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Posts For: March 7, 2010

Campbell’s Al-Arian Letter Surfaces

During Friday’s Republican Senate debate, Tom Campbell defended his receipt of campaign funds from Sami Al-Arian as well as the letter Campbell wrote in defense of Al-Arian, after the latter was fired by the University of South Florida. In the debate Campbell claimed the letter was written before Al-Arian’s controversial appearance on the Bill O’Reilly program. But that claim seems to be false and a new round of controversy has begun.

The letter that Campbell wrote on January 22, 2002, in support of Sami Al-Arian, who had been fired by the University of South Florida (and who pleaded guilty in 2006 to terrorism charges), is now circulating. Contrary to Campbell’s protestations, according to which there was nothing generally known about Al-Arian at the time (He said in the debate: “There is one other point to be raised, and that is that he was a professor, and he was terminated from his position at the University of South Florida before any of this evidence came out”), by 2000 much was known of Al-Arian’s activities. However, that did not dissuade Campbell from taking campaign money from him for his race that year, or — in 2002 — from sending a letter defending Al-Arian. He wrote in January 2002:

During my time in Congress, I served, inter alia, on the International Relations Committee and the Judiciary Committee.  In those capacities, I came to know of the practice of using secret evidence against non-citizens in keeping them in detention even when they were not a security risk to the United States, and even when they were not soon to be deported.  I introduced legislation to stop this practice, and worked hard to achieve that end.  In this effort, I came to know Professor Sami Al-Arian, whose brother-in-law had been subjected to this practice.

In the interest of full disclosure, I wish you to know that, after we came to know each other, Professor Al-Arian helped me raise funds for my campaign for U.S. Senate, an effort which, nevertheless, did not succeed.

Moreover, contrary to his statement in the debate, Campbell conceded in the letter that he was aware of Al-Arian’s 2001 appearance on the Bill O’Reilly show: “I read a transcript of the O’Reilly Factor interview last autumn, and I did not see anything whereby Professor Al-Arian attempted to claim he was representing the views of the University of South Florida.” So let the professor keep his spot, Campbell argued, because he wasn’t saying all those awful things as a representative of the university.

The O’Reilly interview from the fall of 2001 is an eye-opener. This sequence is especially instructive:

O’REILLY: In — in 1988, you did a little speaking engagement in Cleveland, and you were quoted as saying, “Jihad is our path. Victory to Islam. Death to Israel. Revolution. Revolution until victory. Rolling to Jerusalem.” Did you say that?

AL-ARIAN: Let me just put it into context. When resident Bush talked about crusade, we understand what he meant here. The Muslim world thought he is going to carry a cross and go invade the Muslim world and turn them into Christians. We have to understand the context. When you say “Death to Israel,” you mean death to occupation, death to apartheid, death to oppression, death to…

O’REILLY: But not death to any human being?

AL-ARIAN: No, absolutely not. Absolutely not.

O’REILLY: No.

AL-ARIAN: Absolutely not.

O’REILLY: All right. So now what we have here is you saying death to Israel. You’re bringing a guy over here who gets paid by the good citizens of Florida and then goes back and becomes one of the lieutenants or generals of the Islamic jihad, but you don’t know nothing about it. Another guy sets up an interview with Osama bin Laden for ABC, and you don know anything about that.

You know, Doctor, it looks to me like there’s something wrong down there at the University of South Florida. Am I getting — am I getting the wrong impression here?

AL-ARIAN: You’re getting completely wrong impression because you can pick and choose and interpret it, you know, different ways.

The fact of the matter is we have been involved in intellectual-type activity. We brought dozens of people. All of them are intellectual type.  You’re going to get the apple — a bad apple or two, but that — if you focus on them, you get one conclusion.

The fact of the matter is that we’ve been investigated by the FBI for many years…

O’REILLY: Correct.

AL-ARIAN: …and there has been no wrongdoing whatsoever even suggested.

So this was the man from whom Campbell accepted funds and for whose sake he went out of his way to plead with the university that he be kept on staff. It seems as though Campbell never met an Israel-bashing, Islamic jihadist who raised any concerns, even after 9/11.

The Carly Fiorina campaign is calling for Campbell to correct the record and change his website: “Tom Campbell has refused to release this letter despite repeated calls for him to do so. Now we know why. The content of the letter itself, and the date on which it was written reveal that what Tom Campbell told voters in Friday’s debate about his relationship with Al-Arian—and just as importantly, what he knew about him at the time—is quite simply false.” A Fiorina aide goes further, telling me: “Tom Campbell flat out lied in the debate about what he knew and when he knew it, and he flat out lies on his new Campbell ‘facts’ website — it’s so brazen you have to wonder he’s convinced himself that he doesn’t have a terrorism problem.”

