Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 6, 2010

More Peace in Our Time

Another year brings another wintertime oil dispute between Russia and an Eastern European client. In January 2009 it was Ukraine; this year it’s Belarus. Although oil has surged to more than $80 a barrel since the threats and counter-threats began on December 31, Russia is reassuring European customers that the dispute won’t affect their access to refined petroleum. Other concerns, however, are likely to surpass this one in the capitals of Western Europe if Russia’s career of subjugating Belarus continues at its current pace.

Alexander Lukashenko’s government in Minsk was a holdout last year against inclusion in Moscow’s Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), incurring painful Russian sanctions on its dairy industry with its determined resistance. But after Russia put thousands of troops in Belarus in September, for its largest military exercise since the end of the Cold War, Lukashenko changed his mind and joined the CSTO. He then committed Belarus to participation in the CSTO’s Rapid Reaction Force (CRRF), announced by Dmitry Medvedev in February 2009, as an armed counterweight to NATO. Democracy groups in Belarus oppose all these developments, taking as a given that the CRRF will be used to suppress dissent in CSTO nations. (The Belarusian KGB will, predictably, be an element of the CRRF.)

In another wearisome echo of the region’s perennial dynamics, tiny Lithuania could be effectively crippled by the current oil dispute. Lithuania closed its last 1980s-era nuclear plant on December 31 as a price of admission to the EU,and now relies for electric-power generation on Russian oil from Belarus. Foreseeing this vulnerability, Nicolas Sarkozy gamely brought up the EU’s concern about it with Medvedev in late 2008, a venture in mediation that Medvedev summarily rebuffed.

In Belarus’s eyes, however, EU leaders have done even less than that to bolster Minsk’s independence from Moscow. Granted, the EU adopted its “Eastern Partnership” initiative in May 2009, with Belarus as one of the six former-Soviet targets. But this hasn’t produced any effective EU communication on the topics of Minsk joining the CSTO in November, or Russia’s fraternal determination to form a customs union with Belarus. With both developments having substantial implications for the Partnership’s objectives – vague and underfunded though they may be – the EU’s silence on them has been more informative than its abstract policy proclamations.

I agree with Max Boot that our European allies are more resilient and resourceful than their reputation with some American pundits would indicate. But their stately-paced, ineffective responses to events in Eastern Europe suggest that they are as subject as anyone to a dangerous, bureaucratized complacency. Only one force – American military might – has ever kept Europe in stasis during periods of geopolitical perturbation like the current Russian campaign. Perhaps the unity of the EU’s major nations will survive an accelerated Russian campaign, even without the context of U.S. dominance. But we have no historical justification for believing that it will. The EU has a number of tests facing it; Russia’s peculiar concept of power and security may well be the biggest one.

Another year brings another wintertime oil dispute between Russia and an Eastern European client. In January 2009 it was Ukraine; this year it’s Belarus. Although oil has surged to more than $80 a barrel since the threats and counter-threats began on December 31, Russia is reassuring European customers that the dispute won’t affect their access to refined petroleum. Other concerns, however, are likely to surpass this one in the capitals of Western Europe if Russia’s career of subjugating Belarus continues at its current pace.

Alexander Lukashenko’s government in Minsk was a holdout last year against inclusion in Moscow’s Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), incurring painful Russian sanctions on its dairy industry with its determined resistance. But after Russia put thousands of troops in Belarus in September, for its largest military exercise since the end of the Cold War, Lukashenko changed his mind and joined the CSTO. He then committed Belarus to participation in the CSTO’s Rapid Reaction Force (CRRF), announced by Dmitry Medvedev in February 2009, as an armed counterweight to NATO. Democracy groups in Belarus oppose all these developments, taking as a given that the CRRF will be used to suppress dissent in CSTO nations. (The Belarusian KGB will, predictably, be an element of the CRRF.)

In another wearisome echo of the region’s perennial dynamics, tiny Lithuania could be effectively crippled by the current oil dispute. Lithuania closed its last 1980s-era nuclear plant on December 31 as a price of admission to the EU,and now relies for electric-power generation on Russian oil from Belarus. Foreseeing this vulnerability, Nicolas Sarkozy gamely brought up the EU’s concern about it with Medvedev in late 2008, a venture in mediation that Medvedev summarily rebuffed.

In Belarus’s eyes, however, EU leaders have done even less than that to bolster Minsk’s independence from Moscow. Granted, the EU adopted its “Eastern Partnership” initiative in May 2009, with Belarus as one of the six former-Soviet targets. But this hasn’t produced any effective EU communication on the topics of Minsk joining the CSTO in November, or Russia’s fraternal determination to form a customs union with Belarus. With both developments having substantial implications for the Partnership’s objectives – vague and underfunded though they may be – the EU’s silence on them has been more informative than its abstract policy proclamations.

I agree with Max Boot that our European allies are more resilient and resourceful than their reputation with some American pundits would indicate. But their stately-paced, ineffective responses to events in Eastern Europe suggest that they are as subject as anyone to a dangerous, bureaucratized complacency. Only one force – American military might – has ever kept Europe in stasis during periods of geopolitical perturbation like the current Russian campaign. Perhaps the unity of the EU’s major nations will survive an accelerated Russian campaign, even without the context of U.S. dominance. But we have no historical justification for believing that it will. The EU has a number of tests facing it; Russia’s peculiar concept of power and security may well be the biggest one.

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Lincoln’s “Retirement” May Be Involuntary

Sen. Blanche Lincoln is in trouble, still:

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in Arkansas shows Lincoln’s support for reelection at 38% or 39% no matter which of four potential Republican challengers she is matched against. . . State Senator Gilbert Baker leads Lincoln by 12, and State Senate Minority Leader Kim Hendren holds an eight-point edge over the incumbent. Curtis Coleman, a private businessman, and Tom Cox, head of the Arkansas T.E.A. Party, both lead her by 10 points. In reality, however, the numbers reflect very little about the challengers and are best viewed as a referendum on the incumbent. The two-term senator, who was reelected with 54% of the vote in 2004, appears more vulnerable because of her visible and pivotal role in the Senate debate over health care.

The White House and the Democratic leadership have been telling their colleagues that health care is their political salvation, the only way of heading off the coming tidal wave election. But the voters don’t seem to agree. And those lawmakers like Lincoln, Ben Nelson (who won’t face the voters until 2012), and, yes, even Harry Reid (whose poll numbers aren’t that different from Lincoln’s) convinced themselves they could vote with the ultraliberal leadership while escaping the wrath of their own constituents. But politics doesn’t work that way.

In the day-to-day scuffle inside the Capitol domes, Reid, Pelosi, and Rahm Emanuel may seem very important to the lives of lawmakers, but the ones who really matter are back home. For them, ObamaCare is not only objectionable on its own terms; it is also symbol of what they don’t like in Washington — corruption, backroom deals, and disregard for average Americans’ views and values (e.g., the right not to be forced to buy insurance you don’t want or can’t afford).

Perhaps the stampede to the congressional retirement home or the polls will finally register with some incumbent Democrats. If not, that’s why there are elections.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln is in trouble, still:

A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in Arkansas shows Lincoln’s support for reelection at 38% or 39% no matter which of four potential Republican challengers she is matched against. . . State Senator Gilbert Baker leads Lincoln by 12, and State Senate Minority Leader Kim Hendren holds an eight-point edge over the incumbent. Curtis Coleman, a private businessman, and Tom Cox, head of the Arkansas T.E.A. Party, both lead her by 10 points. In reality, however, the numbers reflect very little about the challengers and are best viewed as a referendum on the incumbent. The two-term senator, who was reelected with 54% of the vote in 2004, appears more vulnerable because of her visible and pivotal role in the Senate debate over health care.

The White House and the Democratic leadership have been telling their colleagues that health care is their political salvation, the only way of heading off the coming tidal wave election. But the voters don’t seem to agree. And those lawmakers like Lincoln, Ben Nelson (who won’t face the voters until 2012), and, yes, even Harry Reid (whose poll numbers aren’t that different from Lincoln’s) convinced themselves they could vote with the ultraliberal leadership while escaping the wrath of their own constituents. But politics doesn’t work that way.

In the day-to-day scuffle inside the Capitol domes, Reid, Pelosi, and Rahm Emanuel may seem very important to the lives of lawmakers, but the ones who really matter are back home. For them, ObamaCare is not only objectionable on its own terms; it is also symbol of what they don’t like in Washington — corruption, backroom deals, and disregard for average Americans’ views and values (e.g., the right not to be forced to buy insurance you don’t want or can’t afford).

Perhaps the stampede to the congressional retirement home or the polls will finally register with some incumbent Democrats. If not, that’s why there are elections.

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Obama’s Petard

President Obama promised at least eight times during the campaign to have the legislative negotiations over reforming health care televised on C-Span. That has not happened and, in the final sprint to the finish line, will not happen. The letter from Brian Lamb, the head of C-Span, merely brought the obvious out into the open.

Republicans, naturally, are having a field day comparing Obama’s oft-repeated promise of openness and transparency with the reality of a few congressional Pooh-Bahs (none of them Republican) and White House aides meeting at unannounced times behind very closed doors. When they are done, a vast bill will be rushed to each congressional floor and voted on with just as much dispatch as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid can manage. If no one except the negotiators even has a chance to read the bill, let alone consider it in depth, before the final vote, so much the better. It will then pass, unless some Democrats — looking over their shoulders at the increasing number of their fellow party members who have decided to spend more time with their families — figure out that their political survival requires defying the party bosses. And it will pass on a strictly party-line vote. The most significant piece of domestic legislation since the New Deal will pass without a single Republican vote.

Who is to blame for giving the Republicans such as wonderful cudgel with which to beat President Obama and the congressional Democrats over the head? Well, it was that political genius Barack Obama. It was a dumb political move on his part to have ever suggested open negotiations, let alone promising them over and over.

Real negotiations — as opposed to questioning witnesses and debating on the floor — are never held in public. If they were, political opponents and lobbyists would be hanging on every word. The give and take, the thinking out loud, the tentative suggestions, the horse-trading that are so much a part of any negotiation would be impossible when every casual phrase, recorded on C-Span’s camcorders, might be turned into an attack ad for the next election.

