Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 11, 2010

Iran to the UN Human Rights Council?!

You think the UN can’t become more of a farce? You think the Obami can’t look any sillier for showing deference to the three-ring circus, most particularly the UN Human Rights Council? Think again. Claudia Rosett tells us:

While Iran’s regime bloodies its dissidents, the nuclear weapons-loving mullahs are seeking a treat for themselves at the United Nations: Iran is running for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. Utterly perverse though it would be, Iran might snag that prize. The 47 seats on the Geneva-based Human Rights Council are parceled out among regional groups of UN member states. This year the Asian bloc has four seats opening up. Five contenders have stepped forward: Malaysia, Maldives, Qatar, Thailand—and Iran.

Why, how special that would be! As Rosett observes, “If Iran’s government wins a seat on this council, it would send a horrifying message to Iranian dissidents. They have been enduring mass arrests, beatings and murders in their quest for genuine human rights inside Iran.” And one can only imagine the new stream of Israel-bashing and anti-American venom that would spew forth should Tehran capture a seat.

But this is what comes from extending recognition to a murderous regime—one must then accept it as the legitimate representative of a member of the “international community.” And when one combines that with the fiction that the UN Human Rights Council is actually about human rights, then one winds up in the perverse world in which Ahmadinejad gets to pronounce on human rights and introduce all manner of resolutions that almost certainly will not be aimed at regimes that steal away protesters in the middle of the night, or at those those nations that turn a blind eye to honor killings, but rather to Israel, of course.

This development—indeed the potential of this ever coming to pass—should remind us how inept and foolhardy has been Obama’s engagement policy as well as his decision to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council. Rosett notes that on February 15, a report detailing Iran’s atrocities will come before the Council along with the mullahs’ own “Orwellian” report “claiming metiulous respect for human rights, as redefined by Tehran’s lights—arguing that because ‘the system of government in Iran is based on principles of Islam, it is necessary that Islamic standards and criteria prevail in society.’” It is a preview of things to come.

And from the Obami, can we expect robust opposition to Iran’s membership, a principled walk-out should Iran secure its seat, and a re-statement of our determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapon? No, no! That would only send the democracy protesters rushing into the arms of the regime and fritter away all the goodwill we have racked up (doing nothing to aid them), don’t you see? Welcome to the Alice-in-Wonderland diplomacy of the Obami. Feel safer yet?

You think the UN can’t become more of a farce? You think the Obami can’t look any sillier for showing deference to the three-ring circus, most particularly the UN Human Rights Council? Think again. Claudia Rosett tells us:

While Iran’s regime bloodies its dissidents, the nuclear weapons-loving mullahs are seeking a treat for themselves at the United Nations: Iran is running for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. Utterly perverse though it would be, Iran might snag that prize. The 47 seats on the Geneva-based Human Rights Council are parceled out among regional groups of UN member states. This year the Asian bloc has four seats opening up. Five contenders have stepped forward: Malaysia, Maldives, Qatar, Thailand—and Iran.

Why, how special that would be! As Rosett observes, “If Iran’s government wins a seat on this council, it would send a horrifying message to Iranian dissidents. They have been enduring mass arrests, beatings and murders in their quest for genuine human rights inside Iran.” And one can only imagine the new stream of Israel-bashing and anti-American venom that would spew forth should Tehran capture a seat.

But this is what comes from extending recognition to a murderous regime—one must then accept it as the legitimate representative of a member of the “international community.” And when one combines that with the fiction that the UN Human Rights Council is actually about human rights, then one winds up in the perverse world in which Ahmadinejad gets to pronounce on human rights and introduce all manner of resolutions that almost certainly will not be aimed at regimes that steal away protesters in the middle of the night, or at those those nations that turn a blind eye to honor killings, but rather to Israel, of course.

This development—indeed the potential of this ever coming to pass—should remind us how inept and foolhardy has been Obama’s engagement policy as well as his decision to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council. Rosett notes that on February 15, a report detailing Iran’s atrocities will come before the Council along with the mullahs’ own “Orwellian” report “claiming metiulous respect for human rights, as redefined by Tehran’s lights—arguing that because ‘the system of government in Iran is based on principles of Islam, it is necessary that Islamic standards and criteria prevail in society.’” It is a preview of things to come.

And from the Obami, can we expect robust opposition to Iran’s membership, a principled walk-out should Iran secure its seat, and a re-statement of our determination to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapon? No, no! That would only send the democracy protesters rushing into the arms of the regime and fritter away all the goodwill we have racked up (doing nothing to aid them), don’t you see? Welcome to the Alice-in-Wonderland diplomacy of the Obami. Feel safer yet?

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No, Goldstone Is Not a Threat to the Democracies

Peter Berkowitz, a commentator I admire greatly, has a piece at NRO that criticizes the “astonishing attempt to shift power from sovereign states to international institutions” being undertaken by the NGO/international-law community. It’s an excellent analysis, and Berkowitz has been doing important work on the subject, but I have one quibble:

It would be a mistake to think that Israel’s lawyerly self-defense is of purely legal interest. This battle reflects a continuation of war and politics by other means. Indeed, the battle is fraught with weighty implications for all liberal democracies struggling against transnational terrorists.

This point has been made by many people, including the Israeli government itself, and it is a form of the old adage that “first they came for Israel, and I did not speak out because I am not an Israeli.” But I don’t think it’s true in this case. If “lawfare,” as it’s known, were truly a danger to powerful democratic nations, there would be more done to push back against it. Instead, what we see today is democratic nations that pay lip service to its tenets, safe in the knowledge that, while carrying few downsides, endorsing the abstract concepts of international law wins approval from the self-appointed arbiters of international virtue.

This is a war that probably will never spread to the great powers or even to the medium powers. For lawfare to work, several conditions have to be met. The target of lawfare must be: 1) a small and diplomatically weak nation; 2) a democracy whose citizens desire international acceptance; 3) a country surrounded by enemies that force it to fight frequent and indecisive wars, providing a constant supply of fresh “evidence” of criminality.

There is really only one country that meets these conditions — Israel. The U.S. is far too powerful to allow a Richard Goldstone to even bite at its ankles. Indeed, the U.S. has been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for almost a decade, and nothing close to a Goldstone Report has been produced. The Russians and Chinese could care less about “international humanitarian law” (Grozny, anyone?), and more important, the IHL fetishists have never been passionate about campaigning against non-Western nations. As Charles Jacobs pointed out several years ago, “To predict what the human rights community (and the media) focus on, look not at the oppressed; look instead at the party seen as the oppressor.”

Lawfare, as I’ve been saying lately, is not about law or ethics. If it were, its proponents would be vastly more scrupulous and reputable than they are. Lawfare is about power, specifically the attempt by a group of political radicals who have very little power to gain it in the only way they can — by negating sovereignty and pursuing a Gulliver strategy that only has a chance of working against small, embattled countries. The United States probably won’t pay that much attention to this fight, because the United States doesn’t have much to fear from it.

Peter Berkowitz, a commentator I admire greatly, has a piece at NRO that criticizes the “astonishing attempt to shift power from sovereign states to international institutions” being undertaken by the NGO/international-law community. It’s an excellent analysis, and Berkowitz has been doing important work on the subject, but I have one quibble:

It would be a mistake to think that Israel’s lawyerly self-defense is of purely legal interest. This battle reflects a continuation of war and politics by other means. Indeed, the battle is fraught with weighty implications for all liberal democracies struggling against transnational terrorists.

This point has been made by many people, including the Israeli government itself, and it is a form of the old adage that “first they came for Israel, and I did not speak out because I am not an Israeli.” But I don’t think it’s true in this case. If “lawfare,” as it’s known, were truly a danger to powerful democratic nations, there would be more done to push back against it. Instead, what we see today is democratic nations that pay lip service to its tenets, safe in the knowledge that, while carrying few downsides, endorsing the abstract concepts of international law wins approval from the self-appointed arbiters of international virtue.

This is a war that probably will never spread to the great powers or even to the medium powers. For lawfare to work, several conditions have to be met. The target of lawfare must be: 1) a small and diplomatically weak nation; 2) a democracy whose citizens desire international acceptance; 3) a country surrounded by enemies that force it to fight frequent and indecisive wars, providing a constant supply of fresh “evidence” of criminality.

There is really only one country that meets these conditions — Israel. The U.S. is far too powerful to allow a Richard Goldstone to even bite at its ankles. Indeed, the U.S. has been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for almost a decade, and nothing close to a Goldstone Report has been produced. The Russians and Chinese could care less about “international humanitarian law” (Grozny, anyone?), and more important, the IHL fetishists have never been passionate about campaigning against non-Western nations. As Charles Jacobs pointed out several years ago, “To predict what the human rights community (and the media) focus on, look not at the oppressed; look instead at the party seen as the oppressor.”

Lawfare, as I’ve been saying lately, is not about law or ethics. If it were, its proponents would be vastly more scrupulous and reputable than they are. Lawfare is about power, specifically the attempt by a group of political radicals who have very little power to gain it in the only way they can — by negating sovereignty and pursuing a Gulliver strategy that only has a chance of working against small, embattled countries. The United States probably won’t pay that much attention to this fight, because the United States doesn’t have much to fear from it.

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Another Approach to Iran

While the Obami fritter away time, dreaming up new excuses to do nothing on Iran, more responsible officials are moving forward. Today Sens. John Cornyn, John McCain, Joseph Lieberman, Richard Durbin, Jon Kyl, Evan Bayh, Susan Collins, Robert Casey. Lindsey Graham, Kristen Gillibrand, Sam Brownback, Ted Kaufman, and David Vitter announced legislation to support the Iranian opposition’s efforts to take down the regime of Ali Hoseyni Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In a statement, Cornyn and Brownback explained that the bill will “establish a program of direct assistance for the Iranian people and would help pave the way for a freely elected, open and democratic government in Iran. The Iran Democratic Transition Act would not only send a strong message of support to the Iranian people during this difficult time, it would also provide tangible resources needed to establish a democratic system in Iran in the near future.”

