Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 22, 2009

Europe to Step Up?

For quite a while — for decades, in fact — it has been fashionable to predict the eclipse of American power. What’s changed over the years is the identity of the country that would knock us off the top perch. In the 1930s and for a long time afterward progressive opinion viewed the Soviet Union as the power that would rise to dominance. Then it was Japan. Now it’s China. But another popular claimant for the top spot has also been Europe, especially since European integration has gotten tighter over the course of the last decade. Many pundits expect — and no doubt hope — that the EU will supplant the U.S. as the world’s most influential actor. There are many problems with this analysis but not the least of them is the EU itself, which shows no desire to wield substantial military power and can’t even achieve much policy coherence to make use of the hard and soft power at its disposal.

The latest evidence of this chronic shortcoming is the selection of the EU’s leadership under its new constitution. As the New York Times notes, “The combination of Belgium’s prime minister, Herman Van Rompuy, for the bloc’s presidential post and Catherine Ashton, the European commissioner for trade, who is British, as foreign policy chief leaves the Union without the high-profile leadership for which many had yearned.”

It would have been a very different situation if Tony Blair had been chosen for the top spot and if, say, Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister and foreign minister, had been chosen as the foreign-policy representative. They would have been a high-profile duo who could have maximized European power. So why choose instead two unknowns of little stature or influence? One suspects that the Europeans chose Van Rompuy and Ashton precisely because they are unlikely to threaten national prerogatives over foreign policy. For all their talk of unity and their actions to achieve some in economic policy, European states remain intensely nationalistic when it comes to the core prerogatives of a nation-state, such as defense and foreign policy. They have little desire to subcontract out those responsibilities to bureaucrats in Brussels. As long as that remains the dominant attitude on the continent — and it shows little sign of changing — the nations of the EU will never achieve the aggregate power that, in theory, the size of their population and economy (both larger than those of the U.S.) would entitle them.

For quite a while — for decades, in fact — it has been fashionable to predict the eclipse of American power. What’s changed over the years is the identity of the country that would knock us off the top perch. In the 1930s and for a long time afterward progressive opinion viewed the Soviet Union as the power that would rise to dominance. Then it was Japan. Now it’s China. But another popular claimant for the top spot has also been Europe, especially since European integration has gotten tighter over the course of the last decade. Many pundits expect — and no doubt hope — that the EU will supplant the U.S. as the world’s most influential actor. There are many problems with this analysis but not the least of them is the EU itself, which shows no desire to wield substantial military power and can’t even achieve much policy coherence to make use of the hard and soft power at its disposal.

The latest evidence of this chronic shortcoming is the selection of the EU’s leadership under its new constitution. As the New York Times notes, “The combination of Belgium’s prime minister, Herman Van Rompuy, for the bloc’s presidential post and Catherine Ashton, the European commissioner for trade, who is British, as foreign policy chief leaves the Union without the high-profile leadership for which many had yearned.”

It would have been a very different situation if Tony Blair had been chosen for the top spot and if, say, Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister and foreign minister, had been chosen as the foreign-policy representative. They would have been a high-profile duo who could have maximized European power. So why choose instead two unknowns of little stature or influence? One suspects that the Europeans chose Van Rompuy and Ashton precisely because they are unlikely to threaten national prerogatives over foreign policy. For all their talk of unity and their actions to achieve some in economic policy, European states remain intensely nationalistic when it comes to the core prerogatives of a nation-state, such as defense and foreign policy. They have little desire to subcontract out those responsibilities to bureaucrats in Brussels. As long as that remains the dominant attitude on the continent — and it shows little sign of changing — the nations of the EU will never achieve the aggregate power that, in theory, the size of their population and economy (both larger than those of the U.S.) would entitle them.

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Unilateral Moves and Countermoves

Interviewed by BBC Arabic this weekend, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas denied reports that he would seek UN Security Council approval for unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state. Rather, he said, “We will turn to the United Nations and the Security Council to strengthen what has been agreed on in the road map and approved by the Security Council, a two-state solution based on the June 4, 1967 borders.”

