Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 7, 2010

WEB EXCLUSIVE: The Most Unethical Act: Losing a War

Monday night, PBS’s American Experience series will broadcast a new documentary titled The Bombing of Germany, about the strategic-bombing campaign carried out against the Nazis by American forces in World War II. Coming from the liberal-leaning PBS and in an era where denunciations of American military actions — even in the “good war” against Nazi Germany — have become commonplace, it would have been no surprise if this film was yet another revisionist attempt to decry Allied tactics as immoral. This impression is reinforced by the introduction to the film on PBS’s website, which highlights the number of German civilian casualties incurred by Allied bombing and the “defining moments that led the U.S. across a moral divide” that would make it easier to drop a nuclear bomb on Japan. Indeed, the narration heard during the opening moments of The Bombing of Germany goes straight to this conclusion when it says that by the time the war ended, the bombing left “both German cities and America’s lofty ideals in ruins.”

But, fortunately, there is more to this documentary than the facile conclusion that the bombing of Germany was so immoral that it cannot be defended even in a war in which the future of civilization was at stake.

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

Monday night, PBS’s American Experience series will broadcast a new documentary titled The Bombing of Germany, about the strategic-bombing campaign carried out against the Nazis by American forces in World War II. Coming from the liberal-leaning PBS and in an era where denunciations of American military actions — even in the “good war” against Nazi Germany — have become commonplace, it would have been no surprise if this film was yet another revisionist attempt to decry Allied tactics as immoral. This impression is reinforced by the introduction to the film on PBS’s website, which highlights the number of German civilian casualties incurred by Allied bombing and the “defining moments that led the U.S. across a moral divide” that would make it easier to drop a nuclear bomb on Japan. Indeed, the narration heard during the opening moments of The Bombing of Germany goes straight to this conclusion when it says that by the time the war ended, the bombing left “both German cities and America’s lofty ideals in ruins.”

But, fortunately, there is more to this documentary than the facile conclusion that the bombing of Germany was so immoral that it cannot be defended even in a war in which the future of civilization was at stake.

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

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Brutality in the Middle East

While Hillary Clinton is on spin duty for the noxious policy of Iranian engagement, the feminist champion finds little time to dwell on the latest atrocity from the “Muslim World” that her boss still courts so assiduously. This report from Turkey (h/t George Jochnowitz) seems to have escaped the notice of the woman of 19 million cracks in the glass ceiling:

Medine Memi was found in a sitting position with her hands tied, in a two-metre hole dug under a chicken pen outside her home in Kahta, in the south-eastern province of Adiyaman. Her father and grandfather have since been arrested and are due to face trial over her death. Her mother was also charged but has since been released. …

“The report is blood curdling. According to our findings the girl who had no bruises on her body and no sign of narcotics or poison in her blood was alive and fully conscious when she was buried,” one official involved in the case told the Times.

It also emerged that Medine had repeatedly tried to report to police that she had been beaten by her father and grandfather days before she was killed. “She tried to take refuge at the police station three times, and she was sent home three times,” her mother, Immihan, said after the body was discovered in December.

Medine’s father is reported as saying at the time: “She has male friends. We are uneasy about that.”

Although honour killings are not infrequent in Turkey, the especially gruesome manner of Medine’s death has shocked the nation.

Official figures have indicated that more than 200 such killings take place each year, accounting for around half of all murders in Turkey.

Why is it, then, that the wrath of the State Department (not to mention the “international community” housed at the UN) is reserved for apartment-building in Jerusalem when it comes to the Middle East? One would think that the monstrous brutality against women in Turkey and elsewhere would raise concern or draw comment from Clinton or Obama. But no. Like those stolen from their beds in the night in Tehran, the girls of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the rest are on their own.

While Hillary Clinton is on spin duty for the noxious policy of Iranian engagement, the feminist champion finds little time to dwell on the latest atrocity from the “Muslim World” that her boss still courts so assiduously. This report from Turkey (h/t George Jochnowitz) seems to have escaped the notice of the woman of 19 million cracks in the glass ceiling:

Medine Memi was found in a sitting position with her hands tied, in a two-metre hole dug under a chicken pen outside her home in Kahta, in the south-eastern province of Adiyaman. Her father and grandfather have since been arrested and are due to face trial over her death. Her mother was also charged but has since been released. …

“The report is blood curdling. According to our findings the girl who had no bruises on her body and no sign of narcotics or poison in her blood was alive and fully conscious when she was buried,” one official involved in the case told the Times.

It also emerged that Medine had repeatedly tried to report to police that she had been beaten by her father and grandfather days before she was killed. “She tried to take refuge at the police station three times, and she was sent home three times,” her mother, Immihan, said after the body was discovered in December.

Medine’s father is reported as saying at the time: “She has male friends. We are uneasy about that.”

Although honour killings are not infrequent in Turkey, the especially gruesome manner of Medine’s death has shocked the nation.

Official figures have indicated that more than 200 such killings take place each year, accounting for around half of all murders in Turkey.

