’t really bent out of shape by the failure of the Honduran Congress to take a vote on returning Zelaya to power. The Obami, on background naturally, confess they were in essence pulling a fast one on Zelaya. (“Another senior U.S. official noted the agreement never specifically said that Zelaya would be reinstated, instead giving the Honduran National Congress the power to vote on it.”) The Obami desperately and belatedly want to move on to elections, a position their critics and the Honduran interim government had been urging for months.

The Obami’s “historic” arrangement was, of course, supposed to extract the Obama team from the disastrous stalemate they had helped to create. Realizing they had backed a lunatic for whom there was no popular support within Honduras, the Obami came up with a scheme — let Zelaya back in power, but not really. Leave it up to the Congress, which won’t vote to put him back in power even briefly, and just move on to elections. But now everyone has figured out the game and they don’t much appreciate the trickery.

Once again we see the rank incompetence and disastrous results brought about by the smart Obama diplomacy. They raise expectations unrealistically on one side (Zelaya, the Palestinians), give the critics the back of the hand, dig in, realize the error of their ways, try to reverse course, and pretend they aren’t — and wind up with everyone mad. When is it that we get around to “restoring our standing” in the world?

The Obami foreign-policy gurus have perfected the art of annoying multiple parties in a number of international face-offs. Both the Palestinians and the Israelis have had it with the Obama settlement-freeze gambit. And now the Obama team’s handling of Honduras has brought howls from several quarters:

Less than two weeks after U.S. diplomats announced a historic agreement to reverse a coup in Honduras, the accord is in danger of collapse and both Honduran officials and U.S. lawmakers are blaming American missteps for some of the failure. Ousted president Manuel Zelaya, who was expelled by the military in June, said in a telephone interview that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had assured him as recently as last week that the U.S. government was seeking his return to the presidency. But he said that U.S. pressure had eased in recent days and that he no longer had faith in the agreement.

It’s not just Zelaya who’s peeved. The “international community” is annoyed too:

José Miguel Insulza, the head of the Organization of American States, which is helping implement the accord, said that negotiations between Zelaya and the de facto government had fallen apart and that he would not send a mission to Honduras to observe presidential elections at the end of the month. That added to the possibility that the previously scheduled elections will not be internationally recognized — and that Honduras’s five-month-old crisis will continue.

Sen. John Kerry and others who took seriously the deal to have Zelaya reinstated are also chagrined to find out that the State Department isn’t really bent out of shape by the failure of the Honduran Congress to take a vote on returning Zelaya to power. The Obami, on background naturally, confess they were in essence pulling a fast one on Zelaya. (“Another senior U.S. official noted the agreement never specifically said that Zelaya would be reinstated, instead giving the Honduran National Congress the power to vote on it.”) The Obami desperately and belatedly want to move on to elections, a position their critics and the Honduran interim government had been urging for months.

The Obami’s “historic” arrangement was, of course, supposed to extract the Obama team from the disastrous stalemate they had helped to create. Realizing they had backed a lunatic for whom there was no popular support within Honduras, the Obami came up with a scheme — let Zelaya back in power, but not really. Leave it up to the Congress, which won’t vote to put him back in power even briefly, and just move on to elections. But now everyone has figured out the game and they don’t much appreciate the trickery.

Once again we see the rank incompetence and disastrous results brought about by the smart Obama diplomacy. They raise expectations unrealistically on one side (Zelaya, the Palestinians), give the critics the back of the hand, dig in, realize the error of their ways, try to reverse course, and pretend they aren’t — and wind up with everyone mad. When is it that we get around to “restoring our standing” in the world?

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Iran: Arsonist and Firefighter

J.E. Dyer highlighted Iran’s new boldness all across the Middle East — and if I may weigh in, the Yemen situation looks like classic Iran: play the arsonist, then volunteer to be the fireman — for a small reward, naturally!

