Commentary Magazine


Posts For: February 12, 2010

Operation “Together” Has Commenced

So it has begun. American, British, and Afghan troops have launched their big offensive, Operation Moshtarak (“Together”), to clear out the insurgent safe haven of Marjah in Helmand Province.

Some 6,000 coalition forces, with U.S. Marines in the lead, are planning to sweep out an estimated 400 to 1,000 Taliban. This has been one of the best-advertised offensives ever launched. The U.S. military command made clear they were coming in order to signal civilians to get out of the way. Undoubtedly, many of the Taliban have also escaped by now, but enough remain that a tough fight is likely. They have certainly had lots of time to mine and booby-trap the approaches into town.

Casualties are inevitable among the attacking troops, but there is little doubt they will achieve their objectives. The real challenge will come in Phase Two, when the troops will have to garrison Marjah, keep the Taliban from infiltrating back in, and get government services up and running. That will require a sustained commitment that President Obama’s dispatch of 30,000+ additional troops makes possible. Assuming that this operation and succeeding ones go well — which, needless to say, is hardly guaranteed in the cauldron of war — the coalition should be able to substantially secure Helmand by the summer of 2011, when U.S. troop numbers are supposed to start declining. That will be a major achievement given Helmand’s role as a source of opium and a haven of insurgency.

All that those of us watching developments at home can say to the Marines and soldiers at this point is this: Godspeed and good luck. Come home safe and come home victorious.

So it has begun. American, British, and Afghan troops have launched their big offensive, Operation Moshtarak (“Together”), to clear out the insurgent safe haven of Marjah in Helmand Province.

Some 6,000 coalition forces, with U.S. Marines in the lead, are planning to sweep out an estimated 400 to 1,000 Taliban. This has been one of the best-advertised offensives ever launched. The U.S. military command made clear they were coming in order to signal civilians to get out of the way. Undoubtedly, many of the Taliban have also escaped by now, but enough remain that a tough fight is likely. They have certainly had lots of time to mine and booby-trap the approaches into town.

Casualties are inevitable among the attacking troops, but there is little doubt they will achieve their objectives. The real challenge will come in Phase Two, when the troops will have to garrison Marjah, keep the Taliban from infiltrating back in, and get government services up and running. That will require a sustained commitment that President Obama’s dispatch of 30,000+ additional troops makes possible. Assuming that this operation and succeeding ones go well — which, needless to say, is hardly guaranteed in the cauldron of war — the coalition should be able to substantially secure Helmand by the summer of 2011, when U.S. troop numbers are supposed to start declining. That will be a major achievement given Helmand’s role as a source of opium and a haven of insurgency.

All that those of us watching developments at home can say to the Marines and soldiers at this point is this: Godspeed and good luck. Come home safe and come home victorious.

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From the Fever Swamps of MSNBC…

If you want to see yet one more embarrassing performance from the circus act known as MSNBC, take a look at this exchange between Lawrence O’Donnell and former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen. O’Donnell is so unhinged that Joe Scarborough has to go to break and says he’ll finish the interview himself.

O’Donnell, like Keith Olbermann and the rest of MSNBC’s prime-time lineup, serves a useful public purpose. He demonstrates to the public the rage and bitterness that now consumes so much of the Left. It isn’t always pleasant to watch, and it certainly doesn’t further enlightened public discourse. But it does focus attention on a movement that has real influence on the Democratic party and on the president himself.

Obama and the Left remain joined at the hip; and if Obama is serious about wanting greater civility in our national dialogue, perhaps he can focus a bit more of his unhappiness and lectures on modern liberalism’s fever swamps.

If you want to see yet one more embarrassing performance from the circus act known as MSNBC, take a look at this exchange between Lawrence O’Donnell and former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen. O’Donnell is so unhinged that Joe Scarborough has to go to break and says he’ll finish the interview himself.

O’Donnell, like Keith Olbermann and the rest of MSNBC’s prime-time lineup, serves a useful public purpose. He demonstrates to the public the rage and bitterness that now consumes so much of the Left. It isn’t always pleasant to watch, and it certainly doesn’t further enlightened public discourse. But it does focus attention on a movement that has real influence on the Democratic party and on the president himself.

Obama and the Left remain joined at the hip; and if Obama is serious about wanting greater civility in our national dialogue, perhaps he can focus a bit more of his unhappiness and lectures on modern liberalism’s fever swamps.

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Obama’s Own Begin to Turn on Him

When a presidency and an agenda are collapsing at the rate that President Obama’s are, it isn’t long before his party begins to distance itself from him. We’ve seen plenty of signs of this lately. Politico.com has a story today titled “Family feud: Nancy Pelosi at odds with President Obama.” According to the story:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s increasingly public disagreements with President Barack Obama are a reflection of something deeper: the seething resentment some Democrats feel over what they see as cavalier treatment from a wounded White House.

Then there are the comments by Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, who said, “He [Obama] says ‘I’m for clean coal,’ and then he says it in his speeches, but he doesn’t say it in here. And he doesn’t say it in the minds of my own people. And he’s beginning to not be believable to me.”

Much of what President Obama has said hasn’t been believable to many of us for quite some time now. But when influential figures in a president’s own party begin to make statements such as these — especially when you’re only 13 months into a presidency — it’s clear that things are beginning to become a bit unglued. Party discipline is tossed aside; the intra-party sniping makes the situation even worse. And the vicious cycle Democrats are caught in merely accelerates.

It has dawned on many Democrats that in hitching their fortunes to Obama and Obamaism, they have put themselves at enormous political risk. They are all complicit in this; Obama himself outsourced much of his agenda to Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The entire Democratic establishment is the architect of what is shaping up as an epic political failure. But Mr. Obama is head of the Democratic party, and so the responsibility lies with him more than with anyone else. He is primus inter pares. And he is now, with every passing week, the target of their unhappiness. More is sure to follow.

This isn’t going to end well for them.

When a presidency and an agenda are collapsing at the rate that President Obama’s are, it isn’t long before his party begins to distance itself from him. We’ve seen plenty of signs of this lately. Politico.com has a story today titled “Family feud: Nancy Pelosi at odds with President Obama.” According to the story:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s increasingly public disagreements with President Barack Obama are a reflection of something deeper: the seething resentment some Democrats feel over what they see as cavalier treatment from a wounded White House.

Then there are the comments by Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, who said, “He [Obama] says ‘I’m for clean coal,’ and then he says it in his speeches, but he doesn’t say it in here. And he doesn’t say it in the minds of my own people. And he’s beginning to not be believable to me.”

Much of what President Obama has said hasn’t been believable to many of us for quite some time now. But when influential figures in a president’s own party begin to make statements such as these — especially when you’re only 13 months into a presidency — it’s clear that things are beginning to become a bit unglued. Party discipline is tossed aside; the intra-party sniping makes the situation even worse. And the vicious cycle Democrats are caught in merely accelerates.

It has dawned on many Democrats that in hitching their fortunes to Obama and Obamaism, they have put themselves at enormous political risk. They are all complicit in this; Obama himself outsourced much of his agenda to Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The entire Democratic establishment is the architect of what is shaping up as an epic political failure. But Mr. Obama is head of the Democratic party, and so the responsibility lies with him more than with anyone else. He is primus inter pares. And he is now, with every passing week, the target of their unhappiness. More is sure to follow.

This isn’t going to end well for them.

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Spacedrip

Charles Krauthammer points out that, come 2011, “for the first time since John Glenn flew in 1962, the U.S. will have no access of its own for humans into space — and no prospect of getting there in the foreseeable future.” Barack Obama’s budget kills NASA’s Constellation program, the successor to the Shuttle.

It is not only the space enthusiasts who will suffer. We hear constantly about the desperate need for new American technologies, a trend of innovation to make us the world’s undisputed forerunner in new fields, and eventually leading to vastly more efficient energy consumption. The idea on the Left is to throw giant sums of money at some amorphous wonder-concept called sustainable energy. Why anyone believes that state-imposed, centrally planned “innovation” will fare any better than state-imposed, centrally planned anything else is a mystery. Technological advances usually take a far more circuitous route to the marketplace. A first stop for countless innovations has been NASA. Everything from long-distance communication to cosmetic dentistry has benefited from the intellectual dynamo that is America’s space program.

China – as the New York Times columnists never tire of telling us — is leading the world in electric bicycles, solar panels, and speed trains. It has been suggested that the next man on the Moon will be Chinese.  The truth is, electric bicycles, solar panels, speed trains, and even Moon travel are decades-old novelties — the kind of stuff that a country desperate to be seen as a great innovator would love to tout. But real innovation won’t come from obscurantist autocracies. It will come from parties living in free countries.  It will come from sources like the Ad Astra Rocket Company of Webster, Texas, which recently developed the most powerful plasma engine in the world; it gets as hot as the surface of the sun. As it happens, the head of Ad Astra is a former NASA astronaut with the beautifully American name, Franklin Chang-Diaz.

We can keep our fingers crossed and hope for the perpetual-motion machine of fuel sources to spontaneously appear, or we can continue to fund and support the programs that have projected American imagination beyond the heavens and back.

Charles Krauthammer points out that, come 2011, “for the first time since John Glenn flew in 1962, the U.S. will have no access of its own for humans into space — and no prospect of getting there in the foreseeable future.” Barack Obama’s budget kills NASA’s Constellation program, the successor to the Shuttle.