Why is it, then, that the wrath of the State Department (not to mention the “international community” housed at the UN) is reserved for apartment-building in Jerusalem when it comes to the Middle East? One would think that the monstrous brutality against women in Turkey and elsewhere would raise concern or draw comment from Clinton or Obama. But no. Like those stolen from their beds in the night in Tehran, the girls of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and the rest are on their own.

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Clinton Reveals Hollowness of Iran Engagement

In a rather devastating interview with Candy Crowley on CNN, Hillary Clinton she reveals the misguided premise at the heart of the Obami’s Iran engagement policy and the disastrous results that have flowed from it. This sequence sums up the failure of engagement:

CROWLEY: I want to bring your attention to something that President Obama said in his inaugural a little more than a year ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: “We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Has Iran unclenched its fist?

CLINTON: No. But…

CROWLEY: How about North Korea?

CLINTON: No. Not to the extent we would like to see them. But I think that’s — that is not all — all to the story. Engagement has brought us a lot in the last year. Let’s take North Korea first, and then we’ll go to Iran. In North Korea when we said that we were willing to work with North Korea if they were serious about returning to the six party talks, and about denuclearizing in an irreversible way, they basically did not respond in the first instance. But because we were willing to engage, we ended up getting a very strong sanctions regime against North Korea that China signed on to and Russia signed on to. And right now is being enforced around the world.

CROWLEY: Did the extended hand of the U.S. help in any way that you point to?

(CROSSTALK)

CLINTON: It did, because — because we extended it a neighbor like China knew we were going the extra mile. And all of a sudden said, “You know, you’re not just standing there hurling insults at them. You’ve said, ‘All right. Fine. We’re — we’re willing to work with them.’ They haven’t responded. So we’re going to sign on to these very tough measures.” Similarly in Iran — I don’t know what the outcome would have been if the Iranian government hadn’t made the decision it made following the elections to become so repressive.

But the fact is because we engaged, the rest of the world has really begun to see Iran the way we see it. When we started last year talking about the threats that Iran’s nuclear programs posed, Russia and other countries said, “Well we don’t see it that way.” But through very slow and steady diplomacy plus the fact that we had a two track process. Yes we reached out on engagement to Iran, but we always had the second track which is that we would have to try to get the world community to take stronger measures if they didn’t respond on the engagement front.

So let’s unpack that. For starters, even Clinton admits that the policy has failed. No unclenched hands in North Korea and Iran. And her justification — that our Iran policy was justified because “the world has really begun to see Iran the way we see it” — is simply preposterous. She would have us believe the world would not have seen the nature of the regime by its own actions (constructing the Qom enrichment site in violation of international agreements, stealing an election, and brutalizing its own people), but only now has begun to understand the nature of the regime because we have engaged in a futile Kabuki dance with the mullahs? It boggles the mind. And where is the evidence that Russia and China see it our way? When last we heard from them, the Russians were supplying missiles to Tehran, and the Chinese were rejecting sanctions.

There is no flicker of recognition that the president might have used his vaunted charisma and eloquence to get the world to “see Iran the way we see it” — that is, as an illegitimate and tyrannical regime. Indeed, she doesn’t even mention the democracy protestors other than to observe that she doesn’t know “what the outcome would have been if the Iranian government hadn’t made the decision it made following the elections to become so repressive.” Not even a rhetorical bouquet to throw their way. Perhaps we are not even “bearing witness” these days. She seems oblivious to the notion that world opinion might be rallied to the cause of displacing, rather than soliciting the attention of, the despotic regime. And she gives no indication that the engagement policy has bestowed legitimacy upon the regime at the very time its citizens are seeking to overthrow it.

She also makes the bizarre claim that Iran really is not the greatest threat we face:

But I think that most of us believe the greater threats are the trans-national non-state networks. Primarily the extremists — the fundamentalist Islamic extremists who are connected Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula. Al Qaeda in — in Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Al Qaida in the Maghreb. I mean the — the kind of connectivity that exists. And they continue to try to increase the sophistication of their capacity. The attacks that they’re going to make. And the, you know, the biggest nightmare that any of us have is that one of these terrorist member organizations within this syndicate of terror will get their hands on a weapon of mass destruction. So that’s really the — the most threatening prospect we see.

Where to begin? She seems to suggest that we shouldn’t be so concerned about an Iranian regime with a full-blown nuclear-weapons program because there are also non-state terrorists (some of whom are supported by none other than Iran) who pose a similar threat. But wait. Isn’t this further reason to do what is necessary to prevent the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons? After all, they might be supplying those very same groups with nuclear materials.

In one short interview, Clinton has pulled back the curtain on the intellectual and moral hollowness and abject confusion at he heart of Obama’s engagement policy. The Iranian people, the West, and history will judge Clinton and the president for whom she spins — however ineptly.

In a rather devastating interview with Candy Crowley on CNN, Hillary Clinton she reveals the misguided premise at the heart of the Obami’s Iran engagement policy and the disastrous results that have flowed from it. This sequence sums up the failure of engagement:

CROWLEY: I want to bring your attention to something that President Obama said in his inaugural a little more than a year ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: “We will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CROWLEY: Has Iran unclenched its fist?