When the most momentous negotiations in American history — the Constitutional Convention of 1787 — met for the first time, the members of the convention agreed to strict secrecy. Sentries were posted at all doors. The windows — in a sweltering Philadelphia summer — were kept closed, a discreet member of the convention always attended Benjamin Franklin’s convivial dinner parties to make sure the great man did not talk too much. James Madison’s notes (by far the most important source we have for what went on) were not published until 1840, after all the delegates to the convention were dead.

The Founding Fathers did a pretty good job in those secret meetings 222 years ago. They created what is perhaps the only work of genius ever produced by a committee. The attendees at the secret negotiations over health care will probably not fare as well in the opinion of history. They are not founding a republic, after all; they are trying, with increasing desperation, to get a dirty deal done.

President Obama promised at least eight times during the campaign to have the legislative negotiations over reforming health care televised on C-Span. That has not happened and, in the final sprint to the finish line, will not happen. The letter from Brian Lamb, the head of C-Span, merely brought the obvious out into the open.

Republicans, naturally, are having a field day comparing Obama’s oft-repeated promise of openness and transparency with the reality of a few congressional Pooh-Bahs (none of them Republican) and White House aides meeting at unannounced times behind very closed doors. When they are done, a vast bill will be rushed to each congressional floor and voted on with just as much dispatch as Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid can manage. If no one except the negotiators even has a chance to read the bill, let alone consider it in depth, before the final vote, so much the better. It will then pass, unless some Democrats — looking over their shoulders at the increasing number of their fellow party members who have decided to spend more time with their families — figure out that their political survival requires defying the party bosses. And it will pass on a strictly party-line vote. The most significant piece of domestic legislation since the New Deal will pass without a single Republican vote.

Who is to blame for giving the Republicans such as wonderful cudgel with which to beat President Obama and the congressional Democrats over the head? Well, it was that political genius Barack Obama. It was a dumb political move on his part to have ever suggested open negotiations, let alone promising them over and over.

Real negotiations — as opposed to questioning witnesses and debating on the floor — are never held in public. If they were, political opponents and lobbyists would be hanging on every word. The give and take, the thinking out loud, the tentative suggestions, the horse-trading that are so much a part of any negotiation would be impossible when every casual phrase, recorded on C-Span’s camcorders, might be turned into an attack ad for the next election.

When the most momentous negotiations in American history — the Constitutional Convention of 1787 — met for the first time, the members of the convention agreed to strict secrecy. Sentries were posted at all doors. The windows — in a sweltering Philadelphia summer — were kept closed, a discreet member of the convention always attended Benjamin Franklin’s convivial dinner parties to make sure the great man did not talk too much. James Madison’s notes (by far the most important source we have for what went on) were not published until 1840, after all the delegates to the convention were dead.

The Founding Fathers did a pretty good job in those secret meetings 222 years ago. They created what is perhaps the only work of genius ever produced by a committee. The attendees at the secret negotiations over health care will probably not fare as well in the opinion of history. They are not founding a republic, after all; they are trying, with increasing desperation, to get a dirty deal done.

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Andrew Sullivan: It’s Time to Invade Israel

Click here to visit crazy town:

My own view is moving toward supporting a direct American military imposition of a two-state solution, with NATO troops on the borders of the new states of Palestine and Israel. I’m sick of having a great power like the US being dictated to in the conduct of its own foreign policy.

Presumably the direct American military imposition of a two-state solution would involve the Marines going house to house in Gaza City. Talk about American soldiers dying for Israel! For someone who has spent the past few years denouncing the hubris of American military intervention in the Middle East, this is heady stuff.

Click here to visit crazy town:

My own view is moving toward supporting a direct American military imposition of a two-state solution, with NATO troops on the borders of the new states of Palestine and Israel. I’m sick of having a great power like the US being dictated to in the conduct of its own foreign policy.

Presumably the direct American military imposition of a two-state solution would involve the Marines going house to house in Gaza City. Talk about American soldiers dying for Israel! For someone who has spent the past few years denouncing the hubris of American military intervention in the Middle East, this is heady stuff.

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Nationalizing the 2010 Race

According to Gallup, Obama begins his second year in office with the highest disapproval rating of any president since Eisenhower. He also has the second worst approval rating in 56 years of any president at the onset of his second year. Considering where he started (68 percent approval in Gallup), that’s quite a slide. The causes are many — the weak economy, left-wing policies at odds with the electorate’s sentiments, a health-care bill most Americans dislike, rejection of anti-terror policies that the public has embraced (e.g., enhanced interrogation techniques), and a widely criticized foreign-policy approach. And then, of course, Obama himself has turned out to be less than his starry-eyed supporters had imagined, with skills and a temperament better suited to campaigning than to governing.

We know from historical experience that the approval rating of the president is a key indicator of the number of seats the majority party will lose. So the Democrats who will be on the ballot in 2010 (those who haven’t already fled the field) will need to make the case, to one degree or another and depending on their specific electorate, that they are not Obama. That was what Creigh Deeds tried but couldn’t do in Virginia’s gubernatorial race. And he, at least, had the advantage of never having voted for Obama’s legislative initiatives or offered up much public comment on the Obama agenda. Incumbent Democrats in 2010 won’t have it so easy.

In 2006 the Democrats nationalized the congressional election and in essence ran against George W. Bush, corruption, and the mishandled Iraq war. In 2010, be prepared for the Republicans to nationalize the congressional elections and in essence run against Barack Obama, corruption, the mishandled war on terror, and the Iranian nuclear threat. History doesn’t always repeat itself. But sometimes it does.

According to Gallup, Obama begins his second year in office with the highest disapproval rating of any president since Eisenhower. He also has the second worst approval rating in 56 years of any president at the onset of his second year. Considering where he started (68 percent approval in Gallup), that’s quite a slide. The causes are many — the weak economy, left-wing policies at odds with the electorate’s sentiments, a health-care bill most Americans dislike, rejection of anti-terror policies that the public has embraced (e.g., enhanced interrogation techniques), and a widely criticized foreign-policy approach. And then, of course, Obama himself has turned out to be less than his starry-eyed supporters had imagined, with skills and a temperament better suited to campaigning than to governing.

We know from historical experience that the approval rating of the president is a key indicator of the number of seats the majority party will lose. So the Democrats who will be on the ballot in 2010 (those who haven’t already fled the field) will need to make the case, to one degree or another and depending on their specific electorate, that they are not Obama. That was what Creigh Deeds tried but couldn’t do in Virginia’s gubernatorial race. And he, at least, had the advantage of never having voted for Obama’s legislative initiatives or offered up much public comment on the Obama agenda. Incumbent Democrats in 2010 won’t have it so easy.

In 2006 the Democrats nationalized the congressional election and in essence ran against George W. Bush, corruption, and the mishandled Iraq war. In 2010, be prepared for the Republicans to nationalize the congressional elections and in essence run against Barack Obama, corruption, the mishandled war on terror, and the Iranian nuclear threat. History doesn’t always repeat itself. But sometimes it does.

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Maybe a Raffle?

The Democrats are having problems filling Byron Dorgan’s seat in North Dakota. The most viable candidate, Earl Pomeroy, who is the at-large congressional representative, isn’t going to run — according to a Democratic Senate Campaign Committee source. Well, that’s how it goes when the incumbents flee. There aren’t that many takers to fill the slots. As Nate Silver put it, Dorgan’s seat is “unspinningly bad news” — and the seat is in all likelihood lost now for the Democrats.

Now sometimes that may work to the advantage of the Democrats. Rep. Peter King seems not to be so interested in a Senate race because he thinks the GOP might be able to take back the House. But in general, the perception that this is going to be a wipeout year for Democrats, fueled by a series of high-profile retirements, soon may become a self-fulfilling prophesy as more incumbents decide not risk another race, and potential Democratic newcomers decide that this year is not the best time to start a political career.

The liberal blogosphere is coming to terms with potential Senate loses. (Greg Sargent: “That supermajority was nice while it lasted!”) And no one looks at Rep. King strangely when he talks about a GOP House takeover. That sort of talk has a further effect: depressing donors who really don’t want to throw their money away in a bad year.

So watch out: prepare for an avalanche of pundits to assure us that Obama really needs and wants Republican victories in the fall. After all, it saved the Clinton presidency in 1994, right? Well yes, but Clinton was a bit more ideologically flexible than Obama has so far shown himself to be. And in any event, all of this suggests that last year’s punditry about a fundamental leftward shift in the electorate and a permanent Democratic majority was a lot of hooey. And it was.

The Democrats are having problems filling Byron Dorgan’s seat in North Dakota. The most viable candidate, Earl Pomeroy, who is the at-large congressional representative, isn’t going to run — according to a Democratic Senate Campaign Committee source. Well, that’s how it goes when the incumbents flee. There aren’t that many takers to fill the slots. As Nate Silver put it, Dorgan’s seat is “unspinningly bad news” — and the seat is in all likelihood lost now for the Democrats.

Now sometimes that may work to the advantage of the Democrats. Rep. Peter King seems not to be so interested in a Senate race because he thinks the GOP might be able to take back the House. But in general, the perception that this is going to be a wipeout year for Democrats, fueled by a series of high-profile retirements, soon may become a self-fulfilling prophesy as more incumbents decide not risk another race, and potential Democratic newcomers decide that this year is not the best time to start a political career.

The liberal blogosphere is coming to terms with potential Senate loses. (Greg Sargent: “That supermajority was nice while it lasted!”) And no one looks at Rep. King strangely when he talks about a GOP House takeover. That sort of talk has a further effect: depressing donors who really don’t want to throw their money away in a bad year.

So watch out: prepare for an avalanche of pundits to assure us that Obama really needs and wants Republican victories in the fall. After all, it saved the Clinton presidency in 1994, right? Well yes, but Clinton was a bit more ideologically flexible than Obama has so far shown himself to be. And in any event, all of this suggests that last year’s punditry about a fundamental leftward shift in the electorate and a permanent Democratic majority was a lot of hooey. And it was.