It is not only the space enthusiasts who will suffer. We hear constantly about the desperate need for new American technologies, a trend of innovation to make us the world’s undisputed forerunner in new fields, and eventually leading to vastly more efficient energy consumption. The idea on the Left is to throw giant sums of money at some amorphous wonder-concept called sustainable energy. Why anyone believes that state-imposed, centrally planned “innovation” will fare any better than state-imposed, centrally planned anything else is a mystery. Technological advances usually take a far more circuitous route to the marketplace. A first stop for countless innovations has been NASA. Everything from long-distance communication to cosmetic dentistry has benefited from the intellectual dynamo that is America’s space program.

China – as the New York Times columnists never tire of telling us — is leading the world in electric bicycles, solar panels, and speed trains. It has been suggested that the next man on the Moon will be Chinese.  The truth is, electric bicycles, solar panels, speed trains, and even Moon travel are decades-old novelties — the kind of stuff that a country desperate to be seen as a great innovator would love to tout. But real innovation won’t come from obscurantist autocracies. It will come from parties living in free countries.  It will come from sources like the Ad Astra Rocket Company of Webster, Texas, which recently developed the most powerful plasma engine in the world; it gets as hot as the surface of the sun. As it happens, the head of Ad Astra is a former NASA astronaut with the beautifully American name, Franklin Chang-Diaz.

We can keep our fingers crossed and hope for the perpetual-motion machine of fuel sources to spontaneously appear, or we can continue to fund and support the programs that have projected American imagination beyond the heavens and back.

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A Bipartisan Terror Trial

It’s nice to know that, according to the Washington Post, “President Obama is planning to insert himself into the debate about where to try the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001,” although this raises the obvious question of why he hadn’t inserted himself into the debate before now. If George W. Bush had done something like this, he would have been accused of being dangerously disengaged, intellectually uncurious, etc. It is no doubt expecting too much to expect the MSM to lodge similar accusations against the current president.

But now that Obama is getting engaged, I hope this former law professor looks beyond the options currently on offer — civil trial vs. military commissions — and puts his influence behind a third possibility: National Security Courts to be run by federal judges but with special rules of procedure to make it easier to convict terrorists. There would, for example, be no demand for Miranda rights and no absolute bar on hearsay evidence. This is a proposal that has been knocking around for a while and has picked up bipartisan support — including that of liberal law professor Neal Katyal, conservative law professor Jack Goldsmith, conservative former prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy, and centrist journalist Stuart Taylor Jr. Yet it has gone nowhere in Congress. This is an issue where the liberal-conservative divide appears bridgeable, if only Obama would put his personal prestige behind the proposal.

It’s nice to know that, according to the Washington Post, “President Obama is planning to insert himself into the debate about where to try the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001,” although this raises the obvious question of why he hadn’t inserted himself into the debate before now. If George W. Bush had done something like this, he would have been accused of being dangerously disengaged, intellectually uncurious, etc. It is no doubt expecting too much to expect the MSM to lodge similar accusations against the current president.

But now that Obama is getting engaged, I hope this former law professor looks beyond the options currently on offer — civil trial vs. military commissions — and puts his influence behind a third possibility: National Security Courts to be run by federal judges but with special rules of procedure to make it easier to convict terrorists. There would, for example, be no demand for Miranda rights and no absolute bar on hearsay evidence. This is a proposal that has been knocking around for a while and has picked up bipartisan support — including that of liberal law professor Neal Katyal, conservative law professor Jack Goldsmith, conservative former prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy, and centrist journalist Stuart Taylor Jr. Yet it has gone nowhere in Congress. This is an issue where the liberal-conservative divide appears bridgeable, if only Obama would put his personal prestige behind the proposal.

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Hooligans, an Ambassador, and a General

As a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley (class of ’91), a.k.a Berzerkely, I am by now fairly inured to displays of political correctness — the totalitarian impulse in action — on campus. I saw enough demonstrations — including one that turned into an actual riot with the burning of cars and the looting of stores on Telegraph Avenue — not to be shocked by most of what goes on in our citadels of higher learning. But I admit I am still deeply dismayed to see the treatment accorded in recent weeks to two of the people I most admire in this world — Michael Oren, the noted historian and Israeli combat veteran who is now Israel’s ambassador to Washington, and General David Petraeus, head of Central Command.

Oren spoke at the University of California, Irvine; Petraeus, at Georgetown. Both are unusually thoughtful individuals who are happy to engage in a civilized debate with just about anyone. But what greeted them was hardly civilized. Both speeches were thoroughly disrupted by hecklers — in the former instance, by members of the Muslim Student Union who are presumably opposed to Israel’s very existence (at least, judging by the rally they held afterward, chanting “anti-Israel, anti-Israel”), in the latter instance, by opponents of the war in Iraq, who loudly tried to read the names of Iraq War dead. You can see the videos here — for Georgetown and Irvine.

The demonstration at Georgetown was particularly disturbing in light of the common trope heard among the anti-war movement that they “oppose the war but support the soldiers waging the war.” In this case, their disrespect for our greatest general — a man who has repeatedly risked his life in the country’s service and whose son is now putting his own life on the line as a young officer — gives the lie to the slogan.

I can only hope that the universities in question take appropriate steps to deal with these campus hooligans. Anything short of expulsion, or at least suspension, would seem to be a wrist-slap that will only encourage more such misconduct in the future and make a mockery of the free speech that universities are supposed to champion.

As a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley (class of ’91), a.k.a Berzerkely, I am by now fairly inured to displays of political correctness — the totalitarian impulse in action — on campus. I saw enough demonstrations — including one that turned into an actual riot with the burning of cars and the looting of stores on Telegraph Avenue — not to be shocked by most of what goes on in our citadels of higher learning. But I admit I am still deeply dismayed to see the treatment accorded in recent weeks to two of the people I most admire in this world — Michael Oren, the noted historian and Israeli combat veteran who is now Israel’s ambassador to Washington, and General David Petraeus, head of Central Command.

Oren spoke at the University of California, Irvine; Petraeus, at Georgetown. Both are unusually thoughtful individuals who are happy to engage in a civilized debate with just about anyone. But what greeted them was hardly civilized. Both speeches were thoroughly disrupted by hecklers — in the former instance, by members of the Muslim Student Union who are presumably opposed to Israel’s very existence (at least, judging by the rally they held afterward, chanting “anti-Israel, anti-Israel”), in the latter instance, by opponents of the war in Iraq, who loudly tried to read the names of Iraq War dead. You can see the videos here — for Georgetown and Irvine.

The demonstration at Georgetown was particularly disturbing in light of the common trope heard among the anti-war movement that they “oppose the war but support the soldiers waging the war.” In this case, their disrespect for our greatest general — a man who has repeatedly risked his life in the country’s service and whose son is now putting his own life on the line as a young officer — gives the lie to the slogan.

I can only hope that the universities in question take appropriate steps to deal with these campus hooligans. Anything short of expulsion, or at least suspension, would seem to be a wrist-slap that will only encourage more such misconduct in the future and make a mockery of the free speech that universities are supposed to champion.

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What Obama Could Do Now

To his credit, David Brooks delivers the harsh news to the Obami:

Voters are in no mood for a wave of domestic transformation. The economy is already introducing enough insecurity into their lives. Unlike 1932 and 1965, Americans do not trust Washington to take them on a leap of faith, especially if it means more spending.

The country has reacted harshly to the course the administration ended up embracing. Obama is still admired personally, but every major proposal — from the stimulus to health care — is quite unpopular. Independent voters have swung against the administration. Voters are not reacting to the particulars of each bill. They are reacting against the total activist onslaught.

Brooks suggests some things Obama now could do, ranging from the innocuous (“propose some incremental changes in a range of areas and prove Washington can at least take small steps”) to the unlikely (Who thinks Obama has the patience or the inclination to “take several of the Republican health care reform ideas — like malpractice reform and lifting the regulatory barriers on state-based experimentation — and proactively embrace them as part of a genuine compromise offer”?) to the scary (please, no “constitutional debate” with “amendments of one sort or another”).

Frankly, Obama shows none of Brooks’ passion for the nitty-gritty of governance. Aside from sporadic rhetoric, Obama has rejected true bipartisanship at every turn. So the prospects for a successful domestic agenda are not great. But because they are already touting their great achievement in Iraq, the Obami might stop husbanding resources for a domestic agenda that is going nowhere and instead start using their capital on some historic foreign endeavors. Obama could complete the job in Iraq (and actually call it “victory”), spend the resources (financial and otherwise) to do the same in Afghanistan, and help bend history in Iran.

So far, Obama’s performance on Iran has been pathetic, as Jamie Fly sums up:

The administration’s public statements on Iran in the days leading up to today’s protests have been shameful.  One wonders whether they might be more successful if instead of playing rhetorical games with the Iranian regime, this administration was focused on rallying international support for and implementing those “crippling sanctions” they used to threaten if Iran did not accept President Obama’s outstretched hand. All in all, another missed opportunity to stand on the right side of history and support the protesters who represent the best chance for resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis.

But it’s not too late. The country (ours and theirs) would respond favorably. He could deploy his vaunted eloquence to rally world opinion and support the oppressed and imprisoned. He could make “hope and change” more than a punch line. And here at home, Republicans would rally to his side.

