Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 5, 2010

Answering William Galston

Unlike a number of the bloggers at the New Republic, William Galston is a serious, mature, and insightful writer and thinker. He is an accomplished academic who was also a high-ranking figure in the Clinton White House. I worked with him on some projects in the 1990s, which only increased my admiration for him. So his recent blog post caught my attention.

“With the passage of time,” former Bush administration official Pete Wehner writes today, “President Bush’s decision to champion a new counterinsurgency strategy, including sending 30,000 additional troops to Iraq when most Americans were bone-weary of the war, will be seen as one of the most impressive and important acts of political courage in our lifetime.” Wehner may turn out to be right. And his argument has broader implications that deserve our attention.

Wehner tacitly defines political courage as the willingness to go against public opinion in pursuit of what a leader believes to be the public interest. Fair enough. And unless one believes—against all evidence—that democracies can do without courage, so defined, it follows that there’s nothing necessarily undemocratic about defying public opinion when the stakes are high. After all, the people will soon have the opportunity to pass judgment on the leader’s decision. And they will be able to judge that decision, not by the claims of its supporters or detractors, but by its results.

Galston goes on to write this:

Note that to accept this argument, as I do, is to deny that President Obama and the Democrats are acting high-handedly—let alone anti-democratically—in moving forward with comprehensive health insurance reform. They genuinely believe that the public interest demands it­—and that the people themselves will eventually agree. And they know that the people will have the last word.

This approach has the firmest possible roots in our constitutional traditions. The Framers deliberately established a republican form of government that is representative rather than plebiscitary. And Alexander Hamilton explained why in Federalist #71: “[T]he people commonly intend the PUBLIC GOOD. … But their good sense would despise the adulator who should pretend that they always reason right about the means of promoting it.” In a republic, the people are always the ultimate source of legitimacy. They are not always the proximate source of wisdom.

Many conservatives don’t seem to understand this distinction…. So today’s conservatives have a choice: They can contest health reform and the rest of the Democratic agenda on its merits, or they can go down the populist road that Sarah Palin and her followers represent. But let’s call that populism by its rightful name—namely, shameless flattery of the people and the manipulation of public fears and prejudices for short-term political advantage. Honorable conservatives such as Wehner know better. We’re about to find out how many of them there are.

As it happens, two days before the piece that Galston cites appeared, I wrote a post for CONTENTIONS in which I said this:

The Speaker [Nancy Pelosi] touched on one of the important debates in American political history, which is what the role of legislators is. Is it to reflect the views of their constituents, rather like a seismograph? Or, as Edmund Burke put it when speaking about constituents, “Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinions high respect; their business unremitted attention.” But in the end, a legislator owes them something more: his “judgment.” He should not be guided by merely “local purposes” or “local prejudices.” Parliament, Burke insisted, was a “deliberative assembly.”…

I place myself in the latter camp, more now than ever — in part based on my own experience in the White House, when President Bush was advocating a new counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq that was unpopular with the political class, with Congress, and with the American public. He proceeded anyway; and the results were stunningly successful. If the surge had failed — if Bush had pulled back, or listened to key Republicans, or decided that his job was to mirror public sentiment — America would have been dealt a terrible geopolitical and moral defeat. What George W. Bush did was right — and it was also politically courageous.

I went on to add this:

The acid test on these matters is always the wisdom of the act itself. Insisting on political courage from Members of Congress on behalf of a legislative monstrosity would be unwise, whereas insisting on political courage from Members of Congress on behalf of a piece of legislation that advances the common good would be commendable. Since I consider ObamaCare to fit in the former category, I naturally believe what Nancy Pelosi is asking her caucus to do is politically insane. Why issue political death warrants to your allies in behalf of a terrible idea? But her broader point, which is that self-perpetuation in Congress should not be the lawmaker’s primary concern, strikes me as quite right — and since she believes that nationalization of health care is in the public interest, her argument is understandable.

I don’t believe, and have never believed, vox populi, vox Dei.

As for Sarah Palin: I’ve made my concerns about her — and people like Glenn Beck and Tom Tancredo — known in several different forums. And while I wouldn’t go as far as Galston in my criticism of populism, I have expressed concerns about the dangers of it, as well as about what I consider to be reckless attacks on government. For example, I recently wrote this:

And [the GOP] can be responsible by taking the public’s scorn for government and channeling it in a constructive manner, in a way that translates into an actual governing and reform agenda. It is not enough to simply pour kerosene onto the bonfire. Republicans need public figures (like Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Rep. Paul Ryan) who can articulate an alternative view of government in a way that isn’t simplistic, that isn’t angry, or that doesn’t appeal (as I worry Sarah Palin sometimes does) to cultural resentments.

So I believe Professor Galston and I are making somewhat similar points. Which is reassuring to me, given my regard for him.

Unlike a number of the bloggers at the New Republic, William Galston is a serious, mature, and insightful writer and thinker. He is an accomplished academic who was also a high-ranking figure in the Clinton White House. I worked with him on some projects in the 1990s, which only increased my admiration for him. So his recent blog post caught my attention.

“With the passage of time,” former Bush administration official Pete Wehner writes today, “President Bush’s decision to champion a new counterinsurgency strategy, including sending 30,000 additional troops to Iraq when most Americans were bone-weary of the war, will be seen as one of the most impressive and important acts of political courage in our lifetime.” Wehner may turn out to be right. And his argument has broader implications that deserve our attention.

Wehner tacitly defines political courage as the willingness to go against public opinion in pursuit of what a leader believes to be the public interest. Fair enough. And unless one believes—against all evidence—that democracies can do without courage, so defined, it follows that there’s nothing necessarily undemocratic about defying public opinion when the stakes are high. After all, the people will soon have the opportunity to pass judgment on the leader’s decision. And they will be able to judge that decision, not by the claims of its supporters or detractors, but by its results.

Galston goes on to write this:

Note that to accept this argument, as I do, is to deny that President Obama and the Democrats are acting high-handedly—let alone anti-democratically—in moving forward with comprehensive health insurance reform. They genuinely believe that the public interest demands it­—and that the people themselves will eventually agree. And they know that the people will have the last word.

This approach has the firmest possible roots in our constitutional traditions. The Framers deliberately established a republican form of government that is representative rather than plebiscitary. And Alexander Hamilton explained why in Federalist #71: “[T]he people commonly intend the PUBLIC GOOD. … But their good sense would despise the adulator who should pretend that they always reason right about the means of promoting it.” In a republic, the people are always the ultimate source of legitimacy. They are not always the proximate source of wisdom.

Many conservatives don’t seem to understand this distinction…. So today’s conservatives have a choice: They can contest health reform and the rest of the Democratic agenda on its merits, or they can go down the populist road that Sarah Palin and her followers represent. But let’s call that populism by its rightful name—namely, shameless flattery of the people and the manipulation of public fears and prejudices for short-term political advantage. Honorable conservatives such as Wehner know better. We’re about to find out how many of them there are.

As it happens, two days before the piece that Galston cites appeared, I wrote a post for CONTENTIONS in which I said this:

The Speaker [Nancy Pelosi] touched on one of the important debates in American political history, which is what the role of legislators is. Is it to reflect the views of their constituents, rather like a seismograph? Or, as Edmund Burke put it when speaking about constituents, “Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinions high respect; their business unremitted attention.” But in the end, a legislator owes them something more: his “judgment.” He should not be guided by merely “local purposes” or “local prejudices.” Parliament, Burke insisted, was a “deliberative assembly.”…

I place myself in the latter camp, more now than ever — in part based on my own experience in the White House, when President Bush was advocating a new counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq that was unpopular with the political class, with Congress, and with the American public. He proceeded anyway; and the results were stunningly successful. If the surge had failed — if Bush had pulled back, or listened to key Republicans, or decided that his job was to mirror public sentiment — America would have been dealt a terrible geopolitical and moral defeat. What George W. Bush did was right — and it was also politically courageous.

I went on to add this:

The acid test on these matters is always the wisdom of the act itself. Insisting on political courage from Members of Congress on behalf of a legislative monstrosity would be unwise, whereas insisting on political courage from Members of Congress on behalf of a piece of legislation that advances the common good would be commendable. Since I consider ObamaCare to fit in the former category, I naturally believe what Nancy Pelosi is asking her caucus to do is politically insane. Why issue political death warrants to your allies in behalf of a terrible idea? But her broader point, which is that self-perpetuation in Congress should not be the lawmaker’s primary concern, strikes me as quite right — and since she believes that nationalization of health care is in the public interest, her argument is understandable.

I don’t believe, and have never believed, vox populi, vox Dei.

As for Sarah Palin: I’ve made my concerns about her — and people like Glenn Beck and Tom Tancredo — known in several different forums. And while I wouldn’t go as far as Galston in my criticism of populism, I have expressed concerns about the dangers of it, as well as about what I consider to be reckless attacks on government. For example, I recently wrote this:

And [the GOP] can be responsible by taking the public’s scorn for government and channeling it in a constructive manner, in a way that translates into an actual governing and reform agenda. It is not enough to simply pour kerosene onto the bonfire. Republicans need public figures (like Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Gov. Jeb Bush and Rep. Paul Ryan) who can articulate an alternative view of government in a way that isn’t simplistic, that isn’t angry, or that doesn’t appeal (as I worry Sarah Palin sometimes does) to cultural resentments.

So I believe Professor Galston and I are making somewhat similar points. Which is reassuring to me, given my regard for him.

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Gordon Brown: Stand-up Guy

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown hasn’t had an easy time of it since finally succeeding Tony Blair in 2007. The dour Scotsman has suffered from the fallout of his Labour party’s having been in power too long to retain the public’s goodwill. His reputation as an expert on financial issues turned out to be a liability rather than an asset when the global economy went in the tank in 2008. And to top it all off, he now has an alliance partner in Washington in Barack Obama, whose contempt for the United Kingdom and its government, as well as the whole concept of the “special relationship” with Britain, is not exactly a secret.

Brown is facing an election sometime this spring, which no one thinks he can win — even though his Conservative opponent David Cameron seems to be losing popularity as he tries to coast into office by simply not being Brown. So when he was called today before the commission investigating Britain’s decision to go to war alongside the United States in Iraq, Brown might have thrown both the Americans and his former boss and rival Blair under the bus and tried to curry favor with a British electorate, which seems to view the war and the close ties between the U.S. and the Blair government with equal disdain.

