Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 3, 2010

Should the U.S. Step Back from Its Special Relationship with Israel?

COMMENTARY readers in the New York area are welcomed to participate in an impassioned live debate next Tuesday (Feb 9) in Manhattan. The topic of contention will be whether the U.S. should step back from its special relationship with Israel. Roger Cohen and Rashid Khalidi, no surprise there, will argue that it should. Countering their arguments and defending the diplomatic affinity between the U.S. and the Jewish state will be Stuart Eizenstat and Itamar Rabinovich.

For more information about the live event, visit its organizers’ website: if you purchase tickets now you can save 30% by using the code 30OFF at checkout.

We hope to see a lot of you there.

COMMENTARY readers in the New York area are welcomed to participate in an impassioned live debate next Tuesday (Feb 9) in Manhattan. The topic of contention will be whether the U.S. should step back from its special relationship with Israel. Roger Cohen and Rashid Khalidi, no surprise there, will argue that it should. Countering their arguments and defending the diplomatic affinity between the U.S. and the Jewish state will be Stuart Eizenstat and Itamar Rabinovich.

For more information about the live event, visit its organizers’ website: if you purchase tickets now you can save 30% by using the code 30OFF at checkout.

We hope to see a lot of you there.

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One Last Time: Can the Chinese Bluff Obama Out of Meeting the Dalai Lama?

Peter, thanks for pointing out that there were other meetings between President Bush and the Dalai Lama. That is certainly to the former president’s credit, though we both know that there is a diplomatic distinction between “public” and “private” meetings that, in this case, was much remarked upon at the time and since.

But the point here is very much policy toward China. And what isn’t debatable is the lamentable continuity that stretches from the first president Bush to Clinton to the second Bush and now to Obama when it comes to concern about human rights in China.

Peter, thanks for pointing out that there were other meetings between President Bush and the Dalai Lama. That is certainly to the former president’s credit, though we both know that there is a diplomatic distinction between “public” and “private” meetings that, in this case, was much remarked upon at the time and since.

But the point here is very much policy toward China. And what isn’t debatable is the lamentable continuity that stretches from the first president Bush to Clinton to the second Bush and now to Obama when it comes to concern about human rights in China.

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Re: Re: Can the Chinese Bluff Obama Out of Meeting the Dalai Lama?

Jonathan, I wanted to (hopefully) close the circle on our exchange by making two points. First, you stated that President Bush “only” met privately with the Dalai Lama. Clearly that is not “only” what he did. Second, where should President Bush have met with him? In Lafayette Park?

Presidential meetings with foreign leaders tend to be private, unless there is a ceremony in which they appear together publicly — which, in this case, they did.

In addition, Bush met several other times with the Dalai Lama — in 2001, in 2003, and in 2005. See this story — and picture — of Bush and the Dalai Lama in White House.

So President Bush met several times with the Dalai Lama. Pictures were released. And Bush appeared in public with the Dalai Lama, where the president presented him with the U.S. Congress’s highest civilian honor and, for good measure, urged Chinese leaders to welcome him to Beijing. And I’m not sure it’s fair to blame Bush for not meeting publicly with the Dalai Lama and then, having been reminded that he did, dismiss it as “one photo op in the rotunda” — especially since that “one photo op in the rotunda” also turned out to include several photo ops in the White House.

Debating Bush’s policy on China is another topic for another day. My point was a fairly simple and narrow one: Bush did a good deal more with the Dalai Lama than your original post said. That’s all I was pointing out.

Jonathan, I wanted to (hopefully) close the circle on our exchange by making two points. First, you stated that President Bush “only” met privately with the Dalai Lama. Clearly that is not “only” what he did. Second, where should President Bush have met with him? In Lafayette Park?

Presidential meetings with foreign leaders tend to be private, unless there is a ceremony in which they appear together publicly — which, in this case, they did.

In addition, Bush met several other times with the Dalai Lama — in 2001, in 2003, and in 2005. See this story — and picture — of Bush and the Dalai Lama in White House.

So President Bush met several times with the Dalai Lama. Pictures were released. And Bush appeared in public with the Dalai Lama, where the president presented him with the U.S. Congress’s highest civilian honor and, for good measure, urged Chinese leaders to welcome him to Beijing. And I’m not sure it’s fair to blame Bush for not meeting publicly with the Dalai Lama and then, having been reminded that he did, dismiss it as “one photo op in the rotunda” — especially since that “one photo op in the rotunda” also turned out to include several photo ops in the White House.

Debating Bush’s policy on China is another topic for another day. My point was a fairly simple and narrow one: Bush did a good deal more with the Dalai Lama than your original post said. That’s all I was pointing out.

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Exposing the New Israel Fund

The New Israel Fund finds itself embroiled in controversy, and rightfully so. The philanthropic group has given a great deal of moral support to the Goldstone Report, and even more financial support to the many NGO’s whose job is to manufacture the kind of allegations contained in the Report. Recently a Zionist group called Im Tirtzu released a report documenting the extent of NIF’s funding for what can only be called objectively anti-Israel groups.

This is consistent with NGO’s Monitor’s finding that “In 2008, NIF distributed over $20 million to over 300 NGOs in Israel. Approximately 20% goes to NGOs that engage in political activities related to the Arab-Israeli conflict, including some that reject the legitimacy of Israel as Jewish democratic state, and are active in boycott and similar campaigns.”

And now the Ma’ariv columnist Ben-Dror Yemini has thrown down the gauntlet. Read his important piece, available here in English, below the jump. Read More

The New Israel Fund finds itself embroiled in controversy, and rightfully so. The philanthropic group has given a great deal of moral support to the Goldstone Report, and even more financial support to the many NGO’s whose job is to manufacture the kind of allegations contained in the Report. Recently a Zionist group called Im Tirtzu released a report documenting the extent of NIF’s funding for what can only be called objectively anti-Israel groups.

This is consistent with NGO’s Monitor’s finding that “In 2008, NIF distributed over $20 million to over 300 NGOs in Israel. Approximately 20% goes to NGOs that engage in political activities related to the Arab-Israeli conflict, including some that reject the legitimacy of Israel as Jewish democratic state, and are active in boycott and similar campaigns.”

And now the Ma’ariv columnist Ben-Dror Yemini has thrown down the gauntlet. Read his important piece, available here in English, below the jump.

SLUSH FUND
by Ben-Dror Yemini, Ma’ariv, 2.2.10

The New Israel Fund is part of the global deception campaign. It does not deal with human rights but with denying one people’s right to self-determination.

The New Israel Fund is angry. It thinks that it is correct to spread false testimony about the State of Israel. It thinks that it is OK to participate in the demonization campaign of groups whose goal is to eliminate Israel. It thinks that it is OK to cooperate with the Goldstone Commission, even though it was established by the automatic majority of dark countries that controls the “UN Human Rights Council.” It thinks that it is OK for Israel to cooperate with the Commission even though no country in the free world supported its establishment. It is certainly legitimate, in a democratic country, to do all these things.

But there is something else that is also legitimate: Expose the truth about the Fund and the groups that falsely carry the description “human rights.” If most of the political groups that are supported by the Fund do not recognize the State of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state – do not say human rights. Tell the truth: Denial of rights only for Jews. The Palestinians have the right to a state, a national state, of their own, just as the Croats, Hungarians, Czechs, Slovaks and other peoples do – but not the Jews.

For example, the New Israel Fund supports the Zochrot non-profit association, which openly aspires to eliminate the State of Israel via the realization of the “right of return.” Not that there is any such right and not that there has been even one precedent of a mass “return” after post-war population exchanges – but this does not bother the Fund. It always jumps at the slogan “human rights.”

None of this is to say that Israel is exempt from criticism. Among the hundreds of claims, there are those that have merit. But many sane people abhor the human rights bodies, not because they abhor human rights, on the contrary. It is because most sane people are fed up that human rights have become a weapon for dark forces.

The New Israel Fund has turned itself into yet another body, one among many in the world, that are party to global deception. There are a million and one attacks on human life and human rights in the world. Israel, as a state in the midst of conflict, makes fewer attacks than any other element. This has been verified. This is anchored in numbers. But it is Israel that absorbs most of the criticism. This is called demonization, delegitimization and obsession.

There is no defense of human rights here but rather an orchestrated campaign in the service of Iran and Hamas. This is not the Fund’s intention but this is the result. Things should be called by their name. Most of the groups supported by the Fund deal in the delegitimization of Israel. But the Fund rolls its eyes and whines:

What is wrong with human rights? There is nothing wrong. There is something wrong with those who clearly aspire to deny the Jews’ right to exist in the only place where they have sovereignty, in order to turn Israel into a “state of all its citizens,” in which the majority will be Hamas supporters. There is something wrong with those who want to perpetrate politicide on only one people in the world. There is something wrong with those who collaborate with dark forces and try to sell the lie that it is all about “human rights.”