Suffice it to say, we are off to the races on this latest revelation.

UPDATE: Chuck DeVore’s Communications Director has chimed in with a statement including this: “We’ve known from the start that Tom Campbell has a problematic past with Islamist radicals, and this just fills in some details. What’s troubling is that two of the three Republicans running for US Senate in California this year have a troubling history in this regard. While Campbell was a darling of the anti-Israel set, Carly Fiorina was presiding over illegal technology transfers to Iran, and delivering paeans to Islamic civilization while the fires at the World Trade Center were still smoldering.” Fiorina has denied any illegal technology transfers occured to Iran during her tenure at Hewlett Packard.

During Friday’s Republican Senate debate, Tom Campbell defended his receipt of campaign funds from Sami Al-Arian as well as the letter Campbell wrote in defense of Al-Arian, after the latter was fired by the University of South Florida. In the debate Campbell claimed the letter was written before Al-Arian’s controversial appearance on the Bill O’Reilly program. But that claim seems to be false and a new round of controversy has begun.

The letter that Campbell wrote on January 22, 2002, in support of Sami Al-Arian, who had been fired by the University of South Florida (and who pleaded guilty in 2006 to terrorism charges), is now circulating. Contrary to Campbell’s protestations, according to which there was nothing generally known about Al-Arian at the time (He said in the debate: “There is one other point to be raised, and that is that he was a professor, and he was terminated from his position at the University of South Florida before any of this evidence came out”), by 2000 much was known of Al-Arian’s activities. However, that did not dissuade Campbell from taking campaign money from him for his race that year, or — in 2002 — from sending a letter defending Al-Arian. He wrote in January 2002:

During my time in Congress, I served, inter alia, on the International Relations Committee and the Judiciary Committee.  In those capacities, I came to know of the practice of using secret evidence against non-citizens in keeping them in detention even when they were not a security risk to the United States, and even when they were not soon to be deported.  I introduced legislation to stop this practice, and worked hard to achieve that end.  In this effort, I came to know Professor Sami Al-Arian, whose brother-in-law had been subjected to this practice.

In the interest of full disclosure, I wish you to know that, after we came to know each other, Professor Al-Arian helped me raise funds for my campaign for U.S. Senate, an effort which, nevertheless, did not succeed.

Moreover, contrary to his statement in the debate, Campbell conceded in the letter that he was aware of Al-Arian’s 2001 appearance on the Bill O’Reilly show: “I read a transcript of the O’Reilly Factor interview last autumn, and I did not see anything whereby Professor Al-Arian attempted to claim he was representing the views of the University of South Florida.” So let the professor keep his spot, Campbell argued, because he wasn’t saying all those awful things as a representative of the university.

The O’Reilly interview from the fall of 2001 is an eye-opener. This sequence is especially instructive:

O’REILLY: In — in 1988, you did a little speaking engagement in Cleveland, and you were quoted as saying, “Jihad is our path. Victory to Islam. Death to Israel. Revolution. Revolution until victory. Rolling to Jerusalem.” Did you say that?

AL-ARIAN: Let me just put it into context. When resident Bush talked about crusade, we understand what he meant here. The Muslim world thought he is going to carry a cross and go invade the Muslim world and turn them into Christians. We have to understand the context. When you say “Death to Israel,” you mean death to occupation, death to apartheid, death to oppression, death to…

O’REILLY: But not death to any human being?

AL-ARIAN: No, absolutely not. Absolutely not.

O’REILLY: No.

AL-ARIAN: Absolutely not.

O’REILLY: All right. So now what we have here is you saying death to Israel. You’re bringing a guy over here who gets paid by the good citizens of Florida and then goes back and becomes one of the lieutenants or generals of the Islamic jihad, but you don’t know nothing about it. Another guy sets up an interview with Osama bin Laden for ABC, and you don know anything about that.

You know, Doctor, it looks to me like there’s something wrong down there at the University of South Florida. Am I getting — am I getting the wrong impression here?

AL-ARIAN: You’re getting completely wrong impression because you can pick and choose and interpret it, you know, different ways.

The fact of the matter is we have been involved in intellectual-type activity. We brought dozens of people. All of them are intellectual type.  You’re going to get the apple — a bad apple or two, but that — if you focus on them, you get one conclusion.

The fact of the matter is that we’ve been investigated by the FBI for many years…

O’REILLY: Correct.

AL-ARIAN: …and there has been no wrongdoing whatsoever even suggested.

So this was the man from whom Campbell accepted funds and for whose sake he went out of his way to plead with the university that he be kept on staff. It seems as though Campbell never met an Israel-bashing, Islamic jihadist who raised any concerns, even after 9/11.