But if Brown is going down, he’s not doing it like an anti-American weasel. He told the Chilcot Commission that the decision to go to war in Iraq “was the right decision made for the right reasons.” Though he later said that he thought the Americans hadn’t planned adequately for the rebuilding of the country (no kidding) and also made it clear that he was not included in most of the high-level conversations about the war, he stuck by the decision made by Blair and didn’t give any ground to those who have tried to argue that the former prime minister made inappropriate promises of support to George W. Bush.

History, and not the leftist propaganda that has dominated the media discussion of Iraq in both the United States and Britain in recent years on this issue, will be the ultimate judge of the rightness of the decision to liberate Iraq. Many mistakes were made and many lives were lost. But though the testimonies of both Blair and Brown were different in tone — with Blair emphasizing the morality of the decision to topple Saddam Hussein, while Brown stuck to the legal questions of the Iraqi dictator’s flouting of UN resolutions — both reaffirmed the just nature of the war. Whether or not Brown is reelected, and there are plenty of good reasons for the British to throw Labour out — it must be stipulated that he conducted himself as an American ally today. If Brown is on the way out, let’s just hope David Cameron proves to be as faithful a friend to the United States as were Blair and Brown. And let’s also hope that Barack Obama treats him better than he has treated Brown.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown hasn’t had an easy time of it since finally succeeding Tony Blair in 2007. The dour Scotsman has suffered from the fallout of his Labour party’s having been in power too long to retain the public’s goodwill. His reputation as an expert on financial issues turned out to be a liability rather than an asset when the global economy went in the tank in 2008. And to top it all off, he now has an alliance partner in Washington in Barack Obama, whose contempt for the United Kingdom and its government, as well as the whole concept of the “special relationship” with Britain, is not exactly a secret.

Brown is facing an election sometime this spring, which no one thinks he can win — even though his Conservative opponent David Cameron seems to be losing popularity as he tries to coast into office by simply not being Brown. So when he was called today before the commission investigating Britain’s decision to go to war alongside the United States in Iraq, Brown might have thrown both the Americans and his former boss and rival Blair under the bus and tried to curry favor with a British electorate, which seems to view the war and the close ties between the U.S. and the Blair government with equal disdain.

But if Brown is going down, he’s not doing it like an anti-American weasel. He told the Chilcot Commission that the decision to go to war in Iraq “was the right decision made for the right reasons.” Though he later said that he thought the Americans hadn’t planned adequately for the rebuilding of the country (no kidding) and also made it clear that he was not included in most of the high-level conversations about the war, he stuck by the decision made by Blair and didn’t give any ground to those who have tried to argue that the former prime minister made inappropriate promises of support to George W. Bush.

History, and not the leftist propaganda that has dominated the media discussion of Iraq in both the United States and Britain in recent years on this issue, will be the ultimate judge of the rightness of the decision to liberate Iraq. Many mistakes were made and many lives were lost. But though the testimonies of both Blair and Brown were different in tone — with Blair emphasizing the morality of the decision to topple Saddam Hussein, while Brown stuck to the legal questions of the Iraqi dictator’s flouting of UN resolutions — both reaffirmed the just nature of the war. Whether or not Brown is reelected, and there are plenty of good reasons for the British to throw Labour out — it must be stipulated that he conducted himself as an American ally today. If Brown is on the way out, let’s just hope David Cameron proves to be as faithful a friend to the United States as were Blair and Brown. And let’s also hope that Barack Obama treats him better than he has treated Brown.

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Merrill McPeak on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Retired General Merrill McPeak, a former Air Force chief of staff and a prominent Obama backer in the 2008 campaign, has weighed in with a New York Times op-ed against ending the current “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. I can’t say I find his arguments terribly persuasive.

For one thing, he implicitly threatens that the current military leadership would simply ignore or undermine a presidential order to allow gays to serve openly — “allowing an openly gay presence in ranks will be very difficult until we have committed leadership for it,” he writes, adding, “I certainly had trouble figuring out how to provide such leadership in 1993.” It’s harder to imagine a more blatant threat to subvert the civil-military relationship and, specifically, the oath that all service members swear to “obey the orders of the President of the United States.”

McPeak also makes the argument that unit cohesion will be undermined by allowing openly gay personnel to serve. His evidence? “We have already seen the fault lines form in the current debate: the individual service chiefs have expressed reservations about Admiral Mullen’s views. This lack of cohesion will likely make the Joint Chiefs less effective in the latest round of this debate.” Uh, right. So perhaps if the chiefs are called upon to undertake hand-to-hand combat against, say, Chinese generals, they may not fight very effectively. Is the implication here that the president should not pursue any policy that the Joint Chiefs do not unanimously support? Again, that’s contrary to all of our civil-military traditions and gives the chiefs authority they are not granted under law — and should not be granted, given the lack of strategic acumen often displayed by service chiefs.

I found two conspicuous absences in McPeak’s article. First, he doesn’t address the studies showing that openly gay personnel have not undermined unit cohesion in allied militaries, including those of Australia, Britain, and Israel. Perhaps the U.S. military is different, but he doesn’t say how.

Second, he makes no mention of the integration of women into the armed services in the 1970s, which occasioned arguments by the likes of Jim Webb (now a U.S. Senator) that were remarkably similar to those advanced by McPeak today. He writes: “We know, or ought to, that warriors are inspired by male bonding, by comradeship, by the knowledge that they survive only through relying on each other. To undermine cohesion is to endanger everyone.” One would think that the presence of women would do even more than the presence of gays to undermine “male bonding.” Yet women have been granted admittance into almost all military occupations, in roles including flying fighter jets as McPeak once did. They are present on all major and most minor bases even in war zones. They frequently and regularly circulate on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan. What evidence is there that their presence has undermined combat effectiveness? And if it hasn’t, why would the presence of un-closeted gays be more corrosive than that of women?

Retired General Merrill McPeak, a former Air Force chief of staff and a prominent Obama backer in the 2008 campaign, has weighed in with a New York Times op-ed against ending the current “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. I can’t say I find his arguments terribly persuasive.

For one thing, he implicitly threatens that the current military leadership would simply ignore or undermine a presidential order to allow gays to serve openly — “allowing an openly gay presence in ranks will be very difficult until we have committed leadership for it,” he writes, adding, “I certainly had trouble figuring out how to provide such leadership in 1993.” It’s harder to imagine a more blatant threat to subvert the civil-military relationship and, specifically, the oath that all service members swear to “obey the orders of the President of the United States.”

McPeak also makes the argument that unit cohesion will be undermined by allowing openly gay personnel to serve. His evidence? “We have already seen the fault lines form in the current debate: the individual service chiefs have expressed reservations about Admiral Mullen’s views. This lack of cohesion will likely make the Joint Chiefs less effective in the latest round of this debate.” Uh, right. So perhaps if the chiefs are called upon to undertake hand-to-hand combat against, say, Chinese generals, they may not fight very effectively. Is the implication here that the president should not pursue any policy that the Joint Chiefs do not unanimously support? Again, that’s contrary to all of our civil-military traditions and gives the chiefs authority they are not granted under law — and should not be granted, given the lack of strategic acumen often displayed by service chiefs.

I found two conspicuous absences in McPeak’s article. First, he doesn’t address the studies showing that openly gay personnel have not undermined unit cohesion in allied militaries, including those of Australia, Britain, and Israel. Perhaps the U.S. military is different, but he doesn’t say how.

Second, he makes no mention of the integration of women into the armed services in the 1970s, which occasioned arguments by the likes of Jim Webb (now a U.S. Senator) that were remarkably similar to those advanced by McPeak today. He writes: “We know, or ought to, that warriors are inspired by male bonding, by comradeship, by the knowledge that they survive only through relying on each other. To undermine cohesion is to endanger everyone.” One would think that the presence of women would do even more than the presence of gays to undermine “male bonding.” Yet women have been granted admittance into almost all military occupations, in roles including flying fighter jets as McPeak once did. They are present on all major and most minor bases even in war zones. They frequently and regularly circulate on the battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan. What evidence is there that their presence has undermined combat effectiveness? And if it hasn’t, why would the presence of un-closeted gays be more corrosive than that of women?

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Roger Cohen: Recidivist Appeaser of Iran

Last August, Martin Peretz wondered in his New Republic blog whether even the New York Times would let their columnist Roger Cohen continue to write about Iran. That’s because Cohen had earned a special place in the history of journalistic malpractice earlier in 2009 through a series of columns that sought to falsely portray the oppressed remnant of a once great Iranian Jewish community as living in freedom under the beneficent rule of the ayatollahs.

Peretz’s curious faith in the judgment of the editors at the Times was misplaced. Cohen continues to rattle away about Iran from his perch as an online columnist at the newspaper, providing readers with ever more convoluted rationalizations for the same policy he advocated last year: an American “engagement” that would eschew both the threat of force as well as any sanctions as means for attempting to persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

The events of the past year have rendered this stance even more ludicrous than it was in February and March of 2009, as the rosy picture of the country that Cohen painted in his original columns was undermined by both the regime’s violent repression of internal dissent and the utter failure of the Obama administration’s attempts to engage Iran. Nowadays, even Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have come to the conclusion that they must pursue a serious sanctions regime to avoid being faced with the opprobrium that will be theirs if Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is able to announce the development of a nuclear weapon on their watch.

But Cohen is having none of that and, instead, insists that even though the Iranian government is nasty, it must still not be threatened or even pressured. He begins his argument today with a blatant falsehood by claiming “Obama’s outreach has achieved this: the unsettling of Iran’s revolutionary power structure. That alone was worth the gambit.” But even the administration seems to understand that this piece of obsequious flattery isn’t true. A series of unmet deadlines set by Washington for Iran to come to its senses have only emboldened the Islamist government there to dig in its heels: they are now convinced that Obama is a weak leader who can be toyed with and then ignored in the same manner they have treated European efforts to resolve the nuclear question. Indeed, Obama’s refusal to speak up in a timely and forceful manner against the stolen presidential election that sent thousands of Iranians into the streets, only to be shot down, raped, and imprisoned, has contributed to a situation where it appears that the Iranian dissidents, whose sufferings Cohen attempted to cover last summer, are no longer able to mount effective demonstrations, let alone topple their oppressors.

