Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 19, 2009

Barack Obama’s South Korean Lesson

As Barack Obama takes the long flight back across the Pacific Ocean today, he would do well to reflect on his meeting with the South Korean president, a man who truly understands and exercises smart, realist diplomacy.

On paper, South Korea and the United States approach North Korea in parallel. Both want Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons, and both see the six-party talks as the most likely venue for persuasion. But in reality, Lee’s approach is much tougher; his hand is extended — but he also has a clenched fist, and he’s not afraid to use it.

Last January, Lee suspended aid to North Korea, saying he’d reinstate it only after Pyongyang denuclearized. And while Lee has often said that South Korea’s top priority is peace and reconciliation with the North (a Lincolnian goal if ever there was one), he has also been smart enough to amp up his military, especially at the border. Lee has maintained a staff that could stare down Pyongyang and has fortified his outside alliances to check North Korea. Though Lee prefers international economic sanctions against North Korea, he has also made no secret that Northern military aggression would be formidably matched.

Needless to say, this approach has perturbed the North, long accustomed to extracting Southern concession. In the last year, Pyongyang declared an “all-out confrontational policy” toward South Korea, ratcheted up provocations at sea, hurled insults, held South Koreans captive, and tested missiles. Lee has nevertheless held his ground.

Yet despite his toughness, Lee has also established opportunities for the North to cooperate and re-engage. Most recently, Lee has sought what he dubbed the Grand Bargain: if Pyongyang dismantles its nuclear program in a single, definitive step, the South will guarantee North Korea’s security and offer significant economic assistance.

In contrast, the U.S. is rewarding Northern bad behavior. Abducting American journalists won the North a photo-op visit from Clinton. Further fits of pique have earned the North attention from an envoy, Ambassador Stephen Bosworth, who is now concretely scheduled to visit Pyongyang on Dec. 8. Obama hopes bilateral discussions will return North Korea to the six-party talks. But in reality, direct talks leave the North with even more reason to avoid six-party company.

The irony in all this is that Lee’s actions represent exactly the strategy Obama has professed since his Inaugural Address. But as Lee has proved to the North, his strategy involves more than just words.

As Barack Obama takes the long flight back across the Pacific Ocean today, he would do well to reflect on his meeting with the South Korean president, a man who truly understands and exercises smart, realist diplomacy.

On paper, South Korea and the United States approach North Korea in parallel. Both want Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons, and both see the six-party talks as the most likely venue for persuasion. But in reality, Lee’s approach is much tougher; his hand is extended — but he also has a clenched fist, and he’s not afraid to use it.

Last January, Lee suspended aid to North Korea, saying he’d reinstate it only after Pyongyang denuclearized. And while Lee has often said that South Korea’s top priority is peace and reconciliation with the North (a Lincolnian goal if ever there was one), he has also been smart enough to amp up his military, especially at the border. Lee has maintained a staff that could stare down Pyongyang and has fortified his outside alliances to check North Korea. Though Lee prefers international economic sanctions against North Korea, he has also made no secret that Northern military aggression would be formidably matched.

Needless to say, this approach has perturbed the North, long accustomed to extracting Southern concession. In the last year, Pyongyang declared an “all-out confrontational policy” toward South Korea, ratcheted up provocations at sea, hurled insults, held South Koreans captive, and tested missiles. Lee has nevertheless held his ground.

Yet despite his toughness, Lee has also established opportunities for the North to cooperate and re-engage. Most recently, Lee has sought what he dubbed the Grand Bargain: if Pyongyang dismantles its nuclear program in a single, definitive step, the South will guarantee North Korea’s security and offer significant economic assistance.

In contrast, the U.S. is rewarding Northern bad behavior. Abducting American journalists won the North a photo-op visit from Clinton. Further fits of pique have earned the North attention from an envoy, Ambassador Stephen Bosworth, who is now concretely scheduled to visit Pyongyang on Dec. 8. Obama hopes bilateral discussions will return North Korea to the six-party talks. But in reality, direct talks leave the North with even more reason to avoid six-party company.

The irony in all this is that Lee’s actions represent exactly the strategy Obama has professed since his Inaugural Address. But as Lee has proved to the North, his strategy involves more than just words.

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Polling Woes

Public Policy Polling has some interesting findings:

Overall 49% of voters express approval of Obama’s work with 46% disapproving. He has the support of 83% of Democrats, 47% of independents, and 10% of Republicans. There’s been little change in his base of support over the last year with liberals, moderates, blacks, Hispanics, and young voters all giving him positive reviews and conservatives, whites, and older voters expressing displeasure with his work.

Hurting Obama’s overall reviews is that for the first time in our polling we find a majority of Americans opposed to his health care plan. 40% say they support it with 52% opposed, including 58% of independents. “This is the first time President Obama’s approval rating has dropped below 50% in our polling,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “It does seem that the health care issue is hurting him some with independents who voted for him last year.”

Meanwhile, over at Gallup, Obama’s disapproval rating ticks up to 44 percent, while at Rasmussen (which tracks likely voters) we find:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Thursday shows that 27% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -14. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President. … Overall, 46% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President’s performance. Fifty-three percent (53%) now disapprove.

Perhaps it’s health care, Obama’s signature initiative, that’s driving his polling lower. Maybe it’s the bow or the dithering over Afghanistan. Or maybe Americans really don’t like the idea of trying KSM in a civilian courtroom. But what is clear is that they are souring on the president, and if he wants to preserve some political capital, and prevent his party from being dragged under as well, he would do well to stop pretending that he doesn’t hear the American people. In this politically obsessed White House, I think it’s fair to conclude he is kept up to date on the polling; he’s just decided to go right on doing what he wants to do anyway. That’s the sort of thing voters tend to notice.

Public Policy Polling has some interesting findings:

Overall 49% of voters express approval of Obama’s work with 46% disapproving. He has the support of 83% of Democrats, 47% of independents, and 10% of Republicans. There’s been little change in his base of support over the last year with liberals, moderates, blacks, Hispanics, and young voters all giving him positive reviews and conservatives, whites, and older voters expressing displeasure with his work.

Hurting Obama’s overall reviews is that for the first time in our polling we find a majority of Americans opposed to his health care plan. 40% say they support it with 52% opposed, including 58% of independents. “This is the first time President Obama’s approval rating has dropped below 50% in our polling,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “It does seem that the health care issue is hurting him some with independents who voted for him last year.”

Meanwhile, over at Gallup, Obama’s disapproval rating ticks up to 44 percent, while at Rasmussen (which tracks likely voters) we find:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Thursday shows that 27% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -14. That matches the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President. … Overall, 46% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the President’s performance. Fifty-three percent (53%) now disapprove.

Perhaps it’s health care, Obama’s signature initiative, that’s driving his polling lower. Maybe it’s the bow or the dithering over Afghanistan. Or maybe Americans really don’t like the idea of trying KSM in a civilian courtroom. But what is clear is that they are souring on the president, and if he wants to preserve some political capital, and prevent his party from being dragged under as well, he would do well to stop pretending that he doesn’t hear the American people. In this politically obsessed White House, I think it’s fair to conclude he is kept up to date on the polling; he’s just decided to go right on doing what he wants to do anyway. That’s the sort of thing voters tend to notice.