CLINTON: No. But…

CROWLEY: How about North Korea?

CLINTON: No. Not to the extent we would like to see them. But I think that’s — that is not all — all to the story. Engagement has brought us a lot in the last year. Let’s take North Korea first, and then we’ll go to Iran. In North Korea when we said that we were willing to work with North Korea if they were serious about returning to the six party talks, and about denuclearizing in an irreversible way, they basically did not respond in the first instance. But because we were willing to engage, we ended up getting a very strong sanctions regime against North Korea that China signed on to and Russia signed on to. And right now is being enforced around the world.

CROWLEY: Did the extended hand of the U.S. help in any way that you point to?

(CROSSTALK)

CLINTON: It did, because — because we extended it a neighbor like China knew we were going the extra mile. And all of a sudden said, “You know, you’re not just standing there hurling insults at them. You’ve said, ‘All right. Fine. We’re — we’re willing to work with them.’ They haven’t responded. So we’re going to sign on to these very tough measures.” Similarly in Iran — I don’t know what the outcome would have been if the Iranian government hadn’t made the decision it made following the elections to become so repressive.

But the fact is because we engaged, the rest of the world has really begun to see Iran the way we see it. When we started last year talking about the threats that Iran’s nuclear programs posed, Russia and other countries said, “Well we don’t see it that way.” But through very slow and steady diplomacy plus the fact that we had a two track process. Yes we reached out on engagement to Iran, but we always had the second track which is that we would have to try to get the world community to take stronger measures if they didn’t respond on the engagement front.

So let’s unpack that. For starters, even Clinton admits that the policy has failed. No unclenched hands in North Korea and Iran. And her justification — that our Iran policy was justified because “the world has really begun to see Iran the way we see it” — is simply preposterous. She would have us believe the world would not have seen the nature of the regime by its own actions (constructing the Qom enrichment site in violation of international agreements, stealing an election, and brutalizing its own people), but only now has begun to understand the nature of the regime because we have engaged in a futile Kabuki dance with the mullahs? It boggles the mind. And where is the evidence that Russia and China see it our way? When last we heard from them, the Russians were supplying missiles to Tehran, and the Chinese were rejecting sanctions.

There is no flicker of recognition that the president might have used his vaunted charisma and eloquence to get the world to “see Iran the way we see it” — that is, as an illegitimate and tyrannical regime. Indeed, she doesn’t even mention the democracy protestors other than to observe that she doesn’t know “what the outcome would have been if the Iranian government hadn’t made the decision it made following the elections to become so repressive.” Not even a rhetorical bouquet to throw their way. Perhaps we are not even “bearing witness” these days. She seems oblivious to the notion that world opinion might be rallied to the cause of displacing, rather than soliciting the attention of, the despotic regime. And she gives no indication that the engagement policy has bestowed legitimacy upon the regime at the very time its citizens are seeking to overthrow it.

She also makes the bizarre claim that Iran really is not the greatest threat we face:

But I think that most of us believe the greater threats are the trans-national non-state networks. Primarily the extremists — the fundamentalist Islamic extremists who are connected Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula. Al Qaeda in — in Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Al Qaida in the Maghreb. I mean the — the kind of connectivity that exists. And they continue to try to increase the sophistication of their capacity. The attacks that they’re going to make. And the, you know, the biggest nightmare that any of us have is that one of these terrorist member organizations within this syndicate of terror will get their hands on a weapon of mass destruction. So that’s really the — the most threatening prospect we see.

Where to begin? She seems to suggest that we shouldn’t be so concerned about an Iranian regime with a full-blown nuclear-weapons program because there are also non-state terrorists (some of whom are supported by none other than Iran) who pose a similar threat. But wait. Isn’t this further reason to do what is necessary to prevent the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons? After all, they might be supplying those very same groups with nuclear materials.

In one short interview, Clinton has pulled back the curtain on the intellectual and moral hollowness and abject confusion at he heart of Obama’s engagement policy. The Iranian people, the West, and history will judge Clinton and the president for whom she spins — however ineptly.

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Palin at the Tea Party

Sarah Palin went to address the Tea Party Convention last night, laying out the populist-conservative case against Obama. We “need a commander in chief and not a law professor” in the war against “radical Islamic extremists” she declared.  (In purposefully using a phrase that the president eschews, she, of course, reinforces her point.) She fingered the closed-door deals and non-transparency in Washington, asking mockingly, “How’s that hopey, changey stuff working out for you?” And she hit the themes that have galvanized the populist activists and around which establishment conservatives have rallied. She criticized the president’s apologetic foreign policy and his failure to support human rights and democracy advocates, called the massive debt “generational theft,” advocated domestic energy development, and urged a return to more limited government and low taxes (noting Ronald Reagan’s birthday). And she also skewered Obama for incessantly blaming George W. Bush and for striking out in three big elections (“When you’re 0-3, you’d better stop lecturing and start listening”).