Cohen’s response to this debacle is to prescribe more of the same, something he acknowledges that Obama’s foreign-policy team—which rightly sees itself as having been badly embarrassed by Iran’s lies and deceptions—is unwilling to do. Cohen’s fear is that having been mugged by the reality of the regime, whose depredations he once rationalized, Obama will now realize that the threat from a nuclear Iran is a factor that could ultimately destroy his presidency. In today’s lengthy diatribe, the Times columnist assembles all the same misleading arguments that Iran’s other shills have been hawking recently. He argues against isolation and sanctions against Iran, and views the threat of Western force to spike Ahmadinejad’s bomb as a greater evil than putting nuclear weapons in the hands of a Holocaust denier and terrorist funder who wants to destroy the State of Israel. His advice is to continue the sweet talk that Obama tried on Tehran last year and hope that eventually Iranian dissidents will somehow succeed, despite vigorous repression and without foreign help. He ignores the fact that Ahmadinejad and Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would be strengthened immeasurably by a Western decision to let them go nuclear.

As has Cohen himself, whose credibility as a journalist was forfeited when he choose to fall in love with the romance of Persian culture, engagement of Iran has been comprehensively discredited over the last year. Let’s hope the Obama administration ignores Cohen and the rest of the chorus of apologists and appeasers doing Tehran’s bidding and chooses instead to finally start treating the threat from Iran seriously.

Last August, Martin Peretz wondered in his New Republic blog whether even the New York Times would let their columnist Roger Cohen continue to write about Iran. That’s because Cohen had earned a special place in the history of journalistic malpractice earlier in 2009 through a series of columns that sought to falsely portray the oppressed remnant of a once great Iranian Jewish community as living in freedom under the beneficent rule of the ayatollahs.

Peretz’s curious faith in the judgment of the editors at the Times was misplaced. Cohen continues to rattle away about Iran from his perch as an online columnist at the newspaper, providing readers with ever more convoluted rationalizations for the same policy he advocated last year: an American “engagement” that would eschew both the threat of force as well as any sanctions as means for attempting to persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

The events of the past year have rendered this stance even more ludicrous than it was in February and March of 2009, as the rosy picture of the country that Cohen painted in his original columns was undermined by both the regime’s violent repression of internal dissent and the utter failure of the Obama administration’s attempts to engage Iran. Nowadays, even Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have come to the conclusion that they must pursue a serious sanctions regime to avoid being faced with the opprobrium that will be theirs if Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is able to announce the development of a nuclear weapon on their watch.

But Cohen is having none of that and, instead, insists that even though the Iranian government is nasty, it must still not be threatened or even pressured. He begins his argument today with a blatant falsehood by claiming “Obama’s outreach has achieved this: the unsettling of Iran’s revolutionary power structure. That alone was worth the gambit.” But even the administration seems to understand that this piece of obsequious flattery isn’t true. A series of unmet deadlines set by Washington for Iran to come to its senses have only emboldened the Islamist government there to dig in its heels: they are now convinced that Obama is a weak leader who can be toyed with and then ignored in the same manner they have treated European efforts to resolve the nuclear question. Indeed, Obama’s refusal to speak up in a timely and forceful manner against the stolen presidential election that sent thousands of Iranians into the streets, only to be shot down, raped, and imprisoned, has contributed to a situation where it appears that the Iranian dissidents, whose sufferings Cohen attempted to cover last summer, are no longer able to mount effective demonstrations, let alone topple their oppressors.

Cohen’s response to this debacle is to prescribe more of the same, something he acknowledges that Obama’s foreign-policy team—which rightly sees itself as having been badly embarrassed by Iran’s lies and deceptions—is unwilling to do. Cohen’s fear is that having been mugged by the reality of the regime, whose depredations he once rationalized, Obama will now realize that the threat from a nuclear Iran is a factor that could ultimately destroy his presidency. In today’s lengthy diatribe, the Times columnist assembles all the same misleading arguments that Iran’s other shills have been hawking recently. He argues against isolation and sanctions against Iran, and views the threat of Western force to spike Ahmadinejad’s bomb as a greater evil than putting nuclear weapons in the hands of a Holocaust denier and terrorist funder who wants to destroy the State of Israel. His advice is to continue the sweet talk that Obama tried on Tehran last year and hope that eventually Iranian dissidents will somehow succeed, despite vigorous repression and without foreign help. He ignores the fact that Ahmadinejad and Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would be strengthened immeasurably by a Western decision to let them go nuclear.

As has Cohen himself, whose credibility as a journalist was forfeited when he choose to fall in love with the romance of Persian culture, engagement of Iran has been comprehensively discredited over the last year. Let’s hope the Obama administration ignores Cohen and the rest of the chorus of apologists and appeasers doing Tehran’s bidding and chooses instead to finally start treating the threat from Iran seriously.

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RE: On Armenian Genocide Resolutions

With all due respect, I disagree with Max on the condemnation of the Turkish genocide against Armenians. Complicity comes in various shades, the most insidious of which is pragmatic impartiality. Over the past year we’ve learned intimately what bearing witness feels like: strikingly un-American.

True, in the case of Iran, inaction has immediate consequences for the victims of ongoing brutality. With the Turks and Armenians, we’re assessing history. While Max is correct that the resolution “does nothing to help the state of Armenia, which would benefit from better relations with its large neighbor, Turkey,” it does serve as an important public marker of consequence. When the U.S. goes on record as condemning crimes against humanity, it makes it that much harder for a cynical administration to strike a faux-realist pose and accommodate a brutal regime. How nice it would have been, in fact, if this resolution had passed some time in the run-up to Iran’s June 12 election.

There is also the issue of tactical wisdom. Just how pragmatic has our silence on the Armenian genocide been? Turkey did not allow U.S. troops to enter Iraq through its territory; in October of last year, Ankara cancelled Israel’s involvement in joint-military exercises on Turkish soil; Turkey then turned around and scheduled upcoming military exercises with Syria. It remained neutral when Russia invaded Georgia. Turkish leadership is now becoming ever cozier with Tehran. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not come closer to endorsing sanctions on Iran and has said, “We have specifically stated that the question [of Iran’s nuclear program] can be resolved through diplomacy and diplomacy only.”

All this has unfolded against the backdrop of Turkey’s increasingly Islamicized government. And it is worth recalling that NATO’s charter calls for member countries to safeguard democratic freedoms at home. It is illegal in Turkey to call the Armenian genocide by its rightful name.

One last point: The Turks are already animated by a profound suspicion of an all-powerful Armenian lobby working against them in the halls of American power. Actually, they’re not animated by this belief; they’re becoming crippled by it. It’s not a coincidence that cultures marred by human-rights violations also become grievance cultures. There is no simpler way to defer blame for the societal stagnation that results from the quashing of dissent.

With all due respect, I disagree with Max on the condemnation of the Turkish genocide against Armenians. Complicity comes in various shades, the most insidious of which is pragmatic impartiality. Over the past year we’ve learned intimately what bearing witness feels like: strikingly un-American.

True, in the case of Iran, inaction has immediate consequences for the victims of ongoing brutality. With the Turks and Armenians, we’re assessing history. While Max is correct that the resolution “does nothing to help the state of Armenia, which would benefit from better relations with its large neighbor, Turkey,” it does serve as an important public marker of consequence. When the U.S. goes on record as condemning crimes against humanity, it makes it that much harder for a cynical administration to strike a faux-realist pose and accommodate a brutal regime. How nice it would have been, in fact, if this resolution had passed some time in the run-up to Iran’s June 12 election.

There is also the issue of tactical wisdom. Just how pragmatic has our silence on the Armenian genocide been? Turkey did not allow U.S. troops to enter Iraq through its territory; in October of last year, Ankara cancelled Israel’s involvement in joint-military exercises on Turkish soil; Turkey then turned around and scheduled upcoming military exercises with Syria. It remained neutral when Russia invaded Georgia. Turkish leadership is now becoming ever cozier with Tehran. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has not come closer to endorsing sanctions on Iran and has said, “We have specifically stated that the question [of Iran’s nuclear program] can be resolved through diplomacy and diplomacy only.”

All this has unfolded against the backdrop of Turkey’s increasingly Islamicized government. And it is worth recalling that NATO’s charter calls for member countries to safeguard democratic freedoms at home. It is illegal in Turkey to call the Armenian genocide by its rightful name.

One last point: The Turks are already animated by a profound suspicion of an all-powerful Armenian lobby working against them in the halls of American power. Actually, they’re not animated by this belief; they’re becoming crippled by it. It’s not a coincidence that cultures marred by human-rights violations also become grievance cultures. There is no simpler way to defer blame for the societal stagnation that results from the quashing of dissent.

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What a Difference a Year Makes

It was a year ago today that President Obama launched his drive to reform health care. He was confident that he could do what Bill Clinton had failed to do 16 years earlier. As the New York Times reported on March 6, 2009:

Mr. Obama insisted that ”this time is different” because ”the call for reform is coming from the bottom up, from all across the spectrum — from doctors, nurses and patients, unions and businesses, hospitals, health care providers and community groups,” as well as state and local officials.

The Times was reporting on “a day-long meeting on health care that brought together a diverse group of people, in and out of government.”

“I just want to figure out what works,” Obama told them.

Too bad he didn’t do that. Instead he turned everything over to the ultraliberal Pooh-Bahs of Congress, who produced a bill (or rather two bills, one in the House the other in the Senate) the unpopularity of which has only grown with time. That Obama wanted everything wrapped up by last year’s August recess now seems a long-ago bad joke.

Today there is certainly still a call coming from the bottom up. Unfortunately for the Democrats, it’s an ever-rising groundswell of opposition to ObamaCare, one that threatens to become a political hurricane that could sweep the Democrats out of the majority in both houses of Congress and render the president politically impotent for the rest of his term.

And it isn’t just at the federal level that politicians are feeling the hot wind of public anger rising. Politico reports that state legislatures have approval ratings that in some cases are even worse than Congress’s. Only 16 percent of New Yorkers think their state Senate is doing a good or excellent job. (I guess 16 percent of New Yorkers live on the back of the moon.) Of course, New York is a poster child for legislative dysfunction, but even in Connecticut, only 30 percent approve. In Pennsylvania, it’s 29 percent.

So 2010, thanks in large part to ObamaCare, is shaping up as the most interesting political year since 1980. That was the year that the American electorate began trying to get the political establishment’s attention. They denied a second term to an elected president for the first time since Herbert Hoover and gave the Republicans a majority in the Senate for the first time in 26 years. In 1994 they tried again, ending the Democrat’s majority in the House after 40 years, and even defeating a sitting speaker for the first time since the Civil War.

