Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 13, 2009

More NIAC

Ben Smith, following on Eli Lake’s blockbuster story, has a must-read post on the emerging scandal concerning the mullahs’ favorite front group, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). The issues go far beyond whether NIAC has been illegally operating without registering as a foreign agent, and have ensnared NIAC’s close ally, none other than J Street.

First, NIAC is a Soros-backed group. Soros is of course the money behind MoveOn.org and got J Street up and running. He is also paying “the $90,000 annual salary of the NIAC staffer, Patrick Disney.” The Left’s moneyman is plainly in the mullah’s corner.

Second, Smith details NIAC’s ongoing meetings and elaborate plans to scuttle the appointment of Middle East adviser Dennis Ross. And NIAC has plenty of company:

The minutes of a series of meetings including NIAC and other coalition members offer a glimpse of the strategy and tactics involved in the push for a rapprochement with the Islamic Republic, from an attempt to undermine the appointment of Dennis Ross as Iran envoy to a planned “Send Hillary to Iran” campaign.

The minutes include almost no mention of a human rights agenda inside Iran, which has more recently been on NIAC’s agenda. Participants in the discussions include NIAC as well as the liberal Jewish group J Street, anti-war groups like Peace Action and the American Friends Service Committee, and the business lobby that opposes Iran sanctions, USA*Engage.

This is curious indeed given J Street’s ostensible support for the Obama administration. Publicly running interference and quietly conspiring with the mullahs’ legmen in the U.S. to get Ross dumped. Moreover, NIAC’s own website, under a “myths and facts” post, takes up sides with none other than — you guessed it — Dennis Ross, who is supposedly under attack:

NIAC is not the only organization that is under attack. In fact, almost every distinguished American policymaker, intellectual and administration official that supports Obama’s pro-engagement policy in the Middle East is being targeted. This includes:

  • Ambassador Dennis Ross — Currently serving in the U.S. National Security Council
  • Vali Nasr — Senior Adviser to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Tufts University Fletcher School Professor and Middle East Scholar
  • Ambassador Thomas Pickering — Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs under President Clinton, and former Ambassador to Israel
  • Ambassador Susan Rice — Ambassador to the United Nations
  • Barbara Slavin — Editor for World and National Security at the Washington Times
  • Ambassador Richard Haas – President of Council on Foreign Relations Committee

Well yes, Ross was under attack — by NIAC. Slavin, who is Lake’s editor, is also curiously on the list. I suspect she’ll come off.

Also on the agenda for the J Street-NIAC gang, as Smith details: fending off any military action against Iran and cutting off aid to pro-democracy groups within Iran. The rationale they offer — they want to prevent a crackdown by the regime — is the sort of propaganda we’ve heard for decades from totalitarian regimes.

Third, we see once again the presence of Morton Halperin. He is both on J Street’s advisory board and a senior adviser to Soros’s Open Society Institute. He was recently fingered as the actual author of a letter by Richard Goldstone defending his infamous report and opposing a congressional resolution condemning the report. He too is part of the cabal to get Dennis Ross. And NIAC sought a White House meeting for Halperin and NIAC officials. Again, all one big happy family.

It seems as though the issue as to whether J Street is “pro-Israel” has been superseded by another. Now we must ask: is it pro-mullah?

Ben Smith, following on Eli Lake’s blockbuster story, has a must-read post on the emerging scandal concerning the mullahs’ favorite front group, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC). The issues go far beyond whether NIAC has been illegally operating without registering as a foreign agent, and have ensnared NIAC’s close ally, none other than J Street.

First, NIAC is a Soros-backed group. Soros is of course the money behind MoveOn.org and got J Street up and running. He is also paying “the $90,000 annual salary of the NIAC staffer, Patrick Disney.” The Left’s moneyman is plainly in the mullah’s corner.

Second, Smith details NIAC’s ongoing meetings and elaborate plans to scuttle the appointment of Middle East adviser Dennis Ross. And NIAC has plenty of company:

The minutes of a series of meetings including NIAC and other coalition members offer a glimpse of the strategy and tactics involved in the push for a rapprochement with the Islamic Republic, from an attempt to undermine the appointment of Dennis Ross as Iran envoy to a planned “Send Hillary to Iran” campaign.

The minutes include almost no mention of a human rights agenda inside Iran, which has more recently been on NIAC’s agenda. Participants in the discussions include NIAC as well as the liberal Jewish group J Street, anti-war groups like Peace Action and the American Friends Service Committee, and the business lobby that opposes Iran sanctions, USA*Engage.

This is curious indeed given J Street’s ostensible support for the Obama administration. Publicly running interference and quietly conspiring with the mullahs’ legmen in the U.S. to get Ross dumped. Moreover, NIAC’s own website, under a “myths and facts” post, takes up sides with none other than — you guessed it — Dennis Ross, who is supposedly under attack:

NIAC is not the only organization that is under attack. In fact, almost every distinguished American policymaker, intellectual and administration official that supports Obama’s pro-engagement policy in the Middle East is being targeted. This includes:

  • Ambassador Dennis Ross — Currently serving in the U.S. National Security Council
  • Vali Nasr — Senior Adviser to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Tufts University Fletcher School Professor and Middle East Scholar
  • Ambassador Thomas Pickering — Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs under President Clinton, and former Ambassador to Israel
  • Ambassador Susan Rice — Ambassador to the United Nations
  • Barbara Slavin — Editor for World and National Security at the Washington Times
  • Ambassador Richard Haas – President of Council on Foreign Relations Committee

Well yes, Ross was under attack — by NIAC. Slavin, who is Lake’s editor, is also curiously on the list. I suspect she’ll come off.

Also on the agenda for the J Street-NIAC gang, as Smith details: fending off any military action against Iran and cutting off aid to pro-democracy groups within Iran. The rationale they offer — they want to prevent a crackdown by the regime — is the sort of propaganda we’ve heard for decades from totalitarian regimes.

Third, we see once again the presence of Morton Halperin. He is both on J Street’s advisory board and a senior adviser to Soros’s Open Society Institute. He was recently fingered as the actual author of a letter by Richard Goldstone defending his infamous report and opposing a congressional resolution condemning the report. He too is part of the cabal to get Dennis Ross. And NIAC sought a White House meeting for Halperin and NIAC officials. Again, all one big happy family.

It seems as though the issue as to whether J Street is “pro-Israel” has been superseded by another. Now we must ask: is it pro-mullah?

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It Can’t Be 2012 Thune Enough

In a typically informative and original column today, my friend David Brooks takes up the 2012 cause of John Thune of South Dakota, the handsome face of small-town non-Alaskan Republicanism. Thune is not too hot, not too cold, just right. That may be, but then David offers this observation regarding the contention that the political tide has turned against the president:

Obama remains the most talented political figure of the age. After health care passes, he will pivot and pick some fights with his own party over spending. He’ll solidify his standing with independents, and if the economy recovers, he could go into his re-election with as much momentum as Ronald Reagan enjoyed in 1984.

Perhaps, but if that is so, then why does it matter whether the face of Republicanism is John Thune or Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee? Reagan won 49 states in 1984; Walter Mondale couldn’t even draw 40 percent of the vote. Perhaps Mondale ran a problematic campaign, promising tax increases and the like, but a victory like Reagan’s was so overwhelming that the world’s greatest candidate could have run against Reagan and only won a few more states.

Thune may indeed have a pleasing mien and an appropriate demeanor for 2012. But to face down a sitting president and unseat him, a party is going to need more from its candidate. It’s going to take the ability to explain why the country has gone wrong, why what’s wrong is his opponent’s doing, and what he will do to set it right. That requires passion, animation, and a profound sense of the rightness of his views and the wrongness of the views of his rivals. To judge from David’s summary of Thune’s virtues, he may be the best person to lead the GOP if it stays in the wilderness — on “first do no harm grounds” — but not to lead it to a victory that reverses the country’s ideological direction:

Republicans are still going to have to do root-and-branch renovation if they hope to provide compelling answers to issues like middle-class economic anxiety. But in the meantime, people like Thune offer Republicans a way to connect fiscal discipline with traditional small-town values, a way to tap into rising populism in a manner that is optimistic, uplifting and nice.