For starters, the bill will delineate the ”Iranian regime’s human rights abuses, clear support of terrorism, pursuit of nuclear weapons, and belligerent rhetoric regarding attacks on both Israel and the United States.” Instead of mutely bearing witness, the U.S. government would help publicize the regime’s atrocities.

The bill would also stipulate full and public U.S. support of the Iranian people’s efforts to oppose and remove the current regime and transition to a freely elected, open, and democratic government. Furthermore, the bill would announce it is  U.S. policy to deny the current Iranian regime the ability to: oppress the people of Iran; finance and support terrorists; interfere with the internal affairs of neighbors (including Iraq and Afghanistan); and develop weapons of mass destruction.

The bill also authorizes the president to provide non-military assistance to Iranian democratic opposition organizations and to victims of the current regime. It would create an ambassador-level position of “Special Envoy for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran” to promote and support Iranian democracy and human rights. And the bill would suggest the ”possibility of a multilateral and regional initiative to protect human rights, modeled after the Helsinki process established by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.”

It will be interesting to see the Obami’s reaction to this piece of legislation. Are they interested in aiding democratic activists, or are they committed to not rocking the boat? Do they have the nerve to document the specific Iranian human-rights atrocities, or would they prefer to say as little as possible? This will also test private groups. I’ll take a wild guess that J Street will not be thrilled by this approach.

There is reason to question whether anything short of military action can stop the Iranian regime at this point, but getting on the right side of history, re-establishing our moral leadership, and giving regime change a chance is a very good place to start.

UPDATE: I have updated the above to include the full list of co-sponsors. Sen. Joseph Lieberman made this noteworthy comment: “Just as the Iranian government is violating its responsibilities under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, it is likewise in flagrant breach of multiple international agreements it has signed that require it to respect the human rights of its own citizens. As the Iranian people risk their lives to demand the justice and freedom they deserve in the face of this lawless and oppressive regime, they should know that America is on their side.”

While the Obami fritter away time, dreaming up new excuses to do nothing on Iran, more responsible officials are moving forward. Today Sens. John Cornyn, John McCain, Joseph Lieberman, Richard Durbin, Jon Kyl, Evan Bayh, Susan Collins, Robert Casey. Lindsey Graham, Kristen Gillibrand, Sam Brownback, Ted Kaufman, and David Vitter announced legislation to support the Iranian opposition’s efforts to take down the regime of Ali Hoseyni Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In a statement, Cornyn and Brownback explained that the bill will “establish a program of direct assistance for the Iranian people and would help pave the way for a freely elected, open and democratic government in Iran. The Iran Democratic Transition Act would not only send a strong message of support to the Iranian people during this difficult time, it would also provide tangible resources needed to establish a democratic system in Iran in the near future.”

For starters, the bill will delineate the ”Iranian regime’s human rights abuses, clear support of terrorism, pursuit of nuclear weapons, and belligerent rhetoric regarding attacks on both Israel and the United States.” Instead of mutely bearing witness, the U.S. government would help publicize the regime’s atrocities.

The bill would also stipulate full and public U.S. support of the Iranian people’s efforts to oppose and remove the current regime and transition to a freely elected, open, and democratic government. Furthermore, the bill would announce it is  U.S. policy to deny the current Iranian regime the ability to: oppress the people of Iran; finance and support terrorists; interfere with the internal affairs of neighbors (including Iraq and Afghanistan); and develop weapons of mass destruction.

The bill also authorizes the president to provide non-military assistance to Iranian democratic opposition organizations and to victims of the current regime. It would create an ambassador-level position of “Special Envoy for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran” to promote and support Iranian democracy and human rights. And the bill would suggest the ”possibility of a multilateral and regional initiative to protect human rights, modeled after the Helsinki process established by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.”

It will be interesting to see the Obami’s reaction to this piece of legislation. Are they interested in aiding democratic activists, or are they committed to not rocking the boat? Do they have the nerve to document the specific Iranian human-rights atrocities, or would they prefer to say as little as possible? This will also test private groups. I’ll take a wild guess that J Street will not be thrilled by this approach.

There is reason to question whether anything short of military action can stop the Iranian regime at this point, but getting on the right side of history, re-establishing our moral leadership, and giving regime change a chance is a very good place to start.

UPDATE: I have updated the above to include the full list of co-sponsors. Sen. Joseph Lieberman made this noteworthy comment: “Just as the Iranian government is violating its responsibilities under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, it is likewise in flagrant breach of multiple international agreements it has signed that require it to respect the human rights of its own citizens. As the Iranian people risk their lives to demand the justice and freedom they deserve in the face of this lawless and oppressive regime, they should know that America is on their side.”

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The Repulsive Politics of Tom Tancredo

I consider the Tea Party movement to be, on balance, a positive force in American politics. It is a spontaneous and fully justified response to the reckless policies, the fiscal ones in particular, of the Obama administration. It is comprised of admirable and civic-minded Americans. And as Ramesh Ponnuru and Kate O’Beirne point out in National Review, it is, for the GOP, an opportunity rather than a threat.

But it is a movement, like many movements, that carries with it some risks. This weekend we learned, for example, that some Tea Party members are apparently receptive to appeals from the worst angels of our nature. I have in mind the comments at last week’s Tea Party Convention by former Representative Tom Tancredo, who told a cheering audience that “people who could not even spell the word ‘vote’ or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House. His name is Barack Hussein Obama.” The reason we elected “Barack Hussein Obama,” Tancredo went on, is “mostly because I think that we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country.”

This is ugly (to say nothing of stupid and ignorant) stuff. It is the manifestation of a person filled with rage and obsessions, bitter and brittle, eager to play to people’s worst instincts. Tancredo — who was a Member of the House of Representatives and ran for president in 2008 — should be condemned by all Republicans who believe that such an individual does not represent the GOP, which, after all, is the party of Lincoln and Reagan. It is inconceivable that either man on his worst day would utter anything remotely this offensive. Both Lincoln and Reagan were politicians of conviction, whose words and conduct were most often marked by grace and civility, who came across as irenic rather than enraged. They were, in other words, the polar opposite of Mr. Tancredo.

There are plenty of legitimate ways to criticize President Obama and his agenda. Leave it to Tom Tancredo to cross the line, not by inches but by miles.

No party, and no movement, should provide a home or a platform to a man who practices this kind of repulsive politics.

I consider the Tea Party movement to be, on balance, a positive force in American politics. It is a spontaneous and fully justified response to the reckless policies, the fiscal ones in particular, of the Obama administration. It is comprised of admirable and civic-minded Americans. And as Ramesh Ponnuru and Kate O’Beirne point out in National Review, it is, for the GOP, an opportunity rather than a threat.

But it is a movement, like many movements, that carries with it some risks. This weekend we learned, for example, that some Tea Party members are apparently receptive to appeals from the worst angels of our nature. I have in mind the comments at last week’s Tea Party Convention by former Representative Tom Tancredo, who told a cheering audience that “people who could not even spell the word ‘vote’ or say it in English put a committed socialist ideologue in the White House. His name is Barack Hussein Obama.” The reason we elected “Barack Hussein Obama,” Tancredo went on, is “mostly because I think that we do not have a civics literacy test before people can vote in this country.”

This is ugly (to say nothing of stupid and ignorant) stuff. It is the manifestation of a person filled with rage and obsessions, bitter and brittle, eager to play to people’s worst instincts. Tancredo — who was a Member of the House of Representatives and ran for president in 2008 — should be condemned by all Republicans who believe that such an individual does not represent the GOP, which, after all, is the party of Lincoln and Reagan. It is inconceivable that either man on his worst day would utter anything remotely this offensive. Both Lincoln and Reagan were politicians of conviction, whose words and conduct were most often marked by grace and civility, who came across as irenic rather than enraged. They were, in other words, the polar opposite of Mr. Tancredo.

There are plenty of legitimate ways to criticize President Obama and his agenda. Leave it to Tom Tancredo to cross the line, not by inches but by miles.

No party, and no movement, should provide a home or a platform to a man who practices this kind of repulsive politics.

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Iraq, One of the Great Achievements of This Administration?

I wanted to add my thoughts to those of Jen and Max, made in response to Vice President Biden’s claim that Iraq “could be one of the great achievements of this administration.”

Come again? This administration? Even for the Obama administration, this is a rather audacious claim. To begin with, “this administration” is comprised of people — most especially Messrs. Obama and Biden — who opposed the surge at every point, who said it would make things worse rather than better, and who would have given up on the Iraq war at the very time when things were beginning to turn around in our favor. [I have documented Obama and Biden's records here and here.]

If Obama and Biden had had their way, they would have engineered an epic American military loss. They would have handed jihadists their most important victory ever. And in Iraq mass death, and quite probably genocide, would have followed.

It was also the previous administration, not the Obama administration, which is responsible for the Status of Forces agreement that is unwinding, in a responsible way, American involvement in Iraq.

More important, the success we’re experiencing in Iraq is due above all to the most remarkable fighting force in the world: the United States military; to commanders like David Petraeus, who implemented a new strategy when it was clear the old one was failing; and to the Iraqis themselves, who are taking impressive, if halting, steps toward self-government.

I’m pleased that the Obama administration, having been handed a situation in Iraq that on every front was getting better, has decided to embrace that success. But to claim they are responsible for it is a bit hard to take. It’s wonderful news if the town prostitute converts; but she should not immediately insist on being credited for the purity of her life or author a book on the virtues of modesty.