It was a year ago today that President Obama launched his drive to reform health care. He was confident that he could do what Bill Clinton had failed to do 16 years earlier. As the New York Times reported on March 6, 2009:

Mr. Obama insisted that ”this time is different” because ”the call for reform is coming from the bottom up, from all across the spectrum — from doctors, nurses and patients, unions and businesses, hospitals, health care providers and community groups,” as well as state and local officials.

The Times was reporting on “a day-long meeting on health care that brought together a diverse group of people, in and out of government.”

“I just want to figure out what works,” Obama told them.

Too bad he didn’t do that. Instead he turned everything over to the ultraliberal Pooh-Bahs of Congress, who produced a bill (or rather two bills, one in the House the other in the Senate) the unpopularity of which has only grown with time. That Obama wanted everything wrapped up by last year’s August recess now seems a long-ago bad joke.

Today there is certainly still a call coming from the bottom up. Unfortunately for the Democrats, it’s an ever-rising groundswell of opposition to ObamaCare, one that threatens to become a political hurricane that could sweep the Democrats out of the majority in both houses of Congress and render the president politically impotent for the rest of his term.

And it isn’t just at the federal level that politicians are feeling the hot wind of public anger rising. Politico reports that state legislatures have approval ratings that in some cases are even worse than Congress’s. Only 16 percent of New Yorkers think their state Senate is doing a good or excellent job. (I guess 16 percent of New Yorkers live on the back of the moon.) Of course, New York is a poster child for legislative dysfunction, but even in Connecticut, only 30 percent approve. In Pennsylvania, it’s 29 percent.

So 2010, thanks in large part to ObamaCare, is shaping up as the most interesting political year since 1980. That was the year that the American electorate began trying to get the political establishment’s attention. They denied a second term to an elected president for the first time since Herbert Hoover and gave the Republicans a majority in the Senate for the first time in 26 years. In 1994 they tried again, ending the Democrat’s majority in the House after 40 years, and even defeating a sitting speaker for the first time since the Civil War.

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RE: Harry Reid’s Cluelessness and Indifference

Pete, Democrats feel the same way. Dana Bash of CNN tweets that a Democratic source says: “Reid is his own worst enemy.” Actually, he’s the Democrats’ — they, after all, must explain why they are spending months and months on a health-care bill the country hates while unemployment remains at record levels. Maybe they should have dumped him over his “Negro dialect” comments.

Pete, Democrats feel the same way. Dana Bash of CNN tweets that a Democratic source says: “Reid is his own worst enemy.” Actually, he’s the Democrats’ — they, after all, must explain why they are spending months and months on a health-care bill the country hates while unemployment remains at record levels. Maybe they should have dumped him over his “Negro dialect” comments.

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RE: Annals of Smart Diplomacy

Rick, in addition to omitting a text and timetable, the Obami are omitting China from their Iran sanction plans, to the consternation of our allies:

The Obama administration is pushing to carve out an exemption for China and other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council from legislation pending in the Senate and the House that would tighten sanctions on companies doing business in Iran, administration and congressional sources said. . .

But the administration’s lobbying for a Chinese exemption has raised eyebrows in Congress and angered several allies, most notably South Korea and Japan, which would not be exempted under the administration’s plan.

“We’re absolutely flabbergasted,” said one senior official from a foreign country friendly to the United States. “Tell me what exactly have the Chinese done to deserve this?” Japan and South Korea, which are U.S. allies, have raised the issue with the Obama administration.

What has China done? They balked and hollered, and the Obami have no means of corralling their support, so they will simply give China a pass, making a mockery of the entire exercise. This has not gone unnoticed: “One foreign official complained that the administration’s efforts would encourage China to water down U.N. sanctions on Iran as much as possible and then push Chinese firms — should the U.S. law pass — to invest more in Iran’s oil and gas sector.” We also know that Turkey and Brazil are balking at sanctions.

So where’s the evidence of Obama’s charismatic power to move our allies? Where’s the evidence that engagement enabled us to gather international support for crippling sanctions? There isn’t any. Nor is there any game plan to deter the mullahs’ acquisition of nuclear weapons. We are headed for what candidate Barack Obama declared unacceptable: a Revolutionary Islamic state with nuclear weapons. Perhaps Joe Biden can explain to the Israelis on his visit why they should refrain from acting unilaterally to defend themselves against an existential threat to the Jewish state in light of the abject failure of the Obami’s Iran policy.

Rick, in addition to omitting a text and timetable, the Obami are omitting China from their Iran sanction plans, to the consternation of our allies:

The Obama administration is pushing to carve out an exemption for China and other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council from legislation pending in the Senate and the House that would tighten sanctions on companies doing business in Iran, administration and congressional sources said. . .

But the administration’s lobbying for a Chinese exemption has raised eyebrows in Congress and angered several allies, most notably South Korea and Japan, which would not be exempted under the administration’s plan.

“We’re absolutely flabbergasted,” said one senior official from a foreign country friendly to the United States. “Tell me what exactly have the Chinese done to deserve this?” Japan and South Korea, which are U.S. allies, have raised the issue with the Obama administration.

What has China done? They balked and hollered, and the Obami have no means of corralling their support, so they will simply give China a pass, making a mockery of the entire exercise. This has not gone unnoticed: “One foreign official complained that the administration’s efforts would encourage China to water down U.N. sanctions on Iran as much as possible and then push Chinese firms — should the U.S. law pass — to invest more in Iran’s oil and gas sector.” We also know that Turkey and Brazil are balking at sanctions.

So where’s the evidence of Obama’s charismatic power to move our allies? Where’s the evidence that engagement enabled us to gather international support for crippling sanctions? There isn’t any. Nor is there any game plan to deter the mullahs’ acquisition of nuclear weapons. We are headed for what candidate Barack Obama declared unacceptable: a Revolutionary Islamic state with nuclear weapons. Perhaps Joe Biden can explain to the Israelis on his visit why they should refrain from acting unilaterally to defend themselves against an existential threat to the Jewish state in light of the abject failure of the Obami’s Iran policy.

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Harry Reid’s Cluelessness and Indifference

These comments by the hapless Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — declaring that “this is a big day in America” because “only 36,000 people lost their jobs today,” which is “really good” — will be ones he comes to regret. His combination of cluelessness and indifference to real human suffering is not the type of thing Democrats need right now. They are in plenty of hot water as it is. The temperature just went up.

These comments by the hapless Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — declaring that “this is a big day in America” because “only 36,000 people lost their jobs today,” which is “really good” — will be ones he comes to regret. His combination of cluelessness and indifference to real human suffering is not the type of thing Democrats need right now. They are in plenty of hot water as it is. The temperature just went up.

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Paterson, Spitzer, Sharpton — An Eternal Golden Braid

New York Governor David Paterson attempted to suppress an investigation into an aide’s alleged beating of said aide’s girlfriend, and lied to an ethics panel about the free tickets he scored to the World Series. In this, he follows Eliot Spitzer, whom he succeeded after Spitzer attempted to convince a banker to contravene federal banking laws (that is actually why he had to resign, not because he hired a prostitute, but since prosecutors decided for unclear reasons not to indict him, that part is forgotten). Paterson, in his sure-to-fail attempt to hold on to power for a few more months, just secured the critical moral and ethical support of none other than Al Sharpton, who is to ethics as oil is to water.

But let’s get back to Spitzer, who has been working to stage a comeback of sorts, writing in Slate and appearing on TV and in general acting like an eminence grise of some kind. The New York Times reports that a New York lawyer of my acquaintance, Lloyd Constantine, has written a book about his experience as one of Spitzer’s lieutenants and confidants called A Journal of the Plague Year. Word about the book and its unvarnished portrait of Spitzer’s decline and fall was greeted violently by Spitzer, who issued the following statement to the Times:

What Mr. Constantine has written is little more than a self-serving and largely inaccurate interpretation of events mixed with unfounded speculation. That such a close adviser and confidant of my family and member of my administration would choose to write such a book is a fundamental breach of trust.

Let’s not mince words here. Eliot Spitzer has a personality disorder. Lloyd Constantine is a very, very rich man, an anti-trust lawyer who secured a massive judgment in a case a few years ago against Visa and Mastercard that netted him, personally, in excess of $100 million. He didn’t need to write a book for money, and for that matter, he didn’t need to shlep up to Albany to help his old friend Spitzer out when Eliot became governor. The “fundamental breach of trust” here was Spitzer’s, not Constantine’s. Spitzer is the one who made a mockery out of his governorship, who brought shame on everyone who ever worked for him or gave him money or voted for him.

His breathtakingly self-righteous response to the fact that someone has had the nerve to write a book about the horrific experience of serving as Spitzer’s underling reveals that his troubles have taught Spitzer nothing and improved him not a whit. Constantine’s flaw was not in writing about Spitzer after the fact, but in failing to see before the fact Spitzer’s disgusting conduct in the years before he ran for governor — using his powers as the state’s attorney general in inappropriate ways and, when criticized for doing so, threatening his critics with ruination and destruction for having the temerity to cross him — offered every indication of the genuinely bad character that would be revealed during his disastrous and blessedly brief tenure. And that he is still revealing now. And that his choice of David Paterson as running mate revealed as well. And that Paterson’s scurrying behind the legs of Al Sharpton reveals about him.

New York Governor David Paterson attempted to suppress an investigation into an aide’s alleged beating of said aide’s girlfriend, and lied to an ethics panel about the free tickets he scored to the World Series. In this, he follows Eliot Spitzer, whom he succeeded after Spitzer attempted to convince a banker to contravene federal banking laws (that is actually why he had to resign, not because he hired a prostitute, but since prosecutors decided for unclear reasons not to indict him, that part is forgotten). Paterson, in his sure-to-fail attempt to hold on to power for a few more months, just secured the critical moral and ethical support of none other than Al Sharpton, who is to ethics as oil is to water.

But let’s get back to Spitzer, who has been working to stage a comeback of sorts, writing in Slate and appearing on TV and in general acting like an eminence grise of some kind. The New York Times reports that a New York lawyer of my acquaintance, Lloyd Constantine, has written a book about his experience as one of Spitzer’s lieutenants and confidants called A Journal of the Plague Year. Word about the book and its unvarnished portrait of Spitzer’s decline and fall was greeted violently by Spitzer, who issued the following statement to the Times:

What Mr. Constantine has written is little more than a self-serving and largely inaccurate interpretation of events mixed with unfounded speculation. That such a close adviser and confidant of my family and member of my administration would choose to write such a book is a fundamental breach of trust.