Optimism, uplift, and niceness are … nice. But they are minor components in a victory strategy — they are there to file off the rough edges of the party. They cannot be its leading edge.

In a typically informative and original column today, my friend David Brooks takes up the 2012 cause of John Thune of South Dakota, the handsome face of small-town non-Alaskan Republicanism. Thune is not too hot, not too cold, just right. That may be, but then David offers this observation regarding the contention that the political tide has turned against the president:

Obama remains the most talented political figure of the age. After health care passes, he will pivot and pick some fights with his own party over spending. He’ll solidify his standing with independents, and if the economy recovers, he could go into his re-election with as much momentum as Ronald Reagan enjoyed in 1984.

Perhaps, but if that is so, then why does it matter whether the face of Republicanism is John Thune or Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee? Reagan won 49 states in 1984; Walter Mondale couldn’t even draw 40 percent of the vote. Perhaps Mondale ran a problematic campaign, promising tax increases and the like, but a victory like Reagan’s was so overwhelming that the world’s greatest candidate could have run against Reagan and only won a few more states.

Thune may indeed have a pleasing mien and an appropriate demeanor for 2012. But to face down a sitting president and unseat him, a party is going to need more from its candidate. It’s going to take the ability to explain why the country has gone wrong, why what’s wrong is his opponent’s doing, and what he will do to set it right. That requires passion, animation, and a profound sense of the rightness of his views and the wrongness of the views of his rivals. To judge from David’s summary of Thune’s virtues, he may be the best person to lead the GOP if it stays in the wilderness — on “first do no harm grounds” — but not to lead it to a victory that reverses the country’s ideological direction:

Republicans are still going to have to do root-and-branch renovation if they hope to provide compelling answers to issues like middle-class economic anxiety. But in the meantime, people like Thune offer Republicans a way to connect fiscal discipline with traditional small-town values, a way to tap into rising populism in a manner that is optimistic, uplifting and nice.

Optimism, uplift, and niceness are … nice. But they are minor components in a victory strategy — they are there to file off the rough edges of the party. They cannot be its leading edge.

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Peace Process 101

In a new National Review piece, Elliott Abrams makes an important observation:

As a result [of Obama’s Middle East policy], “world opinion” toward Israel has gone from cool to frigid — in Europe especially. U.N. actions such as the Goldstone Report are one manifestation of this; denunciations of Israel, not to mention efforts to prevent Israeli officials from speaking on campuses and indeed to jail them if they come to Europe, are others. The cause is clear: As the United States, Israel’s closest friend, has backed away from Israel since the Obama inauguration, Europeans have backed even farther. They have seen the American coolness as license, indeed encouragement, to excoriate the Jewish state, and have enthusiastically done so.

This could be called Peace Processing 101, and it is obviously a course nobody in the White House has taken. Israel is a small country surrounded by people who hate and continue trying to destroy her. If Israel is to make concessions or take risks for peace, Israelis must feel secure enough to do so. How is this accomplished? The main way is through the U.S.-Israeli relationship. The closeness of the two countries serves the U.S. strategic objective of compelling the Arabs to abandon their quest for eliminating the Jewish state, and it reduces Israel’s fear of taking risks for peace. This is one of the major factors that led to peace with Egypt and Jordan — not Israeli weakness and isolation, but the Arab perception of Israeli strength.

The paradigm described above is premised on the idea that the Arabs have been the major obstacle to peace in the region. But Obama has taken a new tack. His paradigm, which is to create, as he put it recently, “daylight” between the two countries, is premised on something else; not outright Israeli culpability but certainly a belief that Israel has been a major part of the problem.

Changing the paradigm has been a central objective of many liberals, and certainly of the J Street faction. Instead of achieving peace by assuring Israel of its security, the administration is trying to make peace by causing the Israelis to fear they will be abandoned by the United States if they don’t do the White House’s bidding.

But now we can compare the two paradigms: close alliance versus “daylight.” The latter is already a debacle after only a few months in practice. It is opening the global floodgates of Israel-obsessed criticism. It is making Israelis distrust the U.S. — a development that will translate into a democratic veto over concessions and the deleveraging of U.S. influence. It has forced the Palestinians to compete with the White House in hostility to Israel, humiliating Mahmoud Abbas when the administration chose to retreat. Even the existence of the peace process itself — much less actual peace — depends on Israel’s faith in the United States to help protect it from the maelstrom of condemnation that is the “international community’s” favorite hobby. The only question now is whether Professor Obama is capable of learning anything from the Middle East lesson he is being taught.

In a new National Review piece, Elliott Abrams makes an important observation:

As a result [of Obama’s Middle East policy], “world opinion” toward Israel has gone from cool to frigid — in Europe especially. U.N. actions such as the Goldstone Report are one manifestation of this; denunciations of Israel, not to mention efforts to prevent Israeli officials from speaking on campuses and indeed to jail them if they come to Europe, are others. The cause is clear: As the United States, Israel’s closest friend, has backed away from Israel since the Obama inauguration, Europeans have backed even farther. They have seen the American coolness as license, indeed encouragement, to excoriate the Jewish state, and have enthusiastically done so.

This could be called Peace Processing 101, and it is obviously a course nobody in the White House has taken. Israel is a small country surrounded by people who hate and continue trying to destroy her. If Israel is to make concessions or take risks for peace, Israelis must feel secure enough to do so. How is this accomplished? The main way is through the U.S.-Israeli relationship. The closeness of the two countries serves the U.S. strategic objective of compelling the Arabs to abandon their quest for eliminating the Jewish state, and it reduces Israel’s fear of taking risks for peace. This is one of the major factors that led to peace with Egypt and Jordan — not Israeli weakness and isolation, but the Arab perception of Israeli strength.

The paradigm described above is premised on the idea that the Arabs have been the major obstacle to peace in the region. But Obama has taken a new tack. His paradigm, which is to create, as he put it recently, “daylight” between the two countries, is premised on something else; not outright Israeli culpability but certainly a belief that Israel has been a major part of the problem.

Changing the paradigm has been a central objective of many liberals, and certainly of the J Street faction. Instead of achieving peace by assuring Israel of its security, the administration is trying to make peace by causing the Israelis to fear they will be abandoned by the United States if they don’t do the White House’s bidding.

But now we can compare the two paradigms: close alliance versus “daylight.” The latter is already a debacle after only a few months in practice. It is opening the global floodgates of Israel-obsessed criticism. It is making Israelis distrust the U.S. — a development that will translate into a democratic veto over concessions and the deleveraging of U.S. influence. It has forced the Palestinians to compete with the White House in hostility to Israel, humiliating Mahmoud Abbas when the administration chose to retreat. Even the existence of the peace process itself — much less actual peace — depends on Israel’s faith in the United States to help protect it from the maelstrom of condemnation that is the “international community’s” favorite hobby. The only question now is whether Professor Obama is capable of learning anything from the Middle East lesson he is being taught.

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Obama’s Japan Fumble

President Barack Obama is losing ground on all three points of controversy in the Japan-U.S. security alliance, and his meeting today with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama did nothing to improve the U.S. position.

Japan is one of America’s most important allies, geopolitically essential for U.S.-East Asian policy and security efforts. The American presence in Japan has, among other things, been a deterrent to North Korea, a guarantor for Taiwan, and a balance for China, all of which stabilize East Asia. But this summer, Japan’s politics changed as the Democratic Party of Japan overturned the Liberal Democratic Party for the first time in 16 years. And while the new prime minister has called the U.S.-Japan alliance “the axis of Japan’s foreign policies,” his goals suggest the contrary. Up for debate is Japan’s refueling mission to Afghanistan, the status of a U.S. marine base in Okinawa, and — most important — a nearly 50-year-old security treaty between the two countries.