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Obama’s Amateur-Hour Road Show

Amid the media gang tackle of Sarah Palin as she flogs her book, the refrain that she was — and is — unworthy of respect as a policy cipher and ignoramus is heard again around the land. Liberal pundits still wax indignant about the chutzpah of the Republicans in nominating a person for the vice presidency who lacked experience and good judgment. And yet even as the focus on Palin reached a crescendo this week, the inexperienced person whom the Democrats put at the top of their ticket took his show on the road in Asia, and the negative reviews of his astonishingly bad performance while abroad are still coming in.

As a “news analysis” that appeared in yesterday’s New York Times noted, “with the novelty of a visit as America’s first black president having given way to the reality of having to plow through intractable issues like monetary policy (China), trade (Singapore, China, South Korea), security (Japan) and the 800-pound gorilla on the continent (China), Mr. Obama’s Asia trip has been, in many ways, a long, uphill slog.”

The media did not miss the way the Chinese leadership handled Obama. Even such a purveyor of the conventional wisdom as David Gergen wrote on CNN.com to compare Obama’s poor performance with that of another young and inexperienced president, John F. Kennedy, whose disastrous 1961 meeting with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave the Russians the impression that the Americans didn’t know what they were doing and that they could be pushed around. That led to the nearly catastrophic showdown over missiles in Cuba a year later.

“Why bring up that story now, as President Obama comes home from Asia?” Gergen asks. “Because it has considerable relevance to his meetings in China with President Hu. Obama went into those sessions like Kennedy: with great hope that his charm and appeal to reason — qualities so admired in the United States — would work well with Hu. By numerous accounts, that is not at all what happened: reports from correspondents on the scene are replete with statements that Hu stiffed the President.”

Gergen is right. Though the most embarrassing moment of the trip was Obama’s obsequious deep bow to the Japanese emperor — which was duly noted by American bloggers and dismissed by the liberal punditry as well as by the White House — the real damage done to the national interest by Obama’s travels is the way he has come across to America’s rivals and foes, not to our allies. The Chinese, like the Iranians and the Russians, all think they have the measure of Barack Obama. He strikes them as a weak man more interested in trying to please and to evoke applause than in standing up for principles such as human rights or even the danger of nuclear proliferation. The occasional tough talk that has come from Obama has been undermined by his relentless devotion to engagement, which has convinced these countries that he is a leader to be trifled with. That is the only explanation for the disrespect that the Iranians have shown to his diplomatic outreach as well as for the harsh way in which the Chinese demonstrated their disdain for the president.

Gergen believes that Obama must treat this as a moment for a “wake up call” to revive his foreign policy. “For the President, the challenge is whether he will start approaching international affairs with a greater measure of toughness, standing up more firmly and assertively for American interests.”

We will soon see whether Obama is capable of doing that or whether his blind faith in engagement as well as his unbounded desire for adulation will lead to similar or worse fiascoes in the future. The problem, as the Kennedy example highlights, is that the country’s margin for error on dangerous foreign-policy issues is limited. Obama’s ongoing failure to act to halt Iran’s nuclear program is evidence of the price the country is paying for the president’s on-the-job education. Those laughing hardest at Sarah Palin’s antics may be enjoying themselves as her media circus rules the 24/7 news cycle. But Obama’s weakness, a fault rooted deeply in his inexperience in foreign affairs as well as in his overweening vanity, has become a major liability for the United States, the price of which has yet to be fully assessed.

Amid the media gang tackle of Sarah Palin as she flogs her book, the refrain that she was — and is — unworthy of respect as a policy cipher and ignoramus is heard again around the land. Liberal pundits still wax indignant about the chutzpah of the Republicans in nominating a person for the vice presidency who lacked experience and good judgment. And yet even as the focus on Palin reached a crescendo this week, the inexperienced person whom the Democrats put at the top of their ticket took his show on the road in Asia, and the negative reviews of his astonishingly bad performance while abroad are still coming in.

As a “news analysis” that appeared in yesterday’s New York Times noted, “with the novelty of a visit as America’s first black president having given way to the reality of having to plow through intractable issues like monetary policy (China), trade (Singapore, China, South Korea), security (Japan) and the 800-pound gorilla on the continent (China), Mr. Obama’s Asia trip has been, in many ways, a long, uphill slog.”

The media did not miss the way the Chinese leadership handled Obama. Even such a purveyor of the conventional wisdom as David Gergen wrote on CNN.com to compare Obama’s poor performance with that of another young and inexperienced president, John F. Kennedy, whose disastrous 1961 meeting with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev gave the Russians the impression that the Americans didn’t know what they were doing and that they could be pushed around. That led to the nearly catastrophic showdown over missiles in Cuba a year later.

“Why bring up that story now, as President Obama comes home from Asia?” Gergen asks. “Because it has considerable relevance to his meetings in China with President Hu. Obama went into those sessions like Kennedy: with great hope that his charm and appeal to reason — qualities so admired in the United States — would work well with Hu. By numerous accounts, that is not at all what happened: reports from correspondents on the scene are replete with statements that Hu stiffed the President.”

Gergen is right. Though the most embarrassing moment of the trip was Obama’s obsequious deep bow to the Japanese emperor — which was duly noted by American bloggers and dismissed by the liberal punditry as well as by the White House — the real damage done to the national interest by Obama’s travels is the way he has come across to America’s rivals and foes, not to our allies. The Chinese, like the Iranians and the Russians, all think they have the measure of Barack Obama. He strikes them as a weak man more interested in trying to please and to evoke applause than in standing up for principles such as human rights or even the danger of nuclear proliferation. The occasional tough talk that has come from Obama has been undermined by his relentless devotion to engagement, which has convinced these countries that he is a leader to be trifled with. That is the only explanation for the disrespect that the Iranians have shown to his diplomatic outreach as well as for the harsh way in which the Chinese demonstrated their disdain for the president.

Gergen believes that Obama must treat this as a moment for a “wake up call” to revive his foreign policy. “For the President, the challenge is whether he will start approaching international affairs with a greater measure of toughness, standing up more firmly and assertively for American interests.”

We will soon see whether Obama is capable of doing that or whether his blind faith in engagement as well as his unbounded desire for adulation will lead to similar or worse fiascoes in the future. The problem, as the Kennedy example highlights, is that the country’s margin for error on dangerous foreign-policy issues is limited. Obama’s ongoing failure to act to halt Iran’s nuclear program is evidence of the price the country is paying for the president’s on-the-job education. Those laughing hardest at Sarah Palin’s antics may be enjoying themselves as her media circus rules the 24/7 news cycle. But Obama’s weakness, a fault rooted deeply in his inexperience in foreign affairs as well as in his overweening vanity, has become a major liability for the United States, the price of which has yet to be fully assessed.

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What’s Not to Like? Everything

Majority Leader Harry Reid has introduced his health-care plan, which diverges from the House bill in some keys respects. For one, it’s actually longer, at 2,074 pages. And it doesn’t bar federal subsidy of abortion. Quite the opposite. And here is the key and possibly killer element:

Like the House bill, Reid’s proposal would be financed through billions of dollars in Medicare cuts, as well as new taxes. But while the House would impose a 5.4 percent surtax on income over $500,000 for individuals and $1 million for families, the Senate would rely primarily on a new tax on high-cost insurance policies that has been hugely unpopular among House members.

Specifically, it is hugely unpopular with Big Labor and anyone making less than $500,000 who has a so-called “Cadillac plan.”