The Carly Fiorina campaign is calling for Campbell to correct the record and change his website: “Tom Campbell has refused to release this letter despite repeated calls for him to do so. Now we know why. The content of the letter itself, and the date on which it was written reveal that what Tom Campbell told voters in Friday’s debate about his relationship with Al-Arian—and just as importantly, what he knew about him at the time—is quite simply false.” A Fiorina aide goes further, telling me: “Tom Campbell flat out lied in the debate about what he knew and when he knew it, and he flat out lies on his new Campbell ‘facts’ website — it’s so brazen you have to wonder he’s convinced himself that he doesn’t have a terrorism problem.”

Suffice it to say, we are off to the races on this latest revelation.

UPDATE: Chuck DeVore’s Communications Director has chimed in with a statement including this: “We’ve known from the start that Tom Campbell has a problematic past with Islamist radicals, and this just fills in some details. What’s troubling is that two of the three Republicans running for US Senate in California this year have a troubling history in this regard. While Campbell was a darling of the anti-Israel set, Carly Fiorina was presiding over illegal technology transfers to Iran, and delivering paeans to Islamic civilization while the fires at the World Trade Center were still smoldering.” Fiorina has denied any illegal technology transfers occured to Iran during her tenure at Hewlett Packard.

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Pakistan Is Getting Serious

Something is definitely changing in Pakistan. Coming on top of news that Mullah Baradar and other senior Taliban leaders have been arrested is this new report, according to which the American Taliban Adam Gadahn, who has performed a Lord Haw-Haw role as a Taliban propagandist, has now been scooped up in Karachi. He is the first American to face treason charges in 50 years and, if brought back to the U.S., could get the death penalty.

There is a debate raging among Pakistan watchers, inside and outside of government, about the significance of such arrests. Do they indicate that Pakistan has decided to break decisively with the Taliban, a group that the Inter-Services Intelligence has supported for years? Or are they the result of accidents? Or do they perhaps represent some kind of attempt to negotiate a deal between the Taliban and the West? No one knows, but I would say the “accidental” theory is looking less credible. Clearly, the Pakistanis are doing this deliberately, and whatever their motives are, it’s very good news for the NATO war effort in Afghanistan.

Something is definitely changing in Pakistan. Coming on top of news that Mullah Baradar and other senior Taliban leaders have been arrested is this new report, according to which the American Taliban Adam Gadahn, who has performed a Lord Haw-Haw role as a Taliban propagandist, has now been scooped up in Karachi. He is the first American to face treason charges in 50 years and, if brought back to the U.S., could get the death penalty.

There is a debate raging among Pakistan watchers, inside and outside of government, about the significance of such arrests. Do they indicate that Pakistan has decided to break decisively with the Taliban, a group that the Inter-Services Intelligence has supported for years? Or are they the result of accidents? Or do they perhaps represent some kind of attempt to negotiate a deal between the Taliban and the West? No one knows, but I would say the “accidental” theory is looking less credible. Clearly, the Pakistanis are doing this deliberately, and whatever their motives are, it’s very good news for the NATO war effort in Afghanistan.

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Progress in Marjah

The news from Marjah is pretty positive. The best overview I’ve seen was provided in this transcript of a briefing given a few days ago by Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, the Marine commander in the Helmand province. He noted:

On day three we had 36 TICs, or troops in contact.  Seemingly, everywhere in Marja, we had Marines in direct- fire contact.  We have now not had direct fire in Marja in the last eight days.  So I think we’re — while we still continue to find IEDs, I think we’re very pleased with how things have settled down…. I can tell you, though, that I went to a school this morning in Marja.  There hadn’t been schools open in Marja in many years, so the fact that we now had 107 kids at the class I attended in — near city center, was pretty significant.

As for the Afghan army’s performance, he said they are “grading out here pretty well,” even if they are hardly “in the lead” as some overeager spinners in Kabul have claimed:

Some units are veteran units that we brought in from outside the AO and have done exceptionally well.  We have an Afghan battalion that for all intensive purposes has operated independently since the very beginning of the op.

We have some newer Afghan units that we have to partner with very closely.  Really they’re just out of recruit training.  So I think there’s a wide variety of the Afghan army experience here in Marja, but I can tell you that I am exceptionally proud of their great service.  These guys run to the sound of gunfire….You know, Marines don’t search any of the homes.  In an area this large, when you decide you’ve got to search a home, the guys going in are going to be Afghan soldiers.  And they’ve done that very well; they’ve earned the trust and confidence of the Marines.

The best news of all, though, is that Hamid Karzai has now visited Marjah to meet with local residents — something that had not happened after previous combat operations. Granted, he was accompanied by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who no doubt had to drag Karzai onto the helicopter, kicking and screaming, but still, this is a vast improvement. It shows some progress in McChrystal’s campaign to turn Karzai into a wartime leader who takes responsibility for security operations, even those conducted primarily by NATO forces, such as the Marjah offensive was.