That may sound innocuous. But in fact, Security Council acquiescence to this proposal would both radically alter the current international position and demolish the already faltering principle that the talks’ outcome should not be prejudiced by unilateral action.

While most of the world already believes the 1967 lines should be the final border, the formal basis for the talks remains Security Council Resolution 242, which says no such thing. This resolution purposefully required an Israeli withdrawal only from “territories” captured in 1967, not “the territories” or “all the territories.” As Lord Caradon, the British UN ambassador who drafted 242, explained, “It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial.” America’s then UN ambassador, Arthur Goldberg, similarly said the two omitted words “were not accidental …. the resolution speaks of withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal.” This was equally clear to the Soviet Union and Arab states, which is why they unsuccessfully pushed to include those extra words.

Formally, therefore, the final border is subject to negotiations: The Palestinians can seek the 1967 lines, but Israel is free to seek to retain parts of the territories. However, should the council endorse “a two-state solution based on the June 4, 1967 borders,” this would no longer be true: Instead, the world would have formally adopted the Palestinian position in a binding resolution — thereby blatantly prejudicing the outcome of the talks.

Ironically, this could force Israel to respond with accelerated unilateral action of its own: settlement construction, and perhaps even formal annexation. A major spur to continued settlement construction in recent years has been the escalating international pressure on Israel to withdraw to the 1967 lines, which led Jerusalem to conclude that its only chance of retaining areas it deems critical for its security was to put so many people there that moving them would be impossible. If this pressure switched from de facto to de jure, more aggressive Israeli countermeasures might become necessary.

In contrast, had the world really treated the border as negotiable rather than openly backed the Palestinian position, Israel could have agreed to freeze settlement construction, because creating “facts on the ground” would not have been necessary to protect its interests.

An escalating war of unilateral moves and countermoves would not be conducive to any agreement. That might not disturb Abbas, who has repeatedly demonstrated a preference for dictated rather than negotiated solutions. But it ought to disturb all those Security Council members who claim to view an Israeli-Palestinian agreement as top priority.

Interviewed by BBC Arabic this weekend, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas denied reports that he would seek UN Security Council approval for unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state. Rather, he said, “We will turn to the United Nations and the Security Council to strengthen what has been agreed on in the road map and approved by the Security Council, a two-state solution based on the June 4, 1967 borders.”

That may sound innocuous. But in fact, Security Council acquiescence to this proposal would both radically alter the current international position and demolish the already faltering principle that the talks’ outcome should not be prejudiced by unilateral action.

While most of the world already believes the 1967 lines should be the final border, the formal basis for the talks remains Security Council Resolution 242, which says no such thing. This resolution purposefully required an Israeli withdrawal only from “territories” captured in 1967, not “the territories” or “all the territories.” As Lord Caradon, the British UN ambassador who drafted 242, explained, “It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial.” America’s then UN ambassador, Arthur Goldberg, similarly said the two omitted words “were not accidental …. the resolution speaks of withdrawal from occupied territories without defining the extent of withdrawal.” This was equally clear to the Soviet Union and Arab states, which is why they unsuccessfully pushed to include those extra words.

Formally, therefore, the final border is subject to negotiations: The Palestinians can seek the 1967 lines, but Israel is free to seek to retain parts of the territories. However, should the council endorse “a two-state solution based on the June 4, 1967 borders,” this would no longer be true: Instead, the world would have formally adopted the Palestinian position in a binding resolution — thereby blatantly prejudicing the outcome of the talks.

Ironically, this could force Israel to respond with accelerated unilateral action of its own: settlement construction, and perhaps even formal annexation. A major spur to continued settlement construction in recent years has been the escalating international pressure on Israel to withdraw to the 1967 lines, which led Jerusalem to conclude that its only chance of retaining areas it deems critical for its security was to put so many people there that moving them would be impossible. If this pressure switched from de facto to de jure, more aggressive Israeli countermeasures might become necessary.