She demurred when asked about a presidential run and urged the Tea Party movement not to be about a single personality. But her purpose here seems quite clear. She is making the case that there is a powerful political movement, test run in Massachusetts, for independent-minded populists and conservatives. While she isn’t yet offering herself as a candidate, it doesn’t take much imagination to hear that same speech a year or two from now, phrased as an announcement of her presidential candidacy.

But for a moment, let’s put Palin aside. The issues she hit certainly comprise the core criticisms of Obama and will form the platform for conservatives in 2010 and 2012. Many of the issues she enumerated were positions that lifted Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown to victory, proving that there is not, in fact, much daylight between Tea Party activists, mainstream Republicans, and disaffected independent voters. And in one form or another, we are hearing similar themes from virtually all Republicans — whether it’s Rep. Paul Ryan or Marco Rubio or Meg Whitman or the other 2012 likely contenders.

So the question, I think, for Republicans is not what but who — who will emerge as the most effective standard bearer of that agenda. That — despite the continual chatter from the punditocracy to find the answer right now — can wait for the 2012 presidential campaign. The “what” will suffice for a nationalized, 2010 midterm election. And then the race will be on to see if Palin or some other figure emerges as the most effective champion for that core agenda.

Palin has followed no rule book and no pundit’s advice in the last year. She quit the governorship, sold millions of books, got a million and a half Facebook fans, broke through the health-care reform debate with her “death panel” critique, and now has endeared herself to a grassroots movement. Pundits will ask, “But is that enough?” Well, it’s a lot for a year’s work. After all, we are two years away from the start of the primary season. But this much is clear: her potential opponents for 2012 will have to figure out how to match the enthusiasm and affection she generates. (The mainstream media and liberals [but I repeat myself] loathe her, but they don’t vote in the GOP presidential primary.) And, without adopting the criticisms favored by the mainstream media — e.g., she lacks an Ivy League degree – that are likely to alienate the conservative base, they must figure out how to make the case that she’s not the right person to go toe to toe with Obama. That’s not, by any means, an impossible task. But judging from last night’s outing, the flock of 2012 contenders may have their work cut out for them.

Sarah Palin went to address the Tea Party Convention last night, laying out the populist-conservative case against Obama. We “need a commander in chief and not a law professor” in the war against “radical Islamic extremists” she declared.  (In purposefully using a phrase that the president eschews, she, of course, reinforces her point.) She fingered the closed-door deals and non-transparency in Washington, asking mockingly, “How’s that hopey, changey stuff working out for you?” And she hit the themes that have galvanized the populist activists and around which establishment conservatives have rallied. She criticized the president’s apologetic foreign policy and his failure to support human rights and democracy advocates, called the massive debt “generational theft,” advocated domestic energy development, and urged a return to more limited government and low taxes (noting Ronald Reagan’s birthday). And she also skewered Obama for incessantly blaming George W. Bush and for striking out in three big elections (“When you’re 0-3, you’d better stop lecturing and start listening”).

She demurred when asked about a presidential run and urged the Tea Party movement not to be about a single personality. But her purpose here seems quite clear. She is making the case that there is a powerful political movement, test run in Massachusetts, for independent-minded populists and conservatives. While she isn’t yet offering herself as a candidate, it doesn’t take much imagination to hear that same speech a year or two from now, phrased as an announcement of her presidential candidacy.

But for a moment, let’s put Palin aside. The issues she hit certainly comprise the core criticisms of Obama and will form the platform for conservatives in 2010 and 2012. Many of the issues she enumerated were positions that lifted Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown to victory, proving that there is not, in fact, much daylight between Tea Party activists, mainstream Republicans, and disaffected independent voters. And in one form or another, we are hearing similar themes from virtually all Republicans — whether it’s Rep. Paul Ryan or Marco Rubio or Meg Whitman or the other 2012 likely contenders.

So the question, I think, for Republicans is not what but who — who will emerge as the most effective standard bearer of that agenda. That — despite the continual chatter from the punditocracy to find the answer right now — can wait for the 2012 presidential campaign. The “what” will suffice for a nationalized, 2010 midterm election. And then the race will be on to see if Palin or some other figure emerges as the most effective champion for that core agenda.

Palin has followed no rule book and no pundit’s advice in the last year. She quit the governorship, sold millions of books, got a million and a half Facebook fans, broke through the health-care reform debate with her “death panel” critique, and now has endeared herself to a grassroots movement. Pundits will ask, “But is that enough?” Well, it’s a lot for a year’s work. After all, we are two years away from the start of the primary season. But this much is clear: her potential opponents for 2012 will have to figure out how to match the enthusiasm and affection she generates. (The mainstream media and liberals [but I repeat myself] loathe her, but they don’t vote in the GOP presidential primary.) And, without adopting the criticisms favored by the mainstream media — e.g., she lacks an Ivy League degree – that are likely to alienate the conservative base, they must figure out how to make the case that she’s not the right person to go toe to toe with Obama. That’s not, by any means, an impossible task. But judging from last night’s outing, the flock of 2012 contenders may have their work cut out for them.