None of this is to deny the obvious — that major challenges remain. Those include figuring out whether the district governor of Marjah can be effective despite reports of his having a criminal record in Germany. But overall Marjah has not proved to be nearly as tough as Fallujah. There is more hard fighting to come, especially in the summer, but it appears as though NATO forces are finally gaining all-critical momentum on the ground.

The news from Marjah is pretty positive. The best overview I’ve seen was provided in this transcript of a briefing given a few days ago by Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, the Marine commander in the Helmand province. He noted:

On day three we had 36 TICs, or troops in contact.  Seemingly, everywhere in Marja, we had Marines in direct- fire contact.  We have now not had direct fire in Marja in the last eight days.  So I think we’re — while we still continue to find IEDs, I think we’re very pleased with how things have settled down…. I can tell you, though, that I went to a school this morning in Marja.  There hadn’t been schools open in Marja in many years, so the fact that we now had 107 kids at the class I attended in — near city center, was pretty significant.

As for the Afghan army’s performance, he said they are “grading out here pretty well,” even if they are hardly “in the lead” as some overeager spinners in Kabul have claimed:

Some units are veteran units that we brought in from outside the AO and have done exceptionally well.  We have an Afghan battalion that for all intensive purposes has operated independently since the very beginning of the op.

We have some newer Afghan units that we have to partner with very closely.  Really they’re just out of recruit training.  So I think there’s a wide variety of the Afghan army experience here in Marja, but I can tell you that I am exceptionally proud of their great service.  These guys run to the sound of gunfire….You know, Marines don’t search any of the homes.  In an area this large, when you decide you’ve got to search a home, the guys going in are going to be Afghan soldiers.  And they’ve done that very well; they’ve earned the trust and confidence of the Marines.

The best news of all, though, is that Hamid Karzai has now visited Marjah to meet with local residents — something that had not happened after previous combat operations. Granted, he was accompanied by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who no doubt had to drag Karzai onto the helicopter, kicking and screaming, but still, this is a vast improvement. It shows some progress in McChrystal’s campaign to turn Karzai into a wartime leader who takes responsibility for security operations, even those conducted primarily by NATO forces, such as the Marjah offensive was.

None of this is to deny the obvious — that major challenges remain. Those include figuring out whether the district governor of Marjah can be effective despite reports of his having a criminal record in Germany. But overall Marjah has not proved to be nearly as tough as Fallujah. There is more hard fighting to come, especially in the summer, but it appears as though NATO forces are finally gaining all-critical momentum on the ground.

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More on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

My article taking retired Gen. Merrill McPeak to task for the weakness of his arguments against lifting the ban on gays serving openly in the military has generated some heated responses on the Web (e.g., this post on David Horowitz’s website and this post by a retired Air Force NCO). A few points of rebuttal and clarification are in order.

First, I suggested that studies of other armed services that have lifted the gay ban have found no deleterious impact on unit cohesion or performance. This has supporters of the ban fulminating that one of the key studies was conducted by the Palm Center, a research center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, which is openly committed to gay rights. That’s true, but the motives behind the study shouldn’t matter; what counts is whether the study is accurate, and I haven’t seen anyone suggest any actual distortion of the results. Besides, the Palm Center is not alone in its finding; see this article written by an Air Force colonel and published in Joint Forces Quarterly, an official publication of the National Defense University:

In a survey of over 100 experts from Australia, Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom, it was found that all agreed the decision to lift the ban on homosexuals had no impact on military performance, readiness, cohesion, or ability to recruit or retain, nor did it increase the HIV rate among troops.

Critics can also argue that “other countries’ militaries aren’t comparable to the U.S. military. No other military on the planet, after all, can or will do what our military does.” That’s true, but while the Israeli, Australian, or British militaries don’t have the global power projection capabilities of the U.S., the general consensus is that on a unit-for-unit basis, they are just as effective as our own military. If having gays serve openly in their ranks hasn’t hurt their combat performance — and I have seen no indication that it has — I find it hard to believe it would have a major impact on our own forces.

Second, I suggested that allowing openly gay service members would have even less impact on unit cohesion than having women serve in the ranks. This has brought forth arguments that women have in fact contributed to a degradation of combat effectiveness, which has been covered up for “politically correct reasons.” I don’t doubt that pregnancy, sexual harassment, and fraternization have been real problems, but these would have existed even if women had been barred from service altogether, because of the presence of female contractors on all major American bases, even in combat zones. But there are also benefits to having women serve — see this article about how valuable female Marines are in interacting with Afghanistan’s women, something their male counterparts cannot do for reasons of cultural sensitivity.