In addition to all that, the Senate plan has a public option, already termed a no-go by Republicans, Sen. Joe Lieberman, and some other Red State Democrats. And yes, just as the House version, it will force people to buy insurance. Democrats are delighted because the CBO says it will “save” $127B over 10 years. But as others have pointed out, the “cost-curve” goes up and not down — the CBO says federal outlays for health care are increasing in the next two years. Moreover:

While Democrats will point to $127 billion in possible deficit reduction, that is made possible in part by delaying the benefits until the fifth year of the 10-year budget window. And even then, the $127 billion is LESS than the deficit that was already spent in October of this year. In other words, any possible savings over 10 years of this bill are already erased by the deficit spending of last month alone. And remember, CBO predicts that the 2019 deficit will be $722 billion. So their projected deficit reduction, as uncertain as it is, over the second 10 years won’t erase even the 10th year’s deficit.

And then there is the budgeting sleight of hand — delaying key outlays until 2014 in order to preserve the appearance of near-term budget sanity.

In short, as unpopular and monstrous as the House bill was, this is arguably going to be a tougher sell for moderate and conservative Democrats. Add to the list of opponents pro-life advocates and organized labor and you have a bill virtually no one will like. Except Harry Reid, who thinks it’s just swell. We’ll see what his colleagues think.

Majority Leader Harry Reid has introduced his health-care plan, which diverges from the House bill in some keys respects. For one, it’s actually longer, at 2,074 pages. And it doesn’t bar federal subsidy of abortion. Quite the opposite. And here is the key and possibly killer element:

Like the House bill, Reid’s proposal would be financed through billions of dollars in Medicare cuts, as well as new taxes. But while the House would impose a 5.4 percent surtax on income over $500,000 for individuals and $1 million for families, the Senate would rely primarily on a new tax on high-cost insurance policies that has been hugely unpopular among House members.

Specifically, it is hugely unpopular with Big Labor and anyone making less than $500,000 who has a so-called “Cadillac plan.”

In addition to all that, the Senate plan has a public option, already termed a no-go by Republicans, Sen. Joe Lieberman, and some other Red State Democrats. And yes, just as the House version, it will force people to buy insurance. Democrats are delighted because the CBO says it will “save” $127B over 10 years. But as others have pointed out, the “cost-curve” goes up and not down — the CBO says federal outlays for health care are increasing in the next two years. Moreover:

While Democrats will point to $127 billion in possible deficit reduction, that is made possible in part by delaying the benefits until the fifth year of the 10-year budget window. And even then, the $127 billion is LESS than the deficit that was already spent in October of this year. In other words, any possible savings over 10 years of this bill are already erased by the deficit spending of last month alone. And remember, CBO predicts that the 2019 deficit will be $722 billion. So their projected deficit reduction, as uncertain as it is, over the second 10 years won’t erase even the 10th year’s deficit.

And then there is the budgeting sleight of hand — delaying key outlays until 2014 in order to preserve the appearance of near-term budget sanity.

In short, as unpopular and monstrous as the House bill was, this is arguably going to be a tougher sell for moderate and conservative Democrats. Add to the list of opponents pro-life advocates and organized labor and you have a bill virtually no one will like. Except Harry Reid, who thinks it’s just swell. We’ll see what his colleagues think.

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Five Tips for Effective Peace-Processing

The New York Times reported yesterday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking of declaring a Palestinian state unilaterally, announced:

“We feel we are in a very difficult situation,” Mr. Abbas said. “What is the solution for us? To remain suspended like this, not in peace? That is why I took this step.” Aides have said that Mr. Abbas, who said recently that he did not wish to run again for the Palestinian leadership, is dispirited by the lack of movement in the peace process.

Dispirited by the lack of movement in the peace process?

Six months ago, lack of movement was not cause for concern but part of the plan. After Abbas met with President Obama on May 28, the Washington Post reported the new strategy: wait for things that Abbas knew would never happen.

Abbas and his team fully expect that Netanyahu will never agree to the full settlement freeze. … So they plan to sit back and watch while U.S. pressure slowly squeezes the Israeli prime minister from office. “It will take a couple of years,” one official breezily predicted. …

Instead, [Abbas] says, he will remain passive. “I will wait for Hamas to accept international commitments. I will wait for Israel to freeze settlements,” he said. “Until then, in the West Bank we have a good reality . . . the people are living a normal life.”

The current “difficult situation” is not the result of any deterioration in the good life in the West Bank. On the contrary, that situation has improved since May, as the Netanyahu government has dismantled checkpoints and administrative barriers to economic activity. The difficult situation is rather the result of an Obama diplomatic process that will be studied for years as a lesson in self-propelled hoisting.

Here is how Robert Satloff, in a perceptive presentation for the Washington Institute, describes what happened:

Where Bush was willing to reach quiet, practical, de facto, but very real understandings with Israel on settlement activity, Obama would deny that such understandings ever existed and demand something that no Israeli government could deliver (and, as a result, what no Palestinian leader since the years of the Oslo Accords had ever insisted on): an absolute, 100 percent, not-one-brick freeze on construction in any non-Arab site in either the West Bank or Jerusalem.

* * *

What Netanyahu offered the United States on settlements was certainly constructive and helpful but probably did not merit the accolade “unprecedented,” as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Jerusalem. Here, the failing was the administration’s unwillingness to accept the original understandings on settlement activity reached by Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush. If those understandings had not existed, then Bibi’s offer would have been, in a sense, unprecedented, but everyone — Israelis, Palestinians, other Arabs — knew that the Sharon-Bush understandings did exist. Washington was caught in a web of its own making.

Lessons for future Diplomacy 101 students: (1) do not renege on understandings with another country, even though they were reached before you took office; (2) do not deny that an understanding existed when everyone knows it existed; (3) try to build on what your predecessor achieved, instead of denying he achieved anything; and (4) do not slowly squeeze allies (save that for adversaries).

One other tip: do not start your peace process by reneging, denying, and squeezing one side while giving the other side the impression that all it needs to do is sit back and watch you do it. It will create a difficult situation.

The New York Times reported yesterday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, speaking of declaring a Palestinian state unilaterally, announced:

“We feel we are in a very difficult situation,” Mr. Abbas said. “What is the solution for us? To remain suspended like this, not in peace? That is why I took this step.” Aides have said that Mr. Abbas, who said recently that he did not wish to run again for the Palestinian leadership, is dispirited by the lack of movement in the peace process.

Dispirited by the lack of movement in the peace process?

Six months ago, lack of movement was not cause for concern but part of the plan. After Abbas met with President Obama on May 28, the Washington Post reported the new strategy: wait for things that Abbas knew would never happen.

Abbas and his team fully expect that Netanyahu will never agree to the full settlement freeze. … So they plan to sit back and watch while U.S. pressure slowly squeezes the Israeli prime minister from office. “It will take a couple of years,” one official breezily predicted. …

Instead, [Abbas] says, he will remain passive. “I will wait for Hamas to accept international commitments. I will wait for Israel to freeze settlements,” he said. “Until then, in the West Bank we have a good reality . . . the people are living a normal life.”

The current “difficult situation” is not the result of any deterioration in the good life in the West Bank. On the contrary, that situation has improved since May, as the Netanyahu government has dismantled checkpoints and administrative barriers to economic activity. The difficult situation is rather the result of an Obama diplomatic process that will be studied for years as a lesson in self-propelled hoisting.

Here is how Robert Satloff, in a perceptive presentation for the Washington Institute, describes what happened:

Where Bush was willing to reach quiet, practical, de facto, but very real understandings with Israel on settlement activity, Obama would deny that such understandings ever existed and demand something that no Israeli government could deliver (and, as a result, what no Palestinian leader since the years of the Oslo Accords had ever insisted on): an absolute, 100 percent, not-one-brick freeze on construction in any non-Arab site in either the West Bank or Jerusalem.