In contrast, had the world really treated the border as negotiable rather than openly backed the Palestinian position, Israel could have agreed to freeze settlement construction, because creating “facts on the ground” would not have been necessary to protect its interests.

An escalating war of unilateral moves and countermoves would not be conducive to any agreement. That might not disturb Abbas, who has repeatedly demonstrated a preference for dictated rather than negotiated solutions. But it ought to disturb all those Security Council members who claim to view an Israeli-Palestinian agreement as top priority.

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Obama and the Virtues of Kowtowing

Reading the Washington Post‘s survey of Asia experts’ opinions on Obama’s swing through the region, I was struck by the general consensus that the trip was a failure. You would expect to hear such a view from conservatives like Misha Auslin and Dani Pletka at AEI, Michael Green at CSIS, or Victor Cha at Georgetown. But what’s striking is that this was also the view of liberals like Doug Schoen, the Democratic pollster, who writes, “President Obama was unable to secure any lasting agreements on climate change, free trade, revaluing the Chinese currency, or, most important, sanctions on Iran and North Korea…. The president’s failure to achieve any concrete results will impact his standing back at home and in his dealings with Congress over health care.”

Then there is the assessment of my Council on Foreign Relations colleague Liz Economy, another Democrat who offers an unvarnished assessment of this Democratic president’s foray abroad:

It was, optically, one of the worst U.S. presidential visits to Beijing in memory. … Lots of talk, little action — just the way the Chinese like it. Although I’d like to back the president, I’d place my own bet that being nice to the Chinese leadership isn’t going to get us very far. It never has.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the president will take some of these criticisms to heart and rethink the virtues of kowtowing before his next expedition abroad.

Reading the Washington Post‘s survey of Asia experts’ opinions on Obama’s swing through the region, I was struck by the general consensus that the trip was a failure. You would expect to hear such a view from conservatives like Misha Auslin and Dani Pletka at AEI, Michael Green at CSIS, or Victor Cha at Georgetown. But what’s striking is that this was also the view of liberals like Doug Schoen, the Democratic pollster, who writes, “President Obama was unable to secure any lasting agreements on climate change, free trade, revaluing the Chinese currency, or, most important, sanctions on Iran and North Korea…. The president’s failure to achieve any concrete results will impact his standing back at home and in his dealings with Congress over health care.”

Then there is the assessment of my Council on Foreign Relations colleague Liz Economy, another Democrat who offers an unvarnished assessment of this Democratic president’s foray abroad:

It was, optically, one of the worst U.S. presidential visits to Beijing in memory. … Lots of talk, little action — just the way the Chinese like it. Although I’d like to back the president, I’d place my own bet that being nice to the Chinese leadership isn’t going to get us very far. It never has.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the president will take some of these criticisms to heart and rethink the virtues of kowtowing before his next expedition abroad.

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Standing by Their Man

In the New York Times, Robert Wright argues that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq served to radicalize Maj. Nidal Hasan, and that:

The Fort Hood shooting, then, is an example of Islamist terrorism being spread partly by the war on terrorism — or, actually, by two wars on terrorism, in Iraq and Afghanistan. And Fort Hood is the biggest data point we have — the most lethal Islamist terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. It’s only one piece of evidence, but it’s a salient piece, and it supports the liberal, not the conservative, war-on-terrorism paradigm.

By this reckoning, facing down the Soviet Union was a failure because it radicalized Bill Ayers. (Never mind that Hasan was connected to radical imams before the U.S. was involved in either war.)

Wright’s argument shows us the shape of liberal things to come. When the Fort Hood attack first happened, liberals jumped into the breach to declare Hasan a nut job with no religious or political motivation. Within twenty-four hours they were buried with evidence to the contrary. If jihad can’t be painted over with a medical condition, what, then, is a good Lefty to do? Blame the U.S. for jihad, of course.

We’ve come full circle. When 9/11 happened it was our fault because we supported the Mujahadeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Eight years later, Fort Hood is our fault for fighting the operational offspring of the Mujahadeen.