The larger issue is that tapping into the female half of the population has allowed the military to draw on some great talent, which it would otherwise be denied. The same argument applies to gays (who are admittedly a much smaller percentage of the population). Women still aren’t allowed into some ground-combat jobs, and it may make sense, as I have previously argued, to extend that ban at least for some time to gays. But women are allowed to fill most jobs, and they bring intelligence, dedication, and hard work that the military — which has a hard time filling its all-volunteer ranks in wartime — badly needs. Same with homosexuals. The Joint Forces article notes: “Since 1994, the Services have discharged nearly 12,500 Service members under the law.” That’s a small number in the overall scheme of things, but a number of those had skills, such as Arab-language knowledge, that are very hard to replace. In recent years, the Army in particular has been forced to lower its standards to attract enough recruits. That suggests that we can hardly afford to discharge soldiers for their sexual preference — unless they act in undisciplined ways (e.g., committing sexual harassment), but those prohibitions should be enforced evenhandedly against both heterosexuals and homosexuals.

Despite the criticisms against my article, my sense is that most active-duty personnel are in fact comfortable with lifting the gay ban. That’s confirmed by this study, cited in an article by Owen West (himself a combat vet of Iraq): “A 2006 poll of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans showed that 72 percent were personally comfortable interacting with gays.” Given that 80 percent of the overall public favors lifting the ban, those  like Gen. McPeak favor keeping it in place are fighting a losing — and needless — battle.

My article taking retired Gen. Merrill McPeak to task for the weakness of his arguments against lifting the ban on gays serving openly in the military has generated some heated responses on the Web (e.g., this post on David Horowitz’s website and this post by a retired Air Force NCO). A few points of rebuttal and clarification are in order.

First, I suggested that studies of other armed services that have lifted the gay ban have found no deleterious impact on unit cohesion or performance. This has supporters of the ban fulminating that one of the key studies was conducted by the Palm Center, a research center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, which is openly committed to gay rights. That’s true, but the motives behind the study shouldn’t matter; what counts is whether the study is accurate, and I haven’t seen anyone suggest any actual distortion of the results. Besides, the Palm Center is not alone in its finding; see this article written by an Air Force colonel and published in Joint Forces Quarterly, an official publication of the National Defense University:

In a survey of over 100 experts from Australia, Canada, Israel, and the United Kingdom, it was found that all agreed the decision to lift the ban on homosexuals had no impact on military performance, readiness, cohesion, or ability to recruit or retain, nor did it increase the HIV rate among troops.

Critics can also argue that “other countries’ militaries aren’t comparable to the U.S. military. No other military on the planet, after all, can or will do what our military does.” That’s true, but while the Israeli, Australian, or British militaries don’t have the global power projection capabilities of the U.S., the general consensus is that on a unit-for-unit basis, they are just as effective as our own military. If having gays serve openly in their ranks hasn’t hurt their combat performance — and I have seen no indication that it has — I find it hard to believe it would have a major impact on our own forces.

Second, I suggested that allowing openly gay service members would have even less impact on unit cohesion than having women serve in the ranks. This has brought forth arguments that women have in fact contributed to a degradation of combat effectiveness, which has been covered up for “politically correct reasons.” I don’t doubt that pregnancy, sexual harassment, and fraternization have been real problems, but these would have existed even if women had been barred from service altogether, because of the presence of female contractors on all major American bases, even in combat zones. But there are also benefits to having women serve — see this article about how valuable female Marines are in interacting with Afghanistan’s women, something their male counterparts cannot do for reasons of cultural sensitivity.

The larger issue is that tapping into the female half of the population has allowed the military to draw on some great talent, which it would otherwise be denied. The same argument applies to gays (who are admittedly a much smaller percentage of the population). Women still aren’t allowed into some ground-combat jobs, and it may make sense, as I have previously argued, to extend that ban at least for some time to gays. But women are allowed to fill most jobs, and they bring intelligence, dedication, and hard work that the military — which has a hard time filling its all-volunteer ranks in wartime — badly needs. Same with homosexuals. The Joint Forces article notes: “Since 1994, the Services have discharged nearly 12,500 Service members under the law.” That’s a small number in the overall scheme of things, but a number of those had skills, such as Arab-language knowledge, that are very hard to replace. In recent years, the Army in particular has been forced to lower its standards to attract enough recruits. That suggests that we can hardly afford to discharge soldiers for their sexual preference — unless they act in undisciplined ways (e.g., committing sexual harassment), but those prohibitions should be enforced evenhandedly against both heterosexuals and homosexuals.

Despite the criticisms against my article, my sense is that most active-duty personnel are in fact comfortable with lifting the gay ban. That’s confirmed by this study, cited in an article by Owen West (himself a combat vet of Iraq): “A 2006 poll of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans showed that 72 percent were personally comfortable interacting with gays.” Given that 80 percent of the overall public favors lifting the ban, those  like Gen. McPeak favor keeping it in place are fighting a losing — and needless — battle.