Let’s start with the latter, and most troubling, of these possible changes: the review of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. The treaty establishes U.S. protection of Japan in exchange for an American military presence on Japanese soil. Revising that treaty to decrease U.S. military presence would diminish American influence, capability, and agility in the region.

And if the ruling party’s attitude toward the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Base in Okinawa is any indication, the American military presence in Japan could eventually encounter an even larger threat. The U.S. agreed in 2005 to relocate the Futenma base to a remote coastal area. But Prime Minister Hatoyama might want the base outside Japan altogether — hardly a surprise, considering that he campaigned partially on promises to reduce the U.S. military presence in Japan.

As Tokyo considers what it will do about Futenma, Obama has announced “ministerial-level meetings to discuss” the situation. But the U.S. ambassador to Japan, John Roos, said America’s “hope and expectation [is] that, at the end of that process [of review], the government will be comfortable with that [original] agreement.” He added, “The United States believes that the agreement is vital, that after considering all the alternatives this is the best agreement for the stability, the security and the strength of the alliance.”

That brings us to the Japanese Indian Ocean refueling mission, which is important more symbolically than logistically. The mission is primarily acknowledged as an act of Japanese support for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, and it has continued nearly uninterrupted since its inception in 2001, pausing only for three months when the DPJ won control of the upper house of parliament is 2008. But by all accounts, parliament will allow the mission to expire by January, despite urges to renew from Pakistan, Britain, and especially the United States. Instead, Japan will send money and vocational training to Afghanistan.

These security questions between the United States and Japan remain unresolved. So what of the Toyko meeting? Obama warned Asia against reliance on U.S. consumers and talked about nuclear disarmament and climate change. (Well, he did also get on a first-name basis with Yukio Hatoyama — duly lauded in the joint remarks.) But he accomplished nothing on the security front. East Asia remains a dangerous neighborhood, and the increasingly precarious security holdings there deserve more of Obama’s attention. This is yet another instance where American delay could really hurt.

President Barack Obama is losing ground on all three points of controversy in the Japan-U.S. security alliance, and his meeting today with Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama did nothing to improve the U.S. position.

Japan is one of America’s most important allies, geopolitically essential for U.S.-East Asian policy and security efforts. The American presence in Japan has, among other things, been a deterrent to North Korea, a guarantor for Taiwan, and a balance for China, all of which stabilize East Asia. But this summer, Japan’s politics changed as the Democratic Party of Japan overturned the Liberal Democratic Party for the first time in 16 years. And while the new prime minister has called the U.S.-Japan alliance “the axis of Japan’s foreign policies,” his goals suggest the contrary. Up for debate is Japan’s refueling mission to Afghanistan, the status of a U.S. marine base in Okinawa, and — most important — a nearly 50-year-old security treaty between the two countries.

Let’s start with the latter, and most troubling, of these possible changes: the review of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. The treaty establishes U.S. protection of Japan in exchange for an American military presence on Japanese soil. Revising that treaty to decrease U.S. military presence would diminish American influence, capability, and agility in the region.

And if the ruling party’s attitude toward the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma Air Base in Okinawa is any indication, the American military presence in Japan could eventually encounter an even larger threat. The U.S. agreed in 2005 to relocate the Futenma base to a remote coastal area. But Prime Minister Hatoyama might want the base outside Japan altogether — hardly a surprise, considering that he campaigned partially on promises to reduce the U.S. military presence in Japan.

As Tokyo considers what it will do about Futenma, Obama has announced “ministerial-level meetings to discuss” the situation. But the U.S. ambassador to Japan, John Roos, said America’s “hope and expectation [is] that, at the end of that process [of review], the government will be comfortable with that [original] agreement.” He added, “The United States believes that the agreement is vital, that after considering all the alternatives this is the best agreement for the stability, the security and the strength of the alliance.”

That brings us to the Japanese Indian Ocean refueling mission, which is important more symbolically than logistically. The mission is primarily acknowledged as an act of Japanese support for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, and it has continued nearly uninterrupted since its inception in 2001, pausing only for three months when the DPJ won control of the upper house of parliament is 2008. But by all accounts, parliament will allow the mission to expire by January, despite urges to renew from Pakistan, Britain, and especially the United States. Instead, Japan will send money and vocational training to Afghanistan.

These security questions between the United States and Japan remain unresolved. So what of the Toyko meeting? Obama warned Asia against reliance on U.S. consumers and talked about nuclear disarmament and climate change. (Well, he did also get on a first-name basis with Yukio Hatoyama — duly lauded in the joint remarks.) But he accomplished nothing on the security front. East Asia remains a dangerous neighborhood, and the increasingly precarious security holdings there deserve more of Obama’s attention. This is yet another instance where American delay could really hurt.

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Re: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Goes to New York

Pete, the decision to transport Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the U.S. to be tried in an Article III court, presumably with the same rights as common American criminals, is shocking and entirely unnecessary. I would submit that someone in the Obama administration recognizes this. As pointed out to me today by a congressman infuriated by the decision, the president is out of the country. Congress is not in session. It’s a Friday. The ultimate bad-news dump. In this context, it suggests not only a queasy awareness that the American people won’t like this but also, frankly, political cowardice. This is a major decision with long-term consequences. If the president believes what he is doing is right, he should exercise leadership and explain it to the American people. Himself.

But, again, the decision itself is utterly unnecessary. As Sen. Joe Lieberman has pointed out, we have a military-tribunal system designed for precisely these cases. His statement reminded us:

The military commission system recently signed into law by the President as part of the National Defense Authorization Act provides standards of due process and fairness that fully comply with the requirements established by the Supreme Court and the Geneva Conventions. Earlier this year, when passing the National Defense Authorization Act, the Senate also passed language expressing its clear intent that military commissions rather than civilian courts in the U.S. are the appropriate forum for the trial of these alleged terrorists. I share the views of more than 140 family members of the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks who recently wrote to the Senate urging that the individuals charged with responsibility for those attacks should be tried by military commission rather than in civilian courts in the United States: It is inconceivable that we would bring these alleged terrorists back to New York for trial, to the scene of the carnage they created eight years ago, and give them a platform to mock the suffering of their victims and the victims’ families, and rally their followers to continue waging jihad against America.

And let’s recall how we got here. An informed legal guru observes that we decided to prosecute KSM in a military commission in part because past trials (e.g., those of the “Blind Sheikh” and Ramzi Yousef) may have compromised intelligence. So now we’ve gone back to the very system that, for legitimate national-security reasons, we had abandoned. As Andy McCarthy, who prosecuted the first World Trade Center bombing trial, observes:

Today’s announcement that KSM and other top al-Qaeda terrorists will be transferred to Manhattan federal court for civilian trials neatly fits this hidden agenda. Nothing results in more disclosures of government intelligence than civilian trials. They are a banquet of information, not just at the discovery stage but in the trial process itself, where witnesses — intelligence sources — must expose themselves and their secrets.

And what sort of trial? I find it difficult to believe that KSM will not enjoy all the panoply of rights and procedures available in any criminal proceeding. We can look forward to years of motions, demands for classified data, and efforts to prove up that information was extracted under duress and in violation of his constitutional rights. The jailers and interrogators are about to stand trial.

What do we hope to accomplish? It is almost unfathomable. Sen. Kit Bond declared: “Today’s announcement, as well as the Obama Justice Department’s recent decisions to dismantle and release information about the CIA’s interrogation program and support the erosion of the PATRIOT Act tools needed to keep us safe, calls into serious doubt their priorities — defeating terrorism to protect Americans or politically correct prosecutions.” Precisely so. Is this a bone to the netroot Left, which may be disappointed by an upcoming decision on Afghanistan? Or is this Eric Holder’s band of loony-Left DOJ attorneys run amok? Perhaps the Obama team is still out to impress the “Muslim World.”

The 9/11 Commission warned about an excess reliance on criminal-justice procedures and the failure to treat terrorism as a act of war. We are repeating the errors of the past, just days after the worst jihadist attack on American soil since 9/11. (Yes, that’s what it is when the killer shouts “Allahu Akbar!” and proceeds on his self-described mission “to do good work for God.”) We have a president and an administration that is unserious about national security and whose priorities are something other than keeping America safe. We are as a consequence less safe since Obama assumed office. The American people will, I strongly suspect, agree.