Think that’s unlikely, too? Well, maybe if he wants that “one really good” term, he could use it to achieve something truly important. If the alternative is dickering with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid over a fiscal commission, it might seem like the thing to do. But then again, maybe all he really wanted was to win the presidency.

To his credit, David Brooks delivers the harsh news to the Obami:

Voters are in no mood for a wave of domestic transformation. The economy is already introducing enough insecurity into their lives. Unlike 1932 and 1965, Americans do not trust Washington to take them on a leap of faith, especially if it means more spending.

The country has reacted harshly to the course the administration ended up embracing. Obama is still admired personally, but every major proposal — from the stimulus to health care — is quite unpopular. Independent voters have swung against the administration. Voters are not reacting to the particulars of each bill. They are reacting against the total activist onslaught.

Brooks suggests some things Obama now could do, ranging from the innocuous (“propose some incremental changes in a range of areas and prove Washington can at least take small steps”) to the unlikely (Who thinks Obama has the patience or the inclination to “take several of the Republican health care reform ideas — like malpractice reform and lifting the regulatory barriers on state-based experimentation — and proactively embrace them as part of a genuine compromise offer”?) to the scary (please, no “constitutional debate” with “amendments of one sort or another”).

Frankly, Obama shows none of Brooks’ passion for the nitty-gritty of governance. Aside from sporadic rhetoric, Obama has rejected true bipartisanship at every turn. So the prospects for a successful domestic agenda are not great. But because they are already touting their great achievement in Iraq, the Obami might stop husbanding resources for a domestic agenda that is going nowhere and instead start using their capital on some historic foreign endeavors. Obama could complete the job in Iraq (and actually call it “victory”), spend the resources (financial and otherwise) to do the same in Afghanistan, and help bend history in Iran.

So far, Obama’s performance on Iran has been pathetic, as Jamie Fly sums up:

The administration’s public statements on Iran in the days leading up to today’s protests have been shameful.  One wonders whether they might be more successful if instead of playing rhetorical games with the Iranian regime, this administration was focused on rallying international support for and implementing those “crippling sanctions” they used to threaten if Iran did not accept President Obama’s outstretched hand. All in all, another missed opportunity to stand on the right side of history and support the protesters who represent the best chance for resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis.

But it’s not too late. The country (ours and theirs) would respond favorably. He could deploy his vaunted eloquence to rally world opinion and support the oppressed and imprisoned. He could make “hope and change” more than a punch line. And here at home, Republicans would rally to his side.

Think that’s unlikely, too? Well, maybe if he wants that “one really good” term, he could use it to achieve something truly important. If the alternative is dickering with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid over a fiscal commission, it might seem like the thing to do. But then again, maybe all he really wanted was to win the presidency.

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The Human-Rights Organizations That Cried Wolf

An appeal filed to Israel’s Supreme Court this week provides a good example of just how morally warped some Israeli human-rights groups have become — and why those who truly need them are suffering as a result.

The appeal was filed on behalf of Gaza resident Atsem Hamdan, who sought permission to enter Israel for medical treatment unavailable in Gaza. The relevant Israeli authorities refused, and a district court upheld this decision. Hamdan, it said, could seek treatment in another country; Israel is not obliged to provide medical care for every resident of a hostile entity, which Hamas-led Gaza certainly is.

In their appeal, Haaretz reports, Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel argue that in fact, Israel is “obligated to see to the welfare and health of residents of the Gaza Strip. … This obligation is a result of the state of warfare, Israel’s control of the border crossings, and the Gaza Strip’s dependence on Israel due to the long years of occupation.”

The sheer absurdity of these claims is mind-boggling. First, if Israel retains responsibility for Gaza’s residents even after having withdrawn every last soldier and settler, merely because it used to occupy the Strip, what incentive would it ever have to quit any “occupied” territory? If Israel is going to be held responsible for the residents’ welfare whether it goes or stays, it may as well stay and at least enjoy the benefits of occupation — like being able to crack down on Hamas’s rocket-manufacturing industry.

Second, if “the state of warfare” and the border blockade that stems from it obligate Israel to provide medical care for Gaza’s residents, then every country in the region has a powerful incentive to go to war with Israel. After all, Israel has the best medical care in the region. So either its neighbors can invest hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrading their own hospitals, or they can bombard Israel with cheap rockets and thereby obligate Israel to provide their citizens with state-of-the-art medical care — a much more cost-effective option.

And that, of course, is aside from the moral perversion of this argument, which makes the victim responsible for the aggressor’s wellbeing. After all, it was Hamas that attacked Israel following the latter’s 2005 pullout from Gaza, not the other way around.

Finally, Gaza has two borders, and Israel controls only one. It’s hardly Israel’s fault that Hamas has irritated Egypt so badly that Egypt’s border with Gaza is sealed, too.

I doubt this nonsense will convince the Supreme Court, but it is nevertheless far from harmless — because such moral perversity is increasingly making Israelis tune out anything any self-proclaimed “human-rights organization” says. And that leaves the real victims of human-rights abuses, whose only hope of redress lies in having such organizations make their stories public, increasingly voiceless. For if these groups persist in crying wolf over trumped-up “rights” like those they claim for Hamdan, eventually, no one will listen anymore.

An appeal filed to Israel’s Supreme Court this week provides a good example of just how morally warped some Israeli human-rights groups have become — and why those who truly need them are suffering as a result.

The appeal was filed on behalf of Gaza resident Atsem Hamdan, who sought permission to enter Israel for medical treatment unavailable in Gaza. The relevant Israeli authorities refused, and a district court upheld this decision. Hamdan, it said, could seek treatment in another country; Israel is not obliged to provide medical care for every resident of a hostile entity, which Hamas-led Gaza certainly is.

In their appeal, Haaretz reports, Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel argue that in fact, Israel is “obligated to see to the welfare and health of residents of the Gaza Strip. … This obligation is a result of the state of warfare, Israel’s control of the border crossings, and the Gaza Strip’s dependence on Israel due to the long years of occupation.”

The sheer absurdity of these claims is mind-boggling. First, if Israel retains responsibility for Gaza’s residents even after having withdrawn every last soldier and settler, merely because it used to occupy the Strip, what incentive would it ever have to quit any “occupied” territory? If Israel is going to be held responsible for the residents’ welfare whether it goes or stays, it may as well stay and at least enjoy the benefits of occupation — like being able to crack down on Hamas’s rocket-manufacturing industry.

Second, if “the state of warfare” and the border blockade that stems from it obligate Israel to provide medical care for Gaza’s residents, then every country in the region has a powerful incentive to go to war with Israel. After all, Israel has the best medical care in the region. So either its neighbors can invest hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrading their own hospitals, or they can bombard Israel with cheap rockets and thereby obligate Israel to provide their citizens with state-of-the-art medical care — a much more cost-effective option.

And that, of course, is aside from the moral perversion of this argument, which makes the victim responsible for the aggressor’s wellbeing. After all, it was Hamas that attacked Israel following the latter’s 2005 pullout from Gaza, not the other way around.

Finally, Gaza has two borders, and Israel controls only one. It’s hardly Israel’s fault that Hamas has irritated Egypt so badly that Egypt’s border with Gaza is sealed, too.

I doubt this nonsense will convince the Supreme Court, but it is nevertheless far from harmless — because such moral perversity is increasingly making Israelis tune out anything any self-proclaimed “human-rights organization” says. And that leaves the real victims of human-rights abuses, whose only hope of redress lies in having such organizations make their stories public, increasingly voiceless. For if these groups persist in crying wolf over trumped-up “rights” like those they claim for Hamdan, eventually, no one will listen anymore.

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Cut the Gordion Knot, Already

Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised to deliver a “telling blow” against “global powers” on Feb. 11, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, and yesterday, right on schedule, we found out what that blow was. Iran, he boasted before a bussed-in crowd, is now a “nuclear state.” He and his Revolutionary Guards have not yet built a nuclear weapon, but they have — assuming they’re telling the truth — made enormous progress by enriching uranium at the crucial 20 percent threshold.

Yet while millions of Iranians are in open rebellion against their own hated government, the United States is still making policy as if they did not exist. Obama administration officials are ready to impose sanctions, but they’re doing it for the wrong reason. Sanctions, a senior official said, are “about driving them back to negotiations because the real goal here is to avoid war.”

All of us — Left, Right, and Center — worry about war with Iran. “Doves” hope to skirt a small- or medium-sized conflict, while “hawks” dwell on the threat of nuclear war. Doves would rather Iran get the bomb than go to war, while hawks would back anti-government demonstrators or destroy the weapons facilities outright. Every approach is risky, and I don’t know which is best, but this much is all but certain: we won’t be in the clear until the leadership, and perhaps the whole state, is replaced.

Sanctions might help at this point, but negotiations — which the unnamed official hopes to return to — will not. Resistance is at the core of the regime’s ideology. Expecting Ahmadinejad and Khamenei to give that up is like asking Fidel Castro to scrap socialism or Benjamin Netanyahu to let go of Zionism. The odds of it happening are near zero. If that was unclear a year ago, it shouldn’t be now.