* * *

What Netanyahu offered the United States on settlements was certainly constructive and helpful but probably did not merit the accolade “unprecedented,” as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Jerusalem. Here, the failing was the administration’s unwillingness to accept the original understandings on settlement activity reached by Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush. If those understandings had not existed, then Bibi’s offer would have been, in a sense, unprecedented, but everyone — Israelis, Palestinians, other Arabs — knew that the Sharon-Bush understandings did exist. Washington was caught in a web of its own making.

Lessons for future Diplomacy 101 students: (1) do not renege on understandings with another country, even though they were reached before you took office; (2) do not deny that an understanding existed when everyone knows it existed; (3) try to build on what your predecessor achieved, instead of denying he achieved anything; and (4) do not slowly squeeze allies (save that for adversaries).

One other tip: do not start your peace process by reneging, denying, and squeezing one side while giving the other side the impression that all it needs to do is sit back and watch you do it. It will create a difficult situation.

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Despite the Dithering, We Mustn’t Quit the Fight in Afghanistan

Tony Blankley, in a column headlined “If We’re Not in to Win, Bring Our Troops Home,” gives voice to what I suspect will be an increasingly common viewpoint on the Right. He begins by expressing frustration with President Obama’s doubts and hesitations over Afghanistan — as exemplified by leaks from the White House, according to which it would be too expensive to send enough troops. This, at a time when Democrats are avidly pushing multi-trillion-dollar health-care bills. He concludes:

This president and this White House do not have it in them to lead our troops to victory in Afghanistan. So they shouldn’t try. The price will be high for whatever foreign policy failures we will endure in the next three years. Let’s not add to that price the pointless murder of our finest young troops in a war their leader does not believe in.

I sympathize with his viewpoint and share his frustration, but I have to dissent from his conclusion. As discouraging as the White House deliberations have become, Barack Obama is the commander in chief and will be so at least until 2013. We don’t have the luxury of giving up the war effort now and hope for the best in the future. A more hawkish successor, if there is one, will have, to put it mildly, a difficult time dealing with a situation in which the Taliban have taken over most of Afghanistan — which is what would happen if we pulled our troops out. That result would be a catastrophe on many levels. It would not only be a betrayal of our commitment to the people of Afghanistan; it would also create terrorist safe havens in that country and give fresh impetus to Islamist militants seeking to overthrow the government of Pakistan.

We as conservatives don’t have the luxury of saying that if Obama won’t fight the war as vigorously as we want, we shouldn’t fight at all. Even a reduced level of commitment can help to stave off a catastrophe. But it would be far, far better for the president to make the necessary commitment to win — an objective within our power to achieve, but only if the White House provides the resources and commitment necessary.

The danger here is that we may wind up re-enacting the final stages of the Korean War — the period from 1951 to 1953, which followed the initial push by American-led forces to the Yalu River and then the devastating counterattack by Chinese troops, which was just barely halted north of Seoul. Thereafter, U.S. and other United Nations troops slogged it out for two years in a miserable deadlock that resulted in copious casualties but did not change the results on the ground.

Would it have been better for President Truman or his successor, Dwight Eisenhower, to have said that, since we aren’t seeking total victory over North Korea and China, we should just pull out? Clearly not, because even a deadlock was better than a Communist triumph. But the final two years of the war were still a miserable experience that killed and maimed far too many people. We should do whatever we can to avoid such a scenario in Afghanistan, short of actually conceding defeat.

Tony Blankley, in a column headlined “If We’re Not in to Win, Bring Our Troops Home,” gives voice to what I suspect will be an increasingly common viewpoint on the Right. He begins by expressing frustration with President Obama’s doubts and hesitations over Afghanistan — as exemplified by leaks from the White House, according to which it would be too expensive to send enough troops. This, at a time when Democrats are avidly pushing multi-trillion-dollar health-care bills. He concludes:

This president and this White House do not have it in them to lead our troops to victory in Afghanistan. So they shouldn’t try. The price will be high for whatever foreign policy failures we will endure in the next three years. Let’s not add to that price the pointless murder of our finest young troops in a war their leader does not believe in.

I sympathize with his viewpoint and share his frustration, but I have to dissent from his conclusion. As discouraging as the White House deliberations have become, Barack Obama is the commander in chief and will be so at least until 2013. We don’t have the luxury of giving up the war effort now and hope for the best in the future. A more hawkish successor, if there is one, will have, to put it mildly, a difficult time dealing with a situation in which the Taliban have taken over most of Afghanistan — which is what would happen if we pulled our troops out. That result would be a catastrophe on many levels. It would not only be a betrayal of our commitment to the people of Afghanistan; it would also create terrorist safe havens in that country and give fresh impetus to Islamist militants seeking to overthrow the government of Pakistan.

We as conservatives don’t have the luxury of saying that if Obama won’t fight the war as vigorously as we want, we shouldn’t fight at all. Even a reduced level of commitment can help to stave off a catastrophe. But it would be far, far better for the president to make the necessary commitment to win — an objective within our power to achieve, but only if the White House provides the resources and commitment necessary.

The danger here is that we may wind up re-enacting the final stages of the Korean War — the period from 1951 to 1953, which followed the initial push by American-led forces to the Yalu River and then the devastating counterattack by Chinese troops, which was just barely halted north of Seoul. Thereafter, U.S. and other United Nations troops slogged it out for two years in a miserable deadlock that resulted in copious casualties but did not change the results on the ground.

Would it have been better for President Truman or his successor, Dwight Eisenhower, to have said that, since we aren’t seeking total victory over North Korea and China, we should just pull out? Clearly not, because even a deadlock was better than a Communist triumph. But the final two years of the war were still a miserable experience that killed and maimed far too many people. We should do whatever we can to avoid such a scenario in Afghanistan, short of actually conceding defeat.

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Can We Leave Yet?

It sounds like a joke: Obama has agonized for months already on his Afghanistan war strategy and has yet to make a decision, so he skipped to the exit strategy. No, really:

President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown have turned the focus of Afghan war planning toward an exit strategy, publicly declaring that the U.S. and its allies can’t send additional troops without a plan for getting them out.

The shift has unnerved some U.S. and foreign officials, who say that planning a pullout now — with or without a specific timetable — encourages the Taliban to wait out foreign forces and exacerbates fears in the region that the U.S. isn’t fully committed to their security.

“It’s not a good idea,” said Rep. Ike Skelton (D., Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Not a good idea at all. This simply reinforces the image of an irresolute president who’d rather not do what it takes to win a war that he once declared to be critical. As Skelton explains: “When the area has been stabilized … then it’s time to go home. But to set up a timetable for people in that neck of the woods, they’ll just wait us out.” But there’s no firm deadline for withdrawal, the Obami hastened to add. Well, that’s a good thing, perhaps one lesson learned from their Iraq posturing. But Obama’s image still remains: can’t manage to commit and can’t wait to get out. Not good in a potential spouse, horrid in a commander in chief.

It sounds like a joke: Obama has agonized for months already on his Afghanistan war strategy and has yet to make a decision, so he skipped to the exit strategy. No, really:

President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown have turned the focus of Afghan war planning toward an exit strategy, publicly declaring that the U.S. and its allies can’t send additional troops without a plan for getting them out.