How is it that so many people, mainly Jews, support the Fund? How is it they facilitate this systematic campaign that masquerades as humanitarian and is, in effect, demonic? They are not anti-Semites. They are people with good intentions. Their rhetoric deals with human rights and minorities. Jews are sensitive to this and good for them. Most are simply unaware. Most truly and innocently want Israel to be more enlightened and more progressive, and stricter about human life and human rights. But they do not know that the money goes to other goals.

Even Professor Naomi Chazan, who heads the Fund, does not hate Israel. But what has happened to countless bodies that deal with “the rights talk” has happened to them. In the end, they serve the agenda of Iran and Hamas.

Human rights groups can restore the confidence in themselves. They need to support human rights, not groups that deal in denying Israel’s right to exist. In the meantime, these groups, including the New Israel Fund, are the major enemy, not only of Israel but of the free world and human rights.

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Syria Promises War Crimes

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, at a press conference in Damascus today:

Moallem warned that if a war between Syria and Israel breaks out, it will be “all-out and take place inside your cities.”

Inside Israeli cities? Syria has preemptively announced that it is going to target civilians? Does the Human Rights Community know about this?

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, at a press conference in Damascus today:

Moallem warned that if a war between Syria and Israel breaks out, it will be “all-out and take place inside your cities.”

Inside Israeli cities? Syria has preemptively announced that it is going to target civilians? Does the Human Rights Community know about this?

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Toomey’s Path to Victory: Don’t Listen to Rick

In today’s New York Post, COMMENTARY magazine contributor Abby Wisse Schachter writes about the voters’ “revolt in Pennsylvania,” as conservative Republican Pat Toomey now leads incumbent and newly minted Democrat Arlen Specter by a 45-to-31 percent margin in the latest Franklin & College poll. Given the rising tide of dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress; the cynical Specter party switch may turn out to have been in vain.

Interestingly, Schachter quotes former Republican Senator Rick Santorum (who backed Specter against Toomey in the 2004 GOP primary, which the latter lost by a whisker) as advising Toomey to stick to the economy while continuing his campaign in the coming months. He’s right about that but given the way his own career in the Senate ended in a landslide loss to lackluster Democrat Bob Casey, Jr. in 2006, Santorum is probably the last person Toomey should be listening to. Nevertheless, Santorum’s rise and fall provides an interesting set of lessons for Northeastern Republicans.

• Good Timing is Crucial: Santorum was first elected to the Senate in 1994, the year of the GOP Congressional avalanche led by Newt Gingrich. He lost his seat in 2006, the year the Democrats took back both houses of Congress. If, as it seems to be the case today, 2010 will be a big Republican year, Toomey’s got this point nailed.

• Be Fortunate in Your Opponents: In 1994, Santorum beat Harris Wofford, an old-time New Deal Democrat who didn’t excite voters in a year when being the incumbent didn’t help. In 2000, when Santorum won an easy race for re-election, he faced conservative Democrat Rep. Ron Klink. Besides an unfortunate name and no statewide appeal, Klink was intensely disliked by his party’s liberal base. Toomey has this category in his favor too. Specter has the burden of being an incumbent who also lacks an enthusiastic base, since most Democrats are less than thrilled about backing a turncoat whose cynicism is legendary.

• Don’t Let Your Opponent Brand You as an Extremist: In 1994, both Santorum and Wofford were able to say that their opponents represented their party’s hard-liners. Neither was able to capture the center but in a Republican year Santorum won a narrow victory. In 2000, after six years of doing his best to portray himself as a politician more interested in serving his constituents than in ideology, Santorum was immune to the Democratic strategy of branding him as an extremist. But by 2006, after a second term during which he acted as if the audience he cared most about was his party’s base as he maneuvered for a possible future run for the White House (an ambition that, believe it or not, he still seems to harbor), the Democrats were easily able to label Santorum as the embodiment of the Conservative Christian movement. This is a potential danger for Toomey as he is every bit the social conservative Santorum was. But as a relatively fresh face on the statewide level, Toomey has the chance to show voters what he cares most about: free market economics. Being pro-life isn’t the kiss of death in Pennsylvania — many Democrats, including the man who beat Santorum in 2006, are against abortion — but coming across as a rigid extremist is fatal.

• Stick to Your Principles: Voters respect a candidate who sticks to his guns even if they disagree on some issues. In 2006, as a two-term incumbent who had become part of a Senate leadership that had presided over a vast expansion of federal spending, Santorum was no longer able to portray himself as a principled conservative on economic issues. Toomey has built all his campaigns for office on opposing not only more taxes and spending but also the whole system of patronage and earmarks by which politicians have always bought the votes of their constituents. In a year in which anger at government is again at a fever pitch, Toomey is perfectly positioned to run against Arlen Specter, whose whole career has been built on the existing corrupt system.

Thus, while Pat Toomey is right to welcome Santorum’s belated support, the latter’s best advice would be “do as I say, not as I did.”

In today’s New York Post, COMMENTARY magazine contributor Abby Wisse Schachter writes about the voters’ “revolt in Pennsylvania,” as conservative Republican Pat Toomey now leads incumbent and newly minted Democrat Arlen Specter by a 45-to-31 percent margin in the latest Franklin & College poll. Given the rising tide of dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress; the cynical Specter party switch may turn out to have been in vain.

Interestingly, Schachter quotes former Republican Senator Rick Santorum (who backed Specter against Toomey in the 2004 GOP primary, which the latter lost by a whisker) as advising Toomey to stick to the economy while continuing his campaign in the coming months. He’s right about that but given the way his own career in the Senate ended in a landslide loss to lackluster Democrat Bob Casey, Jr. in 2006, Santorum is probably the last person Toomey should be listening to. Nevertheless, Santorum’s rise and fall provides an interesting set of lessons for Northeastern Republicans.

• Good Timing is Crucial: Santorum was first elected to the Senate in 1994, the year of the GOP Congressional avalanche led by Newt Gingrich. He lost his seat in 2006, the year the Democrats took back both houses of Congress. If, as it seems to be the case today, 2010 will be a big Republican year, Toomey’s got this point nailed.

• Be Fortunate in Your Opponents: In 1994, Santorum beat Harris Wofford, an old-time New Deal Democrat who didn’t excite voters in a year when being the incumbent didn’t help. In 2000, when Santorum won an easy race for re-election, he faced conservative Democrat Rep. Ron Klink. Besides an unfortunate name and no statewide appeal, Klink was intensely disliked by his party’s liberal base. Toomey has this category in his favor too. Specter has the burden of being an incumbent who also lacks an enthusiastic base, since most Democrats are less than thrilled about backing a turncoat whose cynicism is legendary.

• Don’t Let Your Opponent Brand You as an Extremist: In 1994, both Santorum and Wofford were able to say that their opponents represented their party’s hard-liners. Neither was able to capture the center but in a Republican year Santorum won a narrow victory. In 2000, after six years of doing his best to portray himself as a politician more interested in serving his constituents than in ideology, Santorum was immune to the Democratic strategy of branding him as an extremist. But by 2006, after a second term during which he acted as if the audience he cared most about was his party’s base as he maneuvered for a possible future run for the White House (an ambition that, believe it or not, he still seems to harbor), the Democrats were easily able to label Santorum as the embodiment of the Conservative Christian movement. This is a potential danger for Toomey as he is every bit the social conservative Santorum was. But as a relatively fresh face on the statewide level, Toomey has the chance to show voters what he cares most about: free market economics. Being pro-life isn’t the kiss of death in Pennsylvania — many Democrats, including the man who beat Santorum in 2006, are against abortion — but coming across as a rigid extremist is fatal.

• Stick to Your Principles: Voters respect a candidate who sticks to his guns even if they disagree on some issues. In 2006, as a two-term incumbent who had become part of a Senate leadership that had presided over a vast expansion of federal spending, Santorum was no longer able to portray himself as a principled conservative on economic issues. Toomey has built all his campaigns for office on opposing not only more taxes and spending but also the whole system of patronage and earmarks by which politicians have always bought the votes of their constituents. In a year in which anger at government is again at a fever pitch, Toomey is perfectly positioned to run against Arlen Specter, whose whole career has been built on the existing corrupt system.

Thus, while Pat Toomey is right to welcome Santorum’s belated support, the latter’s best advice would be “do as I say, not as I did.”

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Senate Up for Grabs?

Politico reports:

Republicans suddenly have a conceivable path to winning back the Senate in November, after locking in top-flight candidates overnight in Illinois and Indiana. A 10-seat pickup for the GOP — once regarded as an impossibility even by the party’s own strategists — remains very much a long shot. It would still require a win in every competitive race, something that happens only in wave elections like 1994 and 2008.