Before Biden and Obama claim credit for the success in Iraq, perhaps they can admit — in the honest, transparent, “new politics” way they had promised — that they were wrong. Perhaps they can admit to us how flawed their counsel on the surge was, how massive the damage would have been if we had followed their counsel, and what was at the root of their errors in judgment.

If we are going to have a discussion about Iraq, let’s make it an honest one.

It is quite a thing to behold — Obama and Biden incessantly blaming Bush for problems of their own making while at the same time claiming credit for things they opposed and Bush brought to pass. There is a through-the-looking-glass quality to all of this. Such things have a way of catching up to an administration, as we’re seeing day by day, poll by poll, and election by election.

I wanted to add my thoughts to those of Jen and Max, made in response to Vice President Biden’s claim that Iraq “could be one of the great achievements of this administration.”

Come again? This administration? Even for the Obama administration, this is a rather audacious claim. To begin with, “this administration” is comprised of people — most especially Messrs. Obama and Biden — who opposed the surge at every point, who said it would make things worse rather than better, and who would have given up on the Iraq war at the very time when things were beginning to turn around in our favor. [I have documented Obama and Biden's records here and here.]

If Obama and Biden had had their way, they would have engineered an epic American military loss. They would have handed jihadists their most important victory ever. And in Iraq mass death, and quite probably genocide, would have followed.

It was also the previous administration, not the Obama administration, which is responsible for the Status of Forces agreement that is unwinding, in a responsible way, American involvement in Iraq.

More important, the success we’re experiencing in Iraq is due above all to the most remarkable fighting force in the world: the United States military; to commanders like David Petraeus, who implemented a new strategy when it was clear the old one was failing; and to the Iraqis themselves, who are taking impressive, if halting, steps toward self-government.

I’m pleased that the Obama administration, having been handed a situation in Iraq that on every front was getting better, has decided to embrace that success. But to claim they are responsible for it is a bit hard to take. It’s wonderful news if the town prostitute converts; but she should not immediately insist on being credited for the purity of her life or author a book on the virtues of modesty.

Before Biden and Obama claim credit for the success in Iraq, perhaps they can admit — in the honest, transparent, “new politics” way they had promised — that they were wrong. Perhaps they can admit to us how flawed their counsel on the surge was, how massive the damage would have been if we had followed their counsel, and what was at the root of their errors in judgment.

If we are going to have a discussion about Iraq, let’s make it an honest one.

It is quite a thing to behold — Obama and Biden incessantly blaming Bush for problems of their own making while at the same time claiming credit for things they opposed and Bush brought to pass. There is a through-the-looking-glass quality to all of this. Such things have a way of catching up to an administration, as we’re seeing day by day, poll by poll, and election by election.

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Assassination, Spielberg-Style

I have no idea whether these details, reported in Haaretz, about the assassination last month in Dubai of Hamas honcho Mahmoud al-Mabhouh are accurate, but they certainly sound plausible. Citing a Paris-based intelligence journal, Haaretz reports:

One of the female agents dressed herself in the uniform of a reception clerk at Al Bustan Rotana, the hotel where Mabhouh was staying, and then knocked on his door.

When he opened it her fellow operatives rushed him and stunned him with an electric device, the journal said, then they injected poison into his veins, in order to disguise the cause of death.

All 10 agents carried European passports, the journal said.

Sounds like something out of Munich, the 2005 Steven Spielberg movie that presented a fictionalized account of how Israeli agents hunted down and killed members of the Black September organization responsible for the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Spielberg put a spin of moral equivalence on the operation, with Mossad agents worrying that they were becoming as bad as the Palestinian terrorists. That’s ridiculous. Members of terrorist organizations are legitimate targets for elimination — whether they are killed by Predators over Pakistan or by hit teams in Dubai. If Mossad was indeed responsible for Mabhouh’s demise, it deserves the thanks of all civilized countries. Such targeted killings won’t eliminate the threat from Hamas, but they will certainly help to diminish, at least in the short-term, that odious organization’s capacities for mayhem.

I have no idea whether these details, reported in Haaretz, about the assassination last month in Dubai of Hamas honcho Mahmoud al-Mabhouh are accurate, but they certainly sound plausible. Citing a Paris-based intelligence journal, Haaretz reports:

One of the female agents dressed herself in the uniform of a reception clerk at Al Bustan Rotana, the hotel where Mabhouh was staying, and then knocked on his door.

When he opened it her fellow operatives rushed him and stunned him with an electric device, the journal said, then they injected poison into his veins, in order to disguise the cause of death.

All 10 agents carried European passports, the journal said.

Sounds like something out of Munich, the 2005 Steven Spielberg movie that presented a fictionalized account of how Israeli agents hunted down and killed members of the Black September organization responsible for the murder of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Spielberg put a spin of moral equivalence on the operation, with Mossad agents worrying that they were becoming as bad as the Palestinian terrorists. That’s ridiculous. Members of terrorist organizations are legitimate targets for elimination — whether they are killed by Predators over Pakistan or by hit teams in Dubai. If Mossad was indeed responsible for Mabhouh’s demise, it deserves the thanks of all civilized countries. Such targeted killings won’t eliminate the threat from Hamas, but they will certainly help to diminish, at least in the short-term, that odious organization’s capacities for mayhem.

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Obama Can’t Decide — Again

Obama declares himself agnostic on a key campaign promise and the most important economic call he will make this year:

President Barack Obama said he is “agnostic” about raising taxes on households making less than $250,000 as part of a broad effort to rein in the budget deficit.

Obama, in a Feb. 9 Oval Office interview, said that a presidential commission on the budget needs to consider all options for reducing the deficit, including tax increases and cuts in spending on entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

“The whole point of it is to make sure that all ideas are on the table,” the president said in the interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which will appear on newsstands Friday. “So what I want to do is to be completely agnostic, in terms of solutions.”

It is rather typical of him. We have come to expect a lack of policy definition, an unwillingness to make hard choices (you really do have to be for or against letting tax rates rise — it’s not a “false” choice), a cluelessness regarding the economic impact of his policies or the uncertainty they are generating, and a conceited self-portrait as a president unbound by ideology. He wants to know what works? He should look at the revenue generated by the Reagan and Bush tax cuts. He wants to know what would work to cut the deficit? Cancel the spending increases and roll back expenditures to 2007 levels.

It is not that hard — unless you find choosing, governing, and leading hard. And then the Hamlet-routine and the seeming indifference to fundamental policy decisions makes him appear craven and irresolute. You can sympathize with the Democrats. He is the captain of their ship, the party’s leader, and his best answer is “I don’t know”? The Clintons must be kicking themselves and shouting into pillows. This is the guy they lost to? Yup.

Obama declares himself agnostic on a key campaign promise and the most important economic call he will make this year:

President Barack Obama said he is “agnostic” about raising taxes on households making less than $250,000 as part of a broad effort to rein in the budget deficit.

Obama, in a Feb. 9 Oval Office interview, said that a presidential commission on the budget needs to consider all options for reducing the deficit, including tax increases and cuts in spending on entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

“The whole point of it is to make sure that all ideas are on the table,” the president said in the interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which will appear on newsstands Friday. “So what I want to do is to be completely agnostic, in terms of solutions.”

It is rather typical of him. We have come to expect a lack of policy definition, an unwillingness to make hard choices (you really do have to be for or against letting tax rates rise — it’s not a “false” choice), a cluelessness regarding the economic impact of his policies or the uncertainty they are generating, and a conceited self-portrait as a president unbound by ideology. He wants to know what works? He should look at the revenue generated by the Reagan and Bush tax cuts. He wants to know what would work to cut the deficit? Cancel the spending increases and roll back expenditures to 2007 levels.

It is not that hard — unless you find choosing, governing, and leading hard. And then the Hamlet-routine and the seeming indifference to fundamental policy decisions makes him appear craven and irresolute. You can sympathize with the Democrats. He is the captain of their ship, the party’s leader, and his best answer is “I don’t know”? The Clintons must be kicking themselves and shouting into pillows. This is the guy they lost to? Yup.

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Ukraine Facing Crossroads

As Tim Garten Ash notes, the victory of Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine’s presidential election is not good news — but neither is it necessarily a cause for despair. Granted, Yanukovych is a buffoon with a record of violent crime (as a young man) and more recently, of electoral crime — his attempt to steal the 2004 election ignited the Orange Revolution. However, the courageous Viktor Yuschchenko, who was poisoned for having the temerity to contest electoral fraud, turned out to be a lousy president, allowing Yanukovych to make a comeback by narrowly defeating the beautiful, if divisive, prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, whose refusal to concede defeat bespeaks a lack of class. Still, as Ash notes, while “Yanukovych will seek a close relationship with Russia,… there is no evidence that the oligarchs behind him want Ukraine to cease being an independent country.” In fact Yanukovych is committed, at least rhetorically, to continuing Ukraine’s integration into Europe. The problem is that it takes two to integrate and the EU, suffering from enlargement fatigue, has shown a real lack of enthusiasm for admitting Ukraine. That attitude needs to change; otherwise the gains of the Orange Revolution could easily be undone.

The broader picture is that the global march of freedom has been stopped and partially reversed over the past few years. Freedom House reports: “For the fourth consecutive year, global declines in freedom outweighed gains in 2009, as measured by Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, Freedom in the World 2010. This represents the longest continuous period of decline for global freedom in the nearly 40-year history of the report.”

Such reversals are to be expected: the path of progress is never smooth or easy and there will be zigzags en route. But they are certainly a cause for concern, especially because President Obama has not made the advancement of human rights and freedom a priority for his administration. Today, even while brave Iranians are protesting against the brutal dictatorship under which they live, the administration is refusing to adopt tough sanctions on Iran’s imports of refined petroleum and is not doing much publicly to support the demonstrators. It is not only the EU that needs a bigger commitment to the advancement of liberty; so does the U.S. under our neo-Realpolitiker president.