The spookiest bit of this latest twist of affairs is Washington’s response, as Jennifer notes. And when an official statement reads like this: “It’s our view that there can be no long-term military solution to the conflict between the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels,” it almost looks like it came out of the EU.  Never shall there be a military solution to a conflict! A bit like saying, “There shall be no medical solution to a disease” — let the microbes and the antibodies negotiate their way to a compromise through the good offices of the United Nations. Let them receive an envoy from the EU! But no conflict. Nope.

I can picture the fear running through the spines of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as they hear Washington’s tone quickly aligning itself with the discourse of those pugnacious Eurocrats.

J.E. Dyer highlighted Iran’s new boldness all across the Middle East — and if I may weigh in, the Yemen situation looks like classic Iran: play the arsonist, then volunteer to be the fireman — for a small reward, naturally!

The spookiest bit of this latest twist of affairs is Washington’s response, as Jennifer notes. And when an official statement reads like this: “It’s our view that there can be no long-term military solution to the conflict between the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels,” it almost looks like it came out of the EU.  Never shall there be a military solution to a conflict! A bit like saying, “There shall be no medical solution to a disease” — let the microbes and the antibodies negotiate their way to a compromise through the good offices of the United Nations. Let them receive an envoy from the EU! But no conflict. Nope.

I can picture the fear running through the spines of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as they hear Washington’s tone quickly aligning itself with the discourse of those pugnacious Eurocrats.

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An Ideologue Instead of a Statesman

The results of races for the governorship of Virginia and New Jersey were ominous for Democrats. The most alarming development for them should be that independents voted for the GOP candidates by roughly a 2-to-1 margin. This was a sea change, and it took place in only a year.

There are several reasons Democrats are faltering at this juncture. But one explanation, I think, is more relevant than all others: President Obama is pushing a hugely expensive and ambitious domestic agenda the public simply does not want. Many Americans also believe that what Obama is doing is a diversion from the pressing issues confronting the country — a weak economy, the highest rates of unemployment and underemployment in more than a quarter century (the figure now stands at 17.5 percent), and an exploding deficit and debt.

Virtually every public-opinion poll shows considerable resistance to ObamaCare, the signature domestic program of the Obama presidency. Cap-and-trade is about as unpopular. In addition, public sentiment is turning hard against government spending, control, and activism, which are at the core of Obamaism. Read More

The results of races for the governorship of Virginia and New Jersey were ominous for Democrats. The most alarming development for them should be that independents voted for the GOP candidates by roughly a 2-to-1 margin. This was a sea change, and it took place in only a year.

There are several reasons Democrats are faltering at this juncture. But one explanation, I think, is more relevant than all others: President Obama is pushing a hugely expensive and ambitious domestic agenda the public simply does not want. Many Americans also believe that what Obama is doing is a diversion from the pressing issues confronting the country — a weak economy, the highest rates of unemployment and underemployment in more than a quarter century (the figure now stands at 17.5 percent), and an exploding deficit and debt.

Virtually every public-opinion poll shows considerable resistance to ObamaCare, the signature domestic program of the Obama presidency. Cap-and-trade is about as unpopular. In addition, public sentiment is turning hard against government spending, control, and activism, which are at the core of Obamaism.

Trust in government is down to 23 percent — the lowest in at least a dozen years. More than three quarters of the public believe that the federal government does the right thing either never or only some of the time. Large majorities believe the president and Congress should worry about the budget deficit above almost anything else. The percentage of Americans who believe that there is too much government regulation has risen sharply in a year (from 38 percent in 2008 to 45 percent this year); so has the number of people who say government is doing too many things better left to business (the number has increased from 40 percent to 48 percent). Not surprisingly, the overall approval of the job that Congress is doing is now at 24 percent. And Obama himself has seen a historic drop in his support during his first year in office.

There is more. According to the latest Gallup poll, Republicans have moved ahead of Democrats by 48 percent to 44 percent among registered voters in the generic congressional ballot for the 2010 House elections, with independents’ preference for the Republican candidate in their districts having grown to an astonishing 22-point lead over a Democratic candidate (52 percent to 30 percent).