Wright thinks he’s been terribly clever in managing to hoist us hawks by our own petards. “When the argument is framed like this, don’t be surprised if conservatives, having insisted that we not medicalize Major Hasan’s crime by calling him crazy, start underscoring his craziness.”

No sale. Hasan is not crazy. He is an Islamist terrorist who carried out a plan. Fortunately, our efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere have killed thousands just like him.

In the New York Times, Robert Wright argues that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq served to radicalize Maj. Nidal Hasan, and that:

The Fort Hood shooting, then, is an example of Islamist terrorism being spread partly by the war on terrorism — or, actually, by two wars on terrorism, in Iraq and Afghanistan. And Fort Hood is the biggest data point we have — the most lethal Islamist terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. It’s only one piece of evidence, but it’s a salient piece, and it supports the liberal, not the conservative, war-on-terrorism paradigm.

By this reckoning, facing down the Soviet Union was a failure because it radicalized Bill Ayers. (Never mind that Hasan was connected to radical imams before the U.S. was involved in either war.)

Wright’s argument shows us the shape of liberal things to come. When the Fort Hood attack first happened, liberals jumped into the breach to declare Hasan a nut job with no religious or political motivation. Within twenty-four hours they were buried with evidence to the contrary. If jihad can’t be painted over with a medical condition, what, then, is a good Lefty to do? Blame the U.S. for jihad, of course.

We’ve come full circle. When 9/11 happened it was our fault because we supported the Mujahadeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Eight years later, Fort Hood is our fault for fighting the operational offspring of the Mujahadeen.

Wright thinks he’s been terribly clever in managing to hoist us hawks by our own petards. “When the argument is framed like this, don’t be surprised if conservatives, having insisted that we not medicalize Major Hasan’s crime by calling him crazy, start underscoring his craziness.”

No sale. Hasan is not crazy. He is an Islamist terrorist who carried out a plan. Fortunately, our efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere have killed thousands just like him.

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Never Learn, Never Look Back

The Washington Post’s ombudsman Andrew Alexander devotes his weekly column to explaining how the Post‘s food critic is above reproach. Fine. Over the last few weeks we’ve been treated to columns on reporters’ conflicts of interest (no, nothing to see there, move along), another on anonymous sources, and one more on a biased book review. So where’s the heartfelt examination of the Post’s coverage of the Virginia gubernatorial race? Hmmm.

No self-examination was forthcoming, no discussion as to why dozens and dozens of stories were devoted to Bob McDonnell’s twenty-year-old college paper — an “issue” the voters cared not a wit about. Odd, isn’t it, that on the most obvious example of bias and excess the Post wouldn’t want to clear the air and take a look.

Instead, this week the Post doubled down, screaming for the governor-elect to denounce comments made by Pat Robertson about Muslims. No, Robertson isn’t in McDonnell’s transition team and isn’t going to be in his administration. The Post breathlessly observes: “In addition to attending law school in the 1980s at what was then called CBN University, the Virginia Beach school founded by Mr. Robertson and named for his Christian Broadcasting Network, Mr. McDonnell served eight years as a trustee of the same institution after it was renamed Regent University.” The Post editors proceed to holler: “Doesn’t Mr. McDonnell owe them and other Virginians some reassurance that he doesn’t share Pat Robertson’s despicable view?” Actually, no. McDonnell is under no obligation to denounce every comment by a supporter with which he disagrees; no more than Obama is expected to denounce every controversial comment a supporter of his makes.

But what is clear here is that the Post is not chastened, has not given up its habit of fomenting hot-button controversies where none exist, and holding Republicans to a standard that would never be employed against Democratic politicians. The Post hasn’t looked back and isn’t about to change its tune. But one thing we do know: the voters don’t much care what the Post prints. Those darn voters have a mind of their own and seemed to have figured out the Post’s gambit.

The Washington Post’s ombudsman Andrew Alexander devotes his weekly column to explaining how the Post‘s food critic is above reproach. Fine. Over the last few weeks we’ve been treated to columns on reporters’ conflicts of interest (no, nothing to see there, move along), another on anonymous sources, and one more on a biased book review. So where’s the heartfelt examination of the Post’s coverage of the Virginia gubernatorial race? Hmmm.