As Tim Garten Ash notes, the victory of Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine’s presidential election is not good news — but neither is it necessarily a cause for despair. Granted, Yanukovych is a buffoon with a record of violent crime (as a young man) and more recently, of electoral crime — his attempt to steal the 2004 election ignited the Orange Revolution. However, the courageous Viktor Yuschchenko, who was poisoned for having the temerity to contest electoral fraud, turned out to be a lousy president, allowing Yanukovych to make a comeback by narrowly defeating the beautiful, if divisive, prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, whose refusal to concede defeat bespeaks a lack of class. Still, as Ash notes, while “Yanukovych will seek a close relationship with Russia,… there is no evidence that the oligarchs behind him want Ukraine to cease being an independent country.” In fact Yanukovych is committed, at least rhetorically, to continuing Ukraine’s integration into Europe. The problem is that it takes two to integrate and the EU, suffering from enlargement fatigue, has shown a real lack of enthusiasm for admitting Ukraine. That attitude needs to change; otherwise the gains of the Orange Revolution could easily be undone.

The broader picture is that the global march of freedom has been stopped and partially reversed over the past few years. Freedom House reports: “For the fourth consecutive year, global declines in freedom outweighed gains in 2009, as measured by Freedom House’s annual survey of political rights and civil liberties, Freedom in the World 2010. This represents the longest continuous period of decline for global freedom in the nearly 40-year history of the report.”

Such reversals are to be expected: the path of progress is never smooth or easy and there will be zigzags en route. But they are certainly a cause for concern, especially because President Obama has not made the advancement of human rights and freedom a priority for his administration. Today, even while brave Iranians are protesting against the brutal dictatorship under which they live, the administration is refusing to adopt tough sanctions on Iran’s imports of refined petroleum and is not doing much publicly to support the demonstrators. It is not only the EU that needs a bigger commitment to the advancement of liberty; so does the U.S. under our neo-Realpolitiker president.

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Obama Loses the Country

Two polls released today give us a peek at the political peril that confronts Obama and the Democrats. Gallup shows him in a statistical tie with a generic Republican opponent in 2012. (Republicans narrowly favor Mitt Romney over Sarah Palin, but the results are within the margin of error.) In short, voters are very open to a change in the Oval Office.

Even more ominous, the Quinnipiac poll reports:

American voters remain deeply divided about President Barack Obama’s job performance, giving him a 45 – 46 percent job approval, but disapproval of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress tops 2-1. This could explain why only 2 percent trust government to do what is right almost all of the time, and 16 percent trust government to do right most of the time, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

In other words, they haven’t embraced his big-government fetish. The details are even worse for the president: by a 54-to-35 percent margin, they oppose ObamaCare; by a 44-to-41 percent margin, they disapprove of his handling of the economy; only 37 percent rate his handling of the deficit as good or excellent; and by a 49-46 percent margin, they oppose ending ”tax cuts for couples earning over $250,000 annually.” Bottom line: they don’t like what he is doing.

These polls are two sides of the same political coin. Obama ran as a moderate, governed as an ultra-liberal, and lost the majority of the country’s support in the process. (Only 40 percent of independents approve of his job performance.) He thinks the problem is a failure to communicate. The problem, however, appears to be that he has communicated all too well his infatuation with growing the size of government and the nation’s debt. He can change or hope the public does. But maybe he’s content to have just one term.

Two polls released today give us a peek at the political peril that confronts Obama and the Democrats. Gallup shows him in a statistical tie with a generic Republican opponent in 2012. (Republicans narrowly favor Mitt Romney over Sarah Palin, but the results are within the margin of error.) In short, voters are very open to a change in the Oval Office.

Even more ominous, the Quinnipiac poll reports:

American voters remain deeply divided about President Barack Obama’s job performance, giving him a 45 – 46 percent job approval, but disapproval of both Democrats and Republicans in Congress tops 2-1. This could explain why only 2 percent trust government to do what is right almost all of the time, and 16 percent trust government to do right most of the time, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

In other words, they haven’t embraced his big-government fetish. The details are even worse for the president: by a 54-to-35 percent margin, they oppose ObamaCare; by a 44-to-41 percent margin, they disapprove of his handling of the economy; only 37 percent rate his handling of the deficit as good or excellent; and by a 49-46 percent margin, they oppose ending ”tax cuts for couples earning over $250,000 annually.” Bottom line: they don’t like what he is doing.

These polls are two sides of the same political coin. Obama ran as a moderate, governed as an ultra-liberal, and lost the majority of the country’s support in the process. (Only 40 percent of independents approve of his job performance.) He thinks the problem is a failure to communicate. The problem, however, appears to be that he has communicated all too well his infatuation with growing the size of government and the nation’s debt. He can change or hope the public does. But maybe he’s content to have just one term.

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Good News on Iraq Is Good News for Two Administrations

The best news I’ve read about Iraq in a while is that, as Jennifer points out, Joe Biden is claiming that “a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government … could be one of the great achievements of this administration.” Some might dismiss this as chutzpah from someone who, like Barack Obama, opposed the surge needed to stabilize the situation in Iraq. But, brazen or not, it’s great to see the Obama administration taking ownership of Iraq and realizing that simply pulling out all our troops can’t be the sole goal of our policy there. We have to make sure that the Iraq we leave behind is stable, secure, and preferably democratic.

Iraq has been making some good progress, though considerable challenges remain — as highlighted in this Times article about a standoff in Tikrit, where Prime Minister Maliki has ordered the army to surround the provincial government building in a dispute over the seating of a new provincial governor. The fact that American troops are on the scene means that the situation is unlikely to veer out of control. To adopt a hockey metaphor, U.S. troops are the refs who ensure that, while some hard-checking and some cheap shots occur, one team doesn’t start beating the other team with their sticks until they’re forced to flee the ice.

That kind of refereeing will be necessary for some time to come, which is why I hope that after a new government is seated in Baghdad following the parliamentary elections, the Obama administration will launch serious negotiations to prolong an American troop presence beyond 2011, the exit deadline negotiated by the Bush administration. U.S. troops, in all likelihood, won’t be needed for combat, and they probably won’t be needed in great numbers — but needed they will be to make sure that Iraq really does represent a “great achievement” of this administration and the one before it.

The best news I’ve read about Iraq in a while is that, as Jennifer points out, Joe Biden is claiming that “a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government … could be one of the great achievements of this administration.” Some might dismiss this as chutzpah from someone who, like Barack Obama, opposed the surge needed to stabilize the situation in Iraq. But, brazen or not, it’s great to see the Obama administration taking ownership of Iraq and realizing that simply pulling out all our troops can’t be the sole goal of our policy there. We have to make sure that the Iraq we leave behind is stable, secure, and preferably democratic.

Iraq has been making some good progress, though considerable challenges remain — as highlighted in this Times article about a standoff in Tikrit, where Prime Minister Maliki has ordered the army to surround the provincial government building in a dispute over the seating of a new provincial governor. The fact that American troops are on the scene means that the situation is unlikely to veer out of control. To adopt a hockey metaphor, U.S. troops are the refs who ensure that, while some hard-checking and some cheap shots occur, one team doesn’t start beating the other team with their sticks until they’re forced to flee the ice.

That kind of refereeing will be necessary for some time to come, which is why I hope that after a new government is seated in Baghdad following the parliamentary elections, the Obama administration will launch serious negotiations to prolong an American troop presence beyond 2011, the exit deadline negotiated by the Bush administration. U.S. troops, in all likelihood, won’t be needed for combat, and they probably won’t be needed in great numbers — but needed they will be to make sure that Iraq really does represent a “great achievement” of this administration and the one before it.

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Re: Charlie Wilson

Jonathan, I second everything you say. I’d only add that there is a vitally important lesson for our own times in the story of Charlie Wilson and Afghanistan. The movie about Wilson’s efforts ends with this line: “These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world. Then we f****d up the endgame.”

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has more recently conveyed a similar sentiment in less colorful terms. “A strategy that does not leave Afghanistan in a stable position is probably a short-sighted strategy.”

The commander in chief’s thoughts on the matter? “I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.”

How does that bode for the endgame issue? In twenty years, another book and movie can hit the market about how we changed the world by destroying the Islamist threat in Afghanistan only to see our efforts undone by a pre-set troop drawdown.

What decimated Afghanistan after the Soviets were pushed out was the lack of American follow-through. Charlie Wilson’s War is not a tragedy of misguided adventurism. It’s the story of heroic enterprise undermined by short-sightedness and political cowardice.

Jonathan, I second everything you say. I’d only add that there is a vitally important lesson for our own times in the story of Charlie Wilson and Afghanistan. The movie about Wilson’s efforts ends with this line: “These things happened. They were glorious and they changed the world. Then we f****d up the endgame.”

Gen. Stanley McChrystal has more recently conveyed a similar sentiment in less colorful terms. “A strategy that does not leave Afghanistan in a stable position is probably a short-sighted strategy.”

The commander in chief’s thoughts on the matter? “I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.”

How does that bode for the endgame issue? In twenty years, another book and movie can hit the market about how we changed the world by destroying the Islamist threat in Afghanistan only to see our efforts undone by a pre-set troop drawdown.

What decimated Afghanistan after the Soviets were pushed out was the lack of American follow-through. Charlie Wilson’s War is not a tragedy of misguided adventurism. It’s the story of heroic enterprise undermined by short-sightedness and political cowardice.