What several weeks ago seemed like crazy optimism among Republican operatives doesn’t seem so nuts after Scott Brown’s victory and in the wake of the Democrats’ decision to nominate a highly vulnerable candidate in Illinois, new polling showing Patty Murray in a potential close race in Washington, a viable challenger for Evan Bayh in Indiana, the departure of Beau Biden from the Delaware race, and continued rotten polling for Blanche Lincoln and Harry Reid. Meanwhile, as COMMENTARY contributor Abby Wisse Schachter details, Republican Pat Toomey is riding a wave of anti-Obama sentiment in Pennsylvania. It does add up.

Charlie Cook’s Senate ratings show only four Republicans in the “toss up” category and that includes Ohio and New Hampshire, which have been trending Republican of late. The Democrats have two seats that are now “solid Republican,” five in the “toss up,” and three in the “leans Democratic” category, which would in any other year be slam-dunks (California, Indiana, and Connecticut).

In the meantime, the cumulative impact of all of this, I suspect, will be to further dampen enthusiasm for Obama’s agenda and for his monstrous budget. Some of the vulnerable Democrats may save themselves by casting votes, not simply sounding tough, to limit spending, reject tax hikes on job creators, and deprive the Obami of funds for their half-baked ideas of handling terrorists within the criminal-justice system. But simply doing no further harm may not be enough. After all, we have serious problems, including double-digit unemployment.

Challengers are going to press Democratic incumbents as to why, with all the levers of power, they did not make progress on the most critical issues we face. The answer, were the Democrats to be honest, would be that they spent a year on a flawed stimulus plan and a health-care plan that the vast majority of the country didn’t want. You can see why the Senate is in play.

Politico reports:

Republicans suddenly have a conceivable path to winning back the Senate in November, after locking in top-flight candidates overnight in Illinois and Indiana. A 10-seat pickup for the GOP — once regarded as an impossibility even by the party’s own strategists — remains very much a long shot. It would still require a win in every competitive race, something that happens only in wave elections like 1994 and 2008.

What several weeks ago seemed like crazy optimism among Republican operatives doesn’t seem so nuts after Scott Brown’s victory and in the wake of the Democrats’ decision to nominate a highly vulnerable candidate in Illinois, new polling showing Patty Murray in a potential close race in Washington, a viable challenger for Evan Bayh in Indiana, the departure of Beau Biden from the Delaware race, and continued rotten polling for Blanche Lincoln and Harry Reid. Meanwhile, as COMMENTARY contributor Abby Wisse Schachter details, Republican Pat Toomey is riding a wave of anti-Obama sentiment in Pennsylvania. It does add up.

Charlie Cook’s Senate ratings show only four Republicans in the “toss up” category and that includes Ohio and New Hampshire, which have been trending Republican of late. The Democrats have two seats that are now “solid Republican,” five in the “toss up,” and three in the “leans Democratic” category, which would in any other year be slam-dunks (California, Indiana, and Connecticut).

In the meantime, the cumulative impact of all of this, I suspect, will be to further dampen enthusiasm for Obama’s agenda and for his monstrous budget. Some of the vulnerable Democrats may save themselves by casting votes, not simply sounding tough, to limit spending, reject tax hikes on job creators, and deprive the Obami of funds for their half-baked ideas of handling terrorists within the criminal-justice system. But simply doing no further harm may not be enough. After all, we have serious problems, including double-digit unemployment.

Challengers are going to press Democratic incumbents as to why, with all the levers of power, they did not make progress on the most critical issues we face. The answer, were the Democrats to be honest, would be that they spent a year on a flawed stimulus plan and a health-care plan that the vast majority of the country didn’t want. You can see why the Senate is in play.

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Re: Can the Chinese Bluff Obama Out of Meeting the Dalai Lama?

Peter, you are right to note that President Bush did attend the ceremony in the capitol where the Dalai Lama received the Congressional Gold Medal. But the actual meeting that he held with the Tibetan spiritual leader was private, not public. I would agree that when it comes to caring about human rights, George W. Bush was light years ahead of both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, who have both been clear that such concerns will not be allowed to interfere with their engagement of tyrants whether the latter are located in Beijing or Tehran. But it is difficult to argue that the eight years of the Bush administration were a time during which human rights in China were ever a priority or even a major concern.

For strategic reasons that are certainly understandable, if regrettable, Bush had his own engagement agenda with the Chinese leadership. While, unlike Obama, we can say that Bush’s heart was in the right place, one photo op in the rotunda doesn’t change the fact that this issue hasn’t had much of an impact on American foreign policy toward China during the last few administrations.

Peter, you are right to note that President Bush did attend the ceremony in the capitol where the Dalai Lama received the Congressional Gold Medal. But the actual meeting that he held with the Tibetan spiritual leader was private, not public. I would agree that when it comes to caring about human rights, George W. Bush was light years ahead of both President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton, who have both been clear that such concerns will not be allowed to interfere with their engagement of tyrants whether the latter are located in Beijing or Tehran. But it is difficult to argue that the eight years of the Bush administration were a time during which human rights in China were ever a priority or even a major concern.

For strategic reasons that are certainly understandable, if regrettable, Bush had his own engagement agenda with the Chinese leadership. While, unlike Obama, we can say that Bush’s heart was in the right place, one photo op in the rotunda doesn’t change the fact that this issue hasn’t had much of an impact on American foreign policy toward China during the last few administrations.

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Undoing the Damage — We Hope

As Stephen Hayes details, the Christmas Day bomber is now talking and the Obami have changed their tune. For days and weeks we heard from Obama’s flacks and from leaks in mainstream news outlets that in Abdulmutallab’s 50-minute interview, FBI agents got out all that we needed. And then we were told that he stopped talking even before the Miranda warnings were given. The spin-athon was on to convince us that “nothing was lost” by allowing him to lawyer up and sit mutely for five weeks. Now he’s talking and we are hearing that intelligence officials are (finally) extracting valuable data. Well, the information we are eliciting might have been even more valuable five weeks ago. Hayes sums up the Keystone Kops display that we have witnessed:

Four top U.S. counterterrorism officials — including Mueller, Blair, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Michael Leiter — were not consulted about whether to handle Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant or a criminal. Leiter went on vacation the day after the attack.  John Brennan, the top White House counterterrorism adviser, told him he could go. Three days after the attack, despite copious evidence that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was involved, President Obama declared the attempted bombing the work of “an isolated extremist.” Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, said that she was surprised by AQAP’s “determination” to attack the U.S. homeland and shocked to learn that they would send an individual, not a group, to carry out the deed. DNI Blair told Congress that an elite interrogation team should have questioned Abdulmutallab — only to amend his remarks hours later to acknowledge that the new unit does not exist.

The Obama team is straining to maintain credibility, to convince the public that their criminal-justice model really does make sense, and to assure us that they have not blundered by throwing overboard Bush-era anti-terrorism policies. But let’s get real here: the problem, as well as the spin, started when Abdulmutallab, with no input from intelligence officials, was treated like a common criminal and then clammed up. The last five weeks have been spent by the Obami trying to undue that damage. Let’s hope nothing was lost in the interim. Let’s hope the leads we get (if we get any) have not gone cold. And let’s hope we didn’t give Abdulmutallab a “deal” in order to get him to resume talking.

As Stephen Hayes details, the Christmas Day bomber is now talking and the Obami have changed their tune. For days and weeks we heard from Obama’s flacks and from leaks in mainstream news outlets that in Abdulmutallab’s 50-minute interview, FBI agents got out all that we needed. And then we were told that he stopped talking even before the Miranda warnings were given. The spin-athon was on to convince us that “nothing was lost” by allowing him to lawyer up and sit mutely for five weeks. Now he’s talking and we are hearing that intelligence officials are (finally) extracting valuable data. Well, the information we are eliciting might have been even more valuable five weeks ago. Hayes sums up the Keystone Kops display that we have witnessed:

Four top U.S. counterterrorism officials — including Mueller, Blair, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and Director of the National Counterterrorism Center Michael Leiter — were not consulted about whether to handle Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant or a criminal. Leiter went on vacation the day after the attack.  John Brennan, the top White House counterterrorism adviser, told him he could go. Three days after the attack, despite copious evidence that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was involved, President Obama declared the attempted bombing the work of “an isolated extremist.” Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, said that she was surprised by AQAP’s “determination” to attack the U.S. homeland and shocked to learn that they would send an individual, not a group, to carry out the deed. DNI Blair told Congress that an elite interrogation team should have questioned Abdulmutallab — only to amend his remarks hours later to acknowledge that the new unit does not exist.