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Just Deserts for a Bully

The New Israel Fund, an umbrella philanthropic organization that donates to left-wing and anti-Zionist NGOs in Israel, found itself embroiled in controversy last week. Or I should say, the NIF is shocked, absolutely scandalized, to discover that a lot of people, previously unaware of the group’s activities, have a problem with an organization that brands itself pro-Israel but funds organizations that seek to destroy the Jewish state (sadly, this is no exaggeration).

The controversy was touched off when a Zionist youth group called Im Tirtzu — “if you will it” — published an advertisement in the Jerusalem Post exposing the NIF’s activities. The head of NIF, Naomi Chazan, also happens to write a column for the JPost. Her response to Im Tirtzu? She threatened to sue the JPost. So the JPost fired her.

The New Israel Fund, an umbrella philanthropic organization that donates to left-wing and anti-Zionist NGOs in Israel, found itself embroiled in controversy last week. Or I should say, the NIF is shocked, absolutely scandalized, to discover that a lot of people, previously unaware of the group’s activities, have a problem with an organization that brands itself pro-Israel but funds organizations that seek to destroy the Jewish state (sadly, this is no exaggeration).

The controversy was touched off when a Zionist youth group called Im Tirtzu — “if you will it” — published an advertisement in the Jerusalem Post exposing the NIF’s activities. The head of NIF, Naomi Chazan, also happens to write a column for the JPost. Her response to Im Tirtzu? She threatened to sue the JPost. So the JPost fired her.

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Squeezing the Job Creators

The Obami can’t figure out how to spur job creation. They seem stumped. They’ve spent all that money. So many government programs have been given a boost, and yet hiring remains stagnant. What to do? Well, for starters, they should not let the Bush tax cuts expire. As Mark Tapscott notes, the impact on small businesses, most of which pay taxes under the individual, not corporate, tax rates, is stark:

The top marginal tax rate today is about 41 percent, so the Obama budget, if enacted as proposed, would result in an increase of slightly more than 8 percentage points. If the goal is to generate new economic growth that will lower the unemployment rate among existing jobs and create millions of new jobs in an expanding economy, the direction for taxation of small business ought to be down by 8+ percent, not up by that amount.

Well, that seems like a no-brainer, yet Obama and his congressional allies continue to talk in class-warfare terms. These are the “rich,” and they can afford, indeed they should be, paying more, we are told. But where do the Obami think the jobs and investments come from? Occasionally, the light goes on, and Obama pays tribute to the private sector. He’s going to mush some TARP money over for small-business lending and come up with a tax credit for new hires. But all of this is dwarfed by a giant tax hike on small-business owners, suggesting that he really doesn’t appreciate that every tax dollar taken from a small-business person is one not used to employ another worker or expand a store, factory, or office.

Perhaps if the president or anyone in his administration had ever run a business or been responsible for a payroll, there would be more understanding about the negative impact Obama’s policies (including his mandate- and fine-filled health-care bill) have on those we must rely on to fuel the economic recovery. Unfortunately, this administration is long on academic types and government bureaucrats and short on entrepreneurs. We could use a few about now.

The Obami can’t figure out how to spur job creation. They seem stumped. They’ve spent all that money. So many government programs have been given a boost, and yet hiring remains stagnant. What to do? Well, for starters, they should not let the Bush tax cuts expire. As Mark Tapscott notes, the impact on small businesses, most of which pay taxes under the individual, not corporate, tax rates, is stark:

The top marginal tax rate today is about 41 percent, so the Obama budget, if enacted as proposed, would result in an increase of slightly more than 8 percentage points. If the goal is to generate new economic growth that will lower the unemployment rate among existing jobs and create millions of new jobs in an expanding economy, the direction for taxation of small business ought to be down by 8+ percent, not up by that amount.

Well, that seems like a no-brainer, yet Obama and his congressional allies continue to talk in class-warfare terms. These are the “rich,” and they can afford, indeed they should be, paying more, we are told. But where do the Obami think the jobs and investments come from? Occasionally, the light goes on, and Obama pays tribute to the private sector. He’s going to mush some TARP money over for small-business lending and come up with a tax credit for new hires. But all of this is dwarfed by a giant tax hike on small-business owners, suggesting that he really doesn’t appreciate that every tax dollar taken from a small-business person is one not used to employ another worker or expand a store, factory, or office.

Perhaps if the president or anyone in his administration had ever run a business or been responsible for a payroll, there would be more understanding about the negative impact Obama’s policies (including his mandate- and fine-filled health-care bill) have on those we must rely on to fuel the economic recovery. Unfortunately, this administration is long on academic types and government bureaucrats and short on entrepreneurs. We could use a few about now.

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But He Was the Harvard Law Review Editor!

The chattering class was entranced with candidate Barack Obama. So literate. So polished. So cool. We were assured that his lack of executive experience was irrelevant. After all, he ran a campaign. And then there were his years as a community organizer and Harvard Law Review editor, which showed… well… it showed something about his magnificent intellectual skills. But it turns out he lacks some key abilities — executive leadership, decisiveness, deal-making prowess, flexibility, and basic people skills — that are essential to a successful presidency.