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New York: The Carpetbagger State Welcomes Harold Ford

You would think that out of the nearly 20 million people who live in the Empire State, the two major parties would be able to find at least two distinguished citizens fit to represent New York in the United States Senate. But the state has a sorry recent tradition of outsourcing Senate seats as carpetbagger politicians parachute in to serve in the nation’s highest deliberative body on its behalf. In 1964, though he had not lived in New York for decades, Bobby Kennedy exploited his brother’s martyrdom and his own charisma to win a Senate seat that he would briefly warm (until his own tragic assassination) while plotting to recapture the White House for his family. Thirty-six years later, Hillary Clinton, a native of suburban Chicago and former first lady of Arkansas, arrived here to establish residency and “listen” to New Yorkers, who obediently elected her to the Senate just as her husband was vacating the executive mansion in Washington.

The latest immigrant to New York to consider himself qualified to represent it in the Senate is Harold Ford Jr., the former Tennessee congressman who was defeated by the citizens of his native state when he ran for a Senate seat in 2006. Since then, the young and handsome Ford moved to Manhattan, where he took a job as vice chairman of Merrill Lynch and appeared as an occasional talking head on MSNBC. The New York Times reports today that some New York Democrats want Ford to challenge Kirsten Gillibrand, the upstate senator who was appointed by Gov. David Paterson to fill the seat Clinton vacated when she left for the State Department a year ago.

Like Gillibrand, Ford will have to “adjust” his positions on a number of issues if he wants to be the standard-bearer for New York’s ultraliberal Democratic Party. In the House, Gillibrand was an opponent of illegal immigration and a supporter of the right to bear arms. Since coming to the Senate and accepting the role of female Sancho Panza to senior Senator Chuck Schumer, Gillibrand has flipped on immigration and gun control. Similarly, Ford will have to ditch his opposition to gay marriage to please liberal Dems. But though Ford is a relative newcomer to the Big Apple, he appears to have always been in an “Empire State of Mind” when it came to fundraising. According to the Times, a third of the $15 million he raised for his 2006 Senate run came from New York.

Ford’s challenge is an indication of Gillibrand’s weakness. Her lackluster performance in the Senate could give the Republicans a chance to knock off an incumbent, but with Rudy Giuliani opting out of the race, Long Island Rep. Peter King appears to be the only Republican with enough stature for a chance at winning the seat. Though any Democrat, even Gillibrand, ought to be favored to win in New York, the rumblings of support for Ford, who might become the only African-American in the Senate next year (with Roland Burris’s lease of the Illinois seat left by Barack Obama about to expire), show that the possibility of a GOP tide drowning weak liberal incumbents in 2010 is being taken seriously.

Schumer, who has been traveling the state twisting arms to ensure that his protégé goes unchallenged, has a lot to lose if a Ford victory ditches the notion that he is the kingmaker of New York politics. But however it turns out, let’s hope we are spared the spectacle of this son of Tennessee claiming to be a lifelong New York Yankees fan as Hillary did in 2000. But no matter which team he says he roots for, Ford has little to worry about when it comes to sincerity on such matters. Clinton’s victory illustrated that although New Yorkers pride themselves on being able to spot a phony from out of town from a mile away, it doesn’t mean they won’t vote for one.

You would think that out of the nearly 20 million people who live in the Empire State, the two major parties would be able to find at least two distinguished citizens fit to represent New York in the United States Senate. But the state has a sorry recent tradition of outsourcing Senate seats as carpetbagger politicians parachute in to serve in the nation’s highest deliberative body on its behalf. In 1964, though he had not lived in New York for decades, Bobby Kennedy exploited his brother’s martyrdom and his own charisma to win a Senate seat that he would briefly warm (until his own tragic assassination) while plotting to recapture the White House for his family. Thirty-six years later, Hillary Clinton, a native of suburban Chicago and former first lady of Arkansas, arrived here to establish residency and “listen” to New Yorkers, who obediently elected her to the Senate just as her husband was vacating the executive mansion in Washington.

The latest immigrant to New York to consider himself qualified to represent it in the Senate is Harold Ford Jr., the former Tennessee congressman who was defeated by the citizens of his native state when he ran for a Senate seat in 2006. Since then, the young and handsome Ford moved to Manhattan, where he took a job as vice chairman of Merrill Lynch and appeared as an occasional talking head on MSNBC. The New York Times reports today that some New York Democrats want Ford to challenge Kirsten Gillibrand, the upstate senator who was appointed by Gov. David Paterson to fill the seat Clinton vacated when she left for the State Department a year ago.

Like Gillibrand, Ford will have to “adjust” his positions on a number of issues if he wants to be the standard-bearer for New York’s ultraliberal Democratic Party. In the House, Gillibrand was an opponent of illegal immigration and a supporter of the right to bear arms. Since coming to the Senate and accepting the role of female Sancho Panza to senior Senator Chuck Schumer, Gillibrand has flipped on immigration and gun control. Similarly, Ford will have to ditch his opposition to gay marriage to please liberal Dems. But though Ford is a relative newcomer to the Big Apple, he appears to have always been in an “Empire State of Mind” when it came to fundraising. According to the Times, a third of the $15 million he raised for his 2006 Senate run came from New York.

Ford’s challenge is an indication of Gillibrand’s weakness. Her lackluster performance in the Senate could give the Republicans a chance to knock off an incumbent, but with Rudy Giuliani opting out of the race, Long Island Rep. Peter King appears to be the only Republican with enough stature for a chance at winning the seat. Though any Democrat, even Gillibrand, ought to be favored to win in New York, the rumblings of support for Ford, who might become the only African-American in the Senate next year (with Roland Burris’s lease of the Illinois seat left by Barack Obama about to expire), show that the possibility of a GOP tide drowning weak liberal incumbents in 2010 is being taken seriously.

Schumer, who has been traveling the state twisting arms to ensure that his protégé goes unchallenged, has a lot to lose if a Ford victory ditches the notion that he is the kingmaker of New York politics. But however it turns out, let’s hope we are spared the spectacle of this son of Tennessee claiming to be a lifelong New York Yankees fan as Hillary did in 2000. But no matter which team he says he roots for, Ford has little to worry about when it comes to sincerity on such matters. Clinton’s victory illustrated that although New Yorkers pride themselves on being able to spot a phony from out of town from a mile away, it doesn’t mean they won’t vote for one.

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Sic Transit Dodd

The decision of Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd to avoid the humiliation of being defeated for re-election later this year may well help the Democrats hold his seat. It was more than likely that either of his Republican opponents — former Congressman Rob Simmons or pro-wrestling tycoon Linda McMahon — would have beaten the five-term incumbent handily. However, if the Democrats nominate Richard Blumenthal, the Nutmeg State’s attorney general, the odds may shift back in favor of the Democrats. Once the rising star of Connecticut Democratic politics, Blumenthal has held that office since 1990. However the timorous though ambitious Blumenthal passed on every opportunity since then to run for higher office because he feared defeat. At 66, Blumenthal is no longer a boy wonder, but his reputation is spotless. Yesterday, Dodd’s seat was a likely GOP pickup in 2010. Today it must be considered an open seat that the Democrats will probably hold.

As for the demise of Dodd, the fact that his political career comes to an end as a result of ethical scandals is a sad irony. Prior to his recent difficulties, Dodd was best remembered as Ted Kennedy’s favorite drinking buddy or as the leading voice of liberal opposition to the Reagan administration’s efforts to stop the spread of communism in Central America in the 1980s – the same timeframe when Dodd was dating Bianca Jagger.

But the animating spirit of the career of this liberal party animal (Dodd used to joke that the only reason he had accepted President Clinton’s request that he assume the chairmanship of the Democratic Party’s National Committee was that the question had come up while they were on a bad phone connection and the only word he heard clearly was “party,” so of course he agreed.) was his desire to honor the memory of his father Thomas, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1958 to 1970. In 1967, the Senate formally censured the elder Dodd for transferring campaign funds to his personal accounts. The spectacle of the Senate humiliating one of its own in this fashion doomed Tom Dodd’s re-election chances in 1970, and he died of a heart attack soon after leaving office. But the pain of this incident never left his son, who launched his own career a few years later in no small measure as an effort to vindicate the family name. While Tom Dodd was a fervent anti-Communist who at one time was a paid lobbyist for the dictator of Guatemala, Chris became the scourge of those seeking to prop up Latin American governments against leftist revolutionaries. But despite this difference, the younger Dodd sought every possible opportunity to burnish his late father’s tattered reputation. He never missed an opportunity to claim that his father had been ill-used by the press and his colleagues. Though many at the time thought the campaign funds charge was just the tip of the iceberg of Tom Dodd’s corruption, Chris was vocal in claiming that his father was innocent. It was at Dodd’s insistence that the University of Connecticut established a special research center named for his father. He also fought to have a minor league baseball stadium in Norwich named for Tom Dodd.

Thus, it is no small irony that a man who spent his life trying to clear the name of his father wound up being sunk by the same sort of charges. Dodd’s crooked Irish real estate deal, his notorious membership in the “Friends of Angelo” VIP mortgage club at Countrywide Financial while chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and his legislative efforts to clear the way for bonuses to be paid to AIG executives marked him as a symbol of a new generation of corrupt Washington politicians. The son repeated the sins of the father.

Also ironic is the fact that despite Dodd’s efforts to help defeat his Connecticut colleague Joe Lieberman in 2006 for his apostasy in supporting the war in Iraq, one year from now Lieberman will still be in the Senate and Dodd will not.

The decision of Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd to avoid the humiliation of being defeated for re-election later this year may well help the Democrats hold his seat. It was more than likely that either of his Republican opponents — former Congressman Rob Simmons or pro-wrestling tycoon Linda McMahon — would have beaten the five-term incumbent handily. However, if the Democrats nominate Richard Blumenthal, the Nutmeg State’s attorney general, the odds may shift back in favor of the Democrats. Once the rising star of Connecticut Democratic politics, Blumenthal has held that office since 1990. However the timorous though ambitious Blumenthal passed on every opportunity since then to run for higher office because he feared defeat. At 66, Blumenthal is no longer a boy wonder, but his reputation is spotless. Yesterday, Dodd’s seat was a likely GOP pickup in 2010. Today it must be considered an open seat that the Democrats will probably hold.