The Obama team is straining to maintain credibility, to convince the public that their criminal-justice model really does make sense, and to assure us that they have not blundered by throwing overboard Bush-era anti-terrorism policies. But let’s get real here: the problem, as well as the spin, started when Abdulmutallab, with no input from intelligence officials, was treated like a common criminal and then clammed up. The last five weeks have been spent by the Obami trying to undue that damage. Let’s hope nothing was lost in the interim. Let’s hope the leads we get (if we get any) have not gone cold. And let’s hope we didn’t give Abdulmutallab a “deal” in order to get him to resume talking.

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Congratulations to Mark Kirk

I am greatly cheered to see that Mark Kirk has won the GOP nomination for the Senate seat in Illinois and has a good chance of winning in the general election. I say that not just because Kirk could represent another Republican pickup in the Senate — although given the overweening nature of the Democratic agenda, some more checks and balances would certainly be welcome — but also because he is a very impressive individual. I had the privilege of chatting with him last year when he visited the Council on Foreign Relations, and I found him to be extremely well-informed about world affairs — far more so than the average House member. He was also full of shrewd and sensible insights. Perhaps that should be no surprise given that, in addition to his current congressional duties, he also finds time to serve as a Naval Reserve officer. An intelligence specialist, he was deployed to Afghanistan in December. In the House, he has been a leader on various foreign-policy issues; for example, he is the driving force behind legislation, which has passed both houses, to impose strict sanctions on Iran’s petroleum imports. If he joins the Senate, he should play an important role in steering U.S. national-security policy in the (so to speak) right direction.

I am greatly cheered to see that Mark Kirk has won the GOP nomination for the Senate seat in Illinois and has a good chance of winning in the general election. I say that not just because Kirk could represent another Republican pickup in the Senate — although given the overweening nature of the Democratic agenda, some more checks and balances would certainly be welcome — but also because he is a very impressive individual. I had the privilege of chatting with him last year when he visited the Council on Foreign Relations, and I found him to be extremely well-informed about world affairs — far more so than the average House member. He was also full of shrewd and sensible insights. Perhaps that should be no surprise given that, in addition to his current congressional duties, he also finds time to serve as a Naval Reserve officer. An intelligence specialist, he was deployed to Afghanistan in December. In the House, he has been a leader on various foreign-policy issues; for example, he is the driving force behind legislation, which has passed both houses, to impose strict sanctions on Iran’s petroleum imports. If he joins the Senate, he should play an important role in steering U.S. national-security policy in the (so to speak) right direction.

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Re: Can the Chinese Bluff Obama Out of Meeting the Dalai Lama?

Jonathan, in your post you write, “America’s record on Chinese human rights has been spotty at best in the last generation. Bill Clinton met the Dalai Lama, but only informally. Similarly, George W. Bush only met privately with him.”

Actually, that’s not right, as this October 17, 2007 story (and accompanying picture) demonstrate. In the words of the Associated Press:

President Bush, raising Beijing’s ire, presented the Dalai Lama on Wednesday with the U.S. Congress’ highest civilian honor and urged Chinese leaders to welcome the monk to Beijing.

The exiled spiritual head of Tibet’s Buddhists by his side, Bush praised a man he called a “universal symbol of peace and tolerance, a shepherd of the faithful and a keeper of the flame for his people.”

“Americans cannot look to the plight of the religiously oppressed and close our eyes or turn away,” Bush said at the U.S. Capitol building, where he personally handed the Dalai Lama the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal.

The story continues:

China reviles the 72-year-old monk as a Tibetan separatist and vehemently protested the elaborate public ceremony. But at a news conference earlier in the day, Bush said he did not think his attendance at the ceremony would damage U.S. relations with China.

“I support religious freedom; he supports religious freedom. … I want to honor this man,” Bush told reporters at the White House. “I have consistently told the Chinese that religious freedom is in their nation’s interest.”

Whatever complaints one may have about George W. Bush, not standing up for human rights ought not to be one of them.

Jonathan, in your post you write, “America’s record on Chinese human rights has been spotty at best in the last generation. Bill Clinton met the Dalai Lama, but only informally. Similarly, George W. Bush only met privately with him.”

Actually, that’s not right, as this October 17, 2007 story (and accompanying picture) demonstrate. In the words of the Associated Press:

President Bush, raising Beijing’s ire, presented the Dalai Lama on Wednesday with the U.S. Congress’ highest civilian honor and urged Chinese leaders to welcome the monk to Beijing.

The exiled spiritual head of Tibet’s Buddhists by his side, Bush praised a man he called a “universal symbol of peace and tolerance, a shepherd of the faithful and a keeper of the flame for his people.”

“Americans cannot look to the plight of the religiously oppressed and close our eyes or turn away,” Bush said at the U.S. Capitol building, where he personally handed the Dalai Lama the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal.

The story continues:

China reviles the 72-year-old monk as a Tibetan separatist and vehemently protested the elaborate public ceremony. But at a news conference earlier in the day, Bush said he did not think his attendance at the ceremony would damage U.S. relations with China.

“I support religious freedom; he supports religious freedom. … I want to honor this man,” Bush told reporters at the White House. “I have consistently told the Chinese that religious freedom is in their nation’s interest.”

Whatever complaints one may have about George W. Bush, not standing up for human rights ought not to be one of them.

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Checks and Balances in Iraq

Good news from Iraq: an Iraqi appeals court has overturned the Iranian-backed attempt to prevent 500 candidates from seeking office on grounds of alleged Baathist connections. If it had been allowed to stand, the disqualification might have led to election boycotts and cast a pall over the legitimacy of the election results. The fact that a court could intervene and do the right thing is a sign that Iraq is developing some badly needed checks and balances in its political system.

This is yet another sign that — despite the concerns of many pessimists — Iraq is not “unraveling.” In fact, its nascent democracy continues to lurch forward, notwithstanding terrorist atrocities such as this attack in Karbala.

Good news from Iraq: an Iraqi appeals court has overturned the Iranian-backed attempt to prevent 500 candidates from seeking office on grounds of alleged Baathist connections. If it had been allowed to stand, the disqualification might have led to election boycotts and cast a pall over the legitimacy of the election results. The fact that a court could intervene and do the right thing is a sign that Iraq is developing some badly needed checks and balances in its political system.

This is yet another sign that — despite the concerns of many pessimists — Iraq is not “unraveling.” In fact, its nascent democracy continues to lurch forward, notwithstanding terrorist atrocities such as this attack in Karbala.

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Re: Laboring for Obama

Obama’s nominee to the National Labor Relations Board, Harold Craig Becker, came under fire in his senate confirmation hearing yesterday. As controversial nominee are wont to do, he tried to distance himself from his past writings:

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.) expressed concern that Becker’s writings “have indicated a belief that the NLRB has the power to make some of the dramatic changes in the card-check bill.” The so-called card-check legislation, supported by Obama and Democrats in Congress, would allow unions to bypass secret-ballot elections and instead organize in workplaces by collecting signed cards from workers.

Becker on Tuesday suggested that he now doesn’t believe the board could take such a step, distancing himself from the writings.

“The law is clear that the decision…(of) an alternative route to certification rests with Congress and not the board,” Becker said, adding that the writings were “intended to be provocative and to ask fundamental questions in order for scholars and others to re-evaluate.”

Now, he’s all about implementing the will of Congress, you see. (“‘If confirmed, my decisions, unlike the views of a scholar, will have practical, concrete and important consequences,’ he told members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee. ‘I will have a duty to implement the intent of Congress.'”) That, of course, marks a stark reversal from his 1993 law review article, in which he claimed just the opposite, namely that election rules should be redrafted to favor unions and that the NLRB could do this all on its own without Congressional authorization.

Then the issue of his association with the SEIU surfaced:

Becker saw tough questioning from Sen. John McCain (R. Ariz.) over whether he would recuse himself from cases before the NLRB involving the Service Employees International Union, where Becker most recently worked. Becker said he would recuse himself from cases involving the Service Employees International Union for two years but stopped short of saying what he would do so in a case mentioned by McCain involving a local chapter of the union.

“If any other matter arises in which any questions can be raised or might be raised about my impartiality, I will take that very seriously,” Becker said.

McCain told Becker “that’s not good enough.”

The real question is whether Harry Reid will try to jam this nomination through before Scott Brown is seated next week and Republicans can mount a successful filibuster. If Reid decides to force the vote with Sen. Paul Kirk still casting votes nearly a month after the Massachusetts election, it will be one more example of the excesses of one-party rule — in which a president beholden to political patrons can put up a nominee with obvious bias and ethical problems, knowing that his dutiful senate allies will rubber stamp his choice. And what of those Red State senators who swear to their constituents that they exercise independent judgment? They keep assuring their constituents that they don’t simply do the bidding of their ultra-liberal leadership. Oh well, another time perhaps. Now, one suspects it is time to ram through a favor for Big Labor.