No one can know if Iran’s opposition will topple the government, but the odds of it happening are well above zero. If Ahmadinejad and Khamenei bolt the country next month, will anybody really be all that surprised? It would look obvious and inevitable in hindsight. Pessimists say the regime is durable, and maybe it is, but communist governments in Europe looked that way, too, and they weren’t. CIA analysts said it about Iran’s shah in 1979, and they were wrong.

A civilian nuclear-energy program in a secular and moderate Iran won’t be a fraction as troubling as the current nuclear-weapons program in Khomeinist Iran. Politically moderate Iranians won’t nuke Israelis, Arabs, or anyone else, and they’re a lot less likely to even build the bombs in the first place. At the same time, Iran’s Islamic Republic regime has been a toxic menace in the Middle East for 31 years, even without nuclear weapons. It’s the biggest state sponsor of terrorists in the world, it has already ignited a number of conflicts, and it is not going to stop. If the goal here is to avoid war, as the administration says, even if the weapons program is mothballed, it won’t be enough. The rulers themselves are the problem.

Regime change is the bold stroke that would cut the Gordian Knot. It would decapitate the Iranian-Syrian-Hamas-Hezbollah resistance bloc. Jerusalem, Beirut, Baghdad, Tehran, Cairo, Riyadh, and Gaza would all breathe easier. As Reuel Marc Gerecht wrote two days ago, “A democratic revolution in Tehran could well prove the most momentous Mideastern event since the fall of the Ottoman Empire.”

William Kristol wonders if the phrase “regime change” makes the administration uneasy, if it reminds the president and his advisers too much of George W. Bush. Maybe it does, although it shouldn’t — not if regime change comes from within rather than at American gunpoint.

Obama need not transform himself into a Reagan or Bush. If “regime change” tastes bitter, what’s wrong with hope and change in Iran? Instead of cajoling Khamenei — who will never negotiate in good faith — the president need only ask himself the following question when presented with policy options from his advisers: will this or won’t this shorten the lifespan of that government?

Last week, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised to deliver a “telling blow” against “global powers” on Feb. 11, the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, and yesterday, right on schedule, we found out what that blow was. Iran, he boasted before a bussed-in crowd, is now a “nuclear state.” He and his Revolutionary Guards have not yet built a nuclear weapon, but they have — assuming they’re telling the truth — made enormous progress by enriching uranium at the crucial 20 percent threshold.

Yet while millions of Iranians are in open rebellion against their own hated government, the United States is still making policy as if they did not exist. Obama administration officials are ready to impose sanctions, but they’re doing it for the wrong reason. Sanctions, a senior official said, are “about driving them back to negotiations because the real goal here is to avoid war.”

All of us — Left, Right, and Center — worry about war with Iran. “Doves” hope to skirt a small- or medium-sized conflict, while “hawks” dwell on the threat of nuclear war. Doves would rather Iran get the bomb than go to war, while hawks would back anti-government demonstrators or destroy the weapons facilities outright. Every approach is risky, and I don’t know which is best, but this much is all but certain: we won’t be in the clear until the leadership, and perhaps the whole state, is replaced.

Sanctions might help at this point, but negotiations — which the unnamed official hopes to return to — will not. Resistance is at the core of the regime’s ideology. Expecting Ahmadinejad and Khamenei to give that up is like asking Fidel Castro to scrap socialism or Benjamin Netanyahu to let go of Zionism. The odds of it happening are near zero. If that was unclear a year ago, it shouldn’t be now.

No one can know if Iran’s opposition will topple the government, but the odds of it happening are well above zero. If Ahmadinejad and Khamenei bolt the country next month, will anybody really be all that surprised? It would look obvious and inevitable in hindsight. Pessimists say the regime is durable, and maybe it is, but communist governments in Europe looked that way, too, and they weren’t. CIA analysts said it about Iran’s shah in 1979, and they were wrong.

A civilian nuclear-energy program in a secular and moderate Iran won’t be a fraction as troubling as the current nuclear-weapons program in Khomeinist Iran. Politically moderate Iranians won’t nuke Israelis, Arabs, or anyone else, and they’re a lot less likely to even build the bombs in the first place. At the same time, Iran’s Islamic Republic regime has been a toxic menace in the Middle East for 31 years, even without nuclear weapons. It’s the biggest state sponsor of terrorists in the world, it has already ignited a number of conflicts, and it is not going to stop. If the goal here is to avoid war, as the administration says, even if the weapons program is mothballed, it won’t be enough. The rulers themselves are the problem.

Regime change is the bold stroke that would cut the Gordian Knot. It would decapitate the Iranian-Syrian-Hamas-Hezbollah resistance bloc. Jerusalem, Beirut, Baghdad, Tehran, Cairo, Riyadh, and Gaza would all breathe easier. As Reuel Marc Gerecht wrote two days ago, “A democratic revolution in Tehran could well prove the most momentous Mideastern event since the fall of the Ottoman Empire.”

William Kristol wonders if the phrase “regime change” makes the administration uneasy, if it reminds the president and his advisers too much of George W. Bush. Maybe it does, although it shouldn’t — not if regime change comes from within rather than at American gunpoint.

Obama need not transform himself into a Reagan or Bush. If “regime change” tastes bitter, what’s wrong with hope and change in Iran? Instead of cajoling Khamenei — who will never negotiate in good faith — the president need only ask himself the following question when presented with policy options from his advisers: will this or won’t this shorten the lifespan of that government?

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Is Iran’s Choice Between Theocracy and Totalitarianism?

There has been no shortage of commentary trying to dissuade Americans from taking the Iran nuclear threat seriously. The arguments run the gamut from attempts to show that Iran’s leadership is reasonable to attempts to assert that it is the Islamic Republic’s right to develop nukes. But one of the consistent themes we’ve heard in the last year is that the Western emphasis on the statements and ill intentions of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is wrongheaded. Time and again, we have been told that, as unpleasant as the Holocaust-denying and Israel-hating Ahmadinejad may be, he is not the real source of power in Iran. Rather, we are reminded, it is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei we should worry about. In the view of apologists for the rogue regime, the focus on the loathsome Ahmadinejad merely demonizes Iran rather than dealing with it.

That argument was undermined by the events of the past summer, when the Islamist government went all out to steal the presidential election for Ahmadinejad. If he were just Khamenei’s errand boy, why would the ayatollahs unleash its religious militia to murder and intimidate the masses of Iranians who took to the streets to protest the stolen election? At the very least, Khamenei’s decision to stand by Ahmadinejad, even at the price of the regime’s internal legitimacy, illustrated that the president is a key part of the ayatollahs’ plan to hold onto power, if not an essential element of the regime, itself.

But now, as President Obama is mounting a half-hearted and belated attempt to enact sanctions against Iran for its refusal to halt its nuclear program, there comes a different point of view about Ahmadinejad’s importance. Jamsheed K. Choksy of Indiana University writes in Newsweek that not only is Ahmadinejad nobody’s errand boy but he has also become an independent power in his own right who may be challenging the ayatollahs.

According to Choksy, Ahmadinejad is regularly defying Khamenei and may have a different view about confronting the West than his alleged master. Choksy claims that Ahmadinejad, who has heretofore been considered an ardent backer of the theocracy, is putting forward a more pragmatic and less dogmatically religious approach to governance, including championing the rights of women. This may sound hopeful to some who would like to think that, even without foreign pressure or support for an internal rebellion, Iran ultimately could be able to reform itself and become a more moderate nation.

But don’t get too excited. The sort of government that Ahmadinejad might be aiming for may actually be more repressive and nationalistic than the current one. For Choksy, an Ahmadinejad victory over the mullahs will not be a victory for liberalism: “Together with the IRGC [the Iranian Revolutionary Guard] and Basij (a volunteer paramilitary group that has attacked opposition protesters), Ahmadinejad and his ilk are turning to totalitarianism, rather than the fundamentalism of Shiite clerics, to suppress the steadily growing democratic aspirations of the Green Movement.”

If Choksy is right, we ought not to be cheering for Ahmadinejad and his violent allies to take control from the clerics. But if this potential conflict is real, and that is far from certain, what it does mean is that there is more reason than ever for the United States to push hard for crippling sanctions on Iran as well as to speak up for the democracy movement. We cannot sit back and wait until we are faced with either a nuclear totalitarian Iran or a nuclear theocratic Iran. Either would be a disaster and a deadly threat to peace.  If there is a real division between the rogues that run Iran, now is the time to put the maximum amount of pressure on these tyrants.

There has been no shortage of commentary trying to dissuade Americans from taking the Iran nuclear threat seriously. The arguments run the gamut from attempts to show that Iran’s leadership is reasonable to attempts to assert that it is the Islamic Republic’s right to develop nukes. But one of the consistent themes we’ve heard in the last year is that the Western emphasis on the statements and ill intentions of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is wrongheaded. Time and again, we have been told that, as unpleasant as the Holocaust-denying and Israel-hating Ahmadinejad may be, he is not the real source of power in Iran. Rather, we are reminded, it is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei we should worry about. In the view of apologists for the rogue regime, the focus on the loathsome Ahmadinejad merely demonizes Iran rather than dealing with it.

That argument was undermined by the events of the past summer, when the Islamist government went all out to steal the presidential election for Ahmadinejad. If he were just Khamenei’s errand boy, why would the ayatollahs unleash its religious militia to murder and intimidate the masses of Iranians who took to the streets to protest the stolen election? At the very least, Khamenei’s decision to stand by Ahmadinejad, even at the price of the regime’s internal legitimacy, illustrated that the president is a key part of the ayatollahs’ plan to hold onto power, if not an essential element of the regime, itself.