Let’s not mince words here. Eliot Spitzer has a personality disorder. Lloyd Constantine is a very, very rich man, an anti-trust lawyer who secured a massive judgment in a case a few years ago against Visa and Mastercard that netted him, personally, in excess of $100 million. He didn’t need to write a book for money, and for that matter, he didn’t need to shlep up to Albany to help his old friend Spitzer out when Eliot became governor. The “fundamental breach of trust” here was Spitzer’s, not Constantine’s. Spitzer is the one who made a mockery out of his governorship, who brought shame on everyone who ever worked for him or gave him money or voted for him.

His breathtakingly self-righteous response to the fact that someone has had the nerve to write a book about the horrific experience of serving as Spitzer’s underling reveals that his troubles have taught Spitzer nothing and improved him not a whit. Constantine’s flaw was not in writing about Spitzer after the fact, but in failing to see before the fact Spitzer’s disgusting conduct in the years before he ran for governor — using his powers as the state’s attorney general in inappropriate ways and, when criticized for doing so, threatening his critics with ruination and destruction for having the temerity to cross him — offered every indication of the genuinely bad character that would be revealed during his disastrous and blessedly brief tenure. And that he is still revealing now. And that his choice of David Paterson as running mate revealed as well. And that Paterson’s scurrying behind the legs of Al Sharpton reveals about him.

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On Armenian Genocide Resolutions

The Turks are wrong — and worse, stupid — to keep denying that a genocide was perpetrated against the Armenians in 1915. There is little doubt that mass killings occurred; to claim that it was not “genocide” is quibbling over terminology. I fail to see what Turkey would lose if it were to admit that genocide occurred. It’s not as if the current Turkish government or its immediate predecessors were responsible. The violence occurred during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire. It would be easy enough for Turkish leaders to say, “We’re very sorry that these horrible acts were perpetrated by our countrymen under a previous regime that we repudiate and condemn.” They would thereby get considerable credit in world opinion. What’s the downside? At worst they might have to pay some reparations — but that’s something that prosperous modern Turkey could afford to do.

That said, Washington lawmakers are equally wrong — and worse, stupid — in trying to try to pass resolutions commemorating the Armenian genocide. That’s something the House Foreign Affairs Committee just did, prompting Turkey to recall its ambassador from Washington. What good does such a resolution do? It does nothing to deliver justice for the victims, annoys a key NATO ally, and also does nothing to help the state of Armenia, which would benefit from better relations with its large neighbor, Turkey. This is one of those issues that are driven primarily, I believe, by the well-funded Armenian expatriate lobby (a group perhaps deserving an exposé by Mearsheimer and Walt, if the latter weren’t already so busy uncovering the nefarious influence of the Jews, excuse me, the Zionists). Lawmakers find it easy to go along with what they view as essentially a meaningless gesture to wealthy campaign contributors; but, in the process, they create major headaches for policy makers.

That’s something that Obama, Biden, and Clinton are discovering for themselves. After having supported Armenian genocide resolutions while in Congress, they are now lobbying their former colleagues not to pass a resolution that will make it harder to work with Turkey on pressing issues such as Iranian sanctions. Doesn’t Congress have anything better to do with its time? Like investigating the “scandal” of the college football Bowl Championship Series?

The Turks are wrong — and worse, stupid — to keep denying that a genocide was perpetrated against the Armenians in 1915. There is little doubt that mass killings occurred; to claim that it was not “genocide” is quibbling over terminology. I fail to see what Turkey would lose if it were to admit that genocide occurred. It’s not as if the current Turkish government or its immediate predecessors were responsible. The violence occurred during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire. It would be easy enough for Turkish leaders to say, “We’re very sorry that these horrible acts were perpetrated by our countrymen under a previous regime that we repudiate and condemn.” They would thereby get considerable credit in world opinion. What’s the downside? At worst they might have to pay some reparations — but that’s something that prosperous modern Turkey could afford to do.

That said, Washington lawmakers are equally wrong — and worse, stupid — in trying to try to pass resolutions commemorating the Armenian genocide. That’s something the House Foreign Affairs Committee just did, prompting Turkey to recall its ambassador from Washington. What good does such a resolution do? It does nothing to deliver justice for the victims, annoys a key NATO ally, and also does nothing to help the state of Armenia, which would benefit from better relations with its large neighbor, Turkey. This is one of those issues that are driven primarily, I believe, by the well-funded Armenian expatriate lobby (a group perhaps deserving an exposé by Mearsheimer and Walt, if the latter weren’t already so busy uncovering the nefarious influence of the Jews, excuse me, the Zionists). Lawmakers find it easy to go along with what they view as essentially a meaningless gesture to wealthy campaign contributors; but, in the process, they create major headaches for policy makers.

That’s something that Obama, Biden, and Clinton are discovering for themselves. After having supported Armenian genocide resolutions while in Congress, they are now lobbying their former colleagues not to pass a resolution that will make it harder to work with Turkey on pressing issues such as Iranian sanctions. Doesn’t Congress have anything better to do with its time? Like investigating the “scandal” of the college football Bowl Championship Series?

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Sen. Graham’s Bargain

Following up on Jennifer Rubin’s post regarding the legislation that Sens. McCain and Lieberman have introduced to deal with detained terrorists, I note also this report that Senator Lindsey Graham — a close friend of Lieberman and McCain — has offered a grand bargain to the Obama administration:

In exchange for some Republican support for closing the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Mr. Graham is pushing the administration to prosecute those accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks before a military commission, rather than in civilian court as the Justice Department intended.

Beyond that one case, though, Mr. Graham and others familiar with his proposals said he was seeking Mr. Obama’s support for comprehensive legislation setting detailed guidelines for handling all detainees. Such legislation would allow investigators to delay reading suspects their Miranda rights, send most top-level Qaeda figures to military rather than civilian courts and explicitly authorize the government to imprison some terrorism suspects without trials — not just Guantánamo inmates, but detainees who may be captured years in the future.

Graham’s grand bargain seems like a good one to me. He recognizes that the key issue is not the future of Gitmo — one holding facility — but the overall method by which detainees will be processed, held, and if necessary, tried. We need binding rules, and the best way to achieve them is through bipartisan consensus — assuming the Supreme Court would go along. If I had my druthers, I would suggest the deal include special National Security Courts within the federal judicial system, rather than military commissions, to try detainees, but that’s a small matter compared to the importance of denying high-level terrorist suspects the normal protections of the criminal-justice system.

Following up on Jennifer Rubin’s post regarding the legislation that Sens. McCain and Lieberman have introduced to deal with detained terrorists, I note also this report that Senator Lindsey Graham — a close friend of Lieberman and McCain — has offered a grand bargain to the Obama administration:

In exchange for some Republican support for closing the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Mr. Graham is pushing the administration to prosecute those accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks before a military commission, rather than in civilian court as the Justice Department intended.

Beyond that one case, though, Mr. Graham and others familiar with his proposals said he was seeking Mr. Obama’s support for comprehensive legislation setting detailed guidelines for handling all detainees. Such legislation would allow investigators to delay reading suspects their Miranda rights, send most top-level Qaeda figures to military rather than civilian courts and explicitly authorize the government to imprison some terrorism suspects without trials — not just Guantánamo inmates, but detainees who may be captured years in the future.

Graham’s grand bargain seems like a good one to me. He recognizes that the key issue is not the future of Gitmo — one holding facility — but the overall method by which detainees will be processed, held, and if necessary, tried. We need binding rules, and the best way to achieve them is through bipartisan consensus — assuming the Supreme Court would go along. If I had my druthers, I would suggest the deal include special National Security Courts within the federal judicial system, rather than military commissions, to try detainees, but that’s a small matter compared to the importance of denying high-level terrorist suspects the normal protections of the criminal-justice system.

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RE: Spokesman for Evil

The Leveretts are on quite a roll — blogs, interviews, speeches all spinning the mullahs’ rhetoric. But they’ve also developed a nasty habit of talking about covert operations. We saw a hint of that in their embarrassing interview with Michael Crowley. Now comes this in their latest straight-from-the-mullahs’-PR-office blog:

Iranian officials are not the only sources claiming that U.S. intelligence is linked to groups carrying out terrorist operations inside the Islamic Republic. Some Western media reports—citing former CIA case officers—say that there are links between Jundallah and U.S. intelligence; for example, see this widely noted story published by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker in July 2008. Some of these reports say that Jundallah is one of a number of ethnic separatist groups (including Arab, Azeri, Baluch, and Kurdish groups) receiving covert support from the United States, as part of a covert campaign authorized during the George W. Bush Administration to press Tehran over the nuclear issue and destabilize the Islamic Republic.  For a recent discussion of the issue by a retired CIA officer, see here. As we ourselves have written, there is considerable evidence that President Obama inherited from his predecessor a number of overt programs for “democracy promotion” in Iran, as well as covert initiatives directed against Iranian interests.

As we have noted, Obama has done nothing to scale back or stop these programs—a posture that has not gone unnoticed in Tehran. We understand that, last year, the Obama Administration reviewed whether Jundallah should be designated a foreign terrorist organization, but decided not to do so. Why was that? And, even though the Muhahedin-e Khalq (MEK) retains its designation as a foreign terrorist organization, the Obama Administration continues to push the Iraqi government not to consider longstanding a longstanding Iranian request that MEK cadres in Iraq—which were granted special protective status by the George W. Bush Administration—be deported to Iran. Why is the Obama Administration trying to protect members of a U.S. government-designated terrorist group?

It’s one thing to cite other press reports, but what in the world are they doing speaking from their own knowledge of top secret operations? Really, it’s bad enough to shamelessly shill for the butchers of Tehran but do they also have to blab information they have no legal or ethical standing to discuss publicly? They then do a final bit of water-carrying, assuring us that it wasn’t the Iranians who reneged on the Vienna dealmaking:

It has become conventional wisdom in Western commentary that Iran “reneged” from its commitment to a “swap” arrangement for refueling the TRR and “rejected” the generous ElBaradei proposal because of internal political conflicts that have left the leadership too divided to take clear decisions about important foreign policy matters. We have challenged this conventional wisdom, pointing out that, since the Vienna meeting in October, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has consistently stressed Iran’s “positive view regarding the essence and nature of the [ElBaradei] proposal”, but wanted to negotiate specific details of the “swap”, regarding timing—in particular, when Iranian LEU would need to be turned over to the IAEA and when new fuel for the TRR would be delivered, where Iranian LEU would be held pending delivery of new fuel for the TRR, and how much LEU Iran would need to swap for a given amount of finished fuel.  More strategically, we have argued that Iran’s reaction to the ElBaradei proposal was inevitably conditioned by the ongoing insistence of the United States and its British and French partners on “zero enrichment” as the only acceptable long-term outcome from nuclear negotiations with Tehran.