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SEIU Lands Its Boss on the Deficit Commission

For those who suspect the president’s bipartisan deficit commission isn’t very bipartisan and isn’t going to do much about the deficit, this report should come as no surprise:

President Obama’s decision to appoint his close political ally, union leader Andrew Stern, to the newly created National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has set off a firestorm of criticism from business and conservative groups who charge he is a political radical who should be investigated for failure to register as a lobbyist.

Really, what is the much criticized guy with the thuggish reputation belonging to a special-interest group that gave millions to elect Obama and has a vested interest in preserving costly budget items (such as the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires union “prevailing wages” on government contracts) doing on a panel supposedly dedicated to fiscal sobriety? Well, one supposes he’s there to protect the interests of his union members. That’s what he’s been doing for the last year, of course. (“Stern, whose union funneled $60 million to the Obama election campaign, has been a regular visitor to the White House since Obama’s inauguration.”)

Stern is already the subject of complaints over failure to register as a lobbyist. And his union has had its share of legal controversies. His appointment seems to confirm that the commission is about political showmanship and patronage rather than serious fiscal discipline. And it only amplifies the growing sense that Obama is not about change at all, but rather about the worst of old-style, backroom politics.

Granted, Big Labor hasn’t gotten much from Obama. But the consolation prize for the president’s failure to deliver what his patrons want shouldn’t be placement of one of its bosses on a commission designed to bypass the gridlock, self-interest, and seedy politics-as-usual. If Republicans were smart, they’d refuse to participate in a commission to which Stern is appointed. Let the president decide which is more important: a good faith try at deficit reduction or rewarding a disappointed ally.

For those who suspect the president’s bipartisan deficit commission isn’t very bipartisan and isn’t going to do much about the deficit, this report should come as no surprise:

President Obama’s decision to appoint his close political ally, union leader Andrew Stern, to the newly created National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has set off a firestorm of criticism from business and conservative groups who charge he is a political radical who should be investigated for failure to register as a lobbyist.

Really, what is the much criticized guy with the thuggish reputation belonging to a special-interest group that gave millions to elect Obama and has a vested interest in preserving costly budget items (such as the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires union “prevailing wages” on government contracts) doing on a panel supposedly dedicated to fiscal sobriety? Well, one supposes he’s there to protect the interests of his union members. That’s what he’s been doing for the last year, of course. (“Stern, whose union funneled $60 million to the Obama election campaign, has been a regular visitor to the White House since Obama’s inauguration.”)

Stern is already the subject of complaints over failure to register as a lobbyist. And his union has had its share of legal controversies. His appointment seems to confirm that the commission is about political showmanship and patronage rather than serious fiscal discipline. And it only amplifies the growing sense that Obama is not about change at all, but rather about the worst of old-style, backroom politics.

Granted, Big Labor hasn’t gotten much from Obama. But the consolation prize for the president’s failure to deliver what his patrons want shouldn’t be placement of one of its bosses on a commission designed to bypass the gridlock, self-interest, and seedy politics-as-usual. If Republicans were smart, they’d refuse to participate in a commission to which Stern is appointed. Let the president decide which is more important: a good faith try at deficit reduction or rewarding a disappointed ally.

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The White House Grumpy Act

Never have we seen such a put-upon, grouchy White House. Rahm Emanuel has to deal with Obama — who doesn’t seem to understand that Rahm is smarter than everyone else. Obama is miffed at everyone from Fox to the Democrats who are interested in grubby matters, such as their own re-election. And now David Axelrod lumbers forward to spin his tale of woe. Now — I know this is shocking but he thinks it’s all a “communication problem.”

The Gray Lady hosts the grievance session:

The Obama White House has lost the narrative in the way that the Obama campaign never did,” said James Morone, a political scientist at Brown University. “They essentially took the president’s great strength as a messenger and failed to use it smartly.” Mr. Axelrod said he accepts some blame for what he called “communication failures,” though he acknowledges bafflement that the administration’s efforts to stimulate the economy in a crisis, overhaul health care and prosecute two wars have been so routinely framed by opponents as the handiwork of a big-government, soft-on-terrorism, politics-of-the-past ideologue.

Really, how in the world could the American people look at cap-and-trade, the spend-a-thon, and ObamaCare, and get the idea that Obama is interested in expanding the reach of the federal government? Dupes and fools, they must be. And as for Washington — the whole town is just insufferable:

In an interview in his office, Mr. Axelrod was often defiant, saying he did not give a “flying” expletive “about what the peanut gallery thinks” and did not live for the approval “of the political community.” He denounced the “rampant lack of responsibility” of people in Washington who refuse to solve problems, and cited the difficulty of trying to communicate through what he calls “the dirty filter” of a city suffused with the “every day is Election Day sort of mentality.”