As for the demise of Dodd, the fact that his political career comes to an end as a result of ethical scandals is a sad irony. Prior to his recent difficulties, Dodd was best remembered as Ted Kennedy’s favorite drinking buddy or as the leading voice of liberal opposition to the Reagan administration’s efforts to stop the spread of communism in Central America in the 1980s – the same timeframe when Dodd was dating Bianca Jagger.

But the animating spirit of the career of this liberal party animal (Dodd used to joke that the only reason he had accepted President Clinton’s request that he assume the chairmanship of the Democratic Party’s National Committee was that the question had come up while they were on a bad phone connection and the only word he heard clearly was “party,” so of course he agreed.) was his desire to honor the memory of his father Thomas, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1958 to 1970. In 1967, the Senate formally censured the elder Dodd for transferring campaign funds to his personal accounts. The spectacle of the Senate humiliating one of its own in this fashion doomed Tom Dodd’s re-election chances in 1970, and he died of a heart attack soon after leaving office. But the pain of this incident never left his son, who launched his own career a few years later in no small measure as an effort to vindicate the family name. While Tom Dodd was a fervent anti-Communist who at one time was a paid lobbyist for the dictator of Guatemala, Chris became the scourge of those seeking to prop up Latin American governments against leftist revolutionaries. But despite this difference, the younger Dodd sought every possible opportunity to burnish his late father’s tattered reputation. He never missed an opportunity to claim that his father had been ill-used by the press and his colleagues. Though many at the time thought the campaign funds charge was just the tip of the iceberg of Tom Dodd’s corruption, Chris was vocal in claiming that his father was innocent. It was at Dodd’s insistence that the University of Connecticut established a special research center named for his father. He also fought to have a minor league baseball stadium in Norwich named for Tom Dodd.

Thus, it is no small irony that a man who spent his life trying to clear the name of his father wound up being sunk by the same sort of charges. Dodd’s crooked Irish real estate deal, his notorious membership in the “Friends of Angelo” VIP mortgage club at Countrywide Financial while chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and his legislative efforts to clear the way for bonuses to be paid to AIG executives marked him as a symbol of a new generation of corrupt Washington politicians. The son repeated the sins of the father.

Also ironic is the fact that despite Dodd’s efforts to help defeat his Connecticut colleague Joe Lieberman in 2006 for his apostasy in supporting the war in Iraq, one year from now Lieberman will still be in the Senate and Dodd will not.

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A Real Intelligence Oversight

There is something incongruous about President Obama denouncing an intelligence failure in the case of the underwear bomber on the very same day that we read this in the New York Times:

The nation’s top scientists and spies are collaborating on an effort to use the federal government’s intelligence assets — including spy satellites and other classified sensors — to assess the hidden complexities of environmental change. They seek insights from natural phenomena like clouds and glaciers, deserts and tropical forests.

The Times goes on to assure us:

The monitoring program has little or no impact on regular intelligence gathering, federal officials said, but instead releases secret information already collected or takes advantage of opportunities to record environmental data when classified sensors are otherwise idle or passing over wilderness.

Count me as skeptical. Efforts to retask the intelligence community to focus on the environment, trade issues, and other concerns beyond the realm of traditional “national security” were all the rage after the end of the Cold War, when it was widely believed that history had “ended.” History restarted on 9/11, however, and since then, the war on terrorism has been the intel community’s all-pervading concern — as it should be. Until now, though, President Obama has shown much less concern about the “war on terror” (words that he, of course, does not use) and has even allowed his attorney general to investigate CIA personnel for alleged abuses committed under the previous administration. Intel community operatives aren’t dummies. Even if they can’t always figure out what’s going on in the Hindu Kush, they are astute readers of the tea leaves in Washington. They know when the top-level politicos are sending signals that they should pull back from aggressively fighting terrorists. Once again getting the intel community involved in “green” concerns will be taken as just another sign of where this president’s priorities are — and aren’t.

There is something incongruous about President Obama denouncing an intelligence failure in the case of the underwear bomber on the very same day that we read this in the New York Times:

The nation’s top scientists and spies are collaborating on an effort to use the federal government’s intelligence assets — including spy satellites and other classified sensors — to assess the hidden complexities of environmental change. They seek insights from natural phenomena like clouds and glaciers, deserts and tropical forests.

The Times goes on to assure us:

The monitoring program has little or no impact on regular intelligence gathering, federal officials said, but instead releases secret information already collected or takes advantage of opportunities to record environmental data when classified sensors are otherwise idle or passing over wilderness.

Count me as skeptical. Efforts to retask the intelligence community to focus on the environment, trade issues, and other concerns beyond the realm of traditional “national security” were all the rage after the end of the Cold War, when it was widely believed that history had “ended.” History restarted on 9/11, however, and since then, the war on terrorism has been the intel community’s all-pervading concern — as it should be. Until now, though, President Obama has shown much less concern about the “war on terror” (words that he, of course, does not use) and has even allowed his attorney general to investigate CIA personnel for alleged abuses committed under the previous administration. Intel community operatives aren’t dummies. Even if they can’t always figure out what’s going on in the Hindu Kush, they are astute readers of the tea leaves in Washington. They know when the top-level politicos are sending signals that they should pull back from aggressively fighting terrorists. Once again getting the intel community involved in “green” concerns will be taken as just another sign of where this president’s priorities are — and aren’t.

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Why State Budgets Are so Deep in the Red

A clear majority of the public, according to Rasmussen, thinks that the federal government should not bail out the state of California but rather let it declare bankruptcy. Even when told that the state might have to slash welfare and medical care for the disabled and elderly and cut state salaries by 14 percent, 53 percent favored that outcome over a federal bailout. Only 33 percent want the feds to help.

Bloated state payrolls are a large part of the problem with state budgets. While revenues have stagnated or fallen, employees have not been laid off, and salaries and benefits have continued to increase. These expenses now make up half of all state spending. As a Cato Institute report makes clear, state employees make out much better than do private-sector ones. In total compensation, state and local workers earn $1.45 for every dollar private workers earn. State workers get $2.18 in health benefits for every one dollar their private-sector counterparts earn. For every dollar in defined-benefit pension benefits given to private-sector workers, public-sector workers get $6.95. Some states allow workers to retire early, begin to collect a pension, and then go back to work for the state at their old job, earning a salary as well as a pension.

Federal workers do even better, earning more than twice what equivalent private-sector workers do. No wonder the ratio of government workers to the total population has been steadily falling. In 1940 there were about 31 Americans for every government worker. By 1970 the ratio was 18.5-to-1. Today it is 13.7-to-1. In this decade, the number of government workers exceeded the number of those in manufacturing. Part of the reason for that, of course, has been the great increase in productivity in manufacturing in recent decades. No such productivity increase in government, however.

And the most frequent non-governmental visitor to the White House since Obama became President? Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, which represents 1.8 million mostly government workers. It’s the largest and fastest growing union in the country. Its political clout is legendary, thanks to $60 million in contributions in the last election cycle and the ability to turn out large numbers of union workers at rallies.

The states cannot hope to regain fiscal health until the wages and benefits of state works are more nearly in line with those of the private sector.

A clear majority of the public, according to Rasmussen, thinks that the federal government should not bail out the state of California but rather let it declare bankruptcy. Even when told that the state might have to slash welfare and medical care for the disabled and elderly and cut state salaries by 14 percent, 53 percent favored that outcome over a federal bailout. Only 33 percent want the feds to help.

Bloated state payrolls are a large part of the problem with state budgets. While revenues have stagnated or fallen, employees have not been laid off, and salaries and benefits have continued to increase. These expenses now make up half of all state spending. As a Cato Institute report makes clear, state employees make out much better than do private-sector ones. In total compensation, state and local workers earn $1.45 for every dollar private workers earn. State workers get $2.18 in health benefits for every one dollar their private-sector counterparts earn. For every dollar in defined-benefit pension benefits given to private-sector workers, public-sector workers get $6.95. Some states allow workers to retire early, begin to collect a pension, and then go back to work for the state at their old job, earning a salary as well as a pension.

Federal workers do even better, earning more than twice what equivalent private-sector workers do. No wonder the ratio of government workers to the total population has been steadily falling. In 1940 there were about 31 Americans for every government worker. By 1970 the ratio was 18.5-to-1. Today it is 13.7-to-1. In this decade, the number of government workers exceeded the number of those in manufacturing. Part of the reason for that, of course, has been the great increase in productivity in manufacturing in recent decades. No such productivity increase in government, however.

And the most frequent non-governmental visitor to the White House since Obama became President? Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, which represents 1.8 million mostly government workers. It’s the largest and fastest growing union in the country. Its political clout is legendary, thanks to $60 million in contributions in the last election cycle and the ability to turn out large numbers of union workers at rallies.

The states cannot hope to regain fiscal health until the wages and benefits of state works are more nearly in line with those of the private sector.

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Re: Obama, the Overmatched President

Pete, the whining is a bit much to take, isn’t it? But it is not uncommon and seems to be a sort of rhetorical tic employed by many Democratic presidents. They seem to think we should be impressed because they work hard or think deeply about the things they are elected to handle. Remember Bill Clinton reminding us about how hard he worked and about all the late-night meetings? Obama and his spinners also liked to regale us with tales about his endless, soul-searching Afghanistan seminars. They imagine the public is going to give them credit simply for working at a job they were elected to perform.

And they seem to think the public will be impressed because they have a command of minutiae. Obama knows how many troops we should have in each and every Afghan province! Clinton knew the maps and relative population figures for Palestinians and Israelis better than the two sides! Seriously, none of that matters. The minutiae are going to change with the first contact with reality. (Gen. Stanley McChrystal is going to put the troops where they need to go, so long as the White House doesn’t micromanage the battle.) And if the president gets the big things wrong (e.g., supposing Arafat wanted a peace deal, setting up a withdrawal deadline that freaks out our allies and emboldens our foes), none of the small stuff matters.

So why do these Democratic presidents do it? It is the triumph they imagine of intentions over results. And it is a huge act of ego — the hubris of believing that they should be applauded for being so diligent rather than be judged on the results they achieve.