A fine week indeed for the mullahs’ PR operation.

The Leveretts are on quite a roll — blogs, interviews, speeches all spinning the mullahs’ rhetoric. But they’ve also developed a nasty habit of talking about covert operations. We saw a hint of that in their embarrassing interview with Michael Crowley. Now comes this in their latest straight-from-the-mullahs’-PR-office blog:

Iranian officials are not the only sources claiming that U.S. intelligence is linked to groups carrying out terrorist operations inside the Islamic Republic. Some Western media reports—citing former CIA case officers—say that there are links between Jundallah and U.S. intelligence; for example, see this widely noted story published by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker in July 2008. Some of these reports say that Jundallah is one of a number of ethnic separatist groups (including Arab, Azeri, Baluch, and Kurdish groups) receiving covert support from the United States, as part of a covert campaign authorized during the George W. Bush Administration to press Tehran over the nuclear issue and destabilize the Islamic Republic.  For a recent discussion of the issue by a retired CIA officer, see here. As we ourselves have written, there is considerable evidence that President Obama inherited from his predecessor a number of overt programs for “democracy promotion” in Iran, as well as covert initiatives directed against Iranian interests.

As we have noted, Obama has done nothing to scale back or stop these programs—a posture that has not gone unnoticed in Tehran. We understand that, last year, the Obama Administration reviewed whether Jundallah should be designated a foreign terrorist organization, but decided not to do so. Why was that? And, even though the Muhahedin-e Khalq (MEK) retains its designation as a foreign terrorist organization, the Obama Administration continues to push the Iraqi government not to consider longstanding a longstanding Iranian request that MEK cadres in Iraq—which were granted special protective status by the George W. Bush Administration—be deported to Iran. Why is the Obama Administration trying to protect members of a U.S. government-designated terrorist group?

It’s one thing to cite other press reports, but what in the world are they doing speaking from their own knowledge of top secret operations? Really, it’s bad enough to shamelessly shill for the butchers of Tehran but do they also have to blab information they have no legal or ethical standing to discuss publicly? They then do a final bit of water-carrying, assuring us that it wasn’t the Iranians who reneged on the Vienna dealmaking:

It has become conventional wisdom in Western commentary that Iran “reneged” from its commitment to a “swap” arrangement for refueling the TRR and “rejected” the generous ElBaradei proposal because of internal political conflicts that have left the leadership too divided to take clear decisions about important foreign policy matters. We have challenged this conventional wisdom, pointing out that, since the Vienna meeting in October, Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has consistently stressed Iran’s “positive view regarding the essence and nature of the [ElBaradei] proposal”, but wanted to negotiate specific details of the “swap”, regarding timing—in particular, when Iranian LEU would need to be turned over to the IAEA and when new fuel for the TRR would be delivered, where Iranian LEU would be held pending delivery of new fuel for the TRR, and how much LEU Iran would need to swap for a given amount of finished fuel.  More strategically, we have argued that Iran’s reaction to the ElBaradei proposal was inevitably conditioned by the ongoing insistence of the United States and its British and French partners on “zero enrichment” as the only acceptable long-term outcome from nuclear negotiations with Tehran.

A fine week indeed for the mullahs’ PR operation.

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The Gray Lady Discovers It’s 2006 All Over Again

Even the Gray Lady must recognize the trend:

The ethical woes facing Democrats are piling up, with barely a day passing in recent weeks without headlines from Washington to New York and beyond filled with word of scandal or allegations of wrongdoing.

The troubles of Gov. David A. Paterson of New York, followed by those of two of the state’s congressmen, Charles B. Rangel and Eric J. Massa, have added to the ranks of episodes involving prominent Democrats like Eliot Spitzer, Rod R. Blagojevich and John Edwards.

Taken together, the cases have opened the party to the same lines of criticism that Democrats, led by Representatives Nancy Pelosi, now the House speaker, and Rahm Emanuel, now White House chief of staff, used effectively against Republicans in winning control of the House and Senate four years ago.

The Times breaks the news to their readership that voters are already mad and that this just makes it worse (“with voters appearing to be in an angry mood and many already inclined to view all things Washington with mistrust, the risks for Democrats could be that much greater this year”). Left unsaid, of course, is why voters are mad. (It might have something to do with pushing an agenda quite popular on the Upper West Side but not elsewhere.)

Democrats are scrambling to give back money they snagged from Rangel’s fundraising committees, and Pelosi is predictably pronouncing that she is too presiding over an ethical Congress. But even Pelosi’s defense has a jumbo loophole. She insists: “My commitment to the American people is that the public trust will always be honored. … And on the floor of the House, that happens.” Yes, the scandals generally happen elsewhere.

Oh, and if that weren’t all, the Times reminds us that Blago’s trial will come along “at the very moment that Democrats are battling in several races, including a campaign for the Senate seat once held by the man who now sits in the Oval Office.” That would be the race in which the Democratic nominee is Tony Rezko’s banker. Well, for Republicans, let’s just say it’s a golden political opportunity.

Even the Gray Lady must recognize the trend:

The ethical woes facing Democrats are piling up, with barely a day passing in recent weeks without headlines from Washington to New York and beyond filled with word of scandal or allegations of wrongdoing.

The troubles of Gov. David A. Paterson of New York, followed by those of two of the state’s congressmen, Charles B. Rangel and Eric J. Massa, have added to the ranks of episodes involving prominent Democrats like Eliot Spitzer, Rod R. Blagojevich and John Edwards.

Taken together, the cases have opened the party to the same lines of criticism that Democrats, led by Representatives Nancy Pelosi, now the House speaker, and Rahm Emanuel, now White House chief of staff, used effectively against Republicans in winning control of the House and Senate four years ago.

The Times breaks the news to their readership that voters are already mad and that this just makes it worse (“with voters appearing to be in an angry mood and many already inclined to view all things Washington with mistrust, the risks for Democrats could be that much greater this year”). Left unsaid, of course, is why voters are mad. (It might have something to do with pushing an agenda quite popular on the Upper West Side but not elsewhere.)

Democrats are scrambling to give back money they snagged from Rangel’s fundraising committees, and Pelosi is predictably pronouncing that she is too presiding over an ethical Congress. But even Pelosi’s defense has a jumbo loophole. She insists: “My commitment to the American people is that the public trust will always be honored. … And on the floor of the House, that happens.” Yes, the scandals generally happen elsewhere.

Oh, and if that weren’t all, the Times reminds us that Blago’s trial will come along “at the very moment that Democrats are battling in several races, including a campaign for the Senate seat once held by the man who now sits in the Oval Office.” That would be the race in which the Democratic nominee is Tony Rezko’s banker. Well, for Republicans, let’s just say it’s a golden political opportunity.

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The End to Obama’s Ill-Conceived Terrorism Policies

Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman are seeking to dislodge Obama’s criminal-justice approach to terrorism. This report explains:

Republican Senator John McCain and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman offered the measure in the wake of the controversy over prosecuting the accused Christmas Day airplane bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in a U.S. criminal court instead of a military trial.

Under the proposed legislation, individuals who are deemed to be “suspected unprivileged enemy belligerents” would be held in military custody, interrogated for possible intelligence and tried in a military court.

A special team, known as the High-Value Interrogation Team, would recommend which suspects would be sent to the military and the final decision would be made by the U.S. attorney general and Defense Department secretary, according to the proposed legislation.

“These are not common criminals. They are war criminals and they should be treated according to the rules of the law of war,” Lieberman told reporters.

Well, the senators’ move seems to be well timed. We finally may be inching toward a bipartisan consensus and a reversal of the Obami’s misguided criminal-justice model. For along comes this report that a remarkable 180 is in the works:

President Barack Obama’s advisers are nearing a recommendation that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, be prosecuted in a military tribunal, administration officials said, a step that would reverse Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s plan to try him in civilian court in New York City.

The president’s advisers feel increasingly hemmed in by bipartisan opposition to a federal trial in New York and demands, mainly from Republicans, that Mohammed and his accused co-conspirators remain under military jurisdiction, officials said. While Obama has favored trying some terrorism suspects in civilian courts as a symbol of U.S. commitment to the rule of law, critics have said military tribunals are the appropriate venue for those accused of attacking the United States.

Well, well, it seems not-not-Bush anti-terror policies may be the order of the day. Yes, it will be a humiliating admission of error and a stunning turnaround for the Obami. They spent the campaign and over a year in office puffing their chests in moral indignation and declaring Bush’s approach to be lawless (it wasn’t) and a betrayal of values (disproved by that bipartisan consensus that’s hemming in the Obami’s legal experimentation).

Yes, the netroot crowd will go bonkers. (“Privately, administration officials are bracing for the ire of disappointed liberals and even some government lawyers should the administration back away from promises to use civilian courts to adjudicate the cases of some of the 188 detainees who remain at Guantanamo.”) But what of it? The civilian trial gambit was ill-conceived and unworkable, and the momentary mortification experienced by the moral grandstanders — the attorney general and the president — is a small price to pay to get our terrorism policies back on track.

The ACLU executive director groused:

If President Obama reverses Holder’s decision to try the 9/11 defendants in criminal court and retreats to using the Bush military commissions, he deals a death blow to his own Justice Department, breaks a clear campaign promise to restore the rule of law and demonstrates that the promises to his constituents are all up for grabs.

Well, it’s true that such a move would cut the legs out from under the Justice Department, but a housecleaning seems to be the next move. If the former terrorists’ lawyers’ advice has proved to be unworkable, perhaps they should go back to their law firms along with the hapless attorney general. And as for the trail littered with broken campaign promises, well, the ACLU can get in line with many other aggrieved groups that believed Obama’s campaign spiel.

The bottom line: the Bush anti-terror policies, one by one, are being vindicated by a president who is learning the hard way that much of what he said and ostensibly believed about the war against Islamic fundamentalists is wrong. And if he really has learned something, he’ll start referring to the enemy as such.

Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman are seeking to dislodge Obama’s criminal-justice approach to terrorism. This report explains:

Republican Senator John McCain and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman offered the measure in the wake of the controversy over prosecuting the accused Christmas Day airplane bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, in a U.S. criminal court instead of a military trial.

Under the proposed legislation, individuals who are deemed to be “suspected unprivileged enemy belligerents” would be held in military custody, interrogated for possible intelligence and tried in a military court.

A special team, known as the High-Value Interrogation Team, would recommend which suspects would be sent to the military and the final decision would be made by the U.S. attorney general and Defense Department secretary, according to the proposed legislation.

“These are not common criminals. They are war criminals and they should be treated according to the rules of the law of war,” Lieberman told reporters.

Well, the senators’ move seems to be well timed. We finally may be inching toward a bipartisan consensus and a reversal of the Obami’s misguided criminal-justice model. For along comes this report that a remarkable 180 is in the works:

President Barack Obama’s advisers are nearing a recommendation that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, be prosecuted in a military tribunal, administration officials said, a step that would reverse Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s plan to try him in civilian court in New York City.

The president’s advisers feel increasingly hemmed in by bipartisan opposition to a federal trial in New York and demands, mainly from Republicans, that Mohammed and his accused co-conspirators remain under military jurisdiction, officials said. While Obama has favored trying some terrorism suspects in civilian courts as a symbol of U.S. commitment to the rule of law, critics have said military tribunals are the appropriate venue for those accused of attacking the United States.

Well, well, it seems not-not-Bush anti-terror policies may be the order of the day. Yes, it will be a humiliating admission of error and a stunning turnaround for the Obami. They spent the campaign and over a year in office puffing their chests in moral indignation and declaring Bush’s approach to be lawless (it wasn’t) and a betrayal of values (disproved by that bipartisan consensus that’s hemming in the Obami’s legal experimentation).

Yes, the netroot crowd will go bonkers. (“Privately, administration officials are bracing for the ire of disappointed liberals and even some government lawyers should the administration back away from promises to use civilian courts to adjudicate the cases of some of the 188 detainees who remain at Guantanamo.”) But what of it? The civilian trial gambit was ill-conceived and unworkable, and the momentary mortification experienced by the moral grandstanders — the attorney general and the president — is a small price to pay to get our terrorism policies back on track.

The ACLU executive director groused:

If President Obama reverses Holder’s decision to try the 9/11 defendants in criminal court and retreats to using the Bush military commissions, he deals a death blow to his own Justice Department, breaks a clear campaign promise to restore the rule of law and demonstrates that the promises to his constituents are all up for grabs.

Well, it’s true that such a move would cut the legs out from under the Justice Department, but a housecleaning seems to be the next move. If the former terrorists’ lawyers’ advice has proved to be unworkable, perhaps they should go back to their law firms along with the hapless attorney general. And as for the trail littered with broken campaign promises, well, the ACLU can get in line with many other aggrieved groups that believed Obama’s campaign spiel.

The bottom line: the Bush anti-terror policies, one by one, are being vindicated by a president who is learning the hard way that much of what he said and ostensibly believed about the war against Islamic fundamentalists is wrong. And if he really has learned something, he’ll start referring to the enemy as such.

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Obama’s Credibility Deficit

Obama faces not simply a shortage of votes for his health-care plan but also a diminishing reservoir of credibility. The longer he talks, the less believable his arguments have become. After a year, dozens of speeches, hundreds of interviews, and a health-care summit, who believes of ObamaCare that: 1) you will get to keep your health-care plan; 2) it won’t add to the deficit; 3) it will cut costs; 4) it won’t adversely affect Medicare patients; and 5) it won’t affect the status quo on abortion funding? The endless discussions and Obama’s obvious discomfort in hearing informed arguments from Republicans at his summit (e.g. John Boehner on abortion and Paul Ryan on the rest) have served to undermine the president’s credibility on these points with all but the most devoted spinners.

The abortion issue is particularly revealing. Whether or not one thinks the government should subsidize abortion, Obama’s claim that his favored bill (essentially the Senate bill) doesn’t subsidize abortions simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life explains:

The president’s latest proposal mirrors legislation that has passed the Senate, which doesn’t include a Hyde Amendment [prohibiting taxpayer funding of abortions], and would inevitably establish abortion as a fundamental health-care service for the following reasons:

• It would change existing law by allowing federally subsidized health-care plans to pay for abortions and could require private health-insurance plans to cover abortion.

• It would impose a first-ever abortion tax—a separate premium payment that will be used to pay for elective abortions—on enrollees in insurance plans that covers abortions through newly created government health-care exchanges.

• And it would fail to protect the rights of health-care providers to refuse to participate in abortions.

The president’s plan goes further than the Senate bill on abortion by calling for spending $11 billion over five years on “community health centers,” which include Planned Parenthood clinics that provide abortions.

The president insists that his bill maintains the status quo on abortion funding, but those most concerned and whose votes are at stake, namely pro-life House Democrats, know better. So when Obama and Nancy Pelosi repeat their assertion that the bill contains no federal funding of abortion, they are being less than truthful.

The president’s repeated misstatements have rendered him less and less effective as a salesman for his plan, both with the public and key lawmakers. Just as his claim of the stimulus plan’s job-creating success now engenders eye-rolling and groans, his health-care talking points have also become the objects of derision. The impact may extend well beyond the health-care debate.

After all, in matters large and small, on both foreign and domestic policy, the president must be taken seriously and his word respected by the public and lawmakers if he is to sustain support for his initiatives. Obama, among his many errors, has frittered away not only a year on hugely unpopular legislation but his own credibility as well. The year is gone for good; his credibility may likewise be impossible to recover. Obama, if he were prone to self-reflection, may come to regret having been so cavalier with the truth.

Obama faces not simply a shortage of votes for his health-care plan but also a diminishing reservoir of credibility. The longer he talks, the less believable his arguments have become. After a year, dozens of speeches, hundreds of interviews, and a health-care summit, who believes of ObamaCare that: 1) you will get to keep your health-care plan; 2) it won’t add to the deficit; 3) it will cut costs; 4) it won’t adversely affect Medicare patients; and 5) it won’t affect the status quo on abortion funding? The endless discussions and Obama’s obvious discomfort in hearing informed arguments from Republicans at his summit (e.g. John Boehner on abortion and Paul Ryan on the rest) have served to undermine the president’s credibility on these points with all but the most devoted spinners.

The abortion issue is particularly revealing. Whether or not one thinks the government should subsidize abortion, Obama’s claim that his favored bill (essentially the Senate bill) doesn’t subsidize abortions simply doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life explains:

The president’s latest proposal mirrors legislation that has passed the Senate, which doesn’t include a Hyde Amendment [prohibiting taxpayer funding of abortions], and would inevitably establish abortion as a fundamental health-care service for the following reasons:

• It would change existing law by allowing federally subsidized health-care plans to pay for abortions and could require private health-insurance plans to cover abortion.

• It would impose a first-ever abortion tax—a separate premium payment that will be used to pay for elective abortions—on enrollees in insurance plans that covers abortions through newly created government health-care exchanges.

• And it would fail to protect the rights of health-care providers to refuse to participate in abortions.

The president’s plan goes further than the Senate bill on abortion by calling for spending $11 billion over five years on “community health centers,” which include Planned Parenthood clinics that provide abortions.

The president insists that his bill maintains the status quo on abortion funding, but those most concerned and whose votes are at stake, namely pro-life House Democrats, know better. So when Obama and Nancy Pelosi repeat their assertion that the bill contains no federal funding of abortion, they are being less than truthful.

The president’s repeated misstatements have rendered him less and less effective as a salesman for his plan, both with the public and key lawmakers. Just as his claim of the stimulus plan’s job-creating success now engenders eye-rolling and groans, his health-care talking points have also become the objects of derision. The impact may extend well beyond the health-care debate.

After all, in matters large and small, on both foreign and domestic policy, the president must be taken seriously and his word respected by the public and lawmakers if he is to sustain support for his initiatives. Obama, among his many errors, has frittered away not only a year on hugely unpopular legislation but his own credibility as well. The year is gone for good; his credibility may likewise be impossible to recover. Obama, if he were prone to self-reflection, may come to regret having been so cavalier with the truth.

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Annals of Smart Diplomacy: No Text, No Timetable

Asked today about the apparent lack of progress in convincing Brazil or China of the need for additional sanctions against Iran, Asst. Secretary P.J. Crowley said dialogue will continue and “at the end of the process we are going to present our proposals to the Security Council” for “consequences” for Iran. And what would those proposals be?

QUESTION: Speaking of the UN and a resolution, are you circulating a draft or is – are any of the P-5+1 circulating a draft at the moment?

MR. CROWLEY: There’s no draft resolution. We are working within the P-5+1 and with others on – sharing our ideas on possible steps. I think there’s a growing understanding that Iran should face consequences for its defiance of international obligations. We’ve having very serious and high-level conversations, but there is not, as of yet, a draft resolution text.

Well, is there at least a schedule for producing a draft resolution?

QUESTION: When do you think there will be [a draft text]?

MR. CROWLEY: We don’t have a timetable. We want to move as rapidly as possible, but at the end of this, we want to have action that is effective, sends the right signal, puts the right pressure on Iran, and we hope ultimately secures Iran’s compliance under the NPT and UN Security Council resolutions.

Asked today about the apparent lack of progress in convincing Brazil or China of the need for additional sanctions against Iran, Asst. Secretary P.J. Crowley said dialogue will continue and “at the end of the process we are going to present our proposals to the Security Council” for “consequences” for Iran. And what would those proposals be?

QUESTION: Speaking of the UN and a resolution, are you circulating a draft or is – are any of the P-5+1 circulating a draft at the moment?

MR. CROWLEY: There’s no draft resolution. We are working within the P-5+1 and with others on – sharing our ideas on possible steps. I think there’s a growing understanding that Iran should face consequences for its defiance of international obligations. We’ve having very serious and high-level conversations, but there is not, as of yet, a draft resolution text.

Well, is there at least a schedule for producing a draft resolution?

QUESTION: When do you think there will be [a draft text]?

MR. CROWLEY: We don’t have a timetable. We want to move as rapidly as possible, but at the end of this, we want to have action that is effective, sends the right signal, puts the right pressure on Iran, and we hope ultimately secures Iran’s compliance under the NPT and UN Security Council resolutions.