And a new Pew poll finds that voters who plan to support Republicans next year are more enthusiastic than those who plan to vote for a Democrat. Fully 58 percent of those who plan to vote for a Republican next year say they are very enthusiastic about voting, compared with only 42 percent of those who plan to vote for a Democrat. And 56 percent of independent voters who support a Republican in their district are very enthusiastic about voting, as opposed to just 32 percent of independents who plan to vote for a Democrat expressing high levels of enthusiasm. Anti-incumbent sentiments are near all-time highs. More broadly, according to Pew,

The mood of America is glum. Two-thirds of the public is dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country. Fully nine-in-ten say that national economic conditions are only fair or poor, and nearly two-thirds describe their own finances that way — the most since the summer of 1992.

Democrats have convinced themselves that passing a historic health-care bill — which is still far from certain — will change all that. Their supposition is that while the legislative process may be unseemly, the final product will be popular. The mere act of passing health-care reform will be a huge political victory for the president and Democrats — and will redound to their benefit. Or so goes the theory. But it is, I think, a misguided one.

Jamming through an unpopular program of this size and scope without bipartisan support is a prescription for a public backlash. Moreover, the basic design of the program Democrats are advocating is deeply flawed — and bad policies make for bad politics. Yet even with public skepticism giving way to public opposition, with widespread concern transmuting into widespread anxiety and unhappiness, Obama continues to push ahead with his agenda. Why?

Because Mr. Obama came in to office determined to reshape American society in deep and lasting ways — and health care is the best vehicle through which that reshaping will occur. It doesn’t matter that this is something the public does not want; in his mind, and in the minds of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, it is something the public needs. Call it progressive paternalism.

The president and his team made a huge wager at the outset of Obama’s tenure. They would use the economic crisis they faced to push through a sweeping agenda (“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste” is how chief of staff Rahm Emanuel put it.) Instead of focusing on the major problems confronting the nation, they would leverage those problems to achieve other aims. And this will be seen in retrospect as a huge, perhaps historic, mistake on their part.

“The truth is, gentlemen, a statesman is the creature of his age, the child of circumstances, the creation of his times,” Disraeli said.

A statesman is essentially a practical character; and when he is called upon to take office, he is not to inquire what his opinion might or might not have been on this or that subject; he is only to ascertain the needful and the beneficial, and the most feasible measure to be carried out.

What we are finding is that Barack Obama is not a practical character; he is a dogmatist. He has avoided what’s needed and beneficial in order to promote a sweeping statist agenda. He is turning out to be an ideologue instead of a statesman.

The enormous goodwill the president had at the beginning of the year has evaporated. The public still rather likes him — but they don’t much like what he is doing to them and to their country. There will be a high price for him to pay for carrying through on his liberal ambitions. But it is his party — the instrument of his ambitions — that will suffer the consequences first.

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Left and Right Agree: It’s a Disaster

You can’t say Obama isn’t bringing people together. The Obami’s favorite leftist think tank, the Center for American Progress, says that Obama’s gambit to close Guantanamo was characterized by “a series of mistakes and missteps by his administration that will delay the prison’s closure for months.” The center chides the administration for not really thinking things through. Not enough staff, no game plan once the closure policy was announced, and no push-back against the “fear-mongering” (that would be the opposition of the vast majority of the American people to moving terrorists to U.S. soil). And naturally, our allies didn’t want to help out:

“Many American allies are willing to help the United States and accept detainees, but quite reasonably expected the United States to share in the responsibility,” [Center scholar Ken] Gude wrote. “It is a hard sell for America’s allies to tell their citizens that they are accepting Guantanamo detainees even though the U.S. Congress feels that they are too dangerous for release in America.”

The center thinks closing Guantanamo is a grand idea, just ineptly executed. So the suggestion is to move back the deadline (no problem for an administration that doesn’t take deadlines all that seriously, at least when dealing with the Iranian mullahs), send the detainees to federal court, and send those convicted to SuperMax prisons or Bagram in Afghanistan (which perhaps can duplicate at great expense the exact facilities already in place at Guantanamo). Well, the prescription may not be acceptable to the American people or to Congress, but they got one thing right: Guantanamo isn’t closing anytime soon.