Pete, the decision to transport Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the U.S. to be tried in an Article III court, presumably with the same rights as common American criminals, is shocking and entirely unnecessary. I would submit that someone in the Obama administration recognizes this. As pointed out to me today by a congressman infuriated by the decision, the president is out of the country. Congress is not in session. It’s a Friday. The ultimate bad-news dump. In this context, it suggests not only a queasy awareness that the American people won’t like this but also, frankly, political cowardice. This is a major decision with long-term consequences. If the president believes what he is doing is right, he should exercise leadership and explain it to the American people. Himself.

But, again, the decision itself is utterly unnecessary. As Sen. Joe Lieberman has pointed out, we have a military-tribunal system designed for precisely these cases. His statement reminded us:

The military commission system recently signed into law by the President as part of the National Defense Authorization Act provides standards of due process and fairness that fully comply with the requirements established by the Supreme Court and the Geneva Conventions. Earlier this year, when passing the National Defense Authorization Act, the Senate also passed language expressing its clear intent that military commissions rather than civilian courts in the U.S. are the appropriate forum for the trial of these alleged terrorists. I share the views of more than 140 family members of the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks who recently wrote to the Senate urging that the individuals charged with responsibility for those attacks should be tried by military commission rather than in civilian courts in the United States: It is inconceivable that we would bring these alleged terrorists back to New York for trial, to the scene of the carnage they created eight years ago, and give them a platform to mock the suffering of their victims and the victims’ families, and rally their followers to continue waging jihad against America.

And let’s recall how we got here. An informed legal guru observes that we decided to prosecute KSM in a military commission in part because past trials (e.g., those of the “Blind Sheikh” and Ramzi Yousef) may have compromised intelligence. So now we’ve gone back to the very system that, for legitimate national-security reasons, we had abandoned. As Andy McCarthy, who prosecuted the first World Trade Center bombing trial, observes:

Today’s announcement that KSM and other top al-Qaeda terrorists will be transferred to Manhattan federal court for civilian trials neatly fits this hidden agenda. Nothing results in more disclosures of government intelligence than civilian trials. They are a banquet of information, not just at the discovery stage but in the trial process itself, where witnesses — intelligence sources — must expose themselves and their secrets.

And what sort of trial? I find it difficult to believe that KSM will not enjoy all the panoply of rights and procedures available in any criminal proceeding. We can look forward to years of motions, demands for classified data, and efforts to prove up that information was extracted under duress and in violation of his constitutional rights. The jailers and interrogators are about to stand trial.

What do we hope to accomplish? It is almost unfathomable. Sen. Kit Bond declared: “Today’s announcement, as well as the Obama Justice Department’s recent decisions to dismantle and release information about the CIA’s interrogation program and support the erosion of the PATRIOT Act tools needed to keep us safe, calls into serious doubt their priorities — defeating terrorism to protect Americans or politically correct prosecutions.” Precisely so. Is this a bone to the netroot Left, which may be disappointed by an upcoming decision on Afghanistan? Or is this Eric Holder’s band of loony-Left DOJ attorneys run amok? Perhaps the Obama team is still out to impress the “Muslim World.”

The 9/11 Commission warned about an excess reliance on criminal-justice procedures and the failure to treat terrorism as a act of war. We are repeating the errors of the past, just days after the worst jihadist attack on American soil since 9/11. (Yes, that’s what it is when the killer shouts “Allahu Akbar!” and proceeds on his self-described mission “to do good work for God.”) We have a president and an administration that is unserious about national security and whose priorities are something other than keeping America safe. We are as a consequence less safe since Obama assumed office. The American people will, I strongly suspect, agree.

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Palin Again

She’s an idiot. She’s a moron. She’s unqualified. She’s bad. She’s a hick. She’s a know-nothing. She’s a liar. She couldn’t define the Reagan Doctrine. She’s mean to her daughter’s baby daddy….

And nonetheless, Sarah Palin is dominating the news once again in advance of the release of her book. Which is to say, front-page stories, the lead stories on the morning shows, all using tiny tidbits of information about the book and a few clips from Monday’s Oprah. Whatever Sarah Palin is, she is also, as all this makes clear, a huge star. With the very prominent exception of Barack Obama, she’s the sensation in American politics this decade. And a person who can make news just by opening her mouth is a person to be reckoned with, a person who is not going away, a person who is going to play a role in American politics for a long time.

She’s an idiot. She’s a moron. She’s unqualified. She’s bad. She’s a hick. She’s a know-nothing. She’s a liar. She couldn’t define the Reagan Doctrine. She’s mean to her daughter’s baby daddy….

And nonetheless, Sarah Palin is dominating the news once again in advance of the release of her book. Which is to say, front-page stories, the lead stories on the morning shows, all using tiny tidbits of information about the book and a few clips from Monday’s Oprah. Whatever Sarah Palin is, she is also, as all this makes clear, a huge star. With the very prominent exception of Barack Obama, she’s the sensation in American politics this decade. And a person who can make news just by opening her mouth is a person to be reckoned with, a person who is not going away, a person who is going to play a role in American politics for a long time.

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A Vacation with Benefits—a Conference with a Vacation Attached

It’s never too early to make plans for summer travel, so why not plan on attending the first COMMENTARY Conference of Ideas from August 4 through August 11, 2010, aboard the Regent Navigator as it spends a week sailing around and about Alaska? We will spend the week discussing Israel, Iran, the 2010 elections, the 2012 elections, the Obama agenda and what it means for America, and the lessons of history for the present and the future. Speakers include former chief White House Mideast hand Elliott Abrams; the great historian Andrew Roberts; Michael Medved, talk-show host, author, movie critic, and man who knows everything about everything; CONTENTIONS superstar Jennifer Rubin; Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, who need no introduction; and me. Dine with us, meet fellow thinking iconoclasts from across the nation, and visit some of the most dazzling scenery in the world. You can learn more about the conference that’s also a vacation here.

It’s never too early to make plans for summer travel, so why not plan on attending the first COMMENTARY Conference of Ideas from August 4 through August 11, 2010, aboard the Regent Navigator as it spends a week sailing around and about Alaska? We will spend the week discussing Israel, Iran, the 2010 elections, the 2012 elections, the Obama agenda and what it means for America, and the lessons of history for the present and the future. Speakers include former chief White House Mideast hand Elliott Abrams; the great historian Andrew Roberts; Michael Medved, talk-show host, author, movie critic, and man who knows everything about everything; CONTENTIONS superstar Jennifer Rubin; Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, who need no introduction; and me. Dine with us, meet fellow thinking iconoclasts from across the nation, and visit some of the most dazzling scenery in the world. You can learn more about the conference that’s also a vacation here.

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What Few Would Have Foreseen

President Obama’s decision to send a video of himself to Berlin on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, in which he said that “few would have foreseen [on that day in 1989] that . . . their American ally would be led by a man of African descent,” is not the first time he assigned that world-historical event a bit part in his own saga. The Wall also played a walk-on role in his election-night victory speech, included in a long litany of “Yes We Can” paragraphs (“A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination”). He mentioned it in his Berlin citizens-of-the-world speech, attributing the fall to the world standing as one.

Benjamin Kerstein has written an eloquent reminder that the fall of Communism was not the result of the world standing as one, but of the long and often despairing efforts of certain people to fight a future to which much of the world was resigned:

This anniversary, this triumph, this vindication, does not belong to all of us. It belongs to the anti-communists of all countries and all parties who fought for it, sometimes at great cost to reputation, family, friendship, sanity, and often life and limb. …

Some, like Solzhenitsyn, Natan Sharansky, and many, many others, had to face prison, expulsion, harassment, and the constant threat of death in order to make their plight known to the world. …

[The Hungarian and Czech uprisings were] ignored as the march of history supposedly passed them by … until the wall came down, and even the most dedicated apologists had to admit that the Czechs, the Hungarians, and their supporters had been the wave of the future all along.