No self-examination was forthcoming, no discussion as to why dozens and dozens of stories were devoted to Bob McDonnell’s twenty-year-old college paper — an “issue” the voters cared not a wit about. Odd, isn’t it, that on the most obvious example of bias and excess the Post wouldn’t want to clear the air and take a look.

Instead, this week the Post doubled down, screaming for the governor-elect to denounce comments made by Pat Robertson about Muslims. No, Robertson isn’t in McDonnell’s transition team and isn’t going to be in his administration. The Post breathlessly observes: “In addition to attending law school in the 1980s at what was then called CBN University, the Virginia Beach school founded by Mr. Robertson and named for his Christian Broadcasting Network, Mr. McDonnell served eight years as a trustee of the same institution after it was renamed Regent University.” The Post editors proceed to holler: “Doesn’t Mr. McDonnell owe them and other Virginians some reassurance that he doesn’t share Pat Robertson’s despicable view?” Actually, no. McDonnell is under no obligation to denounce every comment by a supporter with which he disagrees; no more than Obama is expected to denounce every controversial comment a supporter of his makes.

But what is clear here is that the Post is not chastened, has not given up its habit of fomenting hot-button controversies where none exist, and holding Republicans to a standard that would never be employed against Democratic politicians. The Post hasn’t looked back and isn’t about to change its tune. But one thing we do know: the voters don’t much care what the Post prints. Those darn voters have a mind of their own and seemed to have figured out the Post’s gambit.

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The End of the Beginning

No, Democrats would not vote to humiliate their own leadership and to kill health-care reform in its crib. By a 60-39 vote, the senate agreed last night to start the health-care debate. Byron York has it right, observing:

The extraordinary thing about the dramatic events surrounding the health care bill in the Senate is that there is any drama in it at all. Lawmakers are simply voting to begin debate on their version of health care reform. Just begin debate — not end it, and not move on to a final vote.

If Democrats, with a 60-vote majority in the Senate, were not able to begin debate on the top Democratic policy priority in a generation — well, that would be a devastating turn of events, both for the party and for President Obama. And yet just starting debate has proved difficult, and only today did the 60th Democratic vote fall in place in favor of beginning the process.

The debate begins after senators go home for the Thanksgiving recess and get another earful from their constituents. Those, like Arkansas senator Blanche Lincoln, who cast a “Yes, but I really don’t like it” vote to start the debate may come away with a new-found appreciation for just how angry voters can be when lawmakers seem bent on doing what they don’t want done. Republicans on this one are giving Democrats no cover, banking on voters rewarding those who stood firm against higher taxes, Medicare cuts, and a big-government power grab.

As Politico noted, the party-line vote and the apparent determination of a handful of moderate Democrats not to go along with the public option in a final vote “exposed significant divides in the party that make it all but impossible to complete work on a plan by year’s end, and could possibly even sink the bill altogether.” And abortion subsidies once again loom large. On this one, time is not on the Democrats’ side. It seems as though they may well be at this into the new year. (“That timetable has always been worrisome to the White House because it would push the delicate final passage of the legislation into an election year, with Democrats skittish about voter backlash for a plan that draws decidedly mixed reviews in the polls.”)

We will know soon enough whether on a strict party-line vote the senate will pass a hugely controversial bill, which most voters (including the most politically active among them) don’t want and which likely will be used in a furious election campaign to punish those who foisted the bill on the voters. Odder things have happened, but passing this bill would be one of the oddest in recent memory.

No, Democrats would not vote to humiliate their own leadership and to kill health-care reform in its crib. By a 60-39 vote, the senate agreed last night to start the health-care debate. Byron York has it right, observing:

The extraordinary thing about the dramatic events surrounding the health care bill in the Senate is that there is any drama in it at all. Lawmakers are simply voting to begin debate on their version of health care reform. Just begin debate — not end it, and not move on to a final vote.