Once again the smart set, the team of geniuses, proved to be startlingly inept. Filled with hubris and moral righteousness, Obama announced a policy with no political support and no game plan for implementation. The public and Congress balked, but their concerns were given the back of the hand. False choices between our values and national security, the Obami sniffed. As with its failed effort at Iranian engagement and its disastrous approach to the Middle East “peace process,” the administration’s ill-conceived Guantanamo scheme has faltered. It seems that campaign one-liners are no substitute for good governance.

You can’t say Obama isn’t bringing people together. The Obami’s favorite leftist think tank, the Center for American Progress, says that Obama’s gambit to close Guantanamo was characterized by “a series of mistakes and missteps by his administration that will delay the prison’s closure for months.” The center chides the administration for not really thinking things through. Not enough staff, no game plan once the closure policy was announced, and no push-back against the “fear-mongering” (that would be the opposition of the vast majority of the American people to moving terrorists to U.S. soil). And naturally, our allies didn’t want to help out:

“Many American allies are willing to help the United States and accept detainees, but quite reasonably expected the United States to share in the responsibility,” [Center scholar Ken] Gude wrote. “It is a hard sell for America’s allies to tell their citizens that they are accepting Guantanamo detainees even though the U.S. Congress feels that they are too dangerous for release in America.”

The center thinks closing Guantanamo is a grand idea, just ineptly executed. So the suggestion is to move back the deadline (no problem for an administration that doesn’t take deadlines all that seriously, at least when dealing with the Iranian mullahs), send the detainees to federal court, and send those convicted to SuperMax prisons or Bagram in Afghanistan (which perhaps can duplicate at great expense the exact facilities already in place at Guantanamo). Well, the prescription may not be acceptable to the American people or to Congress, but they got one thing right: Guantanamo isn’t closing anytime soon.

Once again the smart set, the team of geniuses, proved to be startlingly inept. Filled with hubris and moral righteousness, Obama announced a policy with no political support and no game plan for implementation. The public and Congress balked, but their concerns were given the back of the hand. False choices between our values and national security, the Obami sniffed. As with its failed effort at Iranian engagement and its disastrous approach to the Middle East “peace process,” the administration’s ill-conceived Guantanamo scheme has faltered. It seems that campaign one-liners are no substitute for good governance.

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The Seminar Drags On

Just when we thought the White House seminars were winding down, we get this report:

That stance comes in the midst of forceful reservations about a possible troop buildup from the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, according to a second top administration official.

President Barack Obama does not plan to accept any of the Afghanistan war options presented by his national security team, pushing instead for revisions to clarify how and when U.S. troops would turn over responsibility to the Afghan government, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

Are we back to square one, or is someone in the Obami camp simply trying to gum up the works? Maybe the president would like some more research. Maybe another round of meetings. Who knows? The process seems to have taken on a life of its own, and the president appears unwilling to make a decision, any decision.

Certainly even the most die-hard defenders of the president must be appalled. This is no way to run a war. We are close to a decision. No we aren’t. Gen. Stanley McChrystal will get his men. Oh, maybe not. It is hard to recall a more excruciating decision-making process.

And yet we are told, “The White House has chafed under criticism from Republicans and some outside critics that Obama is dragging his feet to make a decision.” They seem blissfully unaware that the Obami are becoming a ludicrous spectacle, a cringe-inducing display of equivocation. So maybe they’ll take a few more weeks. Consider some more options. Have some more meetings. And what about the troops who are in the field, week after week, awaiting a strategy and support? Oh yes, them. Well, the president can’t be rushed.

Just when we thought the White House seminars were winding down, we get this report:

That stance comes in the midst of forceful reservations about a possible troop buildup from the U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, according to a second top administration official.