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Some Nerve

Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, the saying goes. Well, we’ve seen that by the bushel-full from the Obami. First, they hide behind George W. Bush’s skirts on the handling of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists (whom, unlike Bush, they can’t bring themselves to call by name). Now they are claiming credit for the triumph of the Iraq war, which they opposed, wrote off as a lost cause, and would have short-circuited amid the screams of genocidal terror. Joe Biden on Larry King Live:

I am very optimistic about — about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration. You’re going to see 90,000 American troops come marching home by the end of the summer. You’re going to see a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government.

I spent — I’ve been there 17 times now. I go about every two months — three months. I know every one of the major players in all of the segments of that society. It’s impressed me. I’ve been impressed how they have been deciding to use the political process rather than guns to settle their differences.

Put aside the Biden-esque self-congratulations and puffery for a moment. It is really remarkable that Obama’s supporters simultaneously claim credit for Bush’s heroic decision to persevere in the war (i.e., to ignore candidate Obama’s call to retreat and candidate Biden’s loopy idea to carve up the country), and yet — while deeming it one of their greatest achievements (well, they have so few others so far) – they won’t refer to it as a victory. It’s the troops’ return home, you see, that is swell.

No, it’s the victory of American troops who emancipated tens of millions of Iraqis from a brutal dictator and freed the region from a destabilizing aggressor. But that would be more “triumphalism,” and we can’t have that. You see America should not be triumphant, but the Obami are free to trumpet this as their own personal accomplishment. Shameless.

Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue, the saying goes. Well, we’ve seen that by the bushel-full from the Obami. First, they hide behind George W. Bush’s skirts on the handling of Islamic fundamentalist terrorists (whom, unlike Bush, they can’t bring themselves to call by name). Now they are claiming credit for the triumph of the Iraq war, which they opposed, wrote off as a lost cause, and would have short-circuited amid the screams of genocidal terror. Joe Biden on Larry King Live:

I am very optimistic about — about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration. You’re going to see 90,000 American troops come marching home by the end of the summer. You’re going to see a stable government in Iraq that is actually moving toward a representative government.

I spent — I’ve been there 17 times now. I go about every two months — three months. I know every one of the major players in all of the segments of that society. It’s impressed me. I’ve been impressed how they have been deciding to use the political process rather than guns to settle their differences.

Put aside the Biden-esque self-congratulations and puffery for a moment. It is really remarkable that Obama’s supporters simultaneously claim credit for Bush’s heroic decision to persevere in the war (i.e., to ignore candidate Obama’s call to retreat and candidate Biden’s loopy idea to carve up the country), and yet — while deeming it one of their greatest achievements (well, they have so few others so far) – they won’t refer to it as a victory. It’s the troops’ return home, you see, that is swell.

No, it’s the victory of American troops who emancipated tens of millions of Iraqis from a brutal dictator and freed the region from a destabilizing aggressor. But that would be more “triumphalism,” and we can’t have that. You see America should not be triumphant, but the Obami are free to trumpet this as their own personal accomplishment. Shameless.

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Baloney Meets the Grinder

Martin Kramer proves beyond any reasonable doubt that Stephen Walt is a hack and an ignoramus.

Martin Kramer proves beyond any reasonable doubt that Stephen Walt is a hack and an ignoramus.

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Obama’s Three-Part Path to Failure on Iran

Barack Obama’s friends at the New York Times give us an insight into the president’s strategy for rallying the world behind his Iran policy. In an op-ed by David Sanger that is given the always misleading label of “news analysis” and published in the paper’s news section, we learn that Obama has a three-pronged approach to Iran: first, win international support for tough sanctions; second, win over the Chinese; and third, stop Israel from attacking Iran.

But despite the Times’s puffery, this is nothing but a three-way path to total failure. Failure, that is, if the goal is to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear device, as seems certain unless something drastic happens.

Despite the lip service being paid to wider support for sanctions this week in the wake of Iran’s latest provocation — their decision to openly begin enriching uranium for nuclear fuel — the odds that Obama’s low-key approach to Iran will lead to the sort of sanctions that could hurt Iran’s economy and punish the regime so much that it would either give in or be toppled are slim and none. After a year of nonstop talk about talking and deadlines that passed with nothing happening, how can anyone, even those European countries that are actually inclined to support tough sanctions, believe that Obama means business now? And so long as neither Russia nor China supports such sanctions, a UN backing for any real measure is impossible. Right now the Russians are being coy about their opposition, while the Chinese are quite open about theirs, yet both are more interested in thwarting the United States than they are in restraining Tehran.

As for stopping Israel from taking any action to defend itself against the threat of annihilation from an Islamist regime that has spoken of such a crime as a goal, the inclusion of this point in Obama’s three-part plan seems to indicate that his real goal is learning to live with an Iranian bomb, not stopping one. The hucksterism of foreign-policy snake-oil salesmen who urge just such an approach is getting louder and louder, with the op-ed page of the Times providing space for such voices on a regular basis.

The defense for Obama’s feckless diplomacy put forward in the Times article is that Obama had to spend at least a year trying diplomacy so as to convince the world that he tried engagement after the confrontational Bush years. Blaming Bush is Obama’s all-purpose political tactic, but it won’t wash here. Bush not only failed to confront Iran; he also outsourced our diplomatic efforts on the nuclear issue to France and Germany in his second term. The utter failure of his engagement effort was clear by Bush’s last year in office, but rather than face the issue and take action, he decided to pass it off on his successor. This James Buchanan–like approach to a critical issue was one of Bush’s genuine failures, and the fact that he spent 2008 similarly vetoing any Israel action on Iran only makes Obama’s dedication to the same cause both ironic and scary. But however badly Bush blundered on Iran, the idea that we needed an additional year of diplomatic failure to justify subsequent action is a joke.

The problem here with Obama’s painful dithering for the past 12 months is not just that we have wasted a precious year that the Iranians used to get closer to their nuclear goal while the West did nothing to stop them. It is that this year of engagement, during which the Islamist leaders of Iran brutally repressed domestic dissenters while Obama refused to speak up for regime change, has convinced the Iranians that Obama is a weakling whose rhetoric will never be backed up by action. At the same time, the engagement process has not only paralyzed momentum for tough sanctions in the West but also lowered the bar for the sorts of sanctions that are to be pursued. Rather than a crippling economic boycott that would stop the flow of oil into or out of Iran, now we are supposed to believe that limited measures aimed only at the Revolutionary Guards will work. The point is, even if Obama were to unite the West behind such a plan — something that would take months to pass and then further time to implement — it wouldn’t be anywhere close to being enough to hurt Tehran, let alone convince it that it must back down.

Obama’s three-point plan is not a path to success on Iran. It is, instead, a plan to allow him to justify failure.

Barack Obama’s friends at the New York Times give us an insight into the president’s strategy for rallying the world behind his Iran policy. In an op-ed by David Sanger that is given the always misleading label of “news analysis” and published in the paper’s news section, we learn that Obama has a three-pronged approach to Iran: first, win international support for tough sanctions; second, win over the Chinese; and third, stop Israel from attacking Iran.

But despite the Times’s puffery, this is nothing but a three-way path to total failure. Failure, that is, if the goal is to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear device, as seems certain unless something drastic happens.

Despite the lip service being paid to wider support for sanctions this week in the wake of Iran’s latest provocation — their decision to openly begin enriching uranium for nuclear fuel — the odds that Obama’s low-key approach to Iran will lead to the sort of sanctions that could hurt Iran’s economy and punish the regime so much that it would either give in or be toppled are slim and none. After a year of nonstop talk about talking and deadlines that passed with nothing happening, how can anyone, even those European countries that are actually inclined to support tough sanctions, believe that Obama means business now? And so long as neither Russia nor China supports such sanctions, a UN backing for any real measure is impossible. Right now the Russians are being coy about their opposition, while the Chinese are quite open about theirs, yet both are more interested in thwarting the United States than they are in restraining Tehran.

As for stopping Israel from taking any action to defend itself against the threat of annihilation from an Islamist regime that has spoken of such a crime as a goal, the inclusion of this point in Obama’s three-part plan seems to indicate that his real goal is learning to live with an Iranian bomb, not stopping one. The hucksterism of foreign-policy snake-oil salesmen who urge just such an approach is getting louder and louder, with the op-ed page of the Times providing space for such voices on a regular basis.

The defense for Obama’s feckless diplomacy put forward in the Times article is that Obama had to spend at least a year trying diplomacy so as to convince the world that he tried engagement after the confrontational Bush years. Blaming Bush is Obama’s all-purpose political tactic, but it won’t wash here. Bush not only failed to confront Iran; he also outsourced our diplomatic efforts on the nuclear issue to France and Germany in his second term. The utter failure of his engagement effort was clear by Bush’s last year in office, but rather than face the issue and take action, he decided to pass it off on his successor. This James Buchanan–like approach to a critical issue was one of Bush’s genuine failures, and the fact that he spent 2008 similarly vetoing any Israel action on Iran only makes Obama’s dedication to the same cause both ironic and scary. But however badly Bush blundered on Iran, the idea that we needed an additional year of diplomatic failure to justify subsequent action is a joke.

The problem here with Obama’s painful dithering for the past 12 months is not just that we have wasted a precious year that the Iranians used to get closer to their nuclear goal while the West did nothing to stop them. It is that this year of engagement, during which the Islamist leaders of Iran brutally repressed domestic dissenters while Obama refused to speak up for regime change, has convinced the Iranians that Obama is a weakling whose rhetoric will never be backed up by action. At the same time, the engagement process has not only paralyzed momentum for tough sanctions in the West but also lowered the bar for the sorts of sanctions that are to be pursued. Rather than a crippling economic boycott that would stop the flow of oil into or out of Iran, now we are supposed to believe that limited measures aimed only at the Revolutionary Guards will work. The point is, even if Obama were to unite the West behind such a plan — something that would take months to pass and then further time to implement — it wouldn’t be anywhere close to being enough to hurt Tehran, let alone convince it that it must back down.