Pete, the whining is a bit much to take, isn’t it? But it is not uncommon and seems to be a sort of rhetorical tic employed by many Democratic presidents. They seem to think we should be impressed because they work hard or think deeply about the things they are elected to handle. Remember Bill Clinton reminding us about how hard he worked and about all the late-night meetings? Obama and his spinners also liked to regale us with tales about his endless, soul-searching Afghanistan seminars. They imagine the public is going to give them credit simply for working at a job they were elected to perform.

And they seem to think the public will be impressed because they have a command of minutiae. Obama knows how many troops we should have in each and every Afghan province! Clinton knew the maps and relative population figures for Palestinians and Israelis better than the two sides! Seriously, none of that matters. The minutiae are going to change with the first contact with reality. (Gen. Stanley McChrystal is going to put the troops where they need to go, so long as the White House doesn’t micromanage the battle.) And if the president gets the big things wrong (e.g., supposing Arafat wanted a peace deal, setting up a withdrawal deadline that freaks out our allies and emboldens our foes), none of the small stuff matters.

So why do these Democratic presidents do it? It is the triumph they imagine of intentions over results. And it is a huge act of ego — the hubris of believing that they should be applauded for being so diligent rather than be judged on the results they achieve.

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Democrats Flee the Battleground

In a political jaw-dropper, on Tuesday we learned:

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) announced this evening that he’s retiring at the end of his term, a shocking development that threatens Democratic control of his Senate seat next year.Dorgan was up for re-election in 2010, but the third-term senator wasn’t facing any strong Republican opposition– but was facing the growing possibility of a serious challenge from popular Gov. John Hoeven.

It seems that Dorgan suddenly found a deep desire to pursue “other interests.” That is how it goes when fund raising and polls point to a dogfight for the three-term senator. The Cook Political Report explains:

Republican Gov. John Hoeven has spent the last few months contemplating a challenge to the incumbent. And, now that the seat is open, Hoeven may find the race too good to pass up. The Governor is arguably the most popular politician in the state. . . Even if Hoeven were to forego the race for some reason, it is likely that Republicans will field a very strong contender. Democrats, though, will have a tougher time fielding a strong candidate, especially if Hoeven runs. Party leaders are likely to put significant pressure on At-Large Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy to run, but he may not be an ideal candidate. The current political environment has taken a toll on Pomeroy’s poll numbers and he has struggled to win re-election in past years when the political landscape tilted has been against Democrats, making a Senate bid especially risky.

The bottom line, according to Cook: this “creates a significant opening for Republicans and greatly diminishes the odds that Democrats can hold their 60-seat supermajority after the 2010 elections.”

But the impact may extend well beyond North Dakota. Imagine what must be running through the minds of  potential GOP contenders in other states (e.g., Rep. Peter King in New York or maybe a Rep. Mike Pence in Indiana): “Wow, we have them on the run! Should I throw my hat into the ring too?” And Democrats who will now have to raise money and work to hold an open seat in North Dakota cannot but be panicked that others may decide to pack it in as well. As for Scott Brown in Massachusetts, he must be thinking today that perhaps there is something afoot, the beginnings of a fundamental shift in the political landscape. (His opponent is not exactly an exemplar of confidence and policy know how, as she lamely retreats to the “Bush-Cheney economic policies” in her halfhearted defense of Gov. Deval Patrick — who may himself be another Democratic casualty.) And then we can’t forget about or miss the delicious political karma involving Arlen Specter — who switched parties just in time to see a tidal wave building against his new best friends.

All of this follows word that the Democratic front runner has dropped out of the gubernatorial race in Michigan and that Colorado’s Democratic Governor Bill Riitter isn’t going to run for re-election. (“Ritter faced economic uncertainty during his 3 years in office, and most polls show his approval rating near parity.”) Almost as if it were a trend, huh? (The New York Times is also reporting that Chris Dodd has decided not to run, which is the first good-news retirement for Democrats, removing a hobbled Dodd from a Blue state race that might otherwise be winnable without the scandal-plagued incumbent.)

Like sports, politics is about momentum, confidence, and support of the home-town fans. Right now the Democrats are lagging in all three respects. And if they keep up the secret health-care deal-making, they are going to add some self-inflicted injuries to their list of woes.

In a political jaw-dropper, on Tuesday we learned:

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) announced this evening that he’s retiring at the end of his term, a shocking development that threatens Democratic control of his Senate seat next year.Dorgan was up for re-election in 2010, but the third-term senator wasn’t facing any strong Republican opposition– but was facing the growing possibility of a serious challenge from popular Gov. John Hoeven.

It seems that Dorgan suddenly found a deep desire to pursue “other interests.” That is how it goes when fund raising and polls point to a dogfight for the three-term senator. The Cook Political Report explains:

Republican Gov. John Hoeven has spent the last few months contemplating a challenge to the incumbent. And, now that the seat is open, Hoeven may find the race too good to pass up. The Governor is arguably the most popular politician in the state. . . Even if Hoeven were to forego the race for some reason, it is likely that Republicans will field a very strong contender. Democrats, though, will have a tougher time fielding a strong candidate, especially if Hoeven runs. Party leaders are likely to put significant pressure on At-Large Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy to run, but he may not be an ideal candidate. The current political environment has taken a toll on Pomeroy’s poll numbers and he has struggled to win re-election in past years when the political landscape tilted has been against Democrats, making a Senate bid especially risky.

The bottom line, according to Cook: this “creates a significant opening for Republicans and greatly diminishes the odds that Democrats can hold their 60-seat supermajority after the 2010 elections.”

But the impact may extend well beyond North Dakota. Imagine what must be running through the minds of  potential GOP contenders in other states (e.g., Rep. Peter King in New York or maybe a Rep. Mike Pence in Indiana): “Wow, we have them on the run! Should I throw my hat into the ring too?” And Democrats who will now have to raise money and work to hold an open seat in North Dakota cannot but be panicked that others may decide to pack it in as well. As for Scott Brown in Massachusetts, he must be thinking today that perhaps there is something afoot, the beginnings of a fundamental shift in the political landscape. (His opponent is not exactly an exemplar of confidence and policy know how, as she lamely retreats to the “Bush-Cheney economic policies” in her halfhearted defense of Gov. Deval Patrick — who may himself be another Democratic casualty.) And then we can’t forget about or miss the delicious political karma involving Arlen Specter — who switched parties just in time to see a tidal wave building against his new best friends.

All of this follows word that the Democratic front runner has dropped out of the gubernatorial race in Michigan and that Colorado’s Democratic Governor Bill Riitter isn’t going to run for re-election. (“Ritter faced economic uncertainty during his 3 years in office, and most polls show his approval rating near parity.”) Almost as if it were a trend, huh? (The New York Times is also reporting that Chris Dodd has decided not to run, which is the first good-news retirement for Democrats, removing a hobbled Dodd from a Blue state race that might otherwise be winnable without the scandal-plagued incumbent.)

Like sports, politics is about momentum, confidence, and support of the home-town fans. Right now the Democrats are lagging in all three respects. And if they keep up the secret health-care deal-making, they are going to add some self-inflicted injuries to their list of woes.

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Appeasement Won’t Woo Terrorists

Yesterday President Obama declared that in light of the “unsettled situation” in Yemen, he will not be transferring detainees held at Guantanamo Bay to that country. At the same time, Obama declared:

But make no mistake:  We will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al Qaeda.  In fact, that was an explicit rationale for the formation of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

On the surface, that sounds like a persuasive case. Here’s why it’s not.

While the presence of Guantanamo Bay is used as a “recruiting tool” for al-Qaeda, it’s important to understand that, as Charles Krauthammer points out here, al-Qaeda’s grievances against America are almost endless. Like a game of Whack-A-Mole, if we got rid of one grievance, it would be replaced by another, and another, and another. Indeed, if Gitmo were closed, does anyone seriously think that it would satiate the demands of militant jihadists like Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri? Would it make any difference in their war on us – or make it less likely that they could recruit people like the 19 hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks?

We are not dealing with rational state-to-state actors with whom we can negotiate reasonable demands; rather, we are dealing with Islamic fanatics who want to cut our throats and watch us bleed and watch us die. Closing Gitmo won’t change that. The roots of their hatred for America go much deeper than that.

It’s worth bearing in mind that in his 1996 fatwa, “Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” bin Laden said the latest indignity against Islam – “one of the worst catastrophes to befall the Muslims since the death of the Prophet” – was the presence of American and coalition troops in Saudi Arabia. And a 1998 fatwa cited grievances against America that included sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq and “serv[ing] the Jews’ petty state [Israel].” At that time, those were the “recruiting tools” for al-Qaeda. New ones emerge whenever it is convenient for al-Qaeda. And of course the attacks on 9/11 came before we were detaining any Islamic terrorists in Guantanamo Bay.

President Obama has convinced himself that closing Guantanamo Bay is of crucial, and perhaps decisive, importance in our war against jihadism. That is self-delusion on a large scale and something we have seen before (witness Obama’s statement during the campaign that meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions might well convince the Iranian regime to fundamentally change its behavior). More than that, it means that on some basic level the president still does not understand the true nature of this struggle, of what is driving it, and what will be needed to eventually prevail in it.

If and when Obama finally does get around to closing Guantanamo Bay, he will discover how insignificant an issue it has been for jihadists. Militant Islamists will want to murder us as much then as they do now.

Yesterday President Obama declared that in light of the “unsettled situation” in Yemen, he will not be transferring detainees held at Guantanamo Bay to that country. At the same time, Obama declared:

But make no mistake:  We will close Guantanamo prison, which has damaged our national security interests and become a tremendous recruiting tool for al Qaeda.  In fact, that was an explicit rationale for the formation of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

On the surface, that sounds like a persuasive case. Here’s why it’s not.

While the presence of Guantanamo Bay is used as a “recruiting tool” for al-Qaeda, it’s important to understand that, as Charles Krauthammer points out here, al-Qaeda’s grievances against America are almost endless. Like a game of Whack-A-Mole, if we got rid of one grievance, it would be replaced by another, and another, and another. Indeed, if Gitmo were closed, does anyone seriously think that it would satiate the demands of militant jihadists like Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri? Would it make any difference in their war on us – or make it less likely that they could recruit people like the 19 hijackers who carried out the 9/11 attacks?