In America, presidents of both parties pressed policies on their fellow citizens designed to keep the world standing as two. Richard Nixon brought forth “détente.” Jimmy Carter lectured us about our “inordinate fear of communism.” When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” elite opinion considered it unforgivably rude.

“Tear down this wall” has entered the lexicon of great presidential utterances, but the president who uttered it went unmentioned this week by President Obama. Undoubtedly, as huge numbers of people rushed to freedom 20 years ago, few of them would have foreseen that Obama would become president of the United States. Even fewer would have foreseen that one day an American president would decline to join his fellow heads of state in Berlin to celebrate what happened that day.

President Obama’s decision to send a video of himself to Berlin on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, in which he said that “few would have foreseen [on that day in 1989] that . . . their American ally would be led by a man of African descent,” is not the first time he assigned that world-historical event a bit part in his own saga. The Wall also played a walk-on role in his election-night victory speech, included in a long litany of “Yes We Can” paragraphs (“A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination”). He mentioned it in his Berlin citizens-of-the-world speech, attributing the fall to the world standing as one.

Benjamin Kerstein has written an eloquent reminder that the fall of Communism was not the result of the world standing as one, but of the long and often despairing efforts of certain people to fight a future to which much of the world was resigned:

This anniversary, this triumph, this vindication, does not belong to all of us. It belongs to the anti-communists of all countries and all parties who fought for it, sometimes at great cost to reputation, family, friendship, sanity, and often life and limb. …

Some, like Solzhenitsyn, Natan Sharansky, and many, many others, had to face prison, expulsion, harassment, and the constant threat of death in order to make their plight known to the world. …

[The Hungarian and Czech uprisings were] ignored as the march of history supposedly passed them by … until the wall came down, and even the most dedicated apologists had to admit that the Czechs, the Hungarians, and their supporters had been the wave of the future all along.

In America, presidents of both parties pressed policies on their fellow citizens designed to keep the world standing as two. Richard Nixon brought forth “détente.” Jimmy Carter lectured us about our “inordinate fear of communism.” When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” elite opinion considered it unforgivably rude.

“Tear down this wall” has entered the lexicon of great presidential utterances, but the president who uttered it went unmentioned this week by President Obama. Undoubtedly, as huge numbers of people rushed to freedom 20 years ago, few of them would have foreseen that Obama would become president of the United States. Even fewer would have foreseen that one day an American president would decline to join his fellow heads of state in Berlin to celebrate what happened that day.

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New York State as a Model? Only in Pelosiland

If you were developing a plan to make health insurance more affordable, would you use as a model the state whose laws have made health insurance the most expensive in the country? That’s what Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic majority in the House have done.

David Gratzer points out that PelosiCare will force insurance companies to cover orthotics. Unless you are a doctor or have foot problems, you probably don’t know even what orthotics are, but you’ll be covered for them if this bill becomes law. New York State also mandates the coverage of off-label drugs, chiropractors, in vitro fertilization, and a host of other services. Each additional mandate inescapably raises the premium.

Orthotics, of course, is hardly the only mandate in the 1,992-page PelosiCare bill.

Even worse, New York, with “guaranteed issue,” requires that health-insurance companies sell policies to anyone who asks for one and to cover pre-existing conditions. This is the equivalent of requiring fire-insurance companies to sell policies to people whose house burned down the day before — and then pay to rebuild the house. Naturally, premiums on the shmoes who carry health insurance when they are healthy must go up to cover the shnorrers who only begin paying premiums when they have claims.

PelosiCare will require guaranteed issue.

And New York severely limits the ability of insurance companies to charge the young, who have a very low risk of serious health issues, lower premiums than those charged to the not-so-young, who have a much higher risk. Since the young are wildly overcharged in order to subsidize seniors in New York, many decide not to buy health insurance, knowing that if they are very unlucky and get seriously sick, they can always buy the insurance then and be covered.

PelosiCare will do the same. To be sure, the bill calls for those who do not buy insurance to pay a fine of $2,000. As New Yorker Andrew R. Heinze writes, that’s about what he is currently paying just for the coverage of hospital care today, thanks to New York’s economic-reality-be-damned health-insurance laws. He plans to drop his insurance if PelosiCare becomes law and depend on good luck (and guaranteed issuance).

Residents of New York City pay about five times as much for health insurance as those who live in, say, Columbus, Ohio, because of these mandates, guaranteed issue, and restricted premium differentials. PelosiCare will make sure that those who live in Columbus will see their health-insurance bills soar. Or it will cause a collapse of the private health-insurance market, making a government takeover of health care inevitable.

It’s hard not to think that the latter is exactly what they have in mind.

If you were developing a plan to make health insurance more affordable, would you use as a model the state whose laws have made health insurance the most expensive in the country? That’s what Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic majority in the House have done.

David Gratzer points out that PelosiCare will force insurance companies to cover orthotics. Unless you are a doctor or have foot problems, you probably don’t know even what orthotics are, but you’ll be covered for them if this bill becomes law. New York State also mandates the coverage of off-label drugs, chiropractors, in vitro fertilization, and a host of other services. Each additional mandate inescapably raises the premium.

Orthotics, of course, is hardly the only mandate in the 1,992-page PelosiCare bill.

Even worse, New York, with “guaranteed issue,” requires that health-insurance companies sell policies to anyone who asks for one and to cover pre-existing conditions. This is the equivalent of requiring fire-insurance companies to sell policies to people whose house burned down the day before — and then pay to rebuild the house. Naturally, premiums on the shmoes who carry health insurance when they are healthy must go up to cover the shnorrers who only begin paying premiums when they have claims.

PelosiCare will require guaranteed issue.

And New York severely limits the ability of insurance companies to charge the young, who have a very low risk of serious health issues, lower premiums than those charged to the not-so-young, who have a much higher risk. Since the young are wildly overcharged in order to subsidize seniors in New York, many decide not to buy health insurance, knowing that if they are very unlucky and get seriously sick, they can always buy the insurance then and be covered.

PelosiCare will do the same. To be sure, the bill calls for those who do not buy insurance to pay a fine of $2,000. As New Yorker Andrew R. Heinze writes, that’s about what he is currently paying just for the coverage of hospital care today, thanks to New York’s economic-reality-be-damned health-insurance laws. He plans to drop his insurance if PelosiCare becomes law and depend on good luck (and guaranteed issuance).

Residents of New York City pay about five times as much for health insurance as those who live in, say, Columbus, Ohio, because of these mandates, guaranteed issue, and restricted premium differentials. PelosiCare will make sure that those who live in Columbus will see their health-insurance bills soar. Or it will cause a collapse of the private health-insurance market, making a government takeover of health care inevitable.

It’s hard not to think that the latter is exactly what they have in mind.

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To Yemen?

Rep. Frank Wolf has sent a letter to the Justice Department and issued a press release questioning the release of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, especially “in light of the recent tragedy at Fort Hood where the alleged shooter reportedly has ties to a radical cleric now living in Yemen.” Yes, that is correct. Wolf’s press release explains:

“The American people have a right to know who these detainees are and what acts of terror they were engaged in,” Wolf wrote. “If the public had this information, they would never tolerate the release of these men back to unstable countries with a sizeable al Qaeda presence.” …

“If the administration does not halt these pending releases immediately, it could be responsible for creating a new revolving door of terrorism that will cost American lives,” Wolf wrote today. “The security of the American people could be at risk because of the administration’s relentless pursuit of a campaign promise to close Guantanamo Bay by January 22, 2010.”

“Why has the administration made basic information about these dangerous detainees so highly classified that it cannot be shared with the American people or the media?” Wolf asked. “I have reviewed the materials. These are dangerous individuals. To release committed al Qaeda terrorists back to Yemen under these conditions would be an act of gross malfeasance that undermines the safety of the American people.”