But now, as President Obama is mounting a half-hearted and belated attempt to enact sanctions against Iran for its refusal to halt its nuclear program, there comes a different point of view about Ahmadinejad’s importance. Jamsheed K. Choksy of Indiana University writes in Newsweek that not only is Ahmadinejad nobody’s errand boy but he has also become an independent power in his own right who may be challenging the ayatollahs.

According to Choksy, Ahmadinejad is regularly defying Khamenei and may have a different view about confronting the West than his alleged master. Choksy claims that Ahmadinejad, who has heretofore been considered an ardent backer of the theocracy, is putting forward a more pragmatic and less dogmatically religious approach to governance, including championing the rights of women. This may sound hopeful to some who would like to think that, even without foreign pressure or support for an internal rebellion, Iran ultimately could be able to reform itself and become a more moderate nation.

But don’t get too excited. The sort of government that Ahmadinejad might be aiming for may actually be more repressive and nationalistic than the current one. For Choksy, an Ahmadinejad victory over the mullahs will not be a victory for liberalism: “Together with the IRGC [the Iranian Revolutionary Guard] and Basij (a volunteer paramilitary group that has attacked opposition protesters), Ahmadinejad and his ilk are turning to totalitarianism, rather than the fundamentalism of Shiite clerics, to suppress the steadily growing democratic aspirations of the Green Movement.”

If Choksy is right, we ought not to be cheering for Ahmadinejad and his violent allies to take control from the clerics. But if this potential conflict is real, and that is far from certain, what it does mean is that there is more reason than ever for the United States to push hard for crippling sanctions on Iran as well as to speak up for the democracy movement. We cannot sit back and wait until we are faced with either a nuclear totalitarian Iran or a nuclear theocratic Iran. Either would be a disaster and a deadly threat to peace.  If there is a real division between the rogues that run Iran, now is the time to put the maximum amount of pressure on these tyrants.

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Re: Blaming Bush for the Deficit Is Getting Old

Michael Boskin isn’t much impressed with Obama’s complaint that he inherited a budget deficit. He points out that Obama’s own budget sets us on a course of reckless spending, the cost of which can’t be reasonably balanced by tax hikes (at least not without crippling our economic growth). Boskin explains the depth of the hole Obama — not George W. Bush — is digging for us:

On average, in the first three years of the 10-year budget plan, federal spending rises by 4.4% of GDP. That’s more than during President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and Vietnam War buildup and President Ronald Reagan’s defense buildup combined. . . Remarkably, President Obama will add more red ink in his first two years than President George W. Bush — berated by conservatives for his failure to control domestic spending and by liberals for the explosion of military spending in Iraq and Afghanistan — did in eight. In his first 15 months, Mr. Obama will raise the debt burden — the ratio of the national debt to GDP — by more than Reagan did in eight years. . . He projects a cumulative deficit of $11.5 trillion by 2020. That brings the publicly held debt (excluding debt held inside the government, e.g., Social Security) to 77% of GDP, and the gross debt to over 100%. Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush each ended their terms at about 40%.

The tax hikes needed to pay for all this would choke off economic growth. (“Such vast debt implies immense future tax increases. Balancing the 2015 budget would require a 43% increase in everyone’s income taxes that year.”) This all is occurring, as Boskin notes, while baby boomers are hitting retirement age, thereby pushing up entitlement costs.

It is understandable then why Obama would rather deflect the discussion to his predecessor’s fiscal shortcomings. But the figures Boskin cites are real and the blame for our worsening situation will rightly be directed to the current White House occupant. He loves, of course, to tell us that choices are “false” or to hover above the political debate as if he were a cable-TV commentator or, yes, a law-school professor. But this is a problem that requires him to do something. And when decisive, potentially unpopular action is required (e.g., Afghanistan war strategy, Iran policy) Obama seems to shrink before our eyes. Is it timidity? Lack of experience or executive ability? We don’t know.

All we can judge Obama by are his decisions and the results he obtains. So far, on the budget (as on so much else), he has come up wanting. There is no policy innovation, no debunking of liberal dogma, and no willingness to embrace the best of his opponents’ ideas. So we can understand why George W. Bush is a favorite crutch.

Michael Boskin isn’t much impressed with Obama’s complaint that he inherited a budget deficit. He points out that Obama’s own budget sets us on a course of reckless spending, the cost of which can’t be reasonably balanced by tax hikes (at least not without crippling our economic growth). Boskin explains the depth of the hole Obama — not George W. Bush — is digging for us:

On average, in the first three years of the 10-year budget plan, federal spending rises by 4.4% of GDP. That’s more than during President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and Vietnam War buildup and President Ronald Reagan’s defense buildup combined. . . Remarkably, President Obama will add more red ink in his first two years than President George W. Bush — berated by conservatives for his failure to control domestic spending and by liberals for the explosion of military spending in Iraq and Afghanistan — did in eight. In his first 15 months, Mr. Obama will raise the debt burden — the ratio of the national debt to GDP — by more than Reagan did in eight years. . . He projects a cumulative deficit of $11.5 trillion by 2020. That brings the publicly held debt (excluding debt held inside the government, e.g., Social Security) to 77% of GDP, and the gross debt to over 100%. Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush each ended their terms at about 40%.

The tax hikes needed to pay for all this would choke off economic growth. (“Such vast debt implies immense future tax increases. Balancing the 2015 budget would require a 43% increase in everyone’s income taxes that year.”) This all is occurring, as Boskin notes, while baby boomers are hitting retirement age, thereby pushing up entitlement costs.

It is understandable then why Obama would rather deflect the discussion to his predecessor’s fiscal shortcomings. But the figures Boskin cites are real and the blame for our worsening situation will rightly be directed to the current White House occupant. He loves, of course, to tell us that choices are “false” or to hover above the political debate as if he were a cable-TV commentator or, yes, a law-school professor. But this is a problem that requires him to do something. And when decisive, potentially unpopular action is required (e.g., Afghanistan war strategy, Iran policy) Obama seems to shrink before our eyes. Is it timidity? Lack of experience or executive ability? We don’t know.

All we can judge Obama by are his decisions and the results he obtains. So far, on the budget (as on so much else), he has come up wanting. There is no policy innovation, no debunking of liberal dogma, and no willingness to embrace the best of his opponents’ ideas. So we can understand why George W. Bush is a favorite crutch.

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Congress and Obama in Trouble

The New York Times poll paints a bleak picture for Obama and an even bleaker one for incumbents in Congress. Obama’s approval is down to 46 percent, while only 42 percent approve of his handling of the economy. His ratings on health care and the deficit are in George W. Bush territory (i.e., the mid-30s). A sizable plurality think he has spent too much time on health care, and a majority think he’s not spent enough time on the economy. Noteworthy is the 56 percent (only topped by 61 percent in 1996) who prefer a smaller government with fewer services. The Obama revolution, at least so far, has been a bust.

But Obama’s ratings are glowing compared to what Congress receives. Only 15 percent approve of Congress’s performance. (That seems high, come to think of it. But perhaps those cheering for paralysis are among the 15 percent.) And a stunning 81 percent think most lawmakers don’t deserve to keep their jobs.

This and other polls reinforce the conclusion that Obama’s gambit — keep plugging away at health-care reform, avoid serious spending restraint, and offer no bones to moderates within his party — is a dangerous one. The public wants precisely the opposite of what he persists in offering. It likewise suggests that Nancy Pelosi’s pole-vaulting commitment to ObamaCare and her aversion to a spending freeze are perfectly at odds with public opinion. She and her members, if they keep this up, risk further infuriating the electorate. (Granted, it is hard to do worse than 15 percent approval.)

Imagine if Obama and the Democrats listened to the public. They would toss ObamaCare aside. They would propose meaningful cuts in government spending. They’d work on jobs and economic growth. In short, they’d do what Republicans are suggesting. Do the Democrats suspect the Republicans are concocting a devilish plot to sink them? That is as good an explanation as any for the Reid-Pelosi-Obama triumvirate’s refusal to consider seriously their opponents’ suggestions. The Democrats refuse to be rescued from their own folly, it seems.

It is a long way until the November elections. Public opinion can shift dramatically. But it will have to shift very dramatically for many Democrats to avoid getting wiped out. And that is quite unlikely, as long as they keep doing what the voters hate.

The New York Times poll paints a bleak picture for Obama and an even bleaker one for incumbents in Congress. Obama’s approval is down to 46 percent, while only 42 percent approve of his handling of the economy. His ratings on health care and the deficit are in George W. Bush territory (i.e., the mid-30s). A sizable plurality think he has spent too much time on health care, and a majority think he’s not spent enough time on the economy. Noteworthy is the 56 percent (only topped by 61 percent in 1996) who prefer a smaller government with fewer services. The Obama revolution, at least so far, has been a bust.

But Obama’s ratings are glowing compared to what Congress receives. Only 15 percent approve of Congress’s performance. (That seems high, come to think of it. But perhaps those cheering for paralysis are among the 15 percent.) And a stunning 81 percent think most lawmakers don’t deserve to keep their jobs.