We are not dealing with rational state-to-state actors with whom we can negotiate reasonable demands; rather, we are dealing with Islamic fanatics who want to cut our throats and watch us bleed and watch us die. Closing Gitmo won’t change that. The roots of their hatred for America go much deeper than that.

It’s worth bearing in mind that in his 1996 fatwa, “Declaration of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,” bin Laden said the latest indignity against Islam – “one of the worst catastrophes to befall the Muslims since the death of the Prophet” – was the presence of American and coalition troops in Saudi Arabia. And a 1998 fatwa cited grievances against America that included sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq and “serv[ing] the Jews’ petty state [Israel].” At that time, those were the “recruiting tools” for al-Qaeda. New ones emerge whenever it is convenient for al-Qaeda. And of course the attacks on 9/11 came before we were detaining any Islamic terrorists in Guantanamo Bay.

President Obama has convinced himself that closing Guantanamo Bay is of crucial, and perhaps decisive, importance in our war against jihadism. That is self-delusion on a large scale and something we have seen before (witness Obama’s statement during the campaign that meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions might well convince the Iranian regime to fundamentally change its behavior). More than that, it means that on some basic level the president still does not understand the true nature of this struggle, of what is driving it, and what will be needed to eventually prevail in it.

If and when Obama finally does get around to closing Guantanamo Bay, he will discover how insignificant an issue it has been for jihadists. Militant Islamists will want to murder us as much then as they do now.

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He’s Got the World Wrong

There are competing, but not necessarily mutually-exclusive, theories to explain why the Obama approach to foreign policy and national security has been both ineffective and oddly inappropriate to the challenges we face. I have suggested that much of the problem stems from a fervent desire to turn inward and work on a radical domestic agenda. Part of the explanation I have also suggested is traceable to Obama’s temperamental shortcomings, ideological misconceptions about the nature the Islamic jiahdist enemy, and political priorities. Robert Kagan offers a compelling alternative theory — Obama is not the pragmatist he billed himself as, but an idealist who has read the world very wrong. He writes:

The fundamental assumption is that the great powers today share common interests. Relations among them, therefore, “must no longer be seen as a zero-sum game,” as President Obama argued in July 2009. The Obama Doctrine is about “Win-Win” and “getting to Yes.” The new “mission” of the United States, according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is to be the great convener of nations, gathering the powers to further common interests and seek common solutions to the world’s problems. It is on this basis that the administration has sought to “reset” relations with Russia, to embark on a new policy of “strategic reassurance” with China, and in general to seek what Secretary Clinton called in a July 15, 2009 speech a “new era of engagement based on common interests, shared values, and mutual respect.” For an administration that prides itself on its pragmatism, there would seem to be a great deal of wishful thinking in this approach.

Conservatives have watched with a mix of awe and revulsion as Obama has again and again smeared his predecessor and crafted policies — often counterproductive, dangerous, and politically unwise — that seem calculated to merely demonstrate that he is “not Bush.” But the “not Bush” fixation also may be part of Obama’s worldview, as Kagan explains:

All that was required was an America wise enough to guide the world toward agreement on the important matters on which all the powers must naturally agree. According to the Obama administration’s narrative, George W. Bush then came along and destroyed this great opportunity with his belligerent and unilateralist policies. Now that Bush was gone, the world could resume its convergence under the inspirational direction of the new American President.

What we do know is that what Obama has been doing hasn’t been working. Kagan comes up with a partial list: “Iran’s refusal to accept the outstretched hand sincerely proffered by President Obama; the breakdown of the Middle East peace process, despite the administration’s strenuous efforts; the failure to gain any meaningful Chinese help in North Korea.” Meanwhile, Obama’s anti-terror policies (which are seemingly designed to downplay the very existence of a war against Islamic fundamentalists, persuade the world of our moral bona fides, and reduce, he imagines, the grievances against the West) are now coming under widespread criticism.

I remain less hopeful than some that Obama can do what is required, that is, “adjust and devise an approach more attuned to the world as it is.” Conservatives have grasped at this or that straw (e.g., reversing the decision to release the detainee abuse photos, the Oslo speech) as evidence that Obama was turning the corner. And certainly the deployment of 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, despite the ill-conceived deadline and the ineffective West Point speech, is reason to cheer. But Obama is not a man whose views have been challenged or who has been forced to reconsider that much of what he “knows” simply isn’t so. He has lived within the cocoon of academic elites, liberal doves, and fawning fans, who reinforce his misconceptions about the world. For him to cast all of that aside and reconsider his fundamental assumptions about the world would take quite an act of intellectual courage and political daring. I just don’t see it happening. I hope I am wrong.

There are competing, but not necessarily mutually-exclusive, theories to explain why the Obama approach to foreign policy and national security has been both ineffective and oddly inappropriate to the challenges we face. I have suggested that much of the problem stems from a fervent desire to turn inward and work on a radical domestic agenda. Part of the explanation I have also suggested is traceable to Obama’s temperamental shortcomings, ideological misconceptions about the nature the Islamic jiahdist enemy, and political priorities. Robert Kagan offers a compelling alternative theory — Obama is not the pragmatist he billed himself as, but an idealist who has read the world very wrong. He writes:

The fundamental assumption is that the great powers today share common interests. Relations among them, therefore, “must no longer be seen as a zero-sum game,” as President Obama argued in July 2009. The Obama Doctrine is about “Win-Win” and “getting to Yes.” The new “mission” of the United States, according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is to be the great convener of nations, gathering the powers to further common interests and seek common solutions to the world’s problems. It is on this basis that the administration has sought to “reset” relations with Russia, to embark on a new policy of “strategic reassurance” with China, and in general to seek what Secretary Clinton called in a July 15, 2009 speech a “new era of engagement based on common interests, shared values, and mutual respect.” For an administration that prides itself on its pragmatism, there would seem to be a great deal of wishful thinking in this approach.

Conservatives have watched with a mix of awe and revulsion as Obama has again and again smeared his predecessor and crafted policies — often counterproductive, dangerous, and politically unwise — that seem calculated to merely demonstrate that he is “not Bush.” But the “not Bush” fixation also may be part of Obama’s worldview, as Kagan explains:

All that was required was an America wise enough to guide the world toward agreement on the important matters on which all the powers must naturally agree. According to the Obama administration’s narrative, George W. Bush then came along and destroyed this great opportunity with his belligerent and unilateralist policies. Now that Bush was gone, the world could resume its convergence under the inspirational direction of the new American President.

What we do know is that what Obama has been doing hasn’t been working. Kagan comes up with a partial list: “Iran’s refusal to accept the outstretched hand sincerely proffered by President Obama; the breakdown of the Middle East peace process, despite the administration’s strenuous efforts; the failure to gain any meaningful Chinese help in North Korea.” Meanwhile, Obama’s anti-terror policies (which are seemingly designed to downplay the very existence of a war against Islamic fundamentalists, persuade the world of our moral bona fides, and reduce, he imagines, the grievances against the West) are now coming under widespread criticism.

I remain less hopeful than some that Obama can do what is required, that is, “adjust and devise an approach more attuned to the world as it is.” Conservatives have grasped at this or that straw (e.g., reversing the decision to release the detainee abuse photos, the Oslo speech) as evidence that Obama was turning the corner. And certainly the deployment of 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, despite the ill-conceived deadline and the ineffective West Point speech, is reason to cheer. But Obama is not a man whose views have been challenged or who has been forced to reconsider that much of what he “knows” simply isn’t so. He has lived within the cocoon of academic elites, liberal doves, and fawning fans, who reinforce his misconceptions about the world. For him to cast all of that aside and reconsider his fundamental assumptions about the world would take quite an act of intellectual courage and political daring. I just don’t see it happening. I hope I am wrong.

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Obama, the Overmatched President

In Howard Fineman’s column in Newsweek we read this:

President Barack Obama begins and ends each workday at the White House by going over a to-do list with his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. The two were reviewing things recently when Emanuel reminded him of the sheer size of the administration’s workload, which includes fending off the Great Recession and dealing with terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now, evidently, Yemen. “You know, Mr. President,” Emanuel said, “Franklin Roosevelt had eight years to deal with the economy before he had to lead a war. You have to do it all at once.”

Perhaps Barack “No Drama” Obama has been replaced by Barack “Melodrama” Obama. It would be beneficial to us all if the president and his staff eased up just a bit on the whining, blame-shifting, and feeling sorry for themselves (not to mention the comparisons to FDR). They should become, to borrow an old-fashioned word, more manly.

Memo to the President: You face stiff challenges, as do all presidents. But for the record, a recession is not a depression and the war in Afghanistan is not comparable to World War II. The most difficult actions that had to be taken on the economic front were ones done by your predecessor, before you were sworn in – and a good deal of the responsibility for what went wrong rests with the party you represent (see blocking reforms of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae). The Iraq war you inherited is going pretty well (no thanks to the policies you advocated when you were in the Senate); our presence there is winding down. And al-Qaeda, while still a lethal threat, has been significantly degraded and weakened thanks to the policies of the last eight years. Here is the truth you do not want to hear but need to be told: You took a difficult situation you inherited and, in several respects, made things worse rather than better.

If the burdens of the office are too much for Mr. Obama, he should never have sought it in the first place — and he might consider not seeking it next time. For now, though, the office is his. We don’t need to hear how overworked and overwhelmed and overmatched he is. Unfortunately we see evidence of that almost every day.

In Howard Fineman’s column in Newsweek we read this:

President Barack Obama begins and ends each workday at the White House by going over a to-do list with his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. The two were reviewing things recently when Emanuel reminded him of the sheer size of the administration’s workload, which includes fending off the Great Recession and dealing with terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now, evidently, Yemen. “You know, Mr. President,” Emanuel said, “Franklin Roosevelt had eight years to deal with the economy before he had to lead a war. You have to do it all at once.”

Perhaps Barack “No Drama” Obama has been replaced by Barack “Melodrama” Obama. It would be beneficial to us all if the president and his staff eased up just a bit on the whining, blame-shifting, and feeling sorry for themselves (not to mention the comparisons to FDR). They should become, to borrow an old-fashioned word, more manly.