In his statement, Wolf also raised the red flag about Anwar al-Aulaqi, “the radical cleric now living in Yemen who has ties to Fort Hood gunman Major Nidal M. Hasan and also mentored two of the 9/11 hijackers.” Wolf does not subscribe to the view that Hasan was simply suffering from post-traumatic stress:

“As the facts surrounding the Fort Hood attack have emerged, it is becoming clear that anyone who is cited in the 9/11 Commission Report — as al-Aulaqi was on page 221 — as a ‘significant’ contact for 9/11 terrorists Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar should be considered a ‘significant’ connection to Hasan,” Wolf wrote. “Al-Aulaqi has subsequently praised Hasan’s attack stating on his Web site: ‘Nidal Hassan is a hero. … Nidal opened fire on soldiers who were on their way to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. How can there be any dispute about the virtue of what he has done? In fact the only way a Muslim could Islamically justify serving as a soldier in the US army is if his intention is to follow the footsteps of men like Nidal,’’’ according to a translation.

Really, if not for the appalling decision to move 9/11 ringleader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the U.S. for a trial — that will soon devolve into a three-ring circus in which the U.S. and its defenders are in the dock — the decision to export the Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, where they can hear the same pearls of wisdom that inspired Hasan, would be tops on the list of “most outrageous things” the Obama team has done recently. But there is always plenty of competition for that distinction.

Rep. Frank Wolf has sent a letter to the Justice Department and issued a press release questioning the release of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, especially “in light of the recent tragedy at Fort Hood where the alleged shooter reportedly has ties to a radical cleric now living in Yemen.” Yes, that is correct. Wolf’s press release explains:

“The American people have a right to know who these detainees are and what acts of terror they were engaged in,” Wolf wrote. “If the public had this information, they would never tolerate the release of these men back to unstable countries with a sizeable al Qaeda presence.” …

“If the administration does not halt these pending releases immediately, it could be responsible for creating a new revolving door of terrorism that will cost American lives,” Wolf wrote today. “The security of the American people could be at risk because of the administration’s relentless pursuit of a campaign promise to close Guantanamo Bay by January 22, 2010.”

“Why has the administration made basic information about these dangerous detainees so highly classified that it cannot be shared with the American people or the media?” Wolf asked. “I have reviewed the materials. These are dangerous individuals. To release committed al Qaeda terrorists back to Yemen under these conditions would be an act of gross malfeasance that undermines the safety of the American people.”

In his statement, Wolf also raised the red flag about Anwar al-Aulaqi, “the radical cleric now living in Yemen who has ties to Fort Hood gunman Major Nidal M. Hasan and also mentored two of the 9/11 hijackers.” Wolf does not subscribe to the view that Hasan was simply suffering from post-traumatic stress:

“As the facts surrounding the Fort Hood attack have emerged, it is becoming clear that anyone who is cited in the 9/11 Commission Report — as al-Aulaqi was on page 221 — as a ‘significant’ contact for 9/11 terrorists Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar should be considered a ‘significant’ connection to Hasan,” Wolf wrote. “Al-Aulaqi has subsequently praised Hasan’s attack stating on his Web site: ‘Nidal Hassan is a hero. … Nidal opened fire on soldiers who were on their way to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. How can there be any dispute about the virtue of what he has done? In fact the only way a Muslim could Islamically justify serving as a soldier in the US army is if his intention is to follow the footsteps of men like Nidal,’’’ according to a translation.

Really, if not for the appalling decision to move 9/11 ringleader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to the U.S. for a trial — that will soon devolve into a three-ring circus in which the U.S. and its defenders are in the dock — the decision to export the Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, where they can hear the same pearls of wisdom that inspired Hasan, would be tops on the list of “most outrageous things” the Obama team has done recently. But there is always plenty of competition for that distinction.

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Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Goes to New York

The Obama administration is pursuing the prosecution of the 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal court in New York. In light of this astonishing decision, I was reminded by a friend that, according to the New York Times, Sheikh Mohammed met his captors with cocky defiance at first, telling one veteran CIA officer that he would talk only when he got to New York and was assigned a lawyer. It looks as though Sheikh Mohammed has seen his defiance vindicated. He has now found an administration more amenable to his view of justice than was the previous one. The Holderization of American justice continues. And I suspect that there will be bad consequences all around for this action.

The Obama administration is pursuing the prosecution of the 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in federal court in New York. In light of this astonishing decision, I was reminded by a friend that, according to the New York Times, Sheikh Mohammed met his captors with cocky defiance at first, telling one veteran CIA officer that he would talk only when he got to New York and was assigned a lawyer. It looks as though Sheikh Mohammed has seen his defiance vindicated. He has now found an administration more amenable to his view of justice than was the previous one. The Holderization of American justice continues. And I suspect that there will be bad consequences all around for this action.

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New York Review of Books Not Even Pretending Anymore

Over at the Corner, Michael Rubin notes that the New York Review of Books, unlike the New York Times, has not served its readers notice that Peter Galbraith, a longtime contributor, has undisclosed financial interests related to a subject he has written about frequently.

If the TNYRB editors want to get their ethical house in order, they should also take a look at the current issue. It contains a piece by Ed Witten gushing over J Street (gushing is perhaps too modest a word; the piece reads more like a press release written by a J Street summer intern). A writer is free, of course, to gush over J Street if he likes. But Witten serves on J Street’s advisory council. Nowhere is this flagrant conflict of interest disclosed to readers.

Over at the Corner, Michael Rubin notes that the New York Review of Books, unlike the New York Times, has not served its readers notice that Peter Galbraith, a longtime contributor, has undisclosed financial interests related to a subject he has written about frequently.

If the TNYRB editors want to get their ethical house in order, they should also take a look at the current issue. It contains a piece by Ed Witten gushing over J Street (gushing is perhaps too modest a word; the piece reads more like a press release written by a J Street summer intern). A writer is free, of course, to gush over J Street if he likes. But Witten serves on J Street’s advisory council. Nowhere is this flagrant conflict of interest disclosed to readers.

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The Left vs. Barack Obama

If you want a measure of how deep is the commitment of those on the Left to surrender and retreat in Afghanistan and Iraq, take a look at Garry Wills’s short piece in the New York Review of Books titled “A One-Term President?: The Choice.” In it, Wills argues:

It is unlikely that we will soon have another president with the moral and rhetorical force to talk us out of a foolish commitment that cannot be sustained without shame and defeat. If it costs him his presidency, what other achievement can match it?

Wills often reflects the views of a significant portion of the Democratic base. As you can see, Barack Obama’s political life continues to get more and more complicated by the day.

If you want a measure of how deep is the commitment of those on the Left to surrender and retreat in Afghanistan and Iraq, take a look at Garry Wills’s short piece in the New York Review of Books titled “A One-Term President?: The Choice.” In it, Wills argues:

It is unlikely that we will soon have another president with the moral and rhetorical force to talk us out of a foolish commitment that cannot be sustained without shame and defeat. If it costs him his presidency, what other achievement can match it?

Wills often reflects the views of a significant portion of the Democratic base. As you can see, Barack Obama’s political life continues to get more and more complicated by the day.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: The Show Needn’t Go On

This week the Israeli government announced it will resume negotiations with Syria without preconditions, and the Syrians responded in kind.

Peace talks, if they ever actually start, aren’t going anywhere, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows it. He’s going through the motions so Western diplomats don’t throw him and his country out in the cold. Syria’s Bashar Assad knows it too. He’s going through the motions so that he and his country can come in from the cold.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

This week the Israeli government announced it will resume negotiations with Syria without preconditions, and the Syrians responded in kind.

Peace talks, if they ever actually start, aren’t going anywhere, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows it. He’s going through the motions so Western diplomats don’t throw him and his country out in the cold. Syria’s Bashar Assad knows it too. He’s going through the motions so that he and his country can come in from the cold.