Obama’s three-point plan is not a path to success on Iran. It is, instead, a plan to allow him to justify failure.

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Don’t Ask, No Telling When Obama Will Lead

As I speculated a couple of weeks ago, the Left has been duped by Obama on the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Obama didn’t move forward by executive order or push for prompt congressional action by sending specific legislation to the Hill. Rather, Obama has called for a long study and then, as he does everything else, left it to Congress to meander. The result one suspects (as the Left certainly does now) is that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Politico reports:

Obama’s historic commitment — featured prominently in his State of the Union speech last month — helped soothe his frayed relationship with the politically powerful gay and lesbian community. … But House Democratic leadership aides tell POLITICO they are growing increasingly worried over the lack of a detailed White House road map for passing a repeal — and that without such a road map, repeal will end up in the same kind of Senate gridlock that hobbled health reform.

Moreover, the Left is spotting an insincerity (or is it ineptness?) in the gap between Obama’s rhetoric and any action on other key concerns, including health-care reform. (Rep. Anthony Weiner: “The frustration has been that while the president has said the right things when he’s on the road, he’s emphasized bipartisanship and not [moved] towards issues of importance to the Democratic base when he comes back to Washington.”) For its part, the White House seems baffled: But we made  a speech! Really, that’s what the Obami think the job is all about. A White House spokesman whined: “I don’t know how you get a more clear signal than calling for repeal in your first State of the Union address in front of an audience of 50 million people and having the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense express their support for ending the ban. … The timing of when Congress acts is up to Congress.” LBJ Obama is not, huh?

And because his ability to prioritize and move agenda items through a Congress with huge Democratic majorities is so lacking, there is the suspicion that he really isn’t interested in achieving some of his self-proclaimed goals. Honestly, how could any president get so little done? He must not be trying. That’s it, reason irritated liberals. Well, it’s possible that it’s a devious plot to raise everyone’s expectations and deliver nothing, thereby setting up his own party for a wipeout in November, but that seems a peculiar tactic. Rather, the Left may be learning the hard way that Obama has little facility for the job of being president and zero talent for crafting historic legislation. He’s the quintessential academic — filled with big ideas (none of which bears much relation to the real world) yet utterly incompetent. Next time they might look for a “transformative” figure who can transform something.

As I speculated a couple of weeks ago, the Left has been duped by Obama on the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Obama didn’t move forward by executive order or push for prompt congressional action by sending specific legislation to the Hill. Rather, Obama has called for a long study and then, as he does everything else, left it to Congress to meander. The result one suspects (as the Left certainly does now) is that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Politico reports:

Obama’s historic commitment — featured prominently in his State of the Union speech last month — helped soothe his frayed relationship with the politically powerful gay and lesbian community. … But House Democratic leadership aides tell POLITICO they are growing increasingly worried over the lack of a detailed White House road map for passing a repeal — and that without such a road map, repeal will end up in the same kind of Senate gridlock that hobbled health reform.

Moreover, the Left is spotting an insincerity (or is it ineptness?) in the gap between Obama’s rhetoric and any action on other key concerns, including health-care reform. (Rep. Anthony Weiner: “The frustration has been that while the president has said the right things when he’s on the road, he’s emphasized bipartisanship and not [moved] towards issues of importance to the Democratic base when he comes back to Washington.”) For its part, the White House seems baffled: But we made  a speech! Really, that’s what the Obami think the job is all about. A White House spokesman whined: “I don’t know how you get a more clear signal than calling for repeal in your first State of the Union address in front of an audience of 50 million people and having the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense express their support for ending the ban. … The timing of when Congress acts is up to Congress.” LBJ Obama is not, huh?

And because his ability to prioritize and move agenda items through a Congress with huge Democratic majorities is so lacking, there is the suspicion that he really isn’t interested in achieving some of his self-proclaimed goals. Honestly, how could any president get so little done? He must not be trying. That’s it, reason irritated liberals. Well, it’s possible that it’s a devious plot to raise everyone’s expectations and deliver nothing, thereby setting up his own party for a wipeout in November, but that seems a peculiar tactic. Rather, the Left may be learning the hard way that Obama has little facility for the job of being president and zero talent for crafting historic legislation. He’s the quintessential academic — filled with big ideas (none of which bears much relation to the real world) yet utterly incompetent. Next time they might look for a “transformative” figure who can transform something.

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Obama Makes Excuses to Do Nothing About Iran

Buried most of the way through this New York Times report is a disturbing reminder of how unserious Obama is about imposing sanctions on Iran that might impact the mullahs’ decision to proceed with their nuclear-arms program:

During the campaign he raised the specter of cutting off refined petroleum supplies to Iran, which cannot refine enough oil to keep cars rolling and factories running. But Mr. Obama has backed away from that step, at least for now, for fear of the popular backlash it could set off.

“What you’ve been hearing on the streets is ‘Death to the dictator,’ not ‘Death to America,’” one of Mr. Obama’s top strategists said in an interview in December. “We’d be foolish to do anything to change that.”

Huh?! Doesn’t the protesters’ clear-eyed understanding of the identity of their enemy — the despotic regime — weigh in favor of imposing those crippling sanctions, which might help galvanize the revolution and topple the mullahs from power? Somehow Obama and his aides have convinced themselves of the opposite — that those brave and perceptive protesters who risked their lives for freedom would suddenly rush to the mullahs’ defense if Obama, in declared solidarity with those very protesters, announced effective sanctions aimed to topple the regime. This implies that the Obami were never serious about sanctions. They’re now making a ludicrous argument to defend their decision to do nothing much at all.

The rest of the article suggests that the Obami are nowhere near achieving agreement from the “international community” on UN-approved sanctions. (Remember that the Obami don’t really want serious sanctions anyway, because the imposition of sanctions might cause the  protesters, who we aren’t helping, to turn on the West.) We hear that on sanctions, “so far the Chinese are unmoved.” And then we learn what is really motivating the Obami:

The list of sanctions is now six pages long. But none have accomplished the central goal: forcing compliance with the Security Council’s demand that Iran halt uranium enrichment. Mr. Obama’s team acknowledges the potential political liability of passing a fourth round that proves equally ineffective. Some are scaling back expectations for what they once called “crippling sanctions.”

“This is about driving them back to negotiations,” said one senior official, “because the real goal here is to avoid war.” (emphasis added)

You see the goal is not to prevent Iran from going nuclear but rather to avoid war. So the Obami’s main obsession is now to deter Israel (which cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran) from acting. (“Top officials — from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, to the national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones — have visited Israel to argue that they should give sanctions time.”) But of course, we know that the chances of sanctions working are virtually nonexistent. So we are merely giving the mullahs, not sanctions, just more time.

The picture is becoming regrettably clear. International sanctions are a faint hope. Obama has come up with a rationalization to downsize U.S. sanctions. Our administration has already declared that conflict avoidance, not the dismantling of the Iranian nuclear threat, is the goal. And our real energies are devoted to stopping Israel while our sanctions pantomime plays out. This will not end well. At some point, the Obami’s “no war” will conflict with Israel’s fundamental commitment to protecting itself from an existential threat.

Meanwhile, where is the American Jewish community? Have they not noticed the retreat by the Obami on serious sanctions — and can they not anticipate the moment at which the Obami will declare Iran’s nuclear status a fait accompli? You would think they would be sounding the alarm and registering disapproval of the administration’s sleep-walking-toward-containment gambit. But it seems that they, too, are slumbering. Meanwhile, the mullahs inch forward with their nuclear program as Obama dreams up reasons to do nothing.

Buried most of the way through this New York Times report is a disturbing reminder of how unserious Obama is about imposing sanctions on Iran that might impact the mullahs’ decision to proceed with their nuclear-arms program:

During the campaign he raised the specter of cutting off refined petroleum supplies to Iran, which cannot refine enough oil to keep cars rolling and factories running. But Mr. Obama has backed away from that step, at least for now, for fear of the popular backlash it could set off.

“What you’ve been hearing on the streets is ‘Death to the dictator,’ not ‘Death to America,’” one of Mr. Obama’s top strategists said in an interview in December. “We’d be foolish to do anything to change that.”

Huh?! Doesn’t the protesters’ clear-eyed understanding of the identity of their enemy — the despotic regime — weigh in favor of imposing those crippling sanctions, which might help galvanize the revolution and topple the mullahs from power? Somehow Obama and his aides have convinced themselves of the opposite — that those brave and perceptive protesters who risked their lives for freedom would suddenly rush to the mullahs’ defense if Obama, in declared solidarity with those very protesters, announced effective sanctions aimed to topple the regime. This implies that the Obami were never serious about sanctions. They’re now making a ludicrous argument to defend their decision to do nothing much at all.

The rest of the article suggests that the Obami are nowhere near achieving agreement from the “international community” on UN-approved sanctions. (Remember that the Obami don’t really want serious sanctions anyway, because the imposition of sanctions might cause the  protesters, who we aren’t helping, to turn on the West.) We hear that on sanctions, “so far the Chinese are unmoved.” And then we learn what is really motivating the Obami:

The list of sanctions is now six pages long. But none have accomplished the central goal: forcing compliance with the Security Council’s demand that Iran halt uranium enrichment. Mr. Obama’s team acknowledges the potential political liability of passing a fourth round that proves equally ineffective. Some are scaling back expectations for what they once called “crippling sanctions.”

“This is about driving them back to negotiations,” said one senior official, “because the real goal here is to avoid war.” (emphasis added)

You see the goal is not to prevent Iran from going nuclear but rather to avoid war. So the Obami’s main obsession is now to deter Israel (which cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran) from acting. (“Top officials — from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, to the national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones — have visited Israel to argue that they should give sanctions time.”) But of course, we know that the chances of sanctions working are virtually nonexistent. So we are merely giving the mullahs, not sanctions, just more time.