Memo to the President: You face stiff challenges, as do all presidents. But for the record, a recession is not a depression and the war in Afghanistan is not comparable to World War II. The most difficult actions that had to be taken on the economic front were ones done by your predecessor, before you were sworn in – and a good deal of the responsibility for what went wrong rests with the party you represent (see blocking reforms of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae). The Iraq war you inherited is going pretty well (no thanks to the policies you advocated when you were in the Senate); our presence there is winding down. And al-Qaeda, while still a lethal threat, has been significantly degraded and weakened thanks to the policies of the last eight years. Here is the truth you do not want to hear but need to be told: You took a difficult situation you inherited and, in several respects, made things worse rather than better.

If the burdens of the office are too much for Mr. Obama, he should never have sought it in the first place — and he might consider not seeking it next time. For now, though, the office is his. We don’t need to hear how overworked and overwhelmed and overmatched he is. Unfortunately we see evidence of that almost every day.

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Terrorist Recidivism

I recall visiting Saudi Arabia a couple of years ago and being briefed by Saudi officials on their program to reeducate and rehabilitate Islamist extremists in their prisons. The program had long been seen as a model effort; it influenced a similar program created in the U.S. detention system in Iraq that is now being replicated in Afghanistan. But recent events suggest the Saudi program was not all it was cracked up to be.

As the Financial Times notes, “The revelation that two of the alleged leaders of the plot to blow up a US passenger jet were released by a Saudi militant rehabilitation centre has thrown a renewed spotlight on the programme and the kingdom’s response to terrorism.” That includes Said bin Ali al-Shihri, second-in-command of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Overall, the FT reports, 120 inmates from Guantanamo were released to the Saudis under the Bush administration. The result? The paper quotes Chris Boucek of the Carnegie Middle East program: “Of the Guantánamo prisoners, about 26 are wanted, in custody or killed – it is about [a] 20 per cent failure rate.”

That should be of great concern. The Obama administration is right to suspend repatriations of detainees to Yemen; perhaps it should suspend sending them to Saudi Arabia, as well. The Saudis have done an impressive job of cracking down on terrorists within the kingdom, but the suspicion remains that they deal with some of these troublemakers by encouraging them to emigrate to countries like Yemen or Pakistan, thereby exacerbating the problems there — and potentially here in the United States as well. The real issue is not the fate of Gitmo; it is whether we are locking up dangerous terrorists, whether on Cuban or American soil. Continued detainee releases — which, it should be noted, started under the Bush administration — are endangering our safety.

I recall visiting Saudi Arabia a couple of years ago and being briefed by Saudi officials on their program to reeducate and rehabilitate Islamist extremists in their prisons. The program had long been seen as a model effort; it influenced a similar program created in the U.S. detention system in Iraq that is now being replicated in Afghanistan. But recent events suggest the Saudi program was not all it was cracked up to be.

As the Financial Times notes, “The revelation that two of the alleged leaders of the plot to blow up a US passenger jet were released by a Saudi militant rehabilitation centre has thrown a renewed spotlight on the programme and the kingdom’s response to terrorism.” That includes Said bin Ali al-Shihri, second-in-command of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Overall, the FT reports, 120 inmates from Guantanamo were released to the Saudis under the Bush administration. The result? The paper quotes Chris Boucek of the Carnegie Middle East program: “Of the Guantánamo prisoners, about 26 are wanted, in custody or killed – it is about [a] 20 per cent failure rate.”

That should be of great concern. The Obama administration is right to suspend repatriations of detainees to Yemen; perhaps it should suspend sending them to Saudi Arabia, as well. The Saudis have done an impressive job of cracking down on terrorists within the kingdom, but the suspicion remains that they deal with some of these troublemakers by encouraging them to emigrate to countries like Yemen or Pakistan, thereby exacerbating the problems there — and potentially here in the United States as well. The real issue is not the fate of Gitmo; it is whether we are locking up dangerous terrorists, whether on Cuban or American soil. Continued detainee releases — which, it should be noted, started under the Bush administration — are endangering our safety.

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“Eurabia” Debunked

Is Europe committing demographic and cultural suicide? Is the continent turning into “Eurabia” — a land populated primarily by Muslims? That is the case made in a series of popular books by the likes of Bernard Lewis, Mark Steyn, Tony Blankley, and Oriana Fallaci. Personally I’m skeptical. For much the same reason that I was skeptical about the prospects of a Y2K or avian-flu catastrophe: disasters that are so widely predicted seldom occur because corrective action can usually be taken in time. Justin Vaisse of the Brookings Institution, formerly a French Foreign Ministry staffer, suggests some other reasons for skepticism in this Foreign Policy article.

He points out that, while there are currently 18 million Muslims in Western Europe, or 4.5% of the population, and there will be increases in the future, “it’s hard to imagine that Europe will even reach the 10 percent mark (except in some countries or cities).” Why not? Because “fertility rates among Muslims are sharply declining as children of immigrants gradually conform to prevailing social and economic norms. Nor is immigration still a major source of newly minted European Muslims. Only about 500,000 people a year come legally to Europe from Muslim-majority countries, with an even smaller number coming illegally — meaning that the annual influx is a fraction of a percent of the European population.”

Moreover, he writes, fertility rates are actually rising in European countries: “In 2008, fertility rates in France and Ireland were more than two children per woman, close to the U.S. (and replacement) level; in Britain and Sweden they were above 1.9. And though in the 1990s European countries set an all-time record for low fertility rates, figures are now rising in all EU states except Germany.” And, no, those increasing fertility figures are not due to Muslims alone. Although Muslim migrant women have a lot of children, overall they “have a negligible impact on overall fertility rates, adding a maximum of 0.1 to any country’s average.”

Vaisse adds another reason we shouldn’t worry. He cites polling data to show that “to large majorities of Europe’s Muslims, Islam is neither an exclusive identity nor a marching order. Recent poll data from Gallup show that most European Muslims happily combine their national and religious identities, and a 2009 Harvard University working paper by Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris demonstrates that in the long term, the basic cultural values of Muslim migrants evolve to conform to the predominant culture of the European society in which they live.”

I would add another point: that continental societies have more resiliency than it may appear on the surface to Americans who caricature Europeans as effete surrender monkeys. While most European nations are not willing to engage in vigorous military action overseas (France and Britain are partial exceptions) they have shown far more ruthlessness in policing their own borders. France, in particular, as this AEI study notes, has been extremely aggressive in going after Islamist terror cells, giving their law enforcement and judicial authorities more power than in the U.S. Islamist excesses such as the killing of Theo van Gogh or the attempted murder of the Muhammad cartoonist are triggering a backlash. Europe, I predict, will not be subsumed into the umma as so many alarmists claim, based on worst-case projections.

Is Europe committing demographic and cultural suicide? Is the continent turning into “Eurabia” — a land populated primarily by Muslims? That is the case made in a series of popular books by the likes of Bernard Lewis, Mark Steyn, Tony Blankley, and Oriana Fallaci. Personally I’m skeptical. For much the same reason that I was skeptical about the prospects of a Y2K or avian-flu catastrophe: disasters that are so widely predicted seldom occur because corrective action can usually be taken in time. Justin Vaisse of the Brookings Institution, formerly a French Foreign Ministry staffer, suggests some other reasons for skepticism in this Foreign Policy article.

He points out that, while there are currently 18 million Muslims in Western Europe, or 4.5% of the population, and there will be increases in the future, “it’s hard to imagine that Europe will even reach the 10 percent mark (except in some countries or cities).” Why not? Because “fertility rates among Muslims are sharply declining as children of immigrants gradually conform to prevailing social and economic norms. Nor is immigration still a major source of newly minted European Muslims. Only about 500,000 people a year come legally to Europe from Muslim-majority countries, with an even smaller number coming illegally — meaning that the annual influx is a fraction of a percent of the European population.”

Moreover, he writes, fertility rates are actually rising in European countries: “In 2008, fertility rates in France and Ireland were more than two children per woman, close to the U.S. (and replacement) level; in Britain and Sweden they were above 1.9. And though in the 1990s European countries set an all-time record for low fertility rates, figures are now rising in all EU states except Germany.” And, no, those increasing fertility figures are not due to Muslims alone. Although Muslim migrant women have a lot of children, overall they “have a negligible impact on overall fertility rates, adding a maximum of 0.1 to any country’s average.”

Vaisse adds another reason we shouldn’t worry. He cites polling data to show that “to large majorities of Europe’s Muslims, Islam is neither an exclusive identity nor a marching order. Recent poll data from Gallup show that most European Muslims happily combine their national and religious identities, and a 2009 Harvard University working paper by Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris demonstrates that in the long term, the basic cultural values of Muslim migrants evolve to conform to the predominant culture of the European society in which they live.”

I would add another point: that continental societies have more resiliency than it may appear on the surface to Americans who caricature Europeans as effete surrender monkeys. While most European nations are not willing to engage in vigorous military action overseas (France and Britain are partial exceptions) they have shown far more ruthlessness in policing their own borders. France, in particular, as this AEI study notes, has been extremely aggressive in going after Islamist terror cells, giving their law enforcement and judicial authorities more power than in the U.S. Islamist excesses such as the killing of Theo van Gogh or the attempted murder of the Muhammad cartoonist are triggering a backlash. Europe, I predict, will not be subsumed into the umma as so many alarmists claim, based on worst-case projections.

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Rethinking the Criminal-Justice Model

Many liberals are conflicted. They deride the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism paradigm and angrily deny that Obama is treating the war against Islamic fascists (whom he never identifies as such) in an unserious manner. And yet they sense something is amiss. Ruth Marcus is a case in point. She huffs that it is poppycock to suggest that the Obama administration’s conduct reveals its “supposed law enforcement-only mindset.”  But then, turning on a dime, she sounds much like the president’s conservative critics:

Did the administration’s quick pivot to criminal charges — they were filed the next day — interfere with investigators’ ability to obtain maximum information from Abdulmutallab? What if other operatives had been deployed with similar devices? Wouldn’t it have been better to thoroughly interrogate Abdulmutallab — without offering Miranda warnings against self-incrimination, and without providing a lawyer whose first instruction was, no doubt, to stop talking?