Here’s the thing: leave if you don’t like it or can’t convince people of what a swell job you’re doing. There is no mandatory draft for the White House. In fact, some people consider it an honor and privilege to serve there. And  it dpes sound as though the excuses are mounting for an exit. “Mr. Axelrod’s friends worry about the toll of his job — citing his diet (cold-cut-enriched), his weight (20 pounds heavier than at the start of the presidential campaign), sleep deprivation (five fitful hours a night), separation from family (most back home in Chicago) and the fact that at 55, he is considerably older than many of the wunderkind workaholics of the West Wing. He wakes at 6 in his rented condominium just blocks from the White House and typically returns around 11.” Oh, my — the stress! The hours!

A friend of Axelrod confides, “I think he’s getting close to a burnout kind of thing.” Yes, failure is stressful. But whining is tiresome. If Axelrod and the rest can’t figure out how to make this all work, maybe the country would be better served by their return to the cesspool of Illinois politics. I hear Tony Rezko’s banker needs some help with his Senate campaign.

Never have we seen such a put-upon, grouchy White House. Rahm Emanuel has to deal with Obama — who doesn’t seem to understand that Rahm is smarter than everyone else. Obama is miffed at everyone from Fox to the Democrats who are interested in grubby matters, such as their own re-election. And now David Axelrod lumbers forward to spin his tale of woe. Now — I know this is shocking but he thinks it’s all a “communication problem.”

The Gray Lady hosts the grievance session:

The Obama White House has lost the narrative in the way that the Obama campaign never did,” said James Morone, a political scientist at Brown University. “They essentially took the president’s great strength as a messenger and failed to use it smartly.” Mr. Axelrod said he accepts some blame for what he called “communication failures,” though he acknowledges bafflement that the administration’s efforts to stimulate the economy in a crisis, overhaul health care and prosecute two wars have been so routinely framed by opponents as the handiwork of a big-government, soft-on-terrorism, politics-of-the-past ideologue.

Really, how in the world could the American people look at cap-and-trade, the spend-a-thon, and ObamaCare, and get the idea that Obama is interested in expanding the reach of the federal government? Dupes and fools, they must be. And as for Washington — the whole town is just insufferable:

In an interview in his office, Mr. Axelrod was often defiant, saying he did not give a “flying” expletive “about what the peanut gallery thinks” and did not live for the approval “of the political community.” He denounced the “rampant lack of responsibility” of people in Washington who refuse to solve problems, and cited the difficulty of trying to communicate through what he calls “the dirty filter” of a city suffused with the “every day is Election Day sort of mentality.”

Here’s the thing: leave if you don’t like it or can’t convince people of what a swell job you’re doing. There is no mandatory draft for the White House. In fact, some people consider it an honor and privilege to serve there. And  it dpes sound as though the excuses are mounting for an exit. “Mr. Axelrod’s friends worry about the toll of his job — citing his diet (cold-cut-enriched), his weight (20 pounds heavier than at the start of the presidential campaign), sleep deprivation (five fitful hours a night), separation from family (most back home in Chicago) and the fact that at 55, he is considerably older than many of the wunderkind workaholics of the West Wing. He wakes at 6 in his rented condominium just blocks from the White House and typically returns around 11.” Oh, my — the stress! The hours!

A friend of Axelrod confides, “I think he’s getting close to a burnout kind of thing.” Yes, failure is stressful. But whining is tiresome. If Axelrod and the rest can’t figure out how to make this all work, maybe the country would be better served by their return to the cesspool of Illinois politics. I hear Tony Rezko’s banker needs some help with his Senate campaign.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Another reason not to write sentences like: “The city is built on delineations and differentiations, and its particular beauty is owed to its artifice, to its rejection of stillness, to the almost anarchic spectacle of its many relations.” (You have contests started in your honor to guess who wrote such drivel.)

Another reason to doubt the efficacy of sanctions: “The federal government has awarded more than $107 billion in contract payments, grants and other benefits over the past decade to foreign and multinational American companies while they were doing business in Iran, despite Washington’s efforts to discourage investment there, records show. That includes nearly $15 billion paid to companies that defied American sanctions law by making large investments that helped Iran develop its vast oil and gas reserves.”

Another reason why the Israelis, one suspects, will eventually have to take matters into their own hands: “Iran is building a new rocket launch site with North Korean assistance, Israel Radio quoted IHS Jane’s as reporting overnight Friday. … The defense intelligence group said the appearance of the launcher suggests assistance from North Korea, and that it may be intended to launch the Simorgh, a long-range Iranian-made missile unveiled in early February and officially intended to be used as a space-launch vehicle (SLV). SLV’s can be converted to be used as long-range ballistic missiles for military purposes.”