The picture is becoming regrettably clear. International sanctions are a faint hope. Obama has come up with a rationalization to downsize U.S. sanctions. Our administration has already declared that conflict avoidance, not the dismantling of the Iranian nuclear threat, is the goal. And our real energies are devoted to stopping Israel while our sanctions pantomime plays out. This will not end well. At some point, the Obami’s “no war” will conflict with Israel’s fundamental commitment to protecting itself from an existential threat.

Meanwhile, where is the American Jewish community? Have they not noticed the retreat by the Obami on serious sanctions — and can they not anticipate the moment at which the Obami will declare Iran’s nuclear status a fait accompli? You would think they would be sounding the alarm and registering disapproval of the administration’s sleep-walking-toward-containment gambit. But it seems that they, too, are slumbering. Meanwhile, the mullahs inch forward with their nuclear program as Obama dreams up reasons to do nothing.

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Stop the Presses: David Broder Sings Palin’s Praises

Hold on to your hat: the dean of conventional Beltway wisdom, David Broder, proclaims that we should “take Sarah Palin seriously.” Oh my! But she knows nothing, says Chris Matthews. She plays to the racist Tea Party crowd, bellows E.J. Dionne. She’s a dope and a bimbo, proclaims the Beagle Blogger. Nonsense, says Broder:

I gave her high marks for her vice presidential acceptance speech in St. Paul. But then, and always throughout that campaign, she was laboring to do more than establish her own place. She was selling a ticket headed by John McCain against formidable Democratic opposition and burdened by the legacy of the Bush administration.

Blessed with an enthusiastic audience of conservative activists, Palin used the Tea Party gathering and coverage on the cable networks to display the full repertoire she possesses, touching on national security, economics, fiscal and social policy, and every other area where she could draw a contrast with Barack Obama and point up what Republicans see as vulnerabilities in Washington.

Could it be that, as Broder says, “she has locked herself firmly in the populist embrace that every skillful outsider candidate from George Wallace to Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton has utilized when running against ‘the political establishment’”? Uh … yeah. Broder suggests that those inclined to mock her should start paying attention. And that advice he aims squarely at the White House sneerers: “Those who want to stop her will need more ammunition than deriding her habit of writing on her hand. The lady is good.”

This sort of unconventional-conventional wisdom is precisely what drives the Palin haters up the wall. Stop taking her seriously! Remember the Tina Fey parodies — she’s a joke! Her critics have gotten used to the luxury of a shared assumption among “serious” pundits that Palin is not ready for the big leagues. They’ve become accustomed to deriding her with cheap jokes and snide references. But along the way, they stopped listening to her and watching how the trajectory of her political development tracked the emergence of a grassroots, anti-statist movement. In their haste to denigrate her gig on Fox, they missed her new-and-improved sound-bite-polished TV delivery. Now along comes the dean of the Beltway to tell them: you guys have been asleep!

Palin is not yet a declared candidate. She has many obstacles to overcome and many skeptics to win over. If she runs, she will face contenders with more business and executive experience and less baggage. If she is to become the nominee of her party, she will need to develop not just a boffo speech but more discipline and a set of serious policy proposals. But she has several years to do all that. For now, she’s winning newfound respect by those who are actually paying attention to what she is saying and how she is saying it – and not merely to the size of her breasts or the notes on her hand. And for a candidate whose biggest challenge is to be taken seriously by skeptics, that is no small thing.

Hold on to your hat: the dean of conventional Beltway wisdom, David Broder, proclaims that we should “take Sarah Palin seriously.” Oh my! But she knows nothing, says Chris Matthews. She plays to the racist Tea Party crowd, bellows E.J. Dionne. She’s a dope and a bimbo, proclaims the Beagle Blogger. Nonsense, says Broder:

I gave her high marks for her vice presidential acceptance speech in St. Paul. But then, and always throughout that campaign, she was laboring to do more than establish her own place. She was selling a ticket headed by John McCain against formidable Democratic opposition and burdened by the legacy of the Bush administration.

Blessed with an enthusiastic audience of conservative activists, Palin used the Tea Party gathering and coverage on the cable networks to display the full repertoire she possesses, touching on national security, economics, fiscal and social policy, and every other area where she could draw a contrast with Barack Obama and point up what Republicans see as vulnerabilities in Washington.

Could it be that, as Broder says, “she has locked herself firmly in the populist embrace that every skillful outsider candidate from George Wallace to Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton has utilized when running against ‘the political establishment’”? Uh … yeah. Broder suggests that those inclined to mock her should start paying attention. And that advice he aims squarely at the White House sneerers: “Those who want to stop her will need more ammunition than deriding her habit of writing on her hand. The lady is good.”

This sort of unconventional-conventional wisdom is precisely what drives the Palin haters up the wall. Stop taking her seriously! Remember the Tina Fey parodies — she’s a joke! Her critics have gotten used to the luxury of a shared assumption among “serious” pundits that Palin is not ready for the big leagues. They’ve become accustomed to deriding her with cheap jokes and snide references. But along the way, they stopped listening to her and watching how the trajectory of her political development tracked the emergence of a grassroots, anti-statist movement. In their haste to denigrate her gig on Fox, they missed her new-and-improved sound-bite-polished TV delivery. Now along comes the dean of the Beltway to tell them: you guys have been asleep!

Palin is not yet a declared candidate. She has many obstacles to overcome and many skeptics to win over. If she runs, she will face contenders with more business and executive experience and less baggage. If she is to become the nominee of her party, she will need to develop not just a boffo speech but more discipline and a set of serious policy proposals. But she has several years to do all that. For now, she’s winning newfound respect by those who are actually paying attention to what she is saying and how she is saying it – and not merely to the size of her breasts or the notes on her hand. And for a candidate whose biggest challenge is to be taken seriously by skeptics, that is no small thing.

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They Don’t Make ’em Like Charlie Wilson Anymore

The death yesterday of former Texas Congressman “Good Time Charlie” Wilson will, no doubt, revive the discussion of what went wrong with American policy in the aftermath of the eviction of Soviet forces from Afghanistan. Wilson played a key role in helping to fund Afghan resistance fighters in the 1980s and subsequently received a good deal of credit for the Soviet defeat, which was a factor in the eventual fall of the “evil empire.”

Recriminations about the way an Islamic resistance eventually morphed into the Taliban have served to tarnish that Cold War triumph in some eyes. But as much as we may second-guess the way the first President George Bush and his foreign-policy team helped muff the aftermath of the fall of Communism — as Wilson did of Congress’s post–Cold War interest in Afghanistan — there is no reason for anyone to question the rightness of Wilson’s war to defeat a brutal Communist tyranny in that country. It is a tragedy that the strange political culture of Afghanistan, combined with Western indifference, led to an Islamist tyranny that played host to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 murderers. But as is the case today as American and other allied troops struggle to give that country a chance for freedom, allowing the Soviets’ misrule of Afghanistan to stand without a fight was wrong. Charlie Wilson knew that — and for that alone his memory deserves to be honored.

Immortalized by George Crile’s book Charlie Wilson’s War and the movie of the same name, in which he was played by Tom Hanks, Wilson’s singular dedication to the cause of freeing Afghanistan, as well as a wild personal life in which alcohol, drugs, and loose women were staples, made him anything but your run-of-the-mill politician. No one could assert, at least not with a straight face, that womanizers like Wilson are a thing of the past in Congress. But it is doubtful that any today would dare be as open about their shenanigans as Wilson was.

However, Wilson was also a last vestige of a vanishing breed: a liberal Democrat who was also a hawk on national-defense issues. Like Joe Lieberman, who was chased out of his party in 2006 by a leftist anti-war primary majority, Wilson, a former naval officer, wedded liberal stands on domestic issues to a robust belief in national defense, as well as a loathing of Communists and other foes of his country. Even in the South, they just don’t make ’em like Charlie Wilson anymore. At a time when our nation remains at war against brutal Islamist enemies, pro-defense Democrats are harder and harder to find. Our nation is the poorer for the absence of patriots like Wilson, on both sides of the political aisle.

The death yesterday of former Texas Congressman “Good Time Charlie” Wilson will, no doubt, revive the discussion of what went wrong with American policy in the aftermath of the eviction of Soviet forces from Afghanistan. Wilson played a key role in helping to fund Afghan resistance fighters in the 1980s and subsequently received a good deal of credit for the Soviet defeat, which was a factor in the eventual fall of the “evil empire.”

Recriminations about the way an Islamic resistance eventually morphed into the Taliban have served to tarnish that Cold War triumph in some eyes. But as much as we may second-guess the way the first President George Bush and his foreign-policy team helped muff the aftermath of the fall of Communism — as Wilson did of Congress’s post–Cold War interest in Afghanistan — there is no reason for anyone to question the rightness of Wilson’s war to defeat a brutal Communist tyranny in that country. It is a tragedy that the strange political culture of Afghanistan, combined with Western indifference, led to an Islamist tyranny that played host to al-Qaeda and the 9/11 murderers. But as is the case today as American and other allied troops struggle to give that country a chance for freedom, allowing the Soviets’ misrule of Afghanistan to stand without a fight was wrong. Charlie Wilson knew that — and for that alone his memory deserves to be honored.

Immortalized by George Crile’s book Charlie Wilson’s War and the movie of the same name, in which he was played by Tom Hanks, Wilson’s singular dedication to the cause of freeing Afghanistan, as well as a wild personal life in which alcohol, drugs, and loose women were staples, made him anything but your run-of-the-mill politician. No one could assert, at least not with a straight face, that womanizers like Wilson are a thing of the past in Congress. But it is doubtful that any today would dare be as open about their shenanigans as Wilson was.