And she, too, has figured out the timeline:  ” ‘He proceeded to talk for quite some time and provided useful intelligence long before he obtained an attorney,’ a senior administration official assured me. But the criminal charges were filed a scant 24 hours after the incident. Was that really enough time to exhaust Abdulmutallab’s informational value, no matter how small a fish he is?” No, likely not. She makes the not unreasonable suggestion that the administration and Congress, if they don’t want to treat terrorists as enemy combatants, should come up with an appropriate hybrid system for detaining and interrogating noncitizens.

So what happened to the huffy denials that the Obami have deployed an inappropriate criminal-justice model? Well, when you leave  Bush and Cheney out of it and just talk about common sense and specific cases, there are some reasonable liberals who will agree that the Obama-Holder fixation on extending full constitutional rights to terrorists makes no sense. And it might get people killed. We have enough problems connecting dots. Perhaps then there is some basis for bipartisan discussion and another look at the assumptions that allowed Abdulmutallab to clam up and KSM to prepare for the “trial of the century.”

Many liberals are conflicted. They deride the Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism paradigm and angrily deny that Obama is treating the war against Islamic fascists (whom he never identifies as such) in an unserious manner. And yet they sense something is amiss. Ruth Marcus is a case in point. She huffs that it is poppycock to suggest that the Obama administration’s conduct reveals its “supposed law enforcement-only mindset.”  But then, turning on a dime, she sounds much like the president’s conservative critics:

Did the administration’s quick pivot to criminal charges — they were filed the next day — interfere with investigators’ ability to obtain maximum information from Abdulmutallab? What if other operatives had been deployed with similar devices? Wouldn’t it have been better to thoroughly interrogate Abdulmutallab — without offering Miranda warnings against self-incrimination, and without providing a lawyer whose first instruction was, no doubt, to stop talking?

And she, too, has figured out the timeline:  ” ‘He proceeded to talk for quite some time and provided useful intelligence long before he obtained an attorney,’ a senior administration official assured me. But the criminal charges were filed a scant 24 hours after the incident. Was that really enough time to exhaust Abdulmutallab’s informational value, no matter how small a fish he is?” No, likely not. She makes the not unreasonable suggestion that the administration and Congress, if they don’t want to treat terrorists as enemy combatants, should come up with an appropriate hybrid system for detaining and interrogating noncitizens.

So what happened to the huffy denials that the Obami have deployed an inappropriate criminal-justice model? Well, when you leave  Bush and Cheney out of it and just talk about common sense and specific cases, there are some reasonable liberals who will agree that the Obama-Holder fixation on extending full constitutional rights to terrorists makes no sense. And it might get people killed. We have enough problems connecting dots. Perhaps then there is some basis for bipartisan discussion and another look at the assumptions that allowed Abdulmutallab to clam up and KSM to prepare for the “trial of the century.”

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Lies, Big Lies and Nancy Pelosi Press Conferences

Nancy Pelosi has had a her run of memorable moments — promising to drain the swamp of corruption (no, not anytime soon), warning that we were losing 500 million jobs a month and accusing the CIA of lying to her about the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. Then yesterday she comes up with a doozy in responding to a letter by C-SPAN that sought to televise the conference committee (which isn’t going to happen because it’s all to be done in secret cloakroom deals): “There has never been a more open process for any legislation.”

Well, we can’t say this sort of thing is out of character, can we? She seems not to recall that the Senate hid the bill until Sen. Bill Nelson’s vote had been bought and then rushed a bill to a 1:00 a.m. vote right before Christmas. She seems not to recall that the House staged a Saturday vote and broke her pledge to post the bill online 72 hours before the vote.

Mark Hemingway asks, “It’s no secret that Pelosi and Democratic leaders are desperate to pass health care reform, but do they really think delusional lies are the best way to win over the public?” Well, yes, I think they do. That’s why they keep saying things such as “we must pass it or go bankrupt.” That’s why they deny that there will be health-care rationing while they cut $500B out of Medicare. That’s why they refuse to call taxes “taxes.” That’s why they insist we are going to keep our insurance as the Mayo Clinic gets out of the Medicare business. That is why they boast that they are cutting spending on health-care when, as the Heritage Foundation points out, “total U.S. health care spending would increase by 0.7%, or $234 billion through 2019. . . and that’s after taking into account what little savings would be achieved by cutting Medicare benefits and encouraging employer to cut health benefits by taxing private insurance plans that are ‘too generous.'”

In short, the Democrats  are reduced to making up stuff, both on substance and on process, because what is in the bill is unpalatable to a majority of voters. And they certainly don’t want to discuss the details or put any of the final back-room bribery  . . . er . . .  legislative compromising . . . on C-SPAN.

Nancy Pelosi has had a her run of memorable moments — promising to drain the swamp of corruption (no, not anytime soon), warning that we were losing 500 million jobs a month and accusing the CIA of lying to her about the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. Then yesterday she comes up with a doozy in responding to a letter by C-SPAN that sought to televise the conference committee (which isn’t going to happen because it’s all to be done in secret cloakroom deals): “There has never been a more open process for any legislation.”

Well, we can’t say this sort of thing is out of character, can we? She seems not to recall that the Senate hid the bill until Sen. Bill Nelson’s vote had been bought and then rushed a bill to a 1:00 a.m. vote right before Christmas. She seems not to recall that the House staged a Saturday vote and broke her pledge to post the bill online 72 hours before the vote.

Mark Hemingway asks, “It’s no secret that Pelosi and Democratic leaders are desperate to pass health care reform, but do they really think delusional lies are the best way to win over the public?” Well, yes, I think they do. That’s why they keep saying things such as “we must pass it or go bankrupt.” That’s why they deny that there will be health-care rationing while they cut $500B out of Medicare. That’s why they refuse to call taxes “taxes.” That’s why they insist we are going to keep our insurance as the Mayo Clinic gets out of the Medicare business. That is why they boast that they are cutting spending on health-care when, as the Heritage Foundation points out, “total U.S. health care spending would increase by 0.7%, or $234 billion through 2019. . . and that’s after taking into account what little savings would be achieved by cutting Medicare benefits and encouraging employer to cut health benefits by taxing private insurance plans that are ‘too generous.'”

In short, the Democrats  are reduced to making up stuff, both on substance and on process, because what is in the bill is unpalatable to a majority of voters. And they certainly don’t want to discuss the details or put any of the final back-room bribery  . . . er . . .  legislative compromising . . . on C-SPAN.

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Back to the Future

A year into the Obama administration, a pattern has been established for public diplomacy with Israel versus the Palestinians. For Israel, the administration airs an ongoing series of petty complaints, most of which relate to housing construction in Obama-disapproved neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Such construction is hurting the peace process, intones Robert Gibbs; it prevents the recommencement of negotiations and is inconsistent with the Road Map, he laments.

Even defensive IDF operations, such as the one last week that eliminated three Fatah murderers, are now reason for public finger-wagging from the administration and requests for “clarification.” This was done on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. There indeed should have been a request for clarification, but it should have been directed at the PA, given the fact that the terrorists in question were on the payroll of the Palestinian Authority’s ruling party, Fatah.

By contrast, the administration has been indifferent to Palestinian terrorism and its official celebration by the PA. I can’t recall a single instance in which the president or a prominent member of his administration criticized the Palestinians for anything. Maybe it’s because the PA has been doing such a commendable job when it comes to incitement and terrorism? Not quite.

In just the past week, official PA television has hailed the first female Palestinian suicide bomber; PA president Mahmoud Abbas personally honored Dalal Mughrabi, a legend of Palestinian terrorism who participated in the coastal-road massacre, the deadliest act of terrorism in Israel’s history (37 innocents were murdered); and both Abbas and the supposedly moderate PA Prime Minister, Salaam Fayyad, celebrated the killers of Rabbi Meir Avshalom Hai, who was gunned down by members of Fatah while driving last week.

Meanwhile, Politico reported that a federal judge “complained that the Obama administration was ‘particularly unhelpful’ and the State Department ‘mealy-mouthed’ in refusing to provide official guidance” on a lawsuit that implicates the Palestinian Authority in the terror murder of an American citizen.

President Obama is repeating one of the worst mistakes of the Oslo period, when the official promotion of terrorism by the Palestinian Authority was studiously ignored on behalf of the larger “peace” mission. We know how successful that strategy was.

A year into the Obama administration, a pattern has been established for public diplomacy with Israel versus the Palestinians. For Israel, the administration airs an ongoing series of petty complaints, most of which relate to housing construction in Obama-disapproved neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Such construction is hurting the peace process, intones Robert Gibbs; it prevents the recommencement of negotiations and is inconsistent with the Road Map, he laments.

Even defensive IDF operations, such as the one last week that eliminated three Fatah murderers, are now reason for public finger-wagging from the administration and requests for “clarification.” This was done on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. There indeed should have been a request for clarification, but it should have been directed at the PA, given the fact that the terrorists in question were on the payroll of the Palestinian Authority’s ruling party, Fatah.

By contrast, the administration has been indifferent to Palestinian terrorism and its official celebration by the PA. I can’t recall a single instance in which the president or a prominent member of his administration criticized the Palestinians for anything. Maybe it’s because the PA has been doing such a commendable job when it comes to incitement and terrorism? Not quite.

In just the past week, official PA television has hailed the first female Palestinian suicide bomber; PA president Mahmoud Abbas personally honored Dalal Mughrabi, a legend of Palestinian terrorism who participated in the coastal-road massacre, the deadliest act of terrorism in Israel’s history (37 innocents were murdered); and both Abbas and the supposedly moderate PA Prime Minister, Salaam Fayyad, celebrated the killers of Rabbi Meir Avshalom Hai, who was gunned down by members of Fatah while driving last week.

Meanwhile, Politico reported that a federal judge “complained that the Obama administration was ‘particularly unhelpful’ and the State Department ‘mealy-mouthed’ in refusing to provide official guidance” on a lawsuit that implicates the Palestinian Authority in the terror murder of an American citizen.

President Obama is repeating one of the worst mistakes of the Oslo period, when the official promotion of terrorism by the Palestinian Authority was studiously ignored on behalf of the larger “peace” mission. We know how successful that strategy was.

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