If Democrats, with a 60-vote majority in the Senate, were not able to begin debate on the top Democratic policy priority in a generation — well, that would be a devastating turn of events, both for the party and for President Obama. And yet just starting debate has proved difficult, and only today did the 60th Democratic vote fall in place in favor of beginning the process.

The debate begins after senators go home for the Thanksgiving recess and get another earful from their constituents. Those, like Arkansas senator Blanche Lincoln, who cast a “Yes, but I really don’t like it” vote to start the debate may come away with a new-found appreciation for just how angry voters can be when lawmakers seem bent on doing what they don’t want done. Republicans on this one are giving Democrats no cover, banking on voters rewarding those who stood firm against higher taxes, Medicare cuts, and a big-government power grab.

As Politico noted, the party-line vote and the apparent determination of a handful of moderate Democrats not to go along with the public option in a final vote “exposed significant divides in the party that make it all but impossible to complete work on a plan by year’s end, and could possibly even sink the bill altogether.” And abortion subsidies once again loom large. On this one, time is not on the Democrats’ side. It seems as though they may well be at this into the new year. (“That timetable has always been worrisome to the White House because it would push the delicate final passage of the legislation into an election year, with Democrats skittish about voter backlash for a plan that draws decidedly mixed reviews in the polls.”)

We will know soon enough whether on a strict party-line vote the senate will pass a hugely controversial bill, which most voters (including the most politically active among them) don’t want and which likely will be used in a furious election campaign to punish those who foisted the bill on the voters. Odder things have happened, but passing this bill would be one of the oddest in recent memory.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Susan Estrich writes ostensibly on the brewing controversy over new standards for mammography: “The longer answer is that you practice medicine on an individualized basis. While certain things may be true as a matter of ‘public health’ — like the costs of early mammograms outweighing their benefits — that doesn’t mean they’re true for you.” That, of course, is the best argument there is against ObamaCare and other like-minded government-run health-care schemes.

This didn’t take long: “After four years of grappling with how to appeal to voters, a group of top Republicans believe they’ve found a winning formula for 2010. Call it the McDonnell Strategy. The shorthand: run on economic policy, downplay divisive cultural issues, present an upbeat tone, target independent voters and focus on Democratic-controlled Washington—all without attacking President Barack Obama personally.”

Marty Peretz writes on a potential silver-lining in the civilian trial of KSM: “This is also likely to evoke from the millions and millions of enthusiasts of true jihad demonstrations of fidelity and enthusiasm. That is also a good thing. Otherwise, we will still be stunned every time Muslim terror strikes.” Well, the other option is that when Muslim terror does strike — as in Fort Hood — officials and mainstream media refuse to call it a Muslim terror strike.

Another Democrat refuses to play dumb: “Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said after a briefing from Pentagon and Army officials that his committee will investigate how those and other e-mails involving the alleged shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, were handled and why the U.S. military was not made aware of them before the Nov. 5 shooting. Levin said his committee is focused on determining whether the Defense Department’s representative on the terrorism task force acted appropriately and effectively. Levin also said he considers Hasan’s shooting spree, which killed 13 and wounded more than 30, an act of terrorism.”

A smart take on Obama’s Asia trip: “The problem with President Obama’s recent swing through Asia cannot be boiled down to the kowtow, the collapse of Copenhagen, or the rebukes in Beijing and Tokyo. Lack of success does not automatically add up to failure. The more damaging outcome of the trip for Obama is the entrenchment of the perception at home and abroad of the president as a pied piper of American retreat in the world.”

Obama tries to play defense: “President Barack Obama on Saturday urged Americans to show patience over the economy and argued that his just-concluded Asia trip was critical for U.S. exports, countering criticism he had returned empty-handed.”

James Pinkerton on health-care reform: “So what we have seen, and what we will continue to see, is the gradual peeling back of all the rationing and rationing-esque ‘reforms’ dreamed up by the national policy elites. Those elites are plenty smart, but the grad-school group is committed to an intellectual model that the American people reject. Think of it as the health-care equivalent of cap-and-trade–that is, a too-clever-by-half scheme that works well on a Cambridge chalkboard, and nowhere else.”