Obama’s nominee to the National Labor Relations Board, Harold Craig Becker, came under fire in his senate confirmation hearing yesterday. As controversial nominee are wont to do, he tried to distance himself from his past writings:

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.) expressed concern that Becker’s writings “have indicated a belief that the NLRB has the power to make some of the dramatic changes in the card-check bill.” The so-called card-check legislation, supported by Obama and Democrats in Congress, would allow unions to bypass secret-ballot elections and instead organize in workplaces by collecting signed cards from workers.

Becker on Tuesday suggested that he now doesn’t believe the board could take such a step, distancing himself from the writings.

“The law is clear that the decision…(of) an alternative route to certification rests with Congress and not the board,” Becker said, adding that the writings were “intended to be provocative and to ask fundamental questions in order for scholars and others to re-evaluate.”

Now, he’s all about implementing the will of Congress, you see. (“‘If confirmed, my decisions, unlike the views of a scholar, will have practical, concrete and important consequences,’ he told members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee. ‘I will have a duty to implement the intent of Congress.'”) That, of course, marks a stark reversal from his 1993 law review article, in which he claimed just the opposite, namely that election rules should be redrafted to favor unions and that the NLRB could do this all on its own without Congressional authorization.

Then the issue of his association with the SEIU surfaced:

Becker saw tough questioning from Sen. John McCain (R. Ariz.) over whether he would recuse himself from cases before the NLRB involving the Service Employees International Union, where Becker most recently worked. Becker said he would recuse himself from cases involving the Service Employees International Union for two years but stopped short of saying what he would do so in a case mentioned by McCain involving a local chapter of the union.

“If any other matter arises in which any questions can be raised or might be raised about my impartiality, I will take that very seriously,” Becker said.

McCain told Becker “that’s not good enough.”

The real question is whether Harry Reid will try to jam this nomination through before Scott Brown is seated next week and Republicans can mount a successful filibuster. If Reid decides to force the vote with Sen. Paul Kirk still casting votes nearly a month after the Massachusetts election, it will be one more example of the excesses of one-party rule — in which a president beholden to political patrons can put up a nominee with obvious bias and ethical problems, knowing that his dutiful senate allies will rubber stamp his choice. And what of those Red State senators who swear to their constituents that they exercise independent judgment? They keep assuring their constituents that they don’t simply do the bidding of their ultra-liberal leadership. Oh well, another time perhaps. Now, one suspects it is time to ram through a favor for Big Labor.

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Not Only Orwellian but Also Disingenuous

The Obama budget proposes to raise $291 billion over ten years from limiting the benefit of deductions to families in the top tax bracket — and justifies the proposal as a response to a “disparity”:

Currently, if a middle-class family donates a dollar to its favorite charity or spends a dollar on mortgage interest, it gets a 15-cent tax deduction, but a millionaire who does the same enjoys a deduction that is more than twice as generous. By reducing this disparity and returning the high-income deduction to the same rates that were in place at the end of the Reagan Administration, we will raise $291 billion over the next decade.

John Hinderaker at Power Line calls this reasoning “Orwellian.” The “disparity” results from the fact that the “millionaire” (defined in the Obama budget as any family with income of $250,000) would pay tax at a rate nearly three times as high (39.6 percent) — and thus obviously receives a 39.6 percent benefit from a deduction. Obama proposes to return to the Reagan rates for deductions (28 percent), but not the Reagan rates for income tax (28 percent). He wants to create a disparity to reduce a disparity.

It is actually even more Orwellian than that, because the Obama proposal is not really designed to address a “disparity” but to transfer huge revenues from charities to the government. If tax rates increase by 13 percent (from 35 percent to 39.6 percent), charitable contributions would presumably increase by at least that amount, since taxpayers could donate 13 percent more at the same after-tax cost. The result would be significantly more aid for charities as taxpayers responded to the increased incentive.

By limiting the deduction to 28 percent, Obama would not only take away the incentive for increased charitable contributions, but reduce the incentive for the current level of contributions, and result in less revenue to charities and more to the government. As the pseudonymous tax lawyer Gregory V. Helvering concluded in “Obama, Charity and Fairness:”

The government needs as much money as it can get to fund its new expanded goals, and Obama has found a way to get a large chunk of it from charities — while justifying the massive transfer of funds to government as something required for “fairness” … George Orwell, call your office.

The Obama proposal affects not only charitable contributions but mortgage deductions (reducing the value of homes) and the burden of state taxes: taxpayers would have to pay their state tax liability but not receive a full deduction of that amount against their federal tax liability. The total effect is to push the nominal 39.6 rate into the mid-40s.

Obama cannot seriously believe this will pass Congress, which rejected it when he first proposed it last year. It would create a huge tax inequity, cause significant damage to charities and home values, and makes no sense. But it enables Obama to present a budget with “only” a 1.3 trillion deficit, instead of the record 1.6 trillion it would be without it. So it is not only Orwellian but also disingenuous.

The Obama budget proposes to raise $291 billion over ten years from limiting the benefit of deductions to families in the top tax bracket — and justifies the proposal as a response to a “disparity”:

Currently, if a middle-class family donates a dollar to its favorite charity or spends a dollar on mortgage interest, it gets a 15-cent tax deduction, but a millionaire who does the same enjoys a deduction that is more than twice as generous. By reducing this disparity and returning the high-income deduction to the same rates that were in place at the end of the Reagan Administration, we will raise $291 billion over the next decade.

John Hinderaker at Power Line calls this reasoning “Orwellian.” The “disparity” results from the fact that the “millionaire” (defined in the Obama budget as any family with income of $250,000) would pay tax at a rate nearly three times as high (39.6 percent) — and thus obviously receives a 39.6 percent benefit from a deduction. Obama proposes to return to the Reagan rates for deductions (28 percent), but not the Reagan rates for income tax (28 percent). He wants to create a disparity to reduce a disparity.

It is actually even more Orwellian than that, because the Obama proposal is not really designed to address a “disparity” but to transfer huge revenues from charities to the government. If tax rates increase by 13 percent (from 35 percent to 39.6 percent), charitable contributions would presumably increase by at least that amount, since taxpayers could donate 13 percent more at the same after-tax cost. The result would be significantly more aid for charities as taxpayers responded to the increased incentive.

By limiting the deduction to 28 percent, Obama would not only take away the incentive for increased charitable contributions, but reduce the incentive for the current level of contributions, and result in less revenue to charities and more to the government. As the pseudonymous tax lawyer Gregory V. Helvering concluded in “Obama, Charity and Fairness:”

The government needs as much money as it can get to fund its new expanded goals, and Obama has found a way to get a large chunk of it from charities — while justifying the massive transfer of funds to government as something required for “fairness” … George Orwell, call your office.

The Obama proposal affects not only charitable contributions but mortgage deductions (reducing the value of homes) and the burden of state taxes: taxpayers would have to pay their state tax liability but not receive a full deduction of that amount against their federal tax liability. The total effect is to push the nominal 39.6 rate into the mid-40s.

Obama cannot seriously believe this will pass Congress, which rejected it when he first proposed it last year. It would create a huge tax inequity, cause significant damage to charities and home values, and makes no sense. But it enables Obama to present a budget with “only” a 1.3 trillion deficit, instead of the record 1.6 trillion it would be without it. So it is not only Orwellian but also disingenuous.

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On Sex Education

A front-page story in yesterday’s Washington Post reports:

Sex education classes that focus on encouraging children to remain abstinent can persuade a significant proportion to delay sexual activity, researchers reported Monday in a landmark study that could have major implications for U.S. efforts to protect young people against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

Only about a third of sixth and seventh graders who completed an abstinence-focused program started having sex within the next two years, researchers found. Nearly half of the students who attended other classes, including ones that combined information about abstinence and contraception, became sexually active. The findings are the first clear evidence that an abstinence program could work.

“I think we’ve written off abstinence-only education without looking closely at the nature of the evidence,” said John B. Jemmott III, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who led the federally funded study. “Our study shows this could be one approach that could be used.”

For those of us familiar with the remarkable work of Elayne Bennett’s Best Friends program, this study, while encouraging, is not surprising. Abstinence education, done in the right way, can have an important and positive influence on teens. It rejects the fatalism that says they all do it, that nothing can be done, that we are powerless to shape the conduct of our children. Like the best abstinence education programs, Best Friends takes seriously the moral education of the young and their well-being.

Elayne Bennett’s husband, Bill, when he was secretary of education, gave a speech in which he laid out a few principles that speak to the task of educating children about sex, principles he believed should inform curricular material and textbooks. (Full disclosure: I worked for Bennett at the time.) First, Bennett said,

We should recognize that sexual behavior is a matter of character and personality, and that we cannot be value-neural about it. Neutrality only confuses children, and may lead them to erroneous conclusions. Specifically, sex education courses should teach children sexual restraint as a standard to uphold and follow.