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Obama Revealed

Obama, who we were led to believe was the paragon of moderation and post-partisanship, is now reduced to strong-arming through Congress his signature agenda item:  a mish-mash of the worst of liberalism’s impulses — infatuation with taxation and regulation and contempt for individual choice — on the narrowest of partisan majorities. Charles Krauthammer observes:

The time for debate is over, declared the nation’s seminar leader in chief. The man who vowed to undo Washington’s wicked ways has directed the Congress to ram Obamacare through, by one vote if necessary, under the parliamentary device of “budget reconciliation.”  The man who ran as a post-partisan is determined to remake a sixth of the U.S. economy despite the absence of support from a single Republican in either house, the first time anything of this size and scope has been enacted by pure party-line vote. Surprised? You can only be disillusioned if you were once illusioned.

There was a running debate as to Obama’s true political nature — hard leftist or reasoned moderate. That has been definitively answered. Some confusion remains, of course, because Obama’s leftism is tempered in a sense by his incompetence. It is not that he doesn’t desire a fundamental reorientation of government and a vast expansion of the public sphere; it’s simply that he has been unable to achieve these things despite tremendous advantages.

Obama has so far been ineffective in selling the American people on his scheme because he has relied on political gamesmanship rather than smart policy. Critics were derided as know-nothings, or worse, as “un-American.” When the opponents proved to be more than he bargained for, he attempted a last gambit — the health-care summit — which fell flat. (“Republicans did so well, in fact, that in his summation, Obama was reduced to suggesting that his health-care reform was indeed popular because when you ask people about individual items [for example, eliminating exclusions for pre-existing conditions or capping individual out-of-pocket payments], they are in favor.”) But the American people are rightly spooked by his scheme’s huge cost  and wary of a deal crafted in a series of backroom deals and to be passed through extraordinary parliamentary maneuvers.

At some point, Nancy Pelosi will need to count her votes. Should she fall short, as many now surmise will be the case, it will be a defeat of enormous magnitude. Obama will then face the consequences of his own extremism and hubris. And should it squeak through, he and fellow Democrats will face the wrath of voters, who will then be asked to administer a defeat sufficiently stunning that ObamaCare can be undone. If there is or was a middle ground, the not-at-all moderate and hardly post-partisan president failed to claim it. Those Democrats not duped by the White House spin have good reason to be very, very nervous. The president is leading their party over a cliff, and there will be many casualties.

Obama, who we were led to believe was the paragon of moderation and post-partisanship, is now reduced to strong-arming through Congress his signature agenda item:  a mish-mash of the worst of liberalism’s impulses — infatuation with taxation and regulation and contempt for individual choice — on the narrowest of partisan majorities. Charles Krauthammer observes:

The time for debate is over, declared the nation’s seminar leader in chief. The man who vowed to undo Washington’s wicked ways has directed the Congress to ram Obamacare through, by one vote if necessary, under the parliamentary device of “budget reconciliation.”  The man who ran as a post-partisan is determined to remake a sixth of the U.S. economy despite the absence of support from a single Republican in either house, the first time anything of this size and scope has been enacted by pure party-line vote. Surprised? You can only be disillusioned if you were once illusioned.

There was a running debate as to Obama’s true political nature — hard leftist or reasoned moderate. That has been definitively answered. Some confusion remains, of course, because Obama’s leftism is tempered in a sense by his incompetence. It is not that he doesn’t desire a fundamental reorientation of government and a vast expansion of the public sphere; it’s simply that he has been unable to achieve these things despite tremendous advantages.

Obama has so far been ineffective in selling the American people on his scheme because he has relied on political gamesmanship rather than smart policy. Critics were derided as know-nothings, or worse, as “un-American.” When the opponents proved to be more than he bargained for, he attempted a last gambit — the health-care summit — which fell flat. (“Republicans did so well, in fact, that in his summation, Obama was reduced to suggesting that his health-care reform was indeed popular because when you ask people about individual items [for example, eliminating exclusions for pre-existing conditions or capping individual out-of-pocket payments], they are in favor.”) But the American people are rightly spooked by his scheme’s huge cost  and wary of a deal crafted in a series of backroom deals and to be passed through extraordinary parliamentary maneuvers.

At some point, Nancy Pelosi will need to count her votes. Should she fall short, as many now surmise will be the case, it will be a defeat of enormous magnitude. Obama will then face the consequences of his own extremism and hubris. And should it squeak through, he and fellow Democrats will face the wrath of voters, who will then be asked to administer a defeat sufficiently stunning that ObamaCare can be undone. If there is or was a middle ground, the not-at-all moderate and hardly post-partisan president failed to claim it. Those Democrats not duped by the White House spin have good reason to be very, very nervous. The president is leading their party over a cliff, and there will be many casualties.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The ObamaCare votes don’t seem to be there. Could those “votes” have figured out that they are the sacrificial lambs in the Obami’s game plan?

Well, as Steny Hoyer says, “At this point in time we don’t have a bill. … It’s a little difficult to count votes if you don’t have a bill.”

Republicans can’t quite believe their good fortune. “First, it has allowed what is a relatively fractious group of Republicans Senators to appear entirely united — a sharp contrast to the divisions that have played out publicly between the moderate and liberal wings of the Democratic party. Second, Republicans argue, the health care focus is the main reason for the abandonment of Democratic candidates by independent voters in gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey as well as in Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) special election victory in January.”

You need a lineup card: Rangel is out, Stark is out: “Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) will be the acting chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced to her caucus on Thursday. … [Rep. Pete] Stark was the next in line for the post in terms of seniority, but some panel members recoiled at the idea of his leading the committee. Stark is known for making controversial and eccentric remarks, and in 2007 he apologized on the House floor for comments about President George W. Bush and the Iraq War.”

Phil Klein proves once again that all wisdom is contained in the Bible and The Godfather (I and II, definitely not III). It’s the Frankie Pentangeli moment — get the brother. “Obama has just awarded a judicial appointment to the brother of Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, who voted against the health care bill in November but who is now undecided.”

DNC chairman Tim Kaine says that something other than merit may be at work here. After all, “Life is life.” I imagine Republicans are collecting these pearls for their ad campaigns.

Speaking of criminal intrigue: did the White House violate federal statutes by dangling federal jobs in front of Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff to try to get them out of Senate primaries? “The real question, of course, is whether Eric Holder, who was so quick to reopen an investigation into CIA employees dedicated to trying to protect this country, will open an investigation into his political patrons in the White House who, in their dedication to furthering political objectives, may have violated several federal criminal laws.” I’m not holding my breath either.

I think there’s something to Megan McArdle’s theory of the Democrats’ scandal-a-thon: “The more members you have, the more members you have who can do something disastrous to your party’s public image. … Any party is going to have a given percentage of people in it doing fairly appalling things. If you up the numbers, and the transparency, you get about what we’re seeing now. And no doubt will see again, once the Republicans are back in power. ” Which will be fairly soon, many predict.

Andrew Roberts (a COMMENTARY contributor) goes after his own Israel-bashing Financial Times on its coverage of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh’s assassination: “All that the Dubai operation will do is remind the world that the security services of states at war — and Israel’s struggle with Hamas, Fatah and Hizbollah certainly constitutes that — occasionally employ targeted assassination as one of the weapons in their armoury, and that this in no way weakens their legitimacy. … The intelligence agents of states — sometimes operating with direct authority, sometimes not — have carried out many assassinations and assassination attempts in peacetime without the legitimacy of those states being called into question, or their being described as ‘rogue.’ … No, that insult is reserved for only one country: Israel.”

The ObamaCare votes don’t seem to be there. Could those “votes” have figured out that they are the sacrificial lambs in the Obami’s game plan?

Well, as Steny Hoyer says, “At this point in time we don’t have a bill. … It’s a little difficult to count votes if you don’t have a bill.”

Republicans can’t quite believe their good fortune. “First, it has allowed what is a relatively fractious group of Republicans Senators to appear entirely united — a sharp contrast to the divisions that have played out publicly between the moderate and liberal wings of the Democratic party. Second, Republicans argue, the health care focus is the main reason for the abandonment of Democratic candidates by independent voters in gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey as well as in Sen. Scott Brown’s (R) special election victory in January.”

You need a lineup card: Rangel is out, Stark is out: “Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) will be the acting chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced to her caucus on Thursday. … [Rep. Pete] Stark was the next in line for the post in terms of seniority, but some panel members recoiled at the idea of his leading the committee. Stark is known for making controversial and eccentric remarks, and in 2007 he apologized on the House floor for comments about President George W. Bush and the Iraq War.”

Phil Klein proves once again that all wisdom is contained in the Bible and The Godfather (I and II, definitely not III). It’s the Frankie Pentangeli moment — get the brother. “Obama has just awarded a judicial appointment to the brother of Utah Rep. Jim Matheson, who voted against the health care bill in November but who is now undecided.”

DNC chairman Tim Kaine says that something other than merit may be at work here. After all, “Life is life.” I imagine Republicans are collecting these pearls for their ad campaigns.

Speaking of criminal intrigue: did the White House violate federal statutes by dangling federal jobs in front of Joe Sestak and Andrew Romanoff to try to get them out of Senate primaries? “The real question, of course, is whether Eric Holder, who was so quick to reopen an investigation into CIA employees dedicated to trying to protect this country, will open an investigation into his political patrons in the White House who, in their dedication to furthering political objectives, may have violated several federal criminal laws.” I’m not holding my breath either.

I think there’s something to Megan McArdle’s theory of the Democrats’ scandal-a-thon: “The more members you have, the more members you have who can do something disastrous to your party’s public image. … Any party is going to have a given percentage of people in it doing fairly appalling things. If you up the numbers, and the transparency, you get about what we’re seeing now. And no doubt will see again, once the Republicans are back in power. ” Which will be fairly soon, many predict.

Andrew Roberts (a COMMENTARY contributor) goes after his own Israel-bashing Financial Times on its coverage of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh’s assassination: “All that the Dubai operation will do is remind the world that the security services of states at war — and Israel’s struggle with Hamas, Fatah and Hizbollah certainly constitutes that — occasionally employ targeted assassination as one of the weapons in their armoury, and that this in no way weakens their legitimacy. … The intelligence agents of states — sometimes operating with direct authority, sometimes not — have carried out many assassinations and assassination attempts in peacetime without the legitimacy of those states being called into question, or their being described as ‘rogue.’ … No, that insult is reserved for only one country: Israel.”

Read Less




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