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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Eli Lake on NIAC

Eli Lake has a blockbuster story in the Washington Times concerning the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which made its name as a reliable apologist for the mullahs and has consistently advocated lifting sanctions against the Iranian regime. (Some background is here and here.) NIAC, according to Lake’s report, worked hard to create a media storm over Obama Middle East adviser Dennis Ross, fearing he would advocate a tougher line against the mullahs. Moreover, it turns out NIAC hasn’t played by the rules:

Law enforcement experts who reviewed some of the documents, which were made available to The Times by the defendant in the suit, say e-mails between Mr. Parsi and Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations at the time, Javad Zarif — and an internal review of the Lobbying Disclosure Act — offer evidence that the group has operated as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws.

Neither Mr. Parsi nor anyone else at NIAC has registered as a lobbyist or filed papers with the Justice Department as a local agent of the Iranian government or Iranian companies. … Mr. Parsi defended his decision to organize NIAC as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and declare on tax forms that his group does not engage in lobbying — a status that enables donors to deduct contributions on their taxes.

Lake also exposes the NIAC claim to represent “the Iranian community” in America — or least many in it — to be, well, laughable. He explains: “The organization has between 2,500 and 3,000 members, according to Mr. Parsi, but had fewer than 500 responses to a membership survey conducted last summer, internal documents show. Yet NIAC asserts that it is the largest such group and represents the majority of the nearly 1 million Iranian Americans.” Five hundred, 1 million, whatever.

Parsi and NIAC have done their best to insulate the Iranian regime from criticism and to oppose any military or economic action against it. Parsi, you may recall, did his anti-anti-Iran routine recently at J Street’s conference. (J Street and NIAC share a common goal: prevention of sanctions against the regime. In addition, Genevieve Lynch, a NIAC board member, is on J Street’s finance committee and gave a cool $10,000 to the J Street gang.) As Jeffrey Goldberg observed, he does “a lot of leg-work” for the mullahs in the U.S. Lake quotes famed Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf as saying, “I think Trita Parsi does not belong to the Green Movement. I feel his lobbying has secretly been more for the Islamic Republic.”

One other note, John Limbert was a board member of NIAC before recently being named deputy assistant secretary of state for Iran. Lake notes, “Mr. Limbert declined to comment, citing his new position, but has appeared at NIAC conferences in the past and expressed admiration for the organization and for its charismatic leader, Trita Parsi.”

Lake’s bombshell piece will no doubt cause a huge stir among those both within and outside the Obama administration who’ve chosen to cozy up to NIAC, and in turn give the mullahs a helping hand.

Eli Lake has a blockbuster story in the Washington Times concerning the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which made its name as a reliable apologist for the mullahs and has consistently advocated lifting sanctions against the Iranian regime. (Some background is here and here.) NIAC, according to Lake’s report, worked hard to create a media storm over Obama Middle East adviser Dennis Ross, fearing he would advocate a tougher line against the mullahs. Moreover, it turns out NIAC hasn’t played by the rules:

Law enforcement experts who reviewed some of the documents, which were made available to The Times by the defendant in the suit, say e-mails between Mr. Parsi and Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations at the time, Javad Zarif — and an internal review of the Lobbying Disclosure Act — offer evidence that the group has operated as an undeclared lobby and may be guilty of violating tax laws, the Foreign Agents Registration Act and lobbying disclosure laws.

Neither Mr. Parsi nor anyone else at NIAC has registered as a lobbyist or filed papers with the Justice Department as a local agent of the Iranian government or Iranian companies. … Mr. Parsi defended his decision to organize NIAC as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and declare on tax forms that his group does not engage in lobbying — a status that enables donors to deduct contributions on their taxes.

Lake also exposes the NIAC claim to represent “the Iranian community” in America — or least many in it — to be, well, laughable. He explains: “The organization has between 2,500 and 3,000 members, according to Mr. Parsi, but had fewer than 500 responses to a membership survey conducted last summer, internal documents show. Yet NIAC asserts that it is the largest such group and represents the majority of the nearly 1 million Iranian Americans.” Five hundred, 1 million, whatever.

Parsi and NIAC have done their best to insulate the Iranian regime from criticism and to oppose any military or economic action against it. Parsi, you may recall, did his anti-anti-Iran routine recently at J Street’s conference. (J Street and NIAC share a common goal: prevention of sanctions against the regime. In addition, Genevieve Lynch, a NIAC board member, is on J Street’s finance committee and gave a cool $10,000 to the J Street gang.) As Jeffrey Goldberg observed, he does “a lot of leg-work” for the mullahs in the U.S. Lake quotes famed Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf as saying, “I think Trita Parsi does not belong to the Green Movement. I feel his lobbying has secretly been more for the Islamic Republic.”

One other note, John Limbert was a board member of NIAC before recently being named deputy assistant secretary of state for Iran. Lake notes, “Mr. Limbert declined to comment, citing his new position, but has appeared at NIAC conferences in the past and expressed admiration for the organization and for its charismatic leader, Trita Parsi.”

Lake’s bombshell piece will no doubt cause a huge stir among those both within and outside the Obama administration who’ve chosen to cozy up to NIAC, and in turn give the mullahs a helping hand.

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Slowing to a Crawl

The New York Times observes:

The disclosure that the United States ambassador in Kabul has expressed written opposition to deploying more American troops to Afghanistan lays bare the fierce debate within the Obama administration over the direction of the war, even after weeks of deliberations and with the president on the verge of a decision.

And for those not quite privy to the ways of leaks and press manipulation, the Times notes that the anti-counterinsurgency-we’d-like-this-on-the-cheap contingent (Gens. Axelrod, Biden, and Emanuel, we presume) “seemed pleased that his perspective had entered the public debate, which has been dominated for two months by the leaked assessment of General McChrystal.” In other words, time to leak, gum up the works, and make it that much more difficult to come to a conclusion. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, for one, is fed up with the leaking and has exclaimed that “everybody ought to just shut up.”

One senses that the president is buffeted by this and that group, seemingly unwilling or unable to just decide. The helpful spinners both on and off the record assure us the president is being more “assertive” and “challenging” the advice. But still, alas, not reaching a final call. How’s it working out? “The behind-the-scenes tug-of-war over policy has become increasingly bitter.” Not as bitter as I imagine those in the field and their families may become as the seminars churn, the equivocation continues over the precise numbers to be deployed (38,000 or 36, 500? or maybe just 26,750?), and both our allies and adversaries look on slack-jawed.

It is quite a spectacle, one unlikely to endear the president to the voters or bolster his image as a wartime leader.

The New York Times observes:

The disclosure that the United States ambassador in Kabul has expressed written opposition to deploying more American troops to Afghanistan lays bare the fierce debate within the Obama administration over the direction of the war, even after weeks of deliberations and with the president on the verge of a decision.

And for those not quite privy to the ways of leaks and press manipulation, the Times notes that the anti-counterinsurgency-we’d-like-this-on-the-cheap contingent (Gens. Axelrod, Biden, and Emanuel, we presume) “seemed pleased that his perspective had entered the public debate, which has been dominated for two months by the leaked assessment of General McChrystal.” In other words, time to leak, gum up the works, and make it that much more difficult to come to a conclusion. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, for one, is fed up with the leaking and has exclaimed that “everybody ought to just shut up.”

One senses that the president is buffeted by this and that group, seemingly unwilling or unable to just decide. The helpful spinners both on and off the record assure us the president is being more “assertive” and “challenging” the advice. But still, alas, not reaching a final call. How’s it working out? “The behind-the-scenes tug-of-war over policy has become increasingly bitter.” Not as bitter as I imagine those in the field and their families may become as the seminars churn, the equivocation continues over the precise numbers to be deployed (38,000 or 36, 500? or maybe just 26,750?), and both our allies and adversaries look on slack-jawed.

It is quite a spectacle, one unlikely to endear the president to the voters or bolster his image as a wartime leader.

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The Saucer

James Pethokoukis reports:

Just talked to a very insightful Capitol Hill Watcher who doesn’t think Harry Reid has the votes in the Senate to pass anything resembling comprehensive healthcare reform. You can count out Lieberman, Landrieu, Nelson and maybe even Bayh.