Her story and sticking to it: “Sen. Blanche Lincoln is a yes for debating health reform, but a no for the public option, and she and fellow centrists are making clear they expect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to scrap his current plan for a government-run insurance program.” But if  a government-run health-care reform passes, which Lincoln’s constituents hates, she’ll have a tough time convincing them that she wasn’t responsible. After all, she could have stopped it in its tracks.

Voters can register their objections in the 2010 senate race: “Just 35% of New York State voters agree with Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try the confessed mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks and five other suspected terrorists in a civilian court in New York City rather than before a military tribunal. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey in the state finds that 55% are opposed to that decision, which is part of the Obama administration’s effort to close the terrorist prison camp at the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba.”

Susan Estrich writes ostensibly on the brewing controversy over new standards for mammography: “The longer answer is that you practice medicine on an individualized basis. While certain things may be true as a matter of ‘public health’ — like the costs of early mammograms outweighing their benefits — that doesn’t mean they’re true for you.” That, of course, is the best argument there is against ObamaCare and other like-minded government-run health-care schemes.

This didn’t take long: “After four years of grappling with how to appeal to voters, a group of top Republicans believe they’ve found a winning formula for 2010. Call it the McDonnell Strategy. The shorthand: run on economic policy, downplay divisive cultural issues, present an upbeat tone, target independent voters and focus on Democratic-controlled Washington—all without attacking President Barack Obama personally.”

Marty Peretz writes on a potential silver-lining in the civilian trial of KSM: “This is also likely to evoke from the millions and millions of enthusiasts of true jihad demonstrations of fidelity and enthusiasm. That is also a good thing. Otherwise, we will still be stunned every time Muslim terror strikes.” Well, the other option is that when Muslim terror does strike — as in Fort Hood — officials and mainstream media refuse to call it a Muslim terror strike.

Another Democrat refuses to play dumb: “Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said after a briefing from Pentagon and Army officials that his committee will investigate how those and other e-mails involving the alleged shooter, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, were handled and why the U.S. military was not made aware of them before the Nov. 5 shooting. Levin said his committee is focused on determining whether the Defense Department’s representative on the terrorism task force acted appropriately and effectively. Levin also said he considers Hasan’s shooting spree, which killed 13 and wounded more than 30, an act of terrorism.”

A smart take on Obama’s Asia trip: “The problem with President Obama’s recent swing through Asia cannot be boiled down to the kowtow, the collapse of Copenhagen, or the rebukes in Beijing and Tokyo. Lack of success does not automatically add up to failure. The more damaging outcome of the trip for Obama is the entrenchment of the perception at home and abroad of the president as a pied piper of American retreat in the world.”

Obama tries to play defense: “President Barack Obama on Saturday urged Americans to show patience over the economy and argued that his just-concluded Asia trip was critical for U.S. exports, countering criticism he had returned empty-handed.”

James Pinkerton on health-care reform: “So what we have seen, and what we will continue to see, is the gradual peeling back of all the rationing and rationing-esque ‘reforms’ dreamed up by the national policy elites. Those elites are plenty smart, but the grad-school group is committed to an intellectual model that the American people reject. Think of it as the health-care equivalent of cap-and-trade–that is, a too-clever-by-half scheme that works well on a Cambridge chalkboard, and nowhere else.”

Her story and sticking to it: “Sen. Blanche Lincoln is a yes for debating health reform, but a no for the public option, and she and fellow centrists are making clear they expect Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to scrap his current plan for a government-run insurance program.” But if  a government-run health-care reform passes, which Lincoln’s constituents hates, she’ll have a tough time convincing them that she wasn’t responsible. After all, she could have stopped it in its tracks.

Voters can register their objections in the 2010 senate race: “Just 35% of New York State voters agree with Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try the confessed mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks and five other suspected terrorists in a civilian court in New York City rather than before a military tribunal. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey in the state finds that 55% are opposed to that decision, which is part of the Obama administration’s effort to close the terrorist prison camp at the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba.”

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