Second, in teaching restraint, courses should stress that sex is not simply a physical or mechanical act. We should explain to children that sex is tied to the deepest recesses of the personality. We must tell the truth; we must describe reality. We should explain that sex involves complicated feelings and emotions. Some of these are ennobling, and some of them – let us be truthful –can be cheapening of one’s own finer impulses and cheapening to others.

Third, sex education courses should speak up for the institution of the family. To the extent possible, course should speak of sexual activity in the context of the institution of marriage. They should stress the fidelity, commitment, and maturity required of the partners in a successful marriage.

Bennett went on to say

All societies have known this [sex is a quintessentially moral activity] and have taken pains to regulate sexual activity. All societies have done so, sometimes wisely, sometimes not, because they have recognized that sex is fraught with mystery and passion, involving the person at the deepest level of being. As John Donne wrote, “Love’s mysteries in souls do grow.” Poets and philosophers, saints and psychiatrists have known that the power and beauty of sex lie precisely in the fact that it is not like anything else, that it is not just something you like to do or don’t like to do. Far from being value-neutral, sex may be the most value-loaded of any human activity. It does no good to try to sanitize or deny or ignore this truth. The act of sex has complicated and profound repercussions. And if we’re going to deal with it in school, we’d better know this and acknowledge it. Otherwise, we should not let our schools have anything to do with it.

That sounded right to me then; it sounds right to me now. And it appears as if the landmark study overseen by Professor Jemmott confirms the wisdom of those words.

A front-page story in yesterday’s Washington Post reports:

Sex education classes that focus on encouraging children to remain abstinent can persuade a significant proportion to delay sexual activity, researchers reported Monday in a landmark study that could have major implications for U.S. efforts to protect young people against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

Only about a third of sixth and seventh graders who completed an abstinence-focused program started having sex within the next two years, researchers found. Nearly half of the students who attended other classes, including ones that combined information about abstinence and contraception, became sexually active. The findings are the first clear evidence that an abstinence program could work.

“I think we’ve written off abstinence-only education without looking closely at the nature of the evidence,” said John B. Jemmott III, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who led the federally funded study. “Our study shows this could be one approach that could be used.”

For those of us familiar with the remarkable work of Elayne Bennett’s Best Friends program, this study, while encouraging, is not surprising. Abstinence education, done in the right way, can have an important and positive influence on teens. It rejects the fatalism that says they all do it, that nothing can be done, that we are powerless to shape the conduct of our children. Like the best abstinence education programs, Best Friends takes seriously the moral education of the young and their well-being.

Elayne Bennett’s husband, Bill, when he was secretary of education, gave a speech in which he laid out a few principles that speak to the task of educating children about sex, principles he believed should inform curricular material and textbooks. (Full disclosure: I worked for Bennett at the time.) First, Bennett said,

We should recognize that sexual behavior is a matter of character and personality, and that we cannot be value-neural about it. Neutrality only confuses children, and may lead them to erroneous conclusions. Specifically, sex education courses should teach children sexual restraint as a standard to uphold and follow.

Second, in teaching restraint, courses should stress that sex is not simply a physical or mechanical act. We should explain to children that sex is tied to the deepest recesses of the personality. We must tell the truth; we must describe reality. We should explain that sex involves complicated feelings and emotions. Some of these are ennobling, and some of them – let us be truthful –can be cheapening of one’s own finer impulses and cheapening to others.

Third, sex education courses should speak up for the institution of the family. To the extent possible, course should speak of sexual activity in the context of the institution of marriage. They should stress the fidelity, commitment, and maturity required of the partners in a successful marriage.

Bennett went on to say

All societies have known this [sex is a quintessentially moral activity] and have taken pains to regulate sexual activity. All societies have done so, sometimes wisely, sometimes not, because they have recognized that sex is fraught with mystery and passion, involving the person at the deepest level of being. As John Donne wrote, “Love’s mysteries in souls do grow.” Poets and philosophers, saints and psychiatrists have known that the power and beauty of sex lie precisely in the fact that it is not like anything else, that it is not just something you like to do or don’t like to do. Far from being value-neutral, sex may be the most value-loaded of any human activity. It does no good to try to sanitize or deny or ignore this truth. The act of sex has complicated and profound repercussions. And if we’re going to deal with it in school, we’d better know this and acknowledge it. Otherwise, we should not let our schools have anything to do with it.

That sounded right to me then; it sounds right to me now. And it appears as if the landmark study overseen by Professor Jemmott confirms the wisdom of those words.

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Blaming Bush, Again

In his dogged determination to blame George W. Bush for everything, Obama persists with the narrative that he inherited the huge deficit. He’s a victim, you see, a mere bystander next to yet another train wreck from the Bushies. Well, not exactly.

As Robert Robb makes clear, Bush didn’t come close to the spending bonanza Obama is proposing: “Even with Bush’s tax cuts, federal revenues in 2007 were at the average as a percentage of GDP, 18.5 percent, going back to 1960. The deficit was just 1.2 percent of GDP, historically on the low side. Accumulated federal debt was 36 percent of GDP.” Obama is in a whole other league:

Obama proposes that the federal government spend over 25 percent of GDP in 2011, compared to a historical average of around 20.5 percent. He justifies this as necessary to continue to fight the recession.Obama, however, projects that the recession will be fully over in 2011 and robust growth under way. Yet he proposes that federal spending continue to be nearly 24 percent of GDP through 2020. In other words, rather than wind down the additional recession spending after recovery, Obama is proposing that it simply become a new, higher base. . .

If Obama were to recommend a path to return spending to its historical share of economic output, in 2020 the deficit would be just $255 billion, about what the federal government spends each year on large capital projects, and just 1 percent of GDP. In other words, not a problem. And federal spending would have still increased by more than 4 percent a year since 2008.

Instead, Obama recommends a 2020 deficit of over $1 trillion and a troubling 4.2 percent of GDP.

It is certainly unseemly to blame others when you not only occupy the Oval Office but enjoy large congressional majorities. Obama senses this, of course, and hence his frequent “the buck stops here” rhetoric. But he soon reverts to form, unwilling to acknowledge that he, not Bush, is now responsible for setting us on an untenable fiscal trajectory. As is his habit, he is banking on no one fact checking him and on the compliant media to simply go along with the Bush-bashing narrative. A year ago that would have been a good bet. Now? Not so much.

In his dogged determination to blame George W. Bush for everything, Obama persists with the narrative that he inherited the huge deficit. He’s a victim, you see, a mere bystander next to yet another train wreck from the Bushies. Well, not exactly.

As Robert Robb makes clear, Bush didn’t come close to the spending bonanza Obama is proposing: “Even with Bush’s tax cuts, federal revenues in 2007 were at the average as a percentage of GDP, 18.5 percent, going back to 1960. The deficit was just 1.2 percent of GDP, historically on the low side. Accumulated federal debt was 36 percent of GDP.” Obama is in a whole other league:

Obama proposes that the federal government spend over 25 percent of GDP in 2011, compared to a historical average of around 20.5 percent. He justifies this as necessary to continue to fight the recession.Obama, however, projects that the recession will be fully over in 2011 and robust growth under way. Yet he proposes that federal spending continue to be nearly 24 percent of GDP through 2020. In other words, rather than wind down the additional recession spending after recovery, Obama is proposing that it simply become a new, higher base. . .

If Obama were to recommend a path to return spending to its historical share of economic output, in 2020 the deficit would be just $255 billion, about what the federal government spends each year on large capital projects, and just 1 percent of GDP. In other words, not a problem. And federal spending would have still increased by more than 4 percent a year since 2008.

Instead, Obama recommends a 2020 deficit of over $1 trillion and a troubling 4.2 percent of GDP.

It is certainly unseemly to blame others when you not only occupy the Oval Office but enjoy large congressional majorities. Obama senses this, of course, and hence his frequent “the buck stops here” rhetoric. But he soon reverts to form, unwilling to acknowledge that he, not Bush, is now responsible for setting us on an untenable fiscal trajectory. As is his habit, he is banking on no one fact checking him and on the compliant media to simply go along with the Bush-bashing narrative. A year ago that would have been a good bet. Now? Not so much.

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Iranians Send Wrong Rat into Outer Space

More than a month after Barack Obama’s “deadline” for Iran to reply to his various attempts at diplomatic engagement expired without a peep out of the administration, the Islamist regime sent up a signal that they continue to view Washington’s effort at appeasement with contempt. Iranian television announced today that the country had launched a rocket into space capable of carrying satellites. The Kavoshgar rocket was the third Iranian satellite launched in the last year and a half and is an indication that they are pressing ahead with developing a missile program to compliment their nuclear-weapons project.