President Barack Obama does not plan to accept any of the Afghanistan war options presented by his national security team, pushing instead for revisions to clarify how and when U.S. troops would turn over responsibility to the Afghan government, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

Are we back to square one, or is someone in the Obami camp simply trying to gum up the works? Maybe the president would like some more research. Maybe another round of meetings. Who knows? The process seems to have taken on a life of its own, and the president appears unwilling to make a decision, any decision.

Certainly even the most die-hard defenders of the president must be appalled. This is no way to run a war. We are close to a decision. No we aren’t. Gen. Stanley McChrystal will get his men. Oh, maybe not. It is hard to recall a more excruciating decision-making process.

And yet we are told, “The White House has chafed under criticism from Republicans and some outside critics that Obama is dragging his feet to make a decision.” They seem blissfully unaware that the Obami are becoming a ludicrous spectacle, a cringe-inducing display of equivocation. So maybe they’ll take a few more weeks. Consider some more options. Have some more meetings. And what about the troops who are in the field, week after week, awaiting a strategy and support? Oh yes, them. Well, the president can’t be rushed.

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What Will It Take?

Karl Rove observes:

The narrative Obama White House officials are writing about themselves is that they are uncompromising, ungracious, and ready to run roughshod over popular opinion. They have mastered the Chicago way of politics: reward friends, punish enemies, and jam the opposition. Voters have a tendency to quickly grow tired of pugnacious governance.

There is an irony — or a bait and switch — here that the candidate who ran as the leader of the New Politics, the man to rise above fray and to free himself (and us) from the partisan strife that had polarized the electorate over the past decade or two, is now a hyper-partisan figure. As Rove notes, the hyper-partisanship is married with a far-Left ideological bent — the very combination to turn off independents and allow Republicans to claw back from the ledge of political irrelevance. Yet the administration continues down that same leftist path with a chip on its shoulder. Rove observes:

Maybe the Obama inner sanctum realizes that its agenda is unpopular and will cost many Democrats their seats next year but calculates that enough will survive to keep the party in control of Congress. Perhaps they have decided that Mr. Obama’s goal of turning America into a European-style social democracy is worth risking a voter revolt.

Nevertheless, anxious supporters and nervous Democrats wonder if Obama can or will moderate both his agenda and his style in order to preserve his own standing and his party’s electoral prospects. One supposes that the Obami read the poll numbers, look at the election returns, and listen to the pleas of moderate and conservative Democrats. Logic and political experience might dictate that a course correction is in order. Wouldn’t they want to slow the backlash and stem the wave of opposition?

Well, perhaps not. One senses that this White House is more immune than most to inconvenient data and criticism, constructive and otherwise. They have fallen into the habit of vilifying and marginalizing their opponents, suggesting that the administration discounts their arguments and ignores the bad news. They may simply not believe that the president and his party are losing the affection and trust of the American people.

It may be that only an electoral comeuppance will dent the White House bubble. New Jersey and Virginia may not make an impact, but significant losses in Congress may suggest, finally, that running hard Left and governing like a Chicago pol have their limitations.

Karl Rove observes:

The narrative Obama White House officials are writing about themselves is that they are uncompromising, ungracious, and ready to run roughshod over popular opinion. They have mastered the Chicago way of politics: reward friends, punish enemies, and jam the opposition. Voters have a tendency to quickly grow tired of pugnacious governance.

There is an irony — or a bait and switch — here that the candidate who ran as the leader of the New Politics, the man to rise above fray and to free himself (and us) from the partisan strife that had polarized the electorate over the past decade or two, is now a hyper-partisan figure. As Rove notes, the hyper-partisanship is married with a far-Left ideological bent — the very combination to turn off independents and allow Republicans to claw back from the ledge of political irrelevance. Yet the administration continues down that same leftist path with a chip on its shoulder. Rove observes:

Maybe the Obama inner sanctum realizes that its agenda is unpopular and will cost many Democrats their seats next year but calculates that enough will survive to keep the party in control of Congress. Perhaps they have decided that Mr. Obama’s goal of turning America into a European-style social democracy is worth risking a voter revolt.