The shift has unnerved some U.S. and foreign officials, who say that planning a pullout now — with or without a specific timetable — encourages the Taliban to wait out foreign forces and exacerbates fears in the region that the U.S. isn’t fully committed to their security.

“It’s not a good idea,” said Rep. Ike Skelton (D., Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Not a good idea at all. This simply reinforces the image of an irresolute president who’d rather not do what it takes to win a war that he once declared to be critical. As Skelton explains: “When the area has been stabilized … then it’s time to go home. But to set up a timetable for people in that neck of the woods, they’ll just wait us out.” But there’s no firm deadline for withdrawal, the Obami hastened to add. Well, that’s a good thing, perhaps one lesson learned from their Iraq posturing. But Obama’s image still remains: can’t manage to commit and can’t wait to get out. Not good in a potential spouse, horrid in a commander in chief.

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So Far, So Fast

Mitt Romney doesn’t have a book out or a Newsweek cover photo in bike shorts, but he’s plugging away to establish his 2012 presidential bona fides. Going after Obama’s campaign addiction, he writes:

A full year after being elected, Obama still does not have a strategy for Afghanistan. … What has he been doing for the past 12 months that took precedence over his responsibility for our soldiers? The answer is that he made 30 or more campaign trips for the Democratic Party and its candidates, including five events for defeated New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine alone. He repeatedly traveled around the country to keynote campaign-style town hall meetings that were carefully choreographed by his communications advisers. He appears to want to do what he knows best: campaign, rather than engage in what he was elected to do — lead and govern.

And he jabs the president for spending time in the Situation Room with “[David] Axelrod, the president’s campaign adman. Polls, politics and perspectives on what the TV networks may think have no place at the national security table. Communications staff should be informed of security decisions after they are made, not invited to be a party to them.” And he makes a pitch for his own executive skills (“During my career in business and government, and in running the Olympics, I made many instructive mistakes and learned the lessons that come with experience”), arguing that Obama has flunked his on-the-job training.

Well, that’s the preview of the 2012 race, which the not-yet-but-certain-to-declare Romney and other GOP challengers will make: Obama was a swell campaigner but lacked the gravitas and judgment to govern. After nearly a year of his rally-stuffed agenda, much huffing and puffing (“I won”), and hyper-partisanship, Obama does seem less presidential than when he started. During the campaign, at least, he was employing lofty rhetoric and eschewing vindictive labeling (back when there was no Blue America, no Red America, just the United States of America). Now he seems a smaller, less imposing figure, and frankly much like every other not-very-effective ultra-liberal pol.

That doesn’t mean he can’t accomplish anything between now and 2012, or that he can’t elevate his tone before facing the voters again. But if he ran now, would he command the same dreamy devotion and drive new flocks of voters to the polls? Unlikely. And once the magic is gone, the rhetoric is debased, and the left-wing agenda reveals itself and then unwinds, it’s hard to get the magic back.

Mitt Romney doesn’t have a book out or a Newsweek cover photo in bike shorts, but he’s plugging away to establish his 2012 presidential bona fides. Going after Obama’s campaign addiction, he writes:

A full year after being elected, Obama still does not have a strategy for Afghanistan. … What has he been doing for the past 12 months that took precedence over his responsibility for our soldiers? The answer is that he made 30 or more campaign trips for the Democratic Party and its candidates, including five events for defeated New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine alone. He repeatedly traveled around the country to keynote campaign-style town hall meetings that were carefully choreographed by his communications advisers. He appears to want to do what he knows best: campaign, rather than engage in what he was elected to do — lead and govern.

And he jabs the president for spending time in the Situation Room with “[David] Axelrod, the president’s campaign adman. Polls, politics and perspectives on what the TV networks may think have no place at the national security table. Communications staff should be informed of security decisions after they are made, not invited to be a party to them.” And he makes a pitch for his own executive skills (“During my career in business and government, and in running the Olympics, I made many instructive mistakes and learned the lessons that come with experience”), arguing that Obama has flunked his on-the-job training.

Well, that’s the preview of the 2012 race, which the not-yet-but-certain-to-declare Romney and other GOP challengers will make: Obama was a swell campaigner but lacked the gravitas and judgment to govern. After nearly a year of his rally-stuffed agenda, much huffing and puffing (“I won”), and hyper-partisanship, Obama does seem less presidential than when he started. During the campaign, at least, he was employing lofty rhetoric and eschewing vindictive labeling (back when there was no Blue America, no Red America, just the United States of America). Now he seems a smaller, less imposing figure, and frankly much like every other not-very-effective ultra-liberal pol.

That doesn’t mean he can’t accomplish anything between now and 2012, or that he can’t elevate his tone before facing the voters again. But if he ran now, would he command the same dreamy devotion and drive new flocks of voters to the polls? Unlikely. And once the magic is gone, the rhetoric is debased, and the left-wing agenda reveals itself and then unwinds, it’s hard to get the magic back.

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Lieberman Strikes Again

Politico reports:

Sen. Joe Lieberman’s threat to filibuster any health care bill with a public option could kill health reform this year — and embolden Democratic challengers who’d like to send him packing in 2012. But Lieberman doesn’t seem worried. “I don’t think about that stuff,” Lieberman told POLITICO this week. “I’m just — I’m being a legislator. After what I went through in 2006, there’s nothing much more that anybody [who] disagrees with me can try to do.”

Funny how when the “maverick” who doesn’t give a darn about political consequences is bollixing up their goals, Democrats get awfully fussy and talk about kicking the miscreant out of the party. Sen. John Thunes says the Republicans would love to have him. (Well, he’s more effective than most of their caucus in foiling harebrained lefty national-security larks and voicing some common sense on health care, so why wouldn’t they?)

But the part about the death of the  public option acting to “kill health care reform this year” is poppycock. First, it’s not clear anything is going to pass this year. And more important, the death of the public option means they can pass something without the public option. Honestly. Democrats are all going to go home in a huff when they don’t get the public option, which was widely perceived as dying earlier in the fall? Maybe, but then it would be the Democrats — and not Lieberman — who are killing health-care reform in a fit of pique. But if they want to credit Lieberman, that’s fine too. It will only serve to cement his reputation as the most influential U.S. senator of his time.

Politico reports:

Sen. Joe Lieberman’s threat to filibuster any health care bill with a public option could kill health reform this year — and embolden Democratic challengers who’d like to send him packing in 2012. But Lieberman doesn’t seem worried. “I don’t think about that stuff,” Lieberman told POLITICO this week. “I’m just — I’m being a legislator. After what I went through in 2006, there’s nothing much more that anybody [who] disagrees with me can try to do.”

Funny how when the “maverick” who doesn’t give a darn about political consequences is bollixing up their goals, Democrats get awfully fussy and talk about kicking the miscreant out of the party. Sen. John Thunes says the Republicans would love to have him. (Well, he’s more effective than most of their caucus in foiling harebrained lefty national-security larks and voicing some common sense on health care, so why wouldn’t they?)

But the part about the death of the  public option acting to “kill health care reform this year” is poppycock. First, it’s not clear anything is going to pass this year. And more important, the death of the public option means they can pass something without the public option. Honestly. Democrats are all going to go home in a huff when they don’t get the public option, which was widely perceived as dying earlier in the fall? Maybe, but then it would be the Democrats — and not Lieberman — who are killing health-care reform in a fit of pique. But if they want to credit Lieberman, that’s fine too. It will only serve to cement his reputation as the most influential U.S. senator of his time.

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Could We Have Done Worse?