However, Wilson was also a last vestige of a vanishing breed: a liberal Democrat who was also a hawk on national-defense issues. Like Joe Lieberman, who was chased out of his party in 2006 by a leftist anti-war primary majority, Wilson, a former naval officer, wedded liberal stands on domestic issues to a robust belief in national defense, as well as a loathing of Communists and other foes of his country. Even in the South, they just don’t make ’em like Charlie Wilson anymore. At a time when our nation remains at war against brutal Islamist enemies, pro-defense Democrats are harder and harder to find. Our nation is the poorer for the absence of patriots like Wilson, on both sides of the political aisle.

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Blaming Bush for the Deficit Is Getting Old

Megan McArdle nails Obama on his “blame Bush for everything” fetish, which has become all the more frequent as Obama ducks responsibility for a budget proposal that gushes red ink:

Listening to his defenders reminds me of those people who sit around whining about how their Dad was really distant and critical. … I mean, fine, you apparently had a rotten childhood, but Dad can’t get come and get you off the couch and find you a girlfriend and a better job. Girls and employers get really creeped out if they try.

Whatever George W. Bush did or did not do, he’s no longer in office, and doesn’t have the power to do a damn thing about the budget. Obama is the one who is president with the really humongous deficits. Deficits of the size Bush ran are basically sustainable indefinitely; deficits of the size that Obama is apparently planning to run, aren’t. If he doesn’t change those plans, he will be the one who led the government into fiscal crisis, even if changing them would be [sob!] politically difficult.

This, like so much of what Obama does, seems designed to get through the moment — a speech, an interview query, or a press conference. Why aren’t you doing something about the deficit? “Bush’s fault, Bush’s fault,” he squawks like a well-trained parrot. It is, of course, a line, not an answer. As Keith Hennessey points out in assessing the “blame Bush” mantra:

President Obama does not point out that his first major policy effort was to propose and enact an $862 B stimulus law without paying for it. (CBO has upped their estimate from the previous $787 B figure.) He did inherit a huge deficit, in large part resulting from the recession and bailout costs, and he immediately made it much bigger.

And, as Hennessey explains, Obama’s proposed policies would result in a far more calamitous fiscal situation than the one he inherited, including “a budget deficit this year of 8.3% of GDP, debt/GDP increasing from 64% now [rising to] to 77% in ten years; [and] the size of government, measured by both spending and taxes, climbing to historically high shares of GDP.” Nor does Obama have any plan (other than vilifying Rep. Paul Ryan) for addressing the growth of entitlement programs.

Obama’s excuse mongering is the telltale sign of a president who lacks his own policy solutions. Voters are not, I would suggest, going to buy the buck-passing — not from lawmakers on the ballot this year or from Obama in 2012. So he better come up with an answer and not an excuse if he intends ever to get that second term. For if he lacks the wherewithal to deal with problems on his watch, surely a challenger will come along with a fiscal game plan of his or her own. And I strongly suspect that blaming George W. Bush won’t be part of that plan.

Megan McArdle nails Obama on his “blame Bush for everything” fetish, which has become all the more frequent as Obama ducks responsibility for a budget proposal that gushes red ink:

Listening to his defenders reminds me of those people who sit around whining about how their Dad was really distant and critical. … I mean, fine, you apparently had a rotten childhood, but Dad can’t get come and get you off the couch and find you a girlfriend and a better job. Girls and employers get really creeped out if they try.

Whatever George W. Bush did or did not do, he’s no longer in office, and doesn’t have the power to do a damn thing about the budget. Obama is the one who is president with the really humongous deficits. Deficits of the size Bush ran are basically sustainable indefinitely; deficits of the size that Obama is apparently planning to run, aren’t. If he doesn’t change those plans, he will be the one who led the government into fiscal crisis, even if changing them would be [sob!] politically difficult.

This, like so much of what Obama does, seems designed to get through the moment — a speech, an interview query, or a press conference. Why aren’t you doing something about the deficit? “Bush’s fault, Bush’s fault,” he squawks like a well-trained parrot. It is, of course, a line, not an answer. As Keith Hennessey points out in assessing the “blame Bush” mantra:

President Obama does not point out that his first major policy effort was to propose and enact an $862 B stimulus law without paying for it. (CBO has upped their estimate from the previous $787 B figure.) He did inherit a huge deficit, in large part resulting from the recession and bailout costs, and he immediately made it much bigger.

And, as Hennessey explains, Obama’s proposed policies would result in a far more calamitous fiscal situation than the one he inherited, including “a budget deficit this year of 8.3% of GDP, debt/GDP increasing from 64% now [rising to] to 77% in ten years; [and] the size of government, measured by both spending and taxes, climbing to historically high shares of GDP.” Nor does Obama have any plan (other than vilifying Rep. Paul Ryan) for addressing the growth of entitlement programs.

Obama’s excuse mongering is the telltale sign of a president who lacks his own policy solutions. Voters are not, I would suggest, going to buy the buck-passing — not from lawmakers on the ballot this year or from Obama in 2012. So he better come up with an answer and not an excuse if he intends ever to get that second term. For if he lacks the wherewithal to deal with problems on his watch, surely a challenger will come along with a fiscal game plan of his or her own. And I strongly suspect that blaming George W. Bush won’t be part of that plan.

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Bayh Gets Caught

Dan Coats in an interview on Fred Thompson’s radio show explained his argument to the voters as to why Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh should not be re-elected:

“He talked a good game back at home, but when push came to shove, he was there with the liberals, there with Obama every time,” Coats said. On health care, Bayh was “catering to the liberals that he needed to cater to and he wasn’t listening to people in Indiana.”

Coats has a good deal of material to work with. Bayh voted for the stimulus, the Obama budget, and ObamaCare. He’s voted to confirm every nominee, from Sonia Sotomayor to the legal extremist Dawn Johnsen (for head of the Office of Legal Counsel) to Craig Becker for the National Labor Relations Board. He was a previous sponsor of card-check legislation, although he managed to stay noncommittal last year. In sum, Bayh was unwilling to oppose the liberal troika of Reid-Pelosi-Obama on a single meaningful domestic-policy item.

It is an argument that is likely to be repeated in states like Arkansas, Nevada, and Colorado, where challengers will make the case that the Democratic incumbent has facilitated the policies that voters back home oppose by large numbers. (In Colorado, for example, Michael Bennet is getting slammed by his opponent for his vote to confirm Becker: “Former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, the Republican front-runner, said that while other Democrats were willing to buck President Obama’s choice, Bennet’s vote demonstrates he would provide ‘a rubber stamp’ for legislation commonly referred to as ‘card check.’”)

Recall that in Virginia, Bob McDonnell, running against a Democrat who had never cast a single vote in Congress in favor of an Obama agenda item, was able to win by a huge margin by making the case that Washington had strayed too far to the Left and that cap-and-trade, ObamaCare, card check, and takes hikes would be disastrous for his state’s economy. Scott Brown was able to make a similar argument against an opponent who similarly was not burdened by a congressional voting record in favor of the Obama agenda.

How much more effective will that argument be against Democratic incumbents like Bayh who are burdened not only by the “D” next to their name but also a voting record that fits the Republicans’ narrative? Incumbents like Bayh have a choice: start voting against the liberal agenda or hope voters lose their antipathy to the Reid-Pelosi-Obama agenda. The latter sounds like wishful thinking; the former will require a quick about-face. You can see why the Bayh seat and those of many other Democrats are now in play.

Dan Coats in an interview on Fred Thompson’s radio show explained his argument to the voters as to why Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh should not be re-elected:

“He talked a good game back at home, but when push came to shove, he was there with the liberals, there with Obama every time,” Coats said. On health care, Bayh was “catering to the liberals that he needed to cater to and he wasn’t listening to people in Indiana.”

Coats has a good deal of material to work with. Bayh voted for the stimulus, the Obama budget, and ObamaCare. He’s voted to confirm every nominee, from Sonia Sotomayor to the legal extremist Dawn Johnsen (for head of the Office of Legal Counsel) to Craig Becker for the National Labor Relations Board. He was a previous sponsor of card-check legislation, although he managed to stay noncommittal last year. In sum, Bayh was unwilling to oppose the liberal troika of Reid-Pelosi-Obama on a single meaningful domestic-policy item.

It is an argument that is likely to be repeated in states like Arkansas, Nevada, and Colorado, where challengers will make the case that the Democratic incumbent has facilitated the policies that voters back home oppose by large numbers. (In Colorado, for example, Michael Bennet is getting slammed by his opponent for his vote to confirm Becker: “Former Lt. Gov. Jane Norton, the Republican front-runner, said that while other Democrats were willing to buck President Obama’s choice, Bennet’s vote demonstrates he would provide ‘a rubber stamp’ for legislation commonly referred to as ‘card check.’”)

Recall that in Virginia, Bob McDonnell, running against a Democrat who had never cast a single vote in Congress in favor of an Obama agenda item, was able to win by a huge margin by making the case that Washington had strayed too far to the Left and that cap-and-trade, ObamaCare, card check, and takes hikes would be disastrous for his state’s economy. Scott Brown was able to make a similar argument against an opponent who similarly was not burdened by a congressional voting record in favor of the Obama agenda.

How much more effective will that argument be against Democratic incumbents like Bayh who are burdened not only by the “D” next to their name but also a voting record that fits the Republicans’ narrative? Incumbents like Bayh have a choice: start voting against the liberal agenda or hope voters lose their antipathy to the Reid-Pelosi-Obama agenda. The latter sounds like wishful thinking; the former will require a quick about-face. You can see why the Bayh seat and those of many other Democrats are now in play.

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