This and other polls reinforce the conclusion that Obama’s gambit — keep plugging away at health-care reform, avoid serious spending restraint, and offer no bones to moderates within his party — is a dangerous one. The public wants precisely the opposite of what he persists in offering. It likewise suggests that Nancy Pelosi’s pole-vaulting commitment to ObamaCare and her aversion to a spending freeze are perfectly at odds with public opinion. She and her members, if they keep this up, risk further infuriating the electorate. (Granted, it is hard to do worse than 15 percent approval.)

Imagine if Obama and the Democrats listened to the public. They would toss ObamaCare aside. They would propose meaningful cuts in government spending. They’d work on jobs and economic growth. In short, they’d do what Republicans are suggesting. Do the Democrats suspect the Republicans are concocting a devilish plot to sink them? That is as good an explanation as any for the Reid-Pelosi-Obama triumvirate’s refusal to consider seriously their opponents’ suggestions. The Democrats refuse to be rescued from their own folly, it seems.

It is a long way until the November elections. Public opinion can shift dramatically. But it will have to shift very dramatically for many Democrats to avoid getting wiped out. And that is quite unlikely, as long as they keep doing what the voters hate.

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The End of the “Not Bush” Experiment?

The Hill reports:

Rep. Pete King (N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, said he would attempt to add language barring any money from being spent on trying alleged terrorists in civilian courts to the intelligence authorization bill. . . In the next week, King said, he will be fine-tuning the language to make it germane to the intelligence authorization bill. If he is unsuccessful or it doesn’t pass, he vowed to continue to offer the bill throughout the rest of the year whenever he sees an opportunity.

This seems like a fine idea. If, as Obama keeps declaring, we got “off track” during the Bush years (oh, except for the parts which the Obami claim were identical to what Obama is now doing) and betrayed our “values,” he should welcome a robust debate about the wisdom of trying jihadists in civilian courtrooms. Granted, a New York venue seems like a nonstarter now, but Eric Holder and Obama insist that that civilian trials are the way to go. They tell us that it’s going to prove (to whom?) the wonders of the American judicial system — before they absolutely, positively guarantee a conviction. (And such reasoning requires one to put aside, I suppose, that military tribunals authorized by Congress are part of that judicial system.)

The Obami must sense they are on thin ice. Sens. Pat Leahy and Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to the White House (I’m sure it was requested) singing the praises of federal court trials for terrorists. But there is a groundswell of opposition building:

King and Rep. Frank Wolf (Va.), the top Republican on the subcommittee that funds the Justice Department, are leading the House drive to prevent any funds from being spent on prosecuting Guantanamo Bay detainees in U.S. federal courts. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is leading a similar legislative initiative in the Senate. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who is in a tight reelection race, signed on as a co-sponsor to Graham’s bill. . . . Last week, two House Democrats, Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.) and Mike McMahon (N.Y.), jumped onto King and Wolf’s bill as co-sponsors, a sign that support in the Democratic Caucus for Obama’s detainee policies has deteriorated in recent weeks amid growing concern about how voters will view the White House’s national security policies at the polls in November

The public in survey after survey opposes the criminal-justice model Obama still clings to. The president will have the chance to make his pitch and convince the public of the merits of his view. Indeed, snatching the decision-making process away from the hapless Eric Holder, who botched the New York trial roll-out, Obama declares that he will insert himself in the process and decide the locale of the KSM trial.

But I suspect the whole experiment is unraveling as those on the ballot this year sense that there is no appetite for this sort of thing. Even Holder seemed to leave the door open to trying KSM in a military tribunal. (“‘At the end of the day, wherever this case is tried, in whatever forum, what we have to ensure is that it’s done as transparently as possible and with adherence to all the rules,’ Holder said. ‘If we do that, I’m not sure the location or even the forum is as important as what the world sees in that proceeding.’”)

Well, perhaps it was the “not Bush” approach to terrorism that was seriously off track and flew in the face of the values and common sense of the American people. If Congress is stepping up to the plate and the administration is groping for an exit plan, we may finally arrive at a rational approach to fighting Islamic fascists — one that looks a whole lot like the Bush approach.

The Hill reports:

Rep. Pete King (N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, said he would attempt to add language barring any money from being spent on trying alleged terrorists in civilian courts to the intelligence authorization bill. . . In the next week, King said, he will be fine-tuning the language to make it germane to the intelligence authorization bill. If he is unsuccessful or it doesn’t pass, he vowed to continue to offer the bill throughout the rest of the year whenever he sees an opportunity.

This seems like a fine idea. If, as Obama keeps declaring, we got “off track” during the Bush years (oh, except for the parts which the Obami claim were identical to what Obama is now doing) and betrayed our “values,” he should welcome a robust debate about the wisdom of trying jihadists in civilian courtrooms. Granted, a New York venue seems like a nonstarter now, but Eric Holder and Obama insist that that civilian trials are the way to go. They tell us that it’s going to prove (to whom?) the wonders of the American judicial system — before they absolutely, positively guarantee a conviction. (And such reasoning requires one to put aside, I suppose, that military tribunals authorized by Congress are part of that judicial system.)

The Obami must sense they are on thin ice. Sens. Pat Leahy and Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to the White House (I’m sure it was requested) singing the praises of federal court trials for terrorists. But there is a groundswell of opposition building:

King and Rep. Frank Wolf (Va.), the top Republican on the subcommittee that funds the Justice Department, are leading the House drive to prevent any funds from being spent on prosecuting Guantanamo Bay detainees in U.S. federal courts. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is leading a similar legislative initiative in the Senate. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who is in a tight reelection race, signed on as a co-sponsor to Graham’s bill. . . . Last week, two House Democrats, Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.) and Mike McMahon (N.Y.), jumped onto King and Wolf’s bill as co-sponsors, a sign that support in the Democratic Caucus for Obama’s detainee policies has deteriorated in recent weeks amid growing concern about how voters will view the White House’s national security policies at the polls in November

The public in survey after survey opposes the criminal-justice model Obama still clings to. The president will have the chance to make his pitch and convince the public of the merits of his view. Indeed, snatching the decision-making process away from the hapless Eric Holder, who botched the New York trial roll-out, Obama declares that he will insert himself in the process and decide the locale of the KSM trial.

But I suspect the whole experiment is unraveling as those on the ballot this year sense that there is no appetite for this sort of thing. Even Holder seemed to leave the door open to trying KSM in a military tribunal. (“‘At the end of the day, wherever this case is tried, in whatever forum, what we have to ensure is that it’s done as transparently as possible and with adherence to all the rules,’ Holder said. ‘If we do that, I’m not sure the location or even the forum is as important as what the world sees in that proceeding.’”)

Well, perhaps it was the “not Bush” approach to terrorism that was seriously off track and flew in the face of the values and common sense of the American people. If Congress is stepping up to the plate and the administration is groping for an exit plan, we may finally arrive at a rational approach to fighting Islamic fascists — one that looks a whole lot like the Bush approach.

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Schumer’s End Run on the Court Hasn’t a Chance

Politics is never short of irony. It was predictable that the Democrats would introduce legislation that attempted to circumvent the Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down campaign-finance laws that sought to restrict political speech. To justify this stand, they claim they are standing up to “corporate America.” But it’s more than a little ironic that the Senate sponsor of this bill is Charles Schumer of New York, the man who has spent most of the past decade helping the Democrats raise big bucks from, you guessed it, corporate America.

The bill, as described in today’s New York Times will be a patchwork of restrictions as well as disclosure requirements for expenditures. But in spite of the fact that Schumer and Rep. Chris Van Hollen claim their bill will comply with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the law, it is pretty clear that it does not. The ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission specifically prohibited bans aimed at silencing specific groups or classes of persons or corporations. But the Democrat bill, though it targets corporations that are politically unpopular — government contractors, recipients of federal bailout money, and foreign corporations — clearly contravenes the Court’s ruling. This attempt to prohibit political commercials paid for by such groups is exactly the sort of thing that the majority ruling singled out as a violation of the First Amendment.

The Times quotes Bradley Smith, the former chair of the Federal Election Commission and the driving force behind the movement to overturn such unconstitutional infringements of free speech, as saying that the Democrats’ bill obviously flouts the law. Since the sponsors of the bill have presented it as a way of curbing the exact sort of spending that the Court said was legal, all he would have to do to overturn this piece of legislation is to merely quote its authors.

Running against “corporate America” is always good politics, but citizens do not lose their right to speak out on political issues or elections when they band together to form interest groups or corporations. The goal of Schumer’s bill, like the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law that spawned the Citizens United case, is to silence entire classes of political speakers. The only winners in such a scheme are not the people or the principle of fair elections but the politicians and media corporations that have always been able to spend as much as they like in pursuit of whatever political cause or candidate they prefer. While more disclosure of expenditures is always welcome, it must also be done in such a way as to make compliance feasible. As the 2008 election proved, when Barack Obama raised vast sums on the Internet, full disclosure takes time and must be carefully done lest confidential financial information (like individual credit-card numbers) be published along with the names of contributors.

It is unlikely that the Schumer–Van Hollen bill will get anywhere this year despite the histrionics of the sponsors. But it is worth noting the blatant hypocrisy of Schumer, the poster child for crony capitalism whose fundraising efforts have been the nexus of a flood of corporate contributions to the Democratic party in recent years, claiming to be the defender of the ordinary guy against the influence of corporate money.