In the never-ending quest to do not much of anything to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, the Obami, we are told, are “walking a delicate diplomatic path.” On one hand, they are being played, and know it. (“They acknowledge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to be using negotiations to limit U.N. pressure while also working to legitimize his government domestically.”) But then again, they don’t want to upset the — you knew this was coming — “moderate opposition forces inside Iran.” So they stall. Yes, yes, they’ve been stalling for some time now, pretending that the regime would show interest in a grand bargain, downplaying Qom, cooking up the flimsiest of enrichment deals to provide cover for doing not much of anything, protracting the process of being rejected, ignoring news of other possible secret sites (that would fall under the “known unknowns,” in Donald Rumsfeld parlance), and refusing to concede that we’ve gotten nowhere. It’s a lot of work doing nothing for that long.

So what’s next? They’ll get cracking on this next year. Yeah, honestly:

The officials said Mr. Obama remains committed to ratcheting up pressure early next year, and that Washington is cobbling together a coalition of allies to punish Tehran even if Beijing and Moscow balk. The U.S. has also been talking with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates about how to utilize oil sales to pressure Tehran. “Our patience is limited. The president has made clear that at the end of the year we’ll be able to decide” if Iran is serious, said Robert Einhorn, the State Department’s top official on nonproliferation, last week. “April 2010 is too late.”

April 2010 is too late, but November 2009 is too early. And it seems we are already banking on the noncooperation of Moscow, whose cooperation was the rationale for doing nothing this year. (I suppose we were chumps after all for giving up the missile-defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic.)

The result: we will have given Iran yet another year free of outside pressure, enabling it to proceed with its nuclear program. And along the way, we’ve helped bolster the mullahs and defund the democratic opposition. If we had tried to help the regime achieve its aims, we would have been hard pressed to do “better.” And if we were supposed to be defanging the threat of a nuclear-armed fundamentalist Islamic state and staving off a nuclear-arms race in the Middle East, we could hardly have done worse. But maybe next year will be better. Or whenever.

In the never-ending quest to do not much of anything to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, the Obami, we are told, are “walking a delicate diplomatic path.” On one hand, they are being played, and know it. (“They acknowledge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to be using negotiations to limit U.N. pressure while also working to legitimize his government domestically.”) But then again, they don’t want to upset the — you knew this was coming — “moderate opposition forces inside Iran.” So they stall. Yes, yes, they’ve been stalling for some time now, pretending that the regime would show interest in a grand bargain, downplaying Qom, cooking up the flimsiest of enrichment deals to provide cover for doing not much of anything, protracting the process of being rejected, ignoring news of other possible secret sites (that would fall under the “known unknowns,” in Donald Rumsfeld parlance), and refusing to concede that we’ve gotten nowhere. It’s a lot of work doing nothing for that long.

So what’s next? They’ll get cracking on this next year. Yeah, honestly:

The officials said Mr. Obama remains committed to ratcheting up pressure early next year, and that Washington is cobbling together a coalition of allies to punish Tehran even if Beijing and Moscow balk. The U.S. has also been talking with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates about how to utilize oil sales to pressure Tehran. “Our patience is limited. The president has made clear that at the end of the year we’ll be able to decide” if Iran is serious, said Robert Einhorn, the State Department’s top official on nonproliferation, last week. “April 2010 is too late.”

April 2010 is too late, but November 2009 is too early. And it seems we are already banking on the noncooperation of Moscow, whose cooperation was the rationale for doing nothing this year. (I suppose we were chumps after all for giving up the missile-defense facilities in Poland and the Czech Republic.)

The result: we will have given Iran yet another year free of outside pressure, enabling it to proceed with its nuclear program. And along the way, we’ve helped bolster the mullahs and defund the democratic opposition. If we had tried to help the regime achieve its aims, we would have been hard pressed to do “better.” And if we were supposed to be defanging the threat of a nuclear-armed fundamentalist Islamic state and staving off a nuclear-arms race in the Middle East, we could hardly have done worse. But maybe next year will be better. Or whenever.

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Sudan?!

When last we left the UN clown show, Richard Goldstone’s report had been roundly applauded and approved, and Anne Bayefsky (who has spent a quarter century bird-dogging the UN, a task which few of us could endure for an afternoon, let alone an entire career) had been carted off and her credentials taken for speaking up with righteous indignation about the UN’s latest round of Israel-bashing. The kicker, as reported by Fox News:

Bayefsky is now waiting for the U.N. to return her credentials or to refer her case to the Committee on NGOs, which will meet during January and February and could decide whether to renew her NGO pass — a prospect that has her deeply worried.

“The chances of my getting through that committee are basically nil,” she said.

The nation that chairs the committee, Sudan, is currently engaged in a murderous war on its own citizens and expelled 13 major aid NGOs from the country in March — meaning that a human rights violator that rejects NGOs within its own borders will be overseeing the approval of NGOs at the U.N.

Asked about this apparent inconsistency, a spokeswoman for the U.N. body overseeing the NGO committee said in an e-mail that “the Departments concerned are investigating this matter on the basis of established practice, jurisprudence and thorough review of the facts.”

Well isn’t that par for the course. It’s all there: the high-minded double-talk (what “jurisprudence” justifies roughing up a critic and snatching her badge?) and the inmates running the asylum, and all of it in service of the UN’s one great and constant mission — vilifying Israel. The timing here is far from coincidental:

“The next three weeks are the heart of the entire year at the U.N. General Assembly. The frenzy of anti-Israel activity is going on right now,” she said. “There’s a reason they’re keeping me away — this is no accident.”

This  hypocrisy circus is the “international community” whose approbation Obama seeks. The Obami treat the UN with decorum and respect, as if it were a serious organization rather than a gang of thugs that devotes its time to silencing critics, providing cover to terrorists, and averting its gaze from its member states’ own appalling human-rights records. Obama tells us that the world community is one that enjoys shared values. Really. Which goals and values in particular do we share with this crowd?

Bayefsky may miss the “heart of the entire year,” but she’s gotten to the nub of the problem. Unfortunately, the Obami show no sign of taking this or any other incident to heart, nor of reconsidering their role in enabling the UN miscreants.

When last we left the UN clown show, Richard Goldstone’s report had been roundly applauded and approved, and Anne Bayefsky (who has spent a quarter century bird-dogging the UN, a task which few of us could endure for an afternoon, let alone an entire career) had been carted off and her credentials taken for speaking up with righteous indignation about the UN’s latest round of Israel-bashing. The kicker, as reported by Fox News:

Bayefsky is now waiting for the U.N. to return her credentials or to refer her case to the Committee on NGOs, which will meet during January and February and could decide whether to renew her NGO pass — a prospect that has her deeply worried.

“The chances of my getting through that committee are basically nil,” she said.

The nation that chairs the committee, Sudan, is currently engaged in a murderous war on its own citizens and expelled 13 major aid NGOs from the country in March — meaning that a human rights violator that rejects NGOs within its own borders will be overseeing the approval of NGOs at the U.N.

Asked about this apparent inconsistency, a spokeswoman for the U.N. body overseeing the NGO committee said in an e-mail that “the Departments concerned are investigating this matter on the basis of established practice, jurisprudence and thorough review of the facts.”

Well isn’t that par for the course. It’s all there: the high-minded double-talk (what “jurisprudence” justifies roughing up a critic and snatching her badge?) and the inmates running the asylum, and all of it in service of the UN’s one great and constant mission — vilifying Israel. The timing here is far from coincidental:

“The next three weeks are the heart of the entire year at the U.N. General Assembly. The frenzy of anti-Israel activity is going on right now,” she said. “There’s a reason they’re keeping me away — this is no accident.”