This is not simply the conclusion of conservatives. The entire country witnessed his agonizing decision-making process on the Afghanistan war strategy. Now on health-care reform, his own party is frustrated and dismayed with the non-governing president. As this report notes:

President Barack Obama has left Democrats as confused as ever over how the White House plans to deliver a health care reform bill this year, following two weeks of inconsistent statements, negligible hands-on involvement and a sudden shift to a jobs-first message. Democrats on Capitol Hill and beyond say they have no clear understanding of the White House strategy – or even whether there is one – and are growing impatient with Obama’s reluctance to guide them toward a legislative solution.

…And some Democrats feel that every time they look to White House for clarity, they hear something different, as though the strategy is whatever the president or his top advisers said that day.

His floundering is not surprising, considering that Obama never ran a state, a city, or a business, and during his brief time in the U.S. Senate, he was never front-and-center in any significant legislative undertaking. Yes, he’s touted as an author, and he won the presidency (beating two flawed candidates who ran awful campaigns). But it turns out that all this was insufficient preparation to be chief executive and commander in chief.

In 2012, Republicans will look for a standard-bearer to retake the White House. And while a grounding in conservative principles will be essential to winning the nomination, Republican voters might do well to consider what experience and what talents are essential for a successful presidency. They might look for candidates who have done something – other than graduating from Ivy League schools, writing memoirs, and giving frothy speeches. By 2012, the country might be ready for someone who knows how to get something done.

The chattering class was entranced with candidate Barack Obama. So literate. So polished. So cool. We were assured that his lack of executive experience was irrelevant. After all, he ran a campaign. And then there were his years as a community organizer and Harvard Law Review editor, which showed… well… it showed something about his magnificent intellectual skills. But it turns out he lacks some key abilities — executive leadership, decisiveness, deal-making prowess, flexibility, and basic people skills — that are essential to a successful presidency.

This is not simply the conclusion of conservatives. The entire country witnessed his agonizing decision-making process on the Afghanistan war strategy. Now on health-care reform, his own party is frustrated and dismayed with the non-governing president. As this report notes:

President Barack Obama has left Democrats as confused as ever over how the White House plans to deliver a health care reform bill this year, following two weeks of inconsistent statements, negligible hands-on involvement and a sudden shift to a jobs-first message. Democrats on Capitol Hill and beyond say they have no clear understanding of the White House strategy – or even whether there is one – and are growing impatient with Obama’s reluctance to guide them toward a legislative solution.

…And some Democrats feel that every time they look to White House for clarity, they hear something different, as though the strategy is whatever the president or his top advisers said that day.

His floundering is not surprising, considering that Obama never ran a state, a city, or a business, and during his brief time in the U.S. Senate, he was never front-and-center in any significant legislative undertaking. Yes, he’s touted as an author, and he won the presidency (beating two flawed candidates who ran awful campaigns). But it turns out that all this was insufficient preparation to be chief executive and commander in chief.

In 2012, Republicans will look for a standard-bearer to retake the White House. And while a grounding in conservative principles will be essential to winning the nomination, Republican voters might do well to consider what experience and what talents are essential for a successful presidency. They might look for candidates who have done something – other than graduating from Ivy League schools, writing memoirs, and giving frothy speeches. By 2012, the country might be ready for someone who knows how to get something done.

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The Gates Minuet

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is perpetually walking a tightrope. He is, after all, a member of the president’s cabinet, and if he wants to remain so, he must display loyalty and hew to administration policy. But he indisputably has little patience for the notion that we can endear ourselves to Islamic fascists or Iranian despots. His department is, unlike the rest of the federal government, on a strict budget, so he must make the most of what limited funds he has. And in all this, he is incapable of lying. So we have a series of pained but telling comments from him.

After the announced decision to deploy 30,000-plus troops to Afghanistan (a position he favored), it was up to Gates (along with Hillary Clinton) to soft-pedal the 18-month deadline. He took to the talk shows and Congressional hearings to assure everyone that Obama didn’t really mean a fixed deadline and that we’d of course stick it out to achieve our aims, relying on conditions on the ground.

On the Mirandizing of the Christmas Day bomber, he would only say this was Eric Holder’s call. And while he was careful not to slam his cabinet colleague, in an exchange with Sen. John McCain, he left little doubt about what he thought of the decision:

Gates said “I think we did not have the high-level interrogators there that we now have protocols in place” to assure their presence. But he added: “I believe that a team of highly experienced FBI and other interrogators could be as effective in interrogating the prisoner as anyone operating under the (Army) field manual.”

McCain asked Gates if he agreed with an assertion by Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence, that better, more complete or more useful information might have been gleaned from the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, if he had been subjected to a more intense style of interrogation.

“I’m just not in a position to know the answer to that, senator,” Gates replied. But he did reply, “Yes,” when asked if he thought a special group of more qualified interrogators, members of the High Value Interrogation Group, should have been present.