Also interesting is the silence of the former paladin of campaign-finance reform: Senator John McCain. If there was one issue above all others that alienated the Republican base from the 2008 GOP presidential candidate it was his championing of a “reform” that sought to restrict political speech. Facing a right-wing primary challenge for re-election this year, McCain’s office could only say that “the Supreme Court has spoken.” Yes, it has. And while President Obama and Schumer may play the demagogue on this issue, supporters of free speech can be thankful that the conservative majority on the Court has, at least for now, had the last word on this issue.

Politics is never short of irony. It was predictable that the Democrats would introduce legislation that attempted to circumvent the Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down campaign-finance laws that sought to restrict political speech. To justify this stand, they claim they are standing up to “corporate America.” But it’s more than a little ironic that the Senate sponsor of this bill is Charles Schumer of New York, the man who has spent most of the past decade helping the Democrats raise big bucks from, you guessed it, corporate America.

The bill, as described in today’s New York Times will be a patchwork of restrictions as well as disclosure requirements for expenditures. But in spite of the fact that Schumer and Rep. Chris Van Hollen claim their bill will comply with the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the law, it is pretty clear that it does not. The ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission specifically prohibited bans aimed at silencing specific groups or classes of persons or corporations. But the Democrat bill, though it targets corporations that are politically unpopular — government contractors, recipients of federal bailout money, and foreign corporations — clearly contravenes the Court’s ruling. This attempt to prohibit political commercials paid for by such groups is exactly the sort of thing that the majority ruling singled out as a violation of the First Amendment.

The Times quotes Bradley Smith, the former chair of the Federal Election Commission and the driving force behind the movement to overturn such unconstitutional infringements of free speech, as saying that the Democrats’ bill obviously flouts the law. Since the sponsors of the bill have presented it as a way of curbing the exact sort of spending that the Court said was legal, all he would have to do to overturn this piece of legislation is to merely quote its authors.

Running against “corporate America” is always good politics, but citizens do not lose their right to speak out on political issues or elections when they band together to form interest groups or corporations. The goal of Schumer’s bill, like the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law that spawned the Citizens United case, is to silence entire classes of political speakers. The only winners in such a scheme are not the people or the principle of fair elections but the politicians and media corporations that have always been able to spend as much as they like in pursuit of whatever political cause or candidate they prefer. While more disclosure of expenditures is always welcome, it must also be done in such a way as to make compliance feasible. As the 2008 election proved, when Barack Obama raised vast sums on the Internet, full disclosure takes time and must be carefully done lest confidential financial information (like individual credit-card numbers) be published along with the names of contributors.

It is unlikely that the Schumer–Van Hollen bill will get anywhere this year despite the histrionics of the sponsors. But it is worth noting the blatant hypocrisy of Schumer, the poster child for crony capitalism whose fundraising efforts have been the nexus of a flood of corporate contributions to the Democratic party in recent years, claiming to be the defender of the ordinary guy against the influence of corporate money.

Also interesting is the silence of the former paladin of campaign-finance reform: Senator John McCain. If there was one issue above all others that alienated the Republican base from the 2008 GOP presidential candidate it was his championing of a “reform” that sought to restrict political speech. Facing a right-wing primary challenge for re-election this year, McCain’s office could only say that “the Supreme Court has spoken.” Yes, it has. And while President Obama and Schumer may play the demagogue on this issue, supporters of free speech can be thankful that the conservative majority on the Court has, at least for now, had the last word on this issue.

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A Good Deal If. . .

Last night the Senate Republicans agreed to release holds on a number of Obama nominees: “The 27 confirmations mean no recess appointments will be needed during this break, top administration officials said. Recess appointments, which a president can make when Congress is not in session, are temporary and generally last to the end of the year.” Those confirmed are reportedly to be all noncontroversial, and do not include Dawn Johnsen (the radical lawyer proposed for the key role as the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel) or Harold Craig Becker (the National Labor Relations Board nominee who failed to survive a filibuster).

If this means that Obama will not exercise his recess appointment power to install Johnsen, Becker, and others, then this is a very good deal for conservatives. Moreover, it highlights just how unwise was Sen. Richard Shelby’s massive and indiscriminate hold on dozens and dozens of nominees. The proper role of the minority is not to obstruct willy-nilly but rather to exercise individual judgment in determining the qualifications, ethics, and potential biases of nominees. (Indeed, this is the obligation of the entire Senate, if those in the president’s party would refrain from elevating partisan loyalty above their constitutional obligation to provide advice and consent on presidential nominees.)

The arrival of Sen. Scott Brown has certainly had its impact. ObamaCare is grinding to a halt. If the president’s more extreme nominees can be shunted aside while permitting other, generally deserving nominees to assume their duties, then Republicans can rightly claim some credit. And more important, the country will be the better for it.

Last night the Senate Republicans agreed to release holds on a number of Obama nominees: “The 27 confirmations mean no recess appointments will be needed during this break, top administration officials said. Recess appointments, which a president can make when Congress is not in session, are temporary and generally last to the end of the year.” Those confirmed are reportedly to be all noncontroversial, and do not include Dawn Johnsen (the radical lawyer proposed for the key role as the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel) or Harold Craig Becker (the National Labor Relations Board nominee who failed to survive a filibuster).

If this means that Obama will not exercise his recess appointment power to install Johnsen, Becker, and others, then this is a very good deal for conservatives. Moreover, it highlights just how unwise was Sen. Richard Shelby’s massive and indiscriminate hold on dozens and dozens of nominees. The proper role of the minority is not to obstruct willy-nilly but rather to exercise individual judgment in determining the qualifications, ethics, and potential biases of nominees. (Indeed, this is the obligation of the entire Senate, if those in the president’s party would refrain from elevating partisan loyalty above their constitutional obligation to provide advice and consent on presidential nominees.)

The arrival of Sen. Scott Brown has certainly had its impact. ObamaCare is grinding to a halt. If the president’s more extreme nominees can be shunted aside while permitting other, generally deserving nominees to assume their duties, then Republicans can rightly claim some credit. And more important, the country will be the better for it.

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Brennan Gets Caught Making Stuff Up

In a speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Jeff Sessions skewers John Brennan for suggesting that we would lose no intelligence by Mirandizing terrorists and that there really is no difference between the military and civilian tribunals. (As a rhetorical matter, this is a silly argument for the Obami to make, of course. They accused the Bushies of shredding constitutional rights, and now there is no difference between the two?) Well, this is the corner in which the Obami now find themselves — making specious arguments that knowledgeable people can easily swat down.

Bill Burck and Dana Perino explain that, indeed, Brennan “just doesn’t understand the law.” They write:

A suspect held as an enemy combatant in military custody has no right to be Mirandized and no right to remain silent. None whatsoever. An enemy combatant does get access to a lawyer to help him challenge his detention as an enemy combatant. And we’re confident that the government’s lawyers would have had no trouble convincing a judge that Abdulmutallab — a man caught trying to ignite a bomb in his underwear while on a plane, who then said before he was Mirandized that he’s a member of al Qaeda — is an enemy of the United States, not a common criminal. But that lawyer would not be present during interrogation, and we would not have to get Abdulmutallab’s consent before questioning him. The only naivete in evidence here is Brennan’s belief that the presence of a lawyer makes no difference. That would be news to the Supreme Court, which has repeatedly held that it is vital to protecting a criminal defendant’s — as opposed to an enemy combatant’s — rights that he have access to a lawyer at all times after arrest, including during government interviews.

One wonders if Brennan is really so uninformed or simply the designated spinner charged with fending off the onslaught of criticism following the decision to Mirandize the Christmas Day bomber. As Burck and Perino note, we are not talking here about how the terrorist would be tried. That can be decided later. (“Once Abdulmutallab had been thoroughly interrogated, the administration would have been free to choose whether to charge him in the civilian or military system [though we think the latter would be preferable].”)

Nor, as former Attorney General Michael Mukasey points out, was the decision preordained by any Bush-era decision or policy. He writes:

Contrary to what the White House homeland security adviser and the attorney general have suggested, if not said outright, not only was there no authority or policy in place under the Bush administration requiring that all those detained in the United States be treated as criminal defendants, but relevant authority was and is the opposite. The Supreme Court held in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld that “indefinite detention for the purpose of interrogation is not authorized” but also said in the same case that detention for the purpose of neutralizing an unlawful enemy combatant is permissible and that the only right of such a combatant — even if he is a citizen, and Abdulmutallab is not — is to challenge his classification as such a combatant in a habeas corpus proceeding. This does not include the right to remain silent or the right to a lawyer, but only such legal assistance as may be necessary to file a habeas corpus petition within a reasonable time.

That was the basis on which Mukasey authorized Jose Padilla to get a lawyer (merely to file a habeas petition). Echoing Burck and Perino, Mukasey explains, “There was thus no legal or policy compulsion to treat Abdulmutallab as a criminal defendant, at least initially, and every reason to treat him as an intelligence asset to be exploited promptly.” That would have been possible had the Obami set up the High Value Interrogation unit. But they hadn’t, of course. So FBI agents with no detailed information about Abdulmutallab were given the job of interrogating the al-Qaeda-trained operative.

The problem here, which Sessions, Mukasey, Burck, and Perino (as well as countless others) have spotted, is that the Obami let their lefty lawyers’ ideology go unchecked, interfering with the primary duty of the administration, namely to gather information and prevent further attacks on Americans. That is inexcusable. No amount of fakery or misdirection by Obama’s advisers can conceal that.