This  hypocrisy circus is the “international community” whose approbation Obama seeks. The Obami treat the UN with decorum and respect, as if it were a serious organization rather than a gang of thugs that devotes its time to silencing critics, providing cover to terrorists, and averting its gaze from its member states’ own appalling human-rights records. Obama tells us that the world community is one that enjoys shared values. Really. Which goals and values in particular do we share with this crowd?

Bayefsky may miss the “heart of the entire year,” but she’s gotten to the nub of the problem. Unfortunately, the Obami show no sign of taking this or any other incident to heart, nor of reconsidering their role in enabling the UN miscreants.

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Obama Admits: I Didn’t Accomplish Anything

Fox News’s Major Garrett had this interview exchange with Obama:

GARRETT: The Israelis have announced intentions to put more settlements in Gilo, I believe is the name of the city, how helpful or hurtful to the process it that and do you consider it a rebuke of your efforts to stop those settlements?

OBAMA: Well there is no doubt that I haven’t been able to stop the settlements; and, there is also no doubt from my perspective that it’s in, not only the US interests but actually Israeli interests to not build settlements.

Look, the situation in the Middle East is very difficult, and I’ve said repeatedly and I’ll say again, Israel’s security is a vital national interest to the United States, and we will make sure they are secure.

I think that additional settlement building does not contribute to Israel’s security, I think it makes it harder for them to make peace with their neighbors, I think it embitters the Palestinians in a way that could end up being very dangerous, and it makes, makes it hard to re-launch any kind of serious talks about how you achieve a two-state solution.

Well, that’s at least a recognition of the total humiliating failure that has resulted from Obama’s setttlement-freeze gambit. He’s right that “there is no doubt that I haven’t been able to stop the settlements.” Yes, that much is clear. But you can see that his fixation on settlements remains, and he continues to offer the Palestinians the excuse to do nothing. This of course  raises the question as to why, if it’s all about settlements and territory, that the Palestinians weren’t enthused by the withdrawal from Gaza. And what precisely does “in a way that could end up being very dangerous” mean? Hard to see if the president is predicting an intifada or threatening Israel in some fashion.

But of course the most disingenuous and least — what’s the word? — ah, self-reflective part of this is that the settlement activity “makes it hard to re-launch any kind of serious talks about how you achieve a two-state solution.” No, that was the president’s doing. It was elevating this issue above all else, trying to paint Bibi Netanyhu into a corner, and raising and then dashing the expectations of the Palestinians that made the launch of “serious talks” all the more difficult.

But back in the real world, one has to ask what would be “serious” about the talks. What deal could the Palestinians make and who would be empowered to make it? The president is enamored of talks, but at some point someone should ask him: what would be the point?

Fox News’s Major Garrett had this interview exchange with Obama:

GARRETT: The Israelis have announced intentions to put more settlements in Gilo, I believe is the name of the city, how helpful or hurtful to the process it that and do you consider it a rebuke of your efforts to stop those settlements?

OBAMA: Well there is no doubt that I haven’t been able to stop the settlements; and, there is also no doubt from my perspective that it’s in, not only the US interests but actually Israeli interests to not build settlements.

Look, the situation in the Middle East is very difficult, and I’ve said repeatedly and I’ll say again, Israel’s security is a vital national interest to the United States, and we will make sure they are secure.

I think that additional settlement building does not contribute to Israel’s security, I think it makes it harder for them to make peace with their neighbors, I think it embitters the Palestinians in a way that could end up being very dangerous, and it makes, makes it hard to re-launch any kind of serious talks about how you achieve a two-state solution.

Well, that’s at least a recognition of the total humiliating failure that has resulted from Obama’s setttlement-freeze gambit. He’s right that “there is no doubt that I haven’t been able to stop the settlements.” Yes, that much is clear. But you can see that his fixation on settlements remains, and he continues to offer the Palestinians the excuse to do nothing. This of course  raises the question as to why, if it’s all about settlements and territory, that the Palestinians weren’t enthused by the withdrawal from Gaza. And what precisely does “in a way that could end up being very dangerous” mean? Hard to see if the president is predicting an intifada or threatening Israel in some fashion.

But of course the most disingenuous and least — what’s the word? — ah, self-reflective part of this is that the settlement activity “makes it hard to re-launch any kind of serious talks about how you achieve a two-state solution.” No, that was the president’s doing. It was elevating this issue above all else, trying to paint Bibi Netanyhu into a corner, and raising and then dashing the expectations of the Palestinians that made the launch of “serious talks” all the more difficult.

But back in the real world, one has to ask what would be “serious” about the talks. What deal could the Palestinians make and who would be empowered to make it? The president is enamored of talks, but at some point someone should ask him: what would be the point?

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Who’s in Charge Here?

Karl Rove observes a string of bad-news Friday news dumps by the White House, the latest being the decision to move KSM to a civilian courtroom for trial. He writes:

What we are seeing with the White House’s timing in releasing its decision on KSM and other terrorists is a presidency clinging to campaign tactics that aim to dominate the 24-hour-news cycle. The problem is that ploys that work in a campaign don’t work nearly as well when you’re in charge of the executive branch. Once in office, you have to live with the consequences of a policy decision.

The debate now taking place over trying terrorists in civilian courts is showing this White House that it cannot escape the hard realities that come with making presidential decisions. Not even Friday afternoons can offer sanctuary from dangerous or ill-considered policy choices.

As a preliminary matter, it suggests that Eric Holder’s claim that he did not speak to the president about this is disingenuous. Holder just magically chose a Friday announcement date when the president would be overseas? No, of course not. It insults our intelligence to maintain that the president was a sideline observer and that the rollout was not carefully orchestrated with the White House so as to minimize — however temporarily — the fallout from what is certainly the worst decision of Obama’s presidency.

The see-ma-no-hands gambit is now familiar to those watching Holder’s operation. The same explanation was offered for the decision to name a special prosecutor and declare CIA operatives who employed enhanced interrogation techniques to be on the hot seat once again.

Obama himself played the “Not me!” game yesterday:

In another interview, Obama said he had not tried to tell Attorney General Eric Holder whether the case involving KSM and four other alleged 9/11 plotters should be heard in federal court or before a military tribunal.

“I said to the attorney general, make a decision based on the law,” the president told CNN’s Ed Henry. “We have set up now a military commission system that is greatly reformed and so we can try terrorists in the forum. But I also have great confidence in our Article 3 courts, the courts that have tried hundreds of terrorist suspects who are imprisoned right now in the United States.”

This is preposterous — the White House would have us believe that Holder made this call? “The law” provides for a military commission, so it is no answer to say that “the law” determined this decision.

At the next White House presser or in the next Obama interview, it might be a good idea to ask the president why he, not his attorney general, decided to give KSM a platform in New York to preach his jihadism and put his captors on trial. The president, not Holder, should be asked how he can justify the grief inflicted on 9/11 victims’ families and how he balances the intelligence giveaway that such a trial entails with the PR “credit” we’re supposed to receive. Obama and Holder can spin all they want, but the media — yes, one holds out faint hope on this score — shouldn’t play the patsy and buy into the nonsense that this is all Holder’s doing.

And if Obama sticks to his story? He should then explain why he has delegated one of the most far-reaching and damaging national-security issues of his presidency to someone else. Who’s the president here?