Nor does Gates want to suggest that there is any hope that we can talk the mullahs out of their nukes. On Iran:

Speaking to reporters in Ankara after meeting with Turkish leaders, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he does not believe that Iran and the West are close to a nuclear deal. “I don’t have the sense that we’re close to an agreement,” Gates told reporters, according to Reuters. “If they are prepared to take up the original proposal of the P-5 plus one of delivering 1,200 kilograms of their low enriched uranium, all at once to an agreed party, I think there would be a response to that,” he added. He described Iran’s response to Obama’s diplomatic outreach as “disappointing.”

But alas, he is part of the administration and voiced the Obama line that the purpose of sanctions would be to get the mullahs back to the table, not to affect regime change.

Gates is unlikely to please either the Left or the Right. The Left would rather that Joe Biden run national-security policy and that the Gates position on Afghanistan had been rejected. They smarted as he fuzzed up the 18-month deadline that Obama had thrown to the Left as a consolation prize. Conservatives would certainly prefer he not make excuses for cuts in missile defense and be more critical of Holder’s serial follies. But those conservatives who expect more of Gates should ask themselves: would the administration’s national-security policy be worse without him? The answer, I would suggest, is almost certainly yes. So the Gates minuet continues.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is perpetually walking a tightrope. He is, after all, a member of the president’s cabinet, and if he wants to remain so, he must display loyalty and hew to administration policy. But he indisputably has little patience for the notion that we can endear ourselves to Islamic fascists or Iranian despots. His department is, unlike the rest of the federal government, on a strict budget, so he must make the most of what limited funds he has. And in all this, he is incapable of lying. So we have a series of pained but telling comments from him.

After the announced decision to deploy 30,000-plus troops to Afghanistan (a position he favored), it was up to Gates (along with Hillary Clinton) to soft-pedal the 18-month deadline. He took to the talk shows and Congressional hearings to assure everyone that Obama didn’t really mean a fixed deadline and that we’d of course stick it out to achieve our aims, relying on conditions on the ground.

On the Mirandizing of the Christmas Day bomber, he would only say this was Eric Holder’s call. And while he was careful not to slam his cabinet colleague, in an exchange with Sen. John McCain, he left little doubt about what he thought of the decision:

Gates said “I think we did not have the high-level interrogators there that we now have protocols in place” to assure their presence. But he added: “I believe that a team of highly experienced FBI and other interrogators could be as effective in interrogating the prisoner as anyone operating under the (Army) field manual.”

McCain asked Gates if he agreed with an assertion by Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence, that better, more complete or more useful information might have been gleaned from the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, if he had been subjected to a more intense style of interrogation.

“I’m just not in a position to know the answer to that, senator,” Gates replied. But he did reply, “Yes,” when asked if he thought a special group of more qualified interrogators, members of the High Value Interrogation Group, should have been present.

Nor does Gates want to suggest that there is any hope that we can talk the mullahs out of their nukes. On Iran:

Speaking to reporters in Ankara after meeting with Turkish leaders, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he does not believe that Iran and the West are close to a nuclear deal. “I don’t have the sense that we’re close to an agreement,” Gates told reporters, according to Reuters. “If they are prepared to take up the original proposal of the P-5 plus one of delivering 1,200 kilograms of their low enriched uranium, all at once to an agreed party, I think there would be a response to that,” he added. He described Iran’s response to Obama’s diplomatic outreach as “disappointing.”

But alas, he is part of the administration and voiced the Obama line that the purpose of sanctions would be to get the mullahs back to the table, not to affect regime change.

Gates is unlikely to please either the Left or the Right. The Left would rather that Joe Biden run national-security policy and that the Gates position on Afghanistan had been rejected. They smarted as he fuzzed up the 18-month deadline that Obama had thrown to the Left as a consolation prize. Conservatives would certainly prefer he not make excuses for cuts in missile defense and be more critical of Holder’s serial follies. But those conservatives who expect more of Gates should ask themselves: would the administration’s national-security policy be worse without him? The answer, I would suggest, is almost certainly yes. So the Gates minuet continues.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Sen. Richard Shelby’s hold on all Obama nominees to get his pork is getting slammed from all sides. For starters, it takes the focus off the truly egregious nominees (e.g., Dawn Johnsen, Harold Craig Becker).

And he’s done a bang-up job of giving the White House a rare moment on the high ground. “The White House on Friday shot back at Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) who recently took the unusual step of placing a blanket hold on all of the administration’s nominees. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer accused Shelby of seeking political gain in preventing the government from doing its job.”

But it remains gloom and doom for Democrats at the DNC meeting: “In regional meetings and in the hallways of the downtown hotel where they were meeting, DNC members voiced frustration about their fortunes and, with a measure of urgency, plotted about how best to navigate through what is shaping up to be one of their most difficult election cycles in recent history. Some party officials sought to ward off complacency with pointed reminders about just how perilous this year could be.”

David Broder notes that there was no follow-up by the White House after the televised question-and-answer time with House Republicans, which suggests to Broder that “the president and his people may not realize the degree to which Republican frustration with Pelosi’s management of the House has created opportunities for Obama — if he is willing to engage as directly as he did in his Illinois Senate days.” Or maybe the whole question-and-answer routine was just more spin, and Obama has no intention of altering his far-Left agenda.