The endless parade of amendments and debates will continue. There will be no quickie Saturday votes in the Senate, as Nancy Pelosi rammed through on the House. That has, of course, real consequences, as Pethokoukis observes:

Once the Congress goes homes, members could be inundated with complains and protests, just like in August. Also, the rising unemployment rate continues to sap public confidence in the Obama agenda and Washington, in general.

The Founding Fathers would be pleased. As George Washington described it, “We pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.” The danger of ill-advised, ill-conceived, and hastily voted upon legislation is mitigated by the Senate’s laborious process and rules. Unlike the House, where many a member resides within the safe confines of gerrymandered district, the Senate has many an “unsafe” state — Red States with precariously perched Democratic incumbents (Arkansas), Blue States with enough independents and Republicans to swing Republican in a wave year (Connecticut and Pennsylvania), and ones in between with increasingly unpopular senators (Nevada). All will be looking cautiously over their shoulders, as well they should.

Democrats have declared health-care reform to be a political imperative, fearing that doing “nothing” will imperil them. But “not terrifying the voters” isn’t the same as doing nothing. Even Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, if forced to, can come up with a handful of reforms, gussy them up, and declare victory. That may come — but only after the Senate, just as it was designed to do, cools the House’s legislative brew.

James Pethokoukis reports:

Just talked to a very insightful Capitol Hill Watcher who doesn’t think Harry Reid has the votes in the Senate to pass anything resembling comprehensive healthcare reform. You can count out Lieberman, Landrieu, Nelson and maybe even Bayh.

The endless parade of amendments and debates will continue. There will be no quickie Saturday votes in the Senate, as Nancy Pelosi rammed through on the House. That has, of course, real consequences, as Pethokoukis observes:

Once the Congress goes homes, members could be inundated with complains and protests, just like in August. Also, the rising unemployment rate continues to sap public confidence in the Obama agenda and Washington, in general.

The Founding Fathers would be pleased. As George Washington described it, “We pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.” The danger of ill-advised, ill-conceived, and hastily voted upon legislation is mitigated by the Senate’s laborious process and rules. Unlike the House, where many a member resides within the safe confines of gerrymandered district, the Senate has many an “unsafe” state — Red States with precariously perched Democratic incumbents (Arkansas), Blue States with enough independents and Republicans to swing Republican in a wave year (Connecticut and Pennsylvania), and ones in between with increasingly unpopular senators (Nevada). All will be looking cautiously over their shoulders, as well they should.

Democrats have declared health-care reform to be a political imperative, fearing that doing “nothing” will imperil them. But “not terrifying the voters” isn’t the same as doing nothing. Even Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, if forced to, can come up with a handful of reforms, gussy them up, and declare victory. That may come — but only after the Senate, just as it was designed to do, cools the House’s legislative brew.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

From Rasmussen: “Forty-five percent (45%) of U.S. voters now give President Obama poor marks for his handling of the economy, the highest level of disapproval this year. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 39% believe the president is doing a good or excellent job on the economy following the announcement last week that unemployment in October rose to 10.2 percent, the highest level in 26 years.”

Maybe the White House and Democratic congressional leadership should start paying attention to the voters: “The health-care battle appears to be helping Republicans running for the Senate. Two Quinnipiac polls released Thursday show the leading GOP candidates in Connecticut and Ohio growing their leads. Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) leads Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), 49-38, and former Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has opened his first leads over two potential Democratic opponents.”

And the White House and Congress want to spend lots more money: “The federal budget deficit for October rose more than expected to $176.36 billion, the government announced moments ago, up from $155.53 billion in October 2008. This is the largest October deficit on record. It is the first month of fiscal 2010. The total national debt — the sum of all deficits from the beginning of the republic until today — is now up to nearly $12 trillion. A healthy economy should not have a deficit that’s more than about 3 percent of its GDP. Even with a GDP that’s gone positive in the third quarter, the U.S. deficit now projects out to about 11 to 12 percent of GDP. And that’s scary.” Scary indeed, especially for incumbents.

On Major Nadal Hasan’s business cards identifying himself as a Soldier of Allah: “‘He was making no secret of allegiances,’ said former FBI agent Brad Garrett, an ABC News consultant. ‘It’s one more piece of evidence that might have come out if investigators had taken a hard look at Hasan,’ said Garrett. “‘It doesn’t say he’s about to go out and shoot a bunch of people, but there’s something not quite right for an Army major to self-identify that way.'” Not quite.

Charles Krauthammer: “What a surprise — that someone who shouts ‘Allahu Akbar’ (the ‘God is great’ jihadist battle cry) as he is shooting up a room of American soldiers might have Islamist motives. It certainly was a surprise to the mainstream media, which spent the weekend after the Fort Hood massacre playing down Nidal Hasan’s religious beliefs.”

Sarah Palin denounces PelosiCare and suggests her own version: “Let’s get back to discussing market-driven, patient-centered, result-driven solutions, like, for example, allowing people to purchase insurance across state lines, tackling existing government waste and fraud, and reforming medical malpractice laws (tort reform) to stop unwarranted lawsuits that force doctors to order unnecessary procedures just to cover themselves.” Take away the names, describe PelosiCare, and I suspect that a majority of Americans would favor PalinCare.

David Broder agrees with Palin on one thing: PelosiCare is a financial train wreck. “Just as it did under Republican control in the George W. Bush years, when it passed but did not pay for a Medicare prescription drug benefit, it is about to hand out the goodies and leave it to the next generation to pick up the bill.”

From Rasmussen: “Forty-five percent (45%) of U.S. voters now give President Obama poor marks for his handling of the economy, the highest level of disapproval this year. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 39% believe the president is doing a good or excellent job on the economy following the announcement last week that unemployment in October rose to 10.2 percent, the highest level in 26 years.”

Maybe the White House and Democratic congressional leadership should start paying attention to the voters: “The health-care battle appears to be helping Republicans running for the Senate. Two Quinnipiac polls released Thursday show the leading GOP candidates in Connecticut and Ohio growing their leads. Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.) leads Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), 49-38, and former Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has opened his first leads over two potential Democratic opponents.”

And the White House and Congress want to spend lots more money: “The federal budget deficit for October rose more than expected to $176.36 billion, the government announced moments ago, up from $155.53 billion in October 2008. This is the largest October deficit on record. It is the first month of fiscal 2010. The total national debt — the sum of all deficits from the beginning of the republic until today — is now up to nearly $12 trillion. A healthy economy should not have a deficit that’s more than about 3 percent of its GDP. Even with a GDP that’s gone positive in the third quarter, the U.S. deficit now projects out to about 11 to 12 percent of GDP. And that’s scary.” Scary indeed, especially for incumbents.

On Major Nadal Hasan’s business cards identifying himself as a Soldier of Allah: “‘He was making no secret of allegiances,’ said former FBI agent Brad Garrett, an ABC News consultant. ‘It’s one more piece of evidence that might have come out if investigators had taken a hard look at Hasan,’ said Garrett. “‘It doesn’t say he’s about to go out and shoot a bunch of people, but there’s something not quite right for an Army major to self-identify that way.'” Not quite.

Charles Krauthammer: “What a surprise — that someone who shouts ‘Allahu Akbar’ (the ‘God is great’ jihadist battle cry) as he is shooting up a room of American soldiers might have Islamist motives. It certainly was a surprise to the mainstream media, which spent the weekend after the Fort Hood massacre playing down Nidal Hasan’s religious beliefs.”

Sarah Palin denounces PelosiCare and suggests her own version: “Let’s get back to discussing market-driven, patient-centered, result-driven solutions, like, for example, allowing people to purchase insurance across state lines, tackling existing government waste and fraud, and reforming medical malpractice laws (tort reform) to stop unwarranted lawsuits that force doctors to order unnecessary procedures just to cover themselves.” Take away the names, describe PelosiCare, and I suspect that a majority of Americans would favor PalinCare.

David Broder agrees with Palin on one thing: PelosiCare is a financial train wreck. “Just as it did under Republican control in the George W. Bush years, when it passed but did not pay for a Medicare prescription drug benefit, it is about to hand out the goodies and leave it to the next generation to pick up the bill.”

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