In a speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Jeff Sessions skewers John Brennan for suggesting that we would lose no intelligence by Mirandizing terrorists and that there really is no difference between the military and civilian tribunals. (As a rhetorical matter, this is a silly argument for the Obami to make, of course. They accused the Bushies of shredding constitutional rights, and now there is no difference between the two?) Well, this is the corner in which the Obami now find themselves — making specious arguments that knowledgeable people can easily swat down.

Bill Burck and Dana Perino explain that, indeed, Brennan “just doesn’t understand the law.” They write:

A suspect held as an enemy combatant in military custody has no right to be Mirandized and no right to remain silent. None whatsoever. An enemy combatant does get access to a lawyer to help him challenge his detention as an enemy combatant. And we’re confident that the government’s lawyers would have had no trouble convincing a judge that Abdulmutallab — a man caught trying to ignite a bomb in his underwear while on a plane, who then said before he was Mirandized that he’s a member of al Qaeda — is an enemy of the United States, not a common criminal. But that lawyer would not be present during interrogation, and we would not have to get Abdulmutallab’s consent before questioning him. The only naivete in evidence here is Brennan’s belief that the presence of a lawyer makes no difference. That would be news to the Supreme Court, which has repeatedly held that it is vital to protecting a criminal defendant’s — as opposed to an enemy combatant’s — rights that he have access to a lawyer at all times after arrest, including during government interviews.

One wonders if Brennan is really so uninformed or simply the designated spinner charged with fending off the onslaught of criticism following the decision to Mirandize the Christmas Day bomber. As Burck and Perino note, we are not talking here about how the terrorist would be tried. That can be decided later. (“Once Abdulmutallab had been thoroughly interrogated, the administration would have been free to choose whether to charge him in the civilian or military system [though we think the latter would be preferable].”)

Nor, as former Attorney General Michael Mukasey points out, was the decision preordained by any Bush-era decision or policy. He writes:

Contrary to what the White House homeland security adviser and the attorney general have suggested, if not said outright, not only was there no authority or policy in place under the Bush administration requiring that all those detained in the United States be treated as criminal defendants, but relevant authority was and is the opposite. The Supreme Court held in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld that “indefinite detention for the purpose of interrogation is not authorized” but also said in the same case that detention for the purpose of neutralizing an unlawful enemy combatant is permissible and that the only right of such a combatant — even if he is a citizen, and Abdulmutallab is not — is to challenge his classification as such a combatant in a habeas corpus proceeding. This does not include the right to remain silent or the right to a lawyer, but only such legal assistance as may be necessary to file a habeas corpus petition within a reasonable time.

That was the basis on which Mukasey authorized Jose Padilla to get a lawyer (merely to file a habeas petition). Echoing Burck and Perino, Mukasey explains, “There was thus no legal or policy compulsion to treat Abdulmutallab as a criminal defendant, at least initially, and every reason to treat him as an intelligence asset to be exploited promptly.” That would have been possible had the Obami set up the High Value Interrogation unit. But they hadn’t, of course. So FBI agents with no detailed information about Abdulmutallab were given the job of interrogating the al-Qaeda-trained operative.

The problem here, which Sessions, Mukasey, Burck, and Perino (as well as countless others) have spotted, is that the Obami let their lefty lawyers’ ideology go unchecked, interfering with the primary duty of the administration, namely to gather information and prevent further attacks on Americans. That is inexcusable. No amount of fakery or misdirection by Obama’s advisers can conceal that.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Clark Hoyt’s “attempt to placate the barking cadre of anti-Israel watchdogs” by suggesting that the Gray Lady’s Jerusalem bureau chief be sacked because his son is in the Israeli army comes to naught. Executive editor Bill Keller — yes, a broken clock is right twice a day — says Ethan Bronner can stay put.

Jay Nordlinger reminds us that Sarah Palin is one of the few politicians to say she “loves” Israel.

Sounds like a joke: the Obami’s terrorism policies are so untenable, even MSNBC reporters don’t buy the White House spin any more. But it’s true.

Steven Calabresi is fed up with the excuse-mongering: “The Obama Administration’s claims that ‘Bush did it too’ sound pathetic coming from a President who won election by promising to be an agent of change and hope who would alter our politics and the way things are done in Washington. … Is Miranda any less stupid because prior presidents have implemented it rather than pushing the Supreme Court to scrap the decision? The claim that ‘Bush did it too’ sounds uncomfortably like the arguments I get from my grade school children when I correct them for having done something wrong.”

And speaking of change, Bill Kristol writes: “Perhaps embracing the concept of  ‘regime change’ spooks the Obama administration. It’s awfully reminiscent of George W. Bush. But one great failure of the Bush administration was its second-term fecklessness with respect to Iran. Bush kicked the Iran can down the road. Does Obama want an achievement that eluded Bush? Regime change in Iran — that would be an Obama administration achievement that Joe Biden, and the rest of us, could really celebrate.”

Andy McCarthy explains why the Richard Reid case is a poor example for the Obami to cite in justifying its criminal-justice approach to terrorism. “When Reid tried to blow up his airliner, 9/11 had just happened. We had not spent eight years grappling with the question of how international terrorists who carry out attacks in the United States should be dealt with. It is important to remember that there was no military-commission system in place when Reid was captured. President Bush had issued the executive order authorizing the Defense Department to set up the system, but that had not been done yet. It wasn’t ready until March 2002.”

What a difference a year makes: “After miserable House elections in ’06 and ’08 saw the GOP virtually disappear in the northeast, it was hard not to write the party’s obituary in the region. No GOPers were left standing in New England, and just 3 remained in the 29-member NY delegation. It only worsened in ’09, when the GOP failed to hold a rural sprawling CD in upstate NY, dropping its representation in the state to just 2 members. But evidence suggests that the ’10 wave that’s building for the GOP could even manage to reach the untouchable Northeast.” Democrats Tim Bishop in Suffolk County and  Bill Delahunt in Massachusetts look especially vulnerable.

More than 50 percent of independents disapprove of Obama’s performance.

What would Republicans do without opponents like this? “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is rewriting a jobs bill after Democrats complained of too many concessions to Republicans. Reid announced Thursday that he would cut back on the jobs bill Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) introduced only hours earlier, essentially overruling the powerful chairman.”

Maybe outsiders did bump off an Iranian nuclear scientist.

Clark Hoyt’s “attempt to placate the barking cadre of anti-Israel watchdogs” by suggesting that the Gray Lady’s Jerusalem bureau chief be sacked because his son is in the Israeli army comes to naught. Executive editor Bill Keller — yes, a broken clock is right twice a day — says Ethan Bronner can stay put.

Jay Nordlinger reminds us that Sarah Palin is one of the few politicians to say she “loves” Israel.

Sounds like a joke: the Obami’s terrorism policies are so untenable, even MSNBC reporters don’t buy the White House spin any more. But it’s true.

Steven Calabresi is fed up with the excuse-mongering: “The Obama Administration’s claims that ‘Bush did it too’ sound pathetic coming from a President who won election by promising to be an agent of change and hope who would alter our politics and the way things are done in Washington. … Is Miranda any less stupid because prior presidents have implemented it rather than pushing the Supreme Court to scrap the decision? The claim that ‘Bush did it too’ sounds uncomfortably like the arguments I get from my grade school children when I correct them for having done something wrong.”

And speaking of change, Bill Kristol writes: “Perhaps embracing the concept of  ‘regime change’ spooks the Obama administration. It’s awfully reminiscent of George W. Bush. But one great failure of the Bush administration was its second-term fecklessness with respect to Iran. Bush kicked the Iran can down the road. Does Obama want an achievement that eluded Bush? Regime change in Iran — that would be an Obama administration achievement that Joe Biden, and the rest of us, could really celebrate.”

Andy McCarthy explains why the Richard Reid case is a poor example for the Obami to cite in justifying its criminal-justice approach to terrorism. “When Reid tried to blow up his airliner, 9/11 had just happened. We had not spent eight years grappling with the question of how international terrorists who carry out attacks in the United States should be dealt with. It is important to remember that there was no military-commission system in place when Reid was captured. President Bush had issued the executive order authorizing the Defense Department to set up the system, but that had not been done yet. It wasn’t ready until March 2002.”

What a difference a year makes: “After miserable House elections in ’06 and ’08 saw the GOP virtually disappear in the northeast, it was hard not to write the party’s obituary in the region. No GOPers were left standing in New England, and just 3 remained in the 29-member NY delegation. It only worsened in ’09, when the GOP failed to hold a rural sprawling CD in upstate NY, dropping its representation in the state to just 2 members. But evidence suggests that the ’10 wave that’s building for the GOP could even manage to reach the untouchable Northeast.” Democrats Tim Bishop in Suffolk County and  Bill Delahunt in Massachusetts look especially vulnerable.

More than 50 percent of independents disapprove of Obama’s performance.

What would Republicans do without opponents like this? “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is rewriting a jobs bill after Democrats complained of too many concessions to Republicans. Reid announced Thursday that he would cut back on the jobs bill Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) introduced only hours earlier, essentially overruling the powerful chairman.”

Maybe outsiders did bump off an Iranian nuclear scientist.

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