Nevertheless, anxious supporters and nervous Democrats wonder if Obama can or will moderate both his agenda and his style in order to preserve his own standing and his party’s electoral prospects. One supposes that the Obami read the poll numbers, look at the election returns, and listen to the pleas of moderate and conservative Democrats. Logic and political experience might dictate that a course correction is in order. Wouldn’t they want to slow the backlash and stem the wave of opposition?

Well, perhaps not. One senses that this White House is more immune than most to inconvenient data and criticism, constructive and otherwise. They have fallen into the habit of vilifying and marginalizing their opponents, suggesting that the administration discounts their arguments and ignores the bad news. They may simply not believe that the president and his party are losing the affection and trust of the American people.

It may be that only an electoral comeuppance will dent the White House bubble. New Jersey and Virginia may not make an impact, but significant losses in Congress may suggest, finally, that running hard Left and governing like a Chicago pol have their limitations.

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So Many Red Flags, So Little Action

The Washington Post‘s editors concede that there were “red flags” all around Major Nadal Hasan:

There was his troubling presentation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Islam and the U.S. military, and questions among colleagues about the psychiatrist’s competence and even his sanity. And there was the e-mail correspondence with a known radical Muslim cleric that caught the attention of the FBI. In isolation, they may have appeared less than actionable.

And so begins the search for an answer to the question that now absorbs the entire country: how could the Army have missed these flags? One clue, the editors note, is a report that “Walter Reed psychiatrists may have been deterred from trying to dismiss the psychiatrist because of onerous procedures; an official on a review committee reportedly asked whether the termination of a doctor who happened to be a Muslim would create an appearance problem.” Uh oh. The diversity police strike once again. Those who might have acted may have had an “appearance problem” — the fear that citing a Muslim for extremist views, aberrant behavior, and “research” with the local imam would bring on a torrent of questions and accusations. Who wants to be accused of being insufficiently “sensitive” to diversity goals?

We will see how the investigation pans out, but if the reaction to the massacre is any indication of the mindset at work here, we may find that we have once again lost our way in the diversity maze, confusing discrimination with common sense. Here the governing elites may find that the public has precious little patience for the cottage industry dedicated to lambasting those who appear “intolerant.” After all, 13 people are dead.

The Washington Post‘s editors concede that there were “red flags” all around Major Nadal Hasan:

There was his troubling presentation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Islam and the U.S. military, and questions among colleagues about the psychiatrist’s competence and even his sanity. And there was the e-mail correspondence with a known radical Muslim cleric that caught the attention of the FBI. In isolation, they may have appeared less than actionable.

And so begins the search for an answer to the question that now absorbs the entire country: how could the Army have missed these flags? One clue, the editors note, is a report that “Walter Reed psychiatrists may have been deterred from trying to dismiss the psychiatrist because of onerous procedures; an official on a review committee reportedly asked whether the termination of a doctor who happened to be a Muslim would create an appearance problem.” Uh oh. The diversity police strike once again. Those who might have acted may have had an “appearance problem” — the fear that citing a Muslim for extremist views, aberrant behavior, and “research” with the local imam would bring on a torrent of questions and accusations. Who wants to be accused of being insufficiently “sensitive” to diversity goals?

We will see how the investigation pans out, but if the reaction to the massacre is any indication of the mindset at work here, we may find that we have once again lost our way in the diversity maze, confusing discrimination with common sense. Here the governing elites may find that the public has precious little patience for the cottage industry dedicated to lambasting those who appear “intolerant.” After all, 13 people are dead.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Anonymous and smart analysis on the prospects for health-care reform: “When this debate spills into January still unresolved, voters are going to say: ‘Enough! Where are the jobs. Where is the economic plan?'”

Meanwhile, the media is catching on: “Barack Obama ran for president on a promise of saving the typical family $2,500 a year in lower health care premiums. But that was then. No one in the White House is making such a pledge now.”