Karl Rove observes a string of bad-news Friday news dumps by the White House, the latest being the decision to move KSM to a civilian courtroom for trial. He writes:

What we are seeing with the White House’s timing in releasing its decision on KSM and other terrorists is a presidency clinging to campaign tactics that aim to dominate the 24-hour-news cycle. The problem is that ploys that work in a campaign don’t work nearly as well when you’re in charge of the executive branch. Once in office, you have to live with the consequences of a policy decision.

The debate now taking place over trying terrorists in civilian courts is showing this White House that it cannot escape the hard realities that come with making presidential decisions. Not even Friday afternoons can offer sanctuary from dangerous or ill-considered policy choices.

As a preliminary matter, it suggests that Eric Holder’s claim that he did not speak to the president about this is disingenuous. Holder just magically chose a Friday announcement date when the president would be overseas? No, of course not. It insults our intelligence to maintain that the president was a sideline observer and that the rollout was not carefully orchestrated with the White House so as to minimize — however temporarily — the fallout from what is certainly the worst decision of Obama’s presidency.

The see-ma-no-hands gambit is now familiar to those watching Holder’s operation. The same explanation was offered for the decision to name a special prosecutor and declare CIA operatives who employed enhanced interrogation techniques to be on the hot seat once again.

Obama himself played the “Not me!” game yesterday:

In another interview, Obama said he had not tried to tell Attorney General Eric Holder whether the case involving KSM and four other alleged 9/11 plotters should be heard in federal court or before a military tribunal.

“I said to the attorney general, make a decision based on the law,” the president told CNN’s Ed Henry. “We have set up now a military commission system that is greatly reformed and so we can try terrorists in the forum. But I also have great confidence in our Article 3 courts, the courts that have tried hundreds of terrorist suspects who are imprisoned right now in the United States.”

This is preposterous — the White House would have us believe that Holder made this call? “The law” provides for a military commission, so it is no answer to say that “the law” determined this decision.

At the next White House presser or in the next Obama interview, it might be a good idea to ask the president why he, not his attorney general, decided to give KSM a platform in New York to preach his jihadism and put his captors on trial. The president, not Holder, should be asked how he can justify the grief inflicted on 9/11 victims’ families and how he balances the intelligence giveaway that such a trial entails with the PR “credit” we’re supposed to receive. Obama and Holder can spin all they want, but the media — yes, one holds out faint hope on this score — shouldn’t play the patsy and buy into the nonsense that this is all Holder’s doing.

And if Obama sticks to his story? He should then explain why he has delegated one of the most far-reaching and damaging national-security issues of his presidency to someone else. Who’s the president here?

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Flotsam and Jetsam

NIAC has a “good name” in Iran. Of course, what’s not to like about a group that lobbies against sanctions?

PelosiCare fallout continues: “House passage of a sweeping anti-abortion amendment has set off a wave of soul-searching and finger-pointing among abortion rights activists — many of whom thought they’d found a safe harbor when Democrats won the White House and big majorities in Congress last year.”

More evidence the public doesn’t share the Obami’s enthusiasm for a civilian trial for KSM: “A new CBS News poll finds that only 40 percent of Americans believe suspected terrorists should be tried in an open criminal court. Fifty-four percent say such suspects should be tried in a closed military court.”

Lindsey Graham stumps Eric Holder on Mirandizing Osama bin Laden. And NPR reports it.

Obama taints the jury pool — and proves that this is harder than it looks.

Stunning video of the mom of a 9/11 victim giving Holder an earful. “The theatrics are going to take over at this point,” she explains.

Rudy Giuliani takes it personally also: “Giuliani called parts [of] his reaction to the decision ‘almost personal’ and said that ‘knowing many of the people who died that day,’ and having stayed in close touch with survivors, ‘there’s no reason to put them through what will become a much more intense reliving of what happened with the terrorists getting an equal chance to explain their side of the story,’ in a setting ‘where their lawyers would be unethical if they didn’t pursue every avenue of acquittal,’ which will probably include ‘putting the government on trial’ and, potentially, creating an atmosphere ‘of moral equivalence,’ which will be very upsetting.”

The New York Times says Asia is over Obama: “Instead, with the novelty of a visit as America’s first black president having given way to the reality of having to plow through intractable issues like monetary policy (China), trade (Singapore, China, South Korea), security (Japan) and the 800-pound gorilla on the continent (China), Mr. Obama’s Asia trip has been, in many ways, a long, uphill slog.”

From the “Most Transparent Administration in History” file: “Sen. Joe Lieberman said Wednesday he would hold a hearing this week on the Fort Hood shooting and may use his subpoena power to force government officials to testify. The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is moving ahead with the Thursday hearing despite pressure from the Obama administration to delay congressional inquiries.”

And we should trust these people with health care? “The chairman of the Obama administration’s Recovery Board is telling lawmakers that he can’t certify jobs data posted at the Recovery.gov Web site — and doesn’t have access to a ‘master list’ of stimulus recipients that have neglected to report data.”

The president says all that is just a “side issue.” What? This isn’t an “exact science.” Fills you with confidence, huh?

NIAC has a “good name” in Iran. Of course, what’s not to like about a group that lobbies against sanctions?

PelosiCare fallout continues: “House passage of a sweeping anti-abortion amendment has set off a wave of soul-searching and finger-pointing among abortion rights activists — many of whom thought they’d found a safe harbor when Democrats won the White House and big majorities in Congress last year.”

More evidence the public doesn’t share the Obami’s enthusiasm for a civilian trial for KSM: “A new CBS News poll finds that only 40 percent of Americans believe suspected terrorists should be tried in an open criminal court. Fifty-four percent say such suspects should be tried in a closed military court.”

Lindsey Graham stumps Eric Holder on Mirandizing Osama bin Laden. And NPR reports it.

Obama taints the jury pool — and proves that this is harder than it looks.

Stunning video of the mom of a 9/11 victim giving Holder an earful. “The theatrics are going to take over at this point,” she explains.

Rudy Giuliani takes it personally also: “Giuliani called parts [of] his reaction to the decision ‘almost personal’ and said that ‘knowing many of the people who died that day,’ and having stayed in close touch with survivors, ‘there’s no reason to put them through what will become a much more intense reliving of what happened with the terrorists getting an equal chance to explain their side of the story,’ in a setting ‘where their lawyers would be unethical if they didn’t pursue every avenue of acquittal,’ which will probably include ‘putting the government on trial’ and, potentially, creating an atmosphere ‘of moral equivalence,’ which will be very upsetting.”

The New York Times says Asia is over Obama: “Instead, with the novelty of a visit as America’s first black president having given way to the reality of having to plow through intractable issues like monetary policy (China), trade (Singapore, China, South Korea), security (Japan) and the 800-pound gorilla on the continent (China), Mr. Obama’s Asia trip has been, in many ways, a long, uphill slog.”

From the “Most Transparent Administration in History” file: “Sen. Joe Lieberman said Wednesday he would hold a hearing this week on the Fort Hood shooting and may use his subpoena power to force government officials to testify. The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is moving ahead with the Thursday hearing despite pressure from the Obama administration to delay congressional inquiries.”

And we should trust these people with health care? “The chairman of the Obama administration’s Recovery Board is telling lawmakers that he can’t certify jobs data posted at the Recovery.gov Web site — and doesn’t have access to a ‘master list’ of stimulus recipients that have neglected to report data.”

The president says all that is just a “side issue.” What? This isn’t an “exact science.” Fills you with confidence, huh?

Read Less




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