The rocket is said to have carried a rat, two turtles, and worms into space in what we are supposed to think is a scientific program with only peaceful intentions. Meanwhile, the rat that the Iranians left on the ground, Holocaust-denying President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, bragged that the launch was “just the start” of a new era of development, though he claims it’s all for science, not military threats. The point here is that this launch, like so many other Iranian provocations, proves that Tehran thinks it can act with impunity and that Obama’s declared intention to stop it from gaining nuclear capability is something to be laughed at. Last week, reports noted that the United States is stepping up its efforts to protect Persian Gulf countries against Iranian missile attacks. The Iranians seem to be reminding other nations in the region that the Americans aren’t to be taken seriously.

Whatever the actual implications of this particular launch, it is certainly a sign that while the West has spent the last year talking about talking and immersed in diplomatic dithering, the Iranians are proceeding at full speed to develop both nuclear arms and a system that could potentially deliver a device to a target. News reports filtering out of Washington claim that the United States is preparing to ask the United Nations to enact sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, the military group that controls the nuclear-arms program. But we already know that neither China nor Russia will never let serious sanctions pass. In fact, we knew that a year ago but Obama’s feckless attempts to appease both nations by betraying our allies in Eastern Europe as well as the Chinese human-rights movement in the intervening months have only reinforced this realization. After the expected failure at the UN, the administration’s next option will be to ask our European allies to join us in unilaterally imposing these sanctions. But given the reluctance of many of our European friends to give up doing business with Iran, the outcome of this gambit is far from certain. Even if the West unites to back sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards, this will take many months, providing even more time for Iran to make further nuclear “progress.” Meanwhile, the regime will continue secure in its knowledge that Obama will not actively support Iranian dissidents, some of whom seem to have given up on reversing the fake election that put Ahmadinejad back into office last summer. Barack Obama’s lapsed deadline and the prospect of many more months of failed “engagement” are just what Ahmadinejad and the mullahs who control Iran wanted.

More than a month after Barack Obama’s “deadline” for Iran to reply to his various attempts at diplomatic engagement expired without a peep out of the administration, the Islamist regime sent up a signal that they continue to view Washington’s effort at appeasement with contempt. Iranian television announced today that the country had launched a rocket into space capable of carrying satellites. The Kavoshgar rocket was the third Iranian satellite launched in the last year and a half and is an indication that they are pressing ahead with developing a missile program to compliment their nuclear-weapons project.

The rocket is said to have carried a rat, two turtles, and worms into space in what we are supposed to think is a scientific program with only peaceful intentions. Meanwhile, the rat that the Iranians left on the ground, Holocaust-denying President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, bragged that the launch was “just the start” of a new era of development, though he claims it’s all for science, not military threats. The point here is that this launch, like so many other Iranian provocations, proves that Tehran thinks it can act with impunity and that Obama’s declared intention to stop it from gaining nuclear capability is something to be laughed at. Last week, reports noted that the United States is stepping up its efforts to protect Persian Gulf countries against Iranian missile attacks. The Iranians seem to be reminding other nations in the region that the Americans aren’t to be taken seriously.

Whatever the actual implications of this particular launch, it is certainly a sign that while the West has spent the last year talking about talking and immersed in diplomatic dithering, the Iranians are proceeding at full speed to develop both nuclear arms and a system that could potentially deliver a device to a target. News reports filtering out of Washington claim that the United States is preparing to ask the United Nations to enact sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, the military group that controls the nuclear-arms program. But we already know that neither China nor Russia will never let serious sanctions pass. In fact, we knew that a year ago but Obama’s feckless attempts to appease both nations by betraying our allies in Eastern Europe as well as the Chinese human-rights movement in the intervening months have only reinforced this realization. After the expected failure at the UN, the administration’s next option will be to ask our European allies to join us in unilaterally imposing these sanctions. But given the reluctance of many of our European friends to give up doing business with Iran, the outcome of this gambit is far from certain. Even if the West unites to back sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards, this will take many months, providing even more time for Iran to make further nuclear “progress.” Meanwhile, the regime will continue secure in its knowledge that Obama will not actively support Iranian dissidents, some of whom seem to have given up on reversing the fake election that put Ahmadinejad back into office last summer. Barack Obama’s lapsed deadline and the prospect of many more months of failed “engagement” are just what Ahmadinejad and the mullahs who control Iran wanted.

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Bayh Has His Challenger

Republicans have landed a serious challenger to incumbent Sen. Evan Bayh: former senator Dan Coates. Coates will join a field of lesser known GOP contenders, but I suspect will soon clear the field. In addition to his time in the House and in the U.S. Senate (he filled Dan Quayle’s seat when Quayle became VP), Coates served as ambassador to Germany under George W. Bush. (He also was the “sherpa” for  Supreme Court nominees Harriet Miers and Sam Alito. The former couldn’t be helped, the later needed little assistance, but assigning the task to Coates was some indication of his standing among former colleagues.) Charlie Cook moves the race from “Solid Democratic” to “Leans Democratic” with Coates’s appearance in the race.

It’s not likely that in an ordinary election year Coates would venture back into electoral politics. But this is no ordinary year. Coates no doubt sees what other Republicans (as well as neutral observers) do in an increasingly long list of states: the chance for a solid conservative to take out a Democratic incumbent laboring under the burden of an unpopular ultra-liberal agenda in a state far more moderate than the Beltway Democratic leadership. In the short term, Coates’s candidacy will, one suspects, act to restrain Bayh from adhering too closely to his party’s liberal agenda. Indeed, in recent weeks, as high profile Republicans’ names were tossed about for the race, Bayh has been voicing more vocal opposition to the Obama agenda on everything from health-care reform to terrorism policy.

The problem for Bayh, however, are his votes. He was one of the 60 votes (the Democrats all are the 60th vote, remember) to jam through ObamaCare last Christmas. He also voted for the 2009 stimulus bill, which most voters consider to be a bust. He’ll have more opportunities this year to demonstrate whether he really is a fiscal conservative or just talks like one when viable challengers appear back home.

Republicans have landed a serious challenger to incumbent Sen. Evan Bayh: former senator Dan Coates. Coates will join a field of lesser known GOP contenders, but I suspect will soon clear the field. In addition to his time in the House and in the U.S. Senate (he filled Dan Quayle’s seat when Quayle became VP), Coates served as ambassador to Germany under George W. Bush. (He also was the “sherpa” for  Supreme Court nominees Harriet Miers and Sam Alito. The former couldn’t be helped, the later needed little assistance, but assigning the task to Coates was some indication of his standing among former colleagues.) Charlie Cook moves the race from “Solid Democratic” to “Leans Democratic” with Coates’s appearance in the race.

It’s not likely that in an ordinary election year Coates would venture back into electoral politics. But this is no ordinary year. Coates no doubt sees what other Republicans (as well as neutral observers) do in an increasingly long list of states: the chance for a solid conservative to take out a Democratic incumbent laboring under the burden of an unpopular ultra-liberal agenda in a state far more moderate than the Beltway Democratic leadership. In the short term, Coates’s candidacy will, one suspects, act to restrain Bayh from adhering too closely to his party’s liberal agenda. Indeed, in recent weeks, as high profile Republicans’ names were tossed about for the race, Bayh has been voicing more vocal opposition to the Obama agenda on everything from health-care reform to terrorism policy.

The problem for Bayh, however, are his votes. He was one of the 60 votes (the Democrats all are the 60th vote, remember) to jam through ObamaCare last Christmas. He also voted for the 2009 stimulus bill, which most voters consider to be a bust. He’ll have more opportunities this year to demonstrate whether he really is a fiscal conservative or just talks like one when viable challengers appear back home.

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Democrats Select Tony Rezko’s Banker for Illinois Senate

You almost wonder whether Karl Rove has infiltrated the Democratic Party. How else to explain how the Democrats could nominate to replace Roland Burris, the senator from Blagojevich, the banker for Tony Rezko? As the Chicago Tribune explained, state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias beat back a feisty challenger who made hay out of Giannoulias’s “handling of the state’s college loan program, which lost $150 million; and of loans Giannoulias gave to controversial recipients while working as vice-president of his family’s now-struggling Broadway Bank.” Those controversial recipients include Rezko and some figures of organized crime. The Chicago Sun Times explained:

Among the loans Giannoulias has gotten heat for:

* More than $10 million from 2001 to 2005 to alleged Father & Son Russian mobster team Lev and Boris Stratievsky. Father Lev has passed away. Son Boris is in jail facing money-laundering charges. Broadway funded development projects some on the South Side — that tenants and city attorneys complained were roach motels. Broadway has been unable to collect on the loans.

* About $12.9 million to convicted bookmaker Michael Giorango for a Miami Beach hotel and a Hollywood, Fla., restaurant, among other ventures, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. Broadway has sued Giorango and his partner, Demitri Stavropoulos, convicted of running a betting operation in Chicago, seeking to get the money back. Giannoulias initially downplayed his relationship with Giorango, noting the loans to him started before he joined the bank. Later he said he went to Miami to meet Giorango and inspect the property, and that another $3 million loan to Giorango was for a South Carolina casino.