Jamie Fly: “Even if the president eventually sends a significant number of additional troops and allows General McChrystal to implement a counterinsurgency strategy, this painfully drawn out process has had negative consequences and does not bode well for the future U.S. commitment in Afghanistan.” As a retired Air Force chief master sergeant tells Fly: “Our service members are dying and the president is dithering. I have been in the military while a president dithered or failed to make a tough decision, it is eviscerating, and a rot settles in. ‘Commander in Chief’  is not just a fancy title.”

Even if the Obami and the chattering class are playing dumb, the American people are not: “Sixty percent (60%) of likely voters nationwide say last week’s shootings at Fort Hood should be investigated by military authorities as a terrorist act.”

James Taranto: “Willful ignorance of the enemy’s ideology is of no help in fighting the enemy–or preventing future attacks. In any case clarity, not obfuscation, is the enemy of prejudice.”

Thomas Joscelyn sums up: “So we know that: the Fort Hood Shooter attended the same mosque that Anwar al Awlaki preached at in 2001; Maj. Hasan had clearly adopted jihadist views very similar to those Awlaki has espoused, including the idea that Muslims cannot truly serve in a foreign army that is supposedly attacking all of Islam, by June of 2007; Maj. Hasan contacted Awlaki between ’10 to 20 times’ beginning in December 2008; Maj. Hasan may have posted on Awlaki’s Facebook page on Dec. 14, 2008; and, in July 2009, Awlaki again said that true Muslims cannot serve these armies and called on Muslims to turn against them. Is there really any mystery about what drove Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan to commit mass murder?”

David Axelrod wants to “nationalize” the 2010 elections. Really. Republicans reply: “Super.” Someone should ask Red State senators and Blue Dog congressmen if they want to be nationalized.

Another democratic ally, another strained relationship. “President Obama will arrive in Tokyo on Friday, at a time when America’s relations with Japan are at their most contentious since the trade wars of the 1990s.”

Anonymous and smart analysis on the prospects for health-care reform: “When this debate spills into January still unresolved, voters are going to say: ‘Enough! Where are the jobs. Where is the economic plan?'”

Meanwhile, the media is catching on: “Barack Obama ran for president on a promise of saving the typical family $2,500 a year in lower health care premiums. But that was then. No one in the White House is making such a pledge now.”

Jamie Fly: “Even if the president eventually sends a significant number of additional troops and allows General McChrystal to implement a counterinsurgency strategy, this painfully drawn out process has had negative consequences and does not bode well for the future U.S. commitment in Afghanistan.” As a retired Air Force chief master sergeant tells Fly: “Our service members are dying and the president is dithering. I have been in the military while a president dithered or failed to make a tough decision, it is eviscerating, and a rot settles in. ‘Commander in Chief’  is not just a fancy title.”

Even if the Obami and the chattering class are playing dumb, the American people are not: “Sixty percent (60%) of likely voters nationwide say last week’s shootings at Fort Hood should be investigated by military authorities as a terrorist act.”

James Taranto: “Willful ignorance of the enemy’s ideology is of no help in fighting the enemy–or preventing future attacks. In any case clarity, not obfuscation, is the enemy of prejudice.”

Thomas Joscelyn sums up: “So we know that: the Fort Hood Shooter attended the same mosque that Anwar al Awlaki preached at in 2001; Maj. Hasan had clearly adopted jihadist views very similar to those Awlaki has espoused, including the idea that Muslims cannot truly serve in a foreign army that is supposedly attacking all of Islam, by June of 2007; Maj. Hasan contacted Awlaki between ’10 to 20 times’ beginning in December 2008; Maj. Hasan may have posted on Awlaki’s Facebook page on Dec. 14, 2008; and, in July 2009, Awlaki again said that true Muslims cannot serve these armies and called on Muslims to turn against them. Is there really any mystery about what drove Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan to commit mass murder?”

David Axelrod wants to “nationalize” the 2010 elections. Really. Republicans reply: “Super.” Someone should ask Red State senators and Blue Dog congressmen if they want to be nationalized.

Another democratic ally, another strained relationship. “President Obama will arrive in Tokyo on Friday, at a time when America’s relations with Japan are at their most contentious since the trade wars of the 1990s.”

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