Another reason not to get into 2012 prognostications: we don’t know who is running. “After the midterm election this November, the field of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 (or later) is going to get bigger and possibly better. The list is long: Mitch Daniels, John Kasich, Meg Whitman, Bobby Jindal, Haley Barbour, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, and Jim DeMint. And [Rick] Perry.”

Another reason for Democrats to be nervous: voters trust Republicans more on eight of ten issues, including the economy, health care, taxes, social security, and national security. “Republicans lead Democrats 46% to 41% in terms of voter trust on the economy. In early January 2009, just before President Obama took office, Democrats held a nine-point lead on this issue.”

Another reason to bemoan the state of higher education (or the intellectual and ethical training of those who partake of it). Peter Robinson on the U.C. Berkeley protests over budget cuts: “We have here the vocabulary of the peace movement, of the struggle for decent conditions for migrants and other exploited workers, and of the civil-rights movement. Yet what did the protesters demand? Peace? Human rights? No. Money. And for whom? For the downtrodden and oppressed? No. For themselves. At a time when one American in 10 is unemployed and historic deficits burden both the federal government and many of the states, the protesters attempted to game the political system. They engaged in a resource grab.”

Another reason to believe Secretary Robert Gates is the most valuable member of the administration, and Joe Biden is wrong on pretty much everything: “President Barack Obama has been clear. He wants no new nukes. Pentagon chief Robert Gates has been equally direct, advocating in recent years for a new generation of warheads. … The Obama administration is acutely aware of perceptions that the Nuclear Posture Review has divided senior officials—with Vice President Joe Biden viewed as heading up an arms-control focused camp, and Gates perceived as speaking for a military and nuclear establishment that favors more funding and new weapons programs.”

Another reason not to write sentences like: “The city is built on delineations and differentiations, and its particular beauty is owed to its artifice, to its rejection of stillness, to the almost anarchic spectacle of its many relations.” (You have contests started in your honor to guess who wrote such drivel.)

Another reason to doubt the efficacy of sanctions: “The federal government has awarded more than $107 billion in contract payments, grants and other benefits over the past decade to foreign and multinational American companies while they were doing business in Iran, despite Washington’s efforts to discourage investment there, records show. That includes nearly $15 billion paid to companies that defied American sanctions law by making large investments that helped Iran develop its vast oil and gas reserves.”

Another reason why the Israelis, one suspects, will eventually have to take matters into their own hands: “Iran is building a new rocket launch site with North Korean assistance, Israel Radio quoted IHS Jane’s as reporting overnight Friday. … The defense intelligence group said the appearance of the launcher suggests assistance from North Korea, and that it may be intended to launch the Simorgh, a long-range Iranian-made missile unveiled in early February and officially intended to be used as a space-launch vehicle (SLV). SLV’s can be converted to be used as long-range ballistic missiles for military purposes.”

Another reason not to get into 2012 prognostications: we don’t know who is running. “After the midterm election this November, the field of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012 (or later) is going to get bigger and possibly better. The list is long: Mitch Daniels, John Kasich, Meg Whitman, Bobby Jindal, Haley Barbour, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, and Jim DeMint. And [Rick] Perry.”

Another reason for Democrats to be nervous: voters trust Republicans more on eight of ten issues, including the economy, health care, taxes, social security, and national security. “Republicans lead Democrats 46% to 41% in terms of voter trust on the economy. In early January 2009, just before President Obama took office, Democrats held a nine-point lead on this issue.”

Another reason to bemoan the state of higher education (or the intellectual and ethical training of those who partake of it). Peter Robinson on the U.C. Berkeley protests over budget cuts: “We have here the vocabulary of the peace movement, of the struggle for decent conditions for migrants and other exploited workers, and of the civil-rights movement. Yet what did the protesters demand? Peace? Human rights? No. Money. And for whom? For the downtrodden and oppressed? No. For themselves. At a time when one American in 10 is unemployed and historic deficits burden both the federal government and many of the states, the protesters attempted to game the political system. They engaged in a resource grab.”

Another reason to believe Secretary Robert Gates is the most valuable member of the administration, and Joe Biden is wrong on pretty much everything: “President Barack Obama has been clear. He wants no new nukes. Pentagon chief Robert Gates has been equally direct, advocating in recent years for a new generation of warheads. … The Obama administration is acutely aware of perceptions that the Nuclear Posture Review has divided senior officials—with Vice President Joe Biden viewed as heading up an arms-control focused camp, and Gates perceived as speaking for a military and nuclear establishment that favors more funding and new weapons programs.”

Read Less




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