It’s hard to believe this is the candidate whom the Democrats wanted as their nominee. As Ben Smith dryly noted, Giannoulias “is about as un-changey as you get.” The Republicans are obviously delighted to have such a target-rich opponent. I suspect this will be another seat added to the political gurus’ “leans Republican” lists.

And if all that weren’t enough to worry the Democrats, Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling notes:

Based on the current numbers 885,268 voters were cast in the Democratic primary for Senate compared to 736,137 on the Republican side. Those numbers are awfully close to each other for a state that’s overwhelmingly Democratic.

For sake of comparison the last time there were competitive Senate primaries on both sides in Illinois, in 2004 when Barack Obama was nominated, there were nearly twice as many votes cast in the Democratic primary as the Republican one. 1,242,996 voted in the Democratic race to 661, 804 for the Republicans. Last night’s turnout is yet another data point on the enthusiasm gap, showing that Republicans are much more excited about this year’s elections than Democrats, even in a deep blue state.

It’s a long way to November, but Republicans will soon seize on this as a highly gettable seat with symbolic value. Had it not been for Massachusetts, one could say that the flip in the Illinois seat previously held by the president would be a political tsunami. But it seems as though in this election season, it might simply be par for the course.

You almost wonder whether Karl Rove has infiltrated the Democratic Party. How else to explain how the Democrats could nominate to replace Roland Burris, the senator from Blagojevich, the banker for Tony Rezko? As the Chicago Tribune explained, state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias beat back a feisty challenger who made hay out of Giannoulias’s “handling of the state’s college loan program, which lost $150 million; and of loans Giannoulias gave to controversial recipients while working as vice-president of his family’s now-struggling Broadway Bank.” Those controversial recipients include Rezko and some figures of organized crime. The Chicago Sun Times explained:

Among the loans Giannoulias has gotten heat for:

* More than $10 million from 2001 to 2005 to alleged Father & Son Russian mobster team Lev and Boris Stratievsky. Father Lev has passed away. Son Boris is in jail facing money-laundering charges. Broadway funded development projects some on the South Side — that tenants and city attorneys complained were roach motels. Broadway has been unable to collect on the loans.

* About $12.9 million to convicted bookmaker Michael Giorango for a Miami Beach hotel and a Hollywood, Fla., restaurant, among other ventures, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. Broadway has sued Giorango and his partner, Demitri Stavropoulos, convicted of running a betting operation in Chicago, seeking to get the money back. Giannoulias initially downplayed his relationship with Giorango, noting the loans to him started before he joined the bank. Later he said he went to Miami to meet Giorango and inspect the property, and that another $3 million loan to Giorango was for a South Carolina casino.

It’s hard to believe this is the candidate whom the Democrats wanted as their nominee. As Ben Smith dryly noted, Giannoulias “is about as un-changey as you get.” The Republicans are obviously delighted to have such a target-rich opponent. I suspect this will be another seat added to the political gurus’ “leans Republican” lists.

And if all that weren’t enough to worry the Democrats, Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling notes:

Based on the current numbers 885,268 voters were cast in the Democratic primary for Senate compared to 736,137 on the Republican side. Those numbers are awfully close to each other for a state that’s overwhelmingly Democratic.

For sake of comparison the last time there were competitive Senate primaries on both sides in Illinois, in 2004 when Barack Obama was nominated, there were nearly twice as many votes cast in the Democratic primary as the Republican one. 1,242,996 voted in the Democratic race to 661, 804 for the Republicans. Last night’s turnout is yet another data point on the enthusiasm gap, showing that Republicans are much more excited about this year’s elections than Democrats, even in a deep blue state.

It’s a long way to November, but Republicans will soon seize on this as a highly gettable seat with symbolic value. Had it not been for Massachusetts, one could say that the flip in the Illinois seat previously held by the president would be a political tsunami. But it seems as though in this election season, it might simply be par for the course.

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The Engagement That Never Ends

You knew this was coming:

A long-dormant proposal to remove the bulk of Iran’s enriched uranium from the Islamic republic appeared to be revived Tuesday as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran had “no problem” with a deal initially brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The deal, which Iran formally rejected weeks ago, would swap low-enriched uranium for fuel for a research reactor that produces medical isotopes. “If we allow them to take it, there is no problem,” Ahmadinejad said on state TV. “We sign a contract to give 3.5 percent enriched uranium and receive 20 percent enriched one after four or five months.”

The mullahs have long since figured out that they have willing partners on the other side of the table ready, desperate in fact, to continue the charade of engagement. And quite predictably, the Obami revealed once again that they are eager to hold off the building domestic pressure for sanctions and stem the rising tide of disgust with their year-long quest to talk the mullahs out of their nukes. We are told the administration reacted “cautiously”:

“There is a still a deal on the table. The question is: Is he prepared to say yes,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. He noted that when Iranian diplomats met with U.S. officials in Geneva in October, “they said yes, and then they said no.”

Crowley said he was “unaware of a formal response” by Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency, changing its stance. “If Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments reflect an updated Iranian position, we look forward to Iran informing the IAEA,” said White House spokesman Mike Hammer.

Surprised that the Obami are willing to be trifled with some more? You shouldn’t be. Recall that the crippling sanctions they promised us in the event that engagement didn’t work were being unilaterally negotiated downward as Hillary Clinton and others dutifully explained that their aim was to “leave the door open.” Open for what? More flimflammery by the Iranian regime, of course. Read More

You knew this was coming:

A long-dormant proposal to remove the bulk of Iran’s enriched uranium from the Islamic republic appeared to be revived Tuesday as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Iran had “no problem” with a deal initially brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The deal, which Iran formally rejected weeks ago, would swap low-enriched uranium for fuel for a research reactor that produces medical isotopes. “If we allow them to take it, there is no problem,” Ahmadinejad said on state TV. “We sign a contract to give 3.5 percent enriched uranium and receive 20 percent enriched one after four or five months.”

The mullahs have long since figured out that they have willing partners on the other side of the table ready, desperate in fact, to continue the charade of engagement. And quite predictably, the Obami revealed once again that they are eager to hold off the building domestic pressure for sanctions and stem the rising tide of disgust with their year-long quest to talk the mullahs out of their nukes. We are told the administration reacted “cautiously”:

“There is a still a deal on the table. The question is: Is he prepared to say yes,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. He noted that when Iranian diplomats met with U.S. officials in Geneva in October, “they said yes, and then they said no.”

Crowley said he was “unaware of a formal response” by Iran to the International Atomic Energy Agency, changing its stance. “If Mr. Ahmadinejad’s comments reflect an updated Iranian position, we look forward to Iran informing the IAEA,” said White House spokesman Mike Hammer.

Surprised that the Obami are willing to be trifled with some more? You shouldn’t be. Recall that the crippling sanctions they promised us in the event that engagement didn’t work were being unilaterally negotiated downward as Hillary Clinton and others dutifully explained that their aim was to “leave the door open.” Open for what? More flimflammery by the Iranian regime, of course.

Meanwhile, the regime continues its murderous rule. On the same day they were luring the Obama team back to the table, we got a reminder of just who it is we are dealing with:

The [Iranian] president spoke about nuclear plans on the same day Iran said it would soon hang nine more rioters over unrest that erupted after a disputed presidential vote in June last year. Opposition protesters said the poll was rigged.

“Nine others will be hanged soon. The nine, and the two who were hanged on Thursday, were surely arrested in the recent riots and had links to anti-revolutionary groups,” said senior judiciary official Ebrahim Raisi, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

The two men hanged last week were among 11 people sentenced to death on charges including “waging war against God.”

The June election gave Ahmadinejad a second term, but sparked the worst internal crisis in the Islamic Republic’s history. The government denied any fraud in the voting.

Opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi, a former prime minister, said the repression showed the 1979 Islamic revolution that overthrew the U.S.-backed Shah “had not achieved its goals.”

“Filling the prisons and brutally killing protesters show that the root of … dictatorship remain from the monarchist era,” he said on his Kalemeh website.

Well, that might suggest to practioners of “realism” that the mullahs are not the sort to give up their nukes and that the latest offer is just the sort of distraction one might use to keep the West at bay. But wouldn’t regime change make more sense? Joe Biden on MSNBC had this to say on the subject: “The people of Iran are thinking about, the very people marching, they’re thinking about regime change.” Translation: they are on their own.

The Obami, you see, have a new lease on engagement, another excuse (as if they needed more) to refrain from taking action that might imperil the Iranian regime and deny it the international breathing room it craves. Oh, and are we going to be “bearing witness” to the nine upcoming hangings? No word yet. We eagerly await the next heartfelt statement of sympathy from Foggy Bottom on the deaths of those who can no longer count on the U.S. to aid in the fight for democracy.

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