John Yoo takes Obama to task: “Obama believes the president should lead a revolution in society, the economy, and the political system, but defer on national security and foreign policy to the other branches of government. This upends the Framers’ vision of the presidency. They thought the chief executive’s powers would expand broadly to meet external challenges while playing a modest role at home.”

Back in September, the Los Angeles Times called on Eric Holder to come clean on the New Black Panther Party case. Now the Providence Journal turns up the heat: “Instead of letting questions fester about a potentially troublesome matter, the Obama administration should come clean about its decision to dismiss a case involving what looked like racist voter intimidation in 2008. Then, hopefully, everyone can move on. …The Justice Department may enforce our laws, but it is not above them. Instead of stonewalling, it should share with the public who made this decision to drop the case, and why.”

The State of the Union bounce seems to have faded: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 26% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove which Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -15. That matches the President’s ratings just before the State-of-the-Union Address.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand might be asked why the repeal of the Bush tax cuts is good for her state: “Federal income-tax rates in the top brackets will be restored to their pre-2001 levels next year, the Bush-era cuts in capital gains and dividend taxes will be partially reversed, and itemized deductions for high-income filers (including deductions for state and local taxes) will be curtailed. If all of this comes to pass, it will spell trouble for the New York state budget for a simple reason: New York’s finances are balanced on a narrow pinnacle of high-income households, and higher federal taxes drive top-earning New Yorkers to lower their overall tax burdens by sheltering incomes, earning less, or moving to lower-tax states.”

Jonathan Chait calls Jamie Gorelick a “corrupt hack” for lobbying for lenders who don’t want the federal government to drive them out of the student loan business. Conservatives may not agree with the reason, but the conclusion — “cross Gorelick off the list of Democrats suitable to hold office” — is one that will get bipartisan support.

Sen. Richard Shelby’s hold on all Obama nominees to get his pork is getting slammed from all sides. For starters, it takes the focus off the truly egregious nominees (e.g., Dawn Johnsen, Harold Craig Becker).

And he’s done a bang-up job of giving the White House a rare moment on the high ground. “The White House on Friday shot back at Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) who recently took the unusual step of placing a blanket hold on all of the administration’s nominees. White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer accused Shelby of seeking political gain in preventing the government from doing its job.”

But it remains gloom and doom for Democrats at the DNC meeting: “In regional meetings and in the hallways of the downtown hotel where they were meeting, DNC members voiced frustration about their fortunes and, with a measure of urgency, plotted about how best to navigate through what is shaping up to be one of their most difficult election cycles in recent history. Some party officials sought to ward off complacency with pointed reminders about just how perilous this year could be.”

David Broder notes that there was no follow-up by the White House after the televised question-and-answer time with House Republicans, which suggests to Broder that “the president and his people may not realize the degree to which Republican frustration with Pelosi’s management of the House has created opportunities for Obama — if he is willing to engage as directly as he did in his Illinois Senate days.” Or maybe the whole question-and-answer routine was just more spin, and Obama has no intention of altering his far-Left agenda.

John Yoo takes Obama to task: “Obama believes the president should lead a revolution in society, the economy, and the political system, but defer on national security and foreign policy to the other branches of government. This upends the Framers’ vision of the presidency. They thought the chief executive’s powers would expand broadly to meet external challenges while playing a modest role at home.”

Back in September, the Los Angeles Times called on Eric Holder to come clean on the New Black Panther Party case. Now the Providence Journal turns up the heat: “Instead of letting questions fester about a potentially troublesome matter, the Obama administration should come clean about its decision to dismiss a case involving what looked like racist voter intimidation in 2008. Then, hopefully, everyone can move on. …The Justice Department may enforce our laws, but it is not above them. Instead of stonewalling, it should share with the public who made this decision to drop the case, and why.”

The State of the Union bounce seems to have faded: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Saturday shows that 26% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-one percent (41%) Strongly Disapprove which Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -15. That matches the President’s ratings just before the State-of-the-Union Address.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand might be asked why the repeal of the Bush tax cuts is good for her state: “Federal income-tax rates in the top brackets will be restored to their pre-2001 levels next year, the Bush-era cuts in capital gains and dividend taxes will be partially reversed, and itemized deductions for high-income filers (including deductions for state and local taxes) will be curtailed. If all of this comes to pass, it will spell trouble for the New York state budget for a simple reason: New York’s finances are balanced on a narrow pinnacle of high-income households, and higher federal taxes drive top-earning New Yorkers to lower their overall tax burdens by sheltering incomes, earning less, or moving to lower-tax states.”

Jonathan Chait calls Jamie Gorelick a “corrupt hack” for lobbying for lenders who don’t want the federal government to drive them out of the student loan business. Conservatives may not agree with the reason, but the conclusion — “cross Gorelick off the list of Democrats suitable to hold office” — is one that will get bipartisan support.

Read Less




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