Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 9, 2010

Marc Thiessen on Keep America Safe

Marc Thiessen makes a valiant attempt in his Washington Post column to defend the campaign mounted by the group Keep America Safe, led by Liz Cheney, against the hyperbolically dubbed “al-Qaeda Seven” — seven Justice Department lawyers who, prior to entering government service, defended detainees accused of working for al-Qaeda. He writes:

Would most Americans want to know if the Justice Department had hired a bunch of mob lawyers and put them in charge of mob cases? Or a group of drug cartel lawyers and put them in charge of drug cases? Would they want their elected representatives to find out who these lawyers were, which mob bosses and drug lords they had worked for, and what roles they were now playing at the Justice Department? Of course they would — and rightly so.

But the situation is hardly analogous. The pejorative phrases “mob lawyers” and “drug cartel lawyers” refer to attorneys whose practices are consist either solely or mainly of working for rich gangsters. In many cases these lawyers became more or less a part of the criminal enterprise themselves, often taking illegal actions such as carrying a mob boss’s orders to his underlings from jail.

There are in fact “terrorist lawyers” in this sense. For example Lynne Stewart, who was sentenced to 28 months in prison for passing messages from the “blind sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, to his fellow terrorists. Or the French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, who is engaged to marry Carlos the Jackal, and has compared the French police to the Gestapo.

If Stewart or Coutant-Peyre had been hired by the Department of Justice, I could see legitimate grounds for outrage. But the lawyers singled out by Keep America Safe are hardly in the same category. All they did was challenge the rules governing terrorist detainees or provide some representation to terrorist defendants. There is no suggestion that they favor terrorism or support al-Qaeda; all they did was what lawyers are supposed to do. As a group of Republican attorneys note:

Whether one believes in trial by military commission or in federal court, detainees will have access to counsel. … Good defense counsel is … key to ensuring that military commissions, federal juries, and federal judges have access to the best arguments and most rigorous factual presentations before making crucial decisions that affect both national security and paramount liberty interests.

Thiessen has a better point when he bemoans the double standard at work here. Many of those now outraged by the attacks on the Justice Department lawyers kept silent or applauded when John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and other honorable Bush administration lawyers were accused of being “war criminals” and threatened with prosecution for advocating a vigorous prosecution of the war against al-Qaeda. Perhaps this controversy will prove salutary if it will lead the Left to call off their attack dogs.

But there is an overriding cost that should be kept in mind: By focusing so much on the lower-level lawyers, Keep America Safe is missing the real problem. That starts at the top with Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama, who seem willing to give terrorist defendants more rights than they received under the Bush administration — and more rights than most Americans think they deserve. I would suggest keeping the focus on Obama and Holder, not on underlings who are not the ultimate decision-makers here.

Marc Thiessen makes a valiant attempt in his Washington Post column to defend the campaign mounted by the group Keep America Safe, led by Liz Cheney, against the hyperbolically dubbed “al-Qaeda Seven” — seven Justice Department lawyers who, prior to entering government service, defended detainees accused of working for al-Qaeda. He writes:

Would most Americans want to know if the Justice Department had hired a bunch of mob lawyers and put them in charge of mob cases? Or a group of drug cartel lawyers and put them in charge of drug cases? Would they want their elected representatives to find out who these lawyers were, which mob bosses and drug lords they had worked for, and what roles they were now playing at the Justice Department? Of course they would — and rightly so.

But the situation is hardly analogous. The pejorative phrases “mob lawyers” and “drug cartel lawyers” refer to attorneys whose practices are consist either solely or mainly of working for rich gangsters. In many cases these lawyers became more or less a part of the criminal enterprise themselves, often taking illegal actions such as carrying a mob boss’s orders to his underlings from jail.

There are in fact “terrorist lawyers” in this sense. For example Lynne Stewart, who was sentenced to 28 months in prison for passing messages from the “blind sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, to his fellow terrorists. Or the French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre, who is engaged to marry Carlos the Jackal, and has compared the French police to the Gestapo.

If Stewart or Coutant-Peyre had been hired by the Department of Justice, I could see legitimate grounds for outrage. But the lawyers singled out by Keep America Safe are hardly in the same category. All they did was challenge the rules governing terrorist detainees or provide some representation to terrorist defendants. There is no suggestion that they favor terrorism or support al-Qaeda; all they did was what lawyers are supposed to do. As a group of Republican attorneys note:

Whether one believes in trial by military commission or in federal court, detainees will have access to counsel. … Good defense counsel is … key to ensuring that military commissions, federal juries, and federal judges have access to the best arguments and most rigorous factual presentations before making crucial decisions that affect both national security and paramount liberty interests.

Thiessen has a better point when he bemoans the double standard at work here. Many of those now outraged by the attacks on the Justice Department lawyers kept silent or applauded when John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and other honorable Bush administration lawyers were accused of being “war criminals” and threatened with prosecution for advocating a vigorous prosecution of the war against al-Qaeda. Perhaps this controversy will prove salutary if it will lead the Left to call off their attack dogs.

But there is an overriding cost that should be kept in mind: By focusing so much on the lower-level lawyers, Keep America Safe is missing the real problem. That starts at the top with Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama, who seem willing to give terrorist defendants more rights than they received under the Bush administration — and more rights than most Americans think they deserve. I would suggest keeping the focus on Obama and Holder, not on underlings who are not the ultimate decision-makers here.

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Will J Street Protest Anti-Zionists at the Nation and on the Streets of New York?

Were there any lingering doubts about the toxic nature of the American Left’s allergy to Israel, the Nation removes them today. Its website branded the head of the Israeli Defense Forces a “war criminal” that righteous New Yorkers should picket.

The event that got the Nation’s knickers in a twist is a fundraising dinner to be held at the Waldorf Astoria for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, a nonprofit group that provides aid to soldiers. The keynote speaker is Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of staff of the IDF and the man who led Israel’s forces last year in its counterattack against terrorist fire on southern Israel. In Europe, Israelis like Ashkenazi have been subjected to harassment and bogus legal action, an outrageous situation that hard-core leftists here would like to emulate.

Indeed, what they want is to end the international isolation of the Hamas regime in Gaza and, instead, impose a blockade on Israel. But the irony of the Nation and its übersecular followers fronting for the Islamist murderers of Hamas is lost on the magazine.

The main point here is that the flagship American publication of the Left has no compunction about attempting to delegitimize the right of Jews to self-defense against terror, or about promoting an event that is part of the vicious International Israeli Apartheid Week libel fest.

Some pro-Israel activists will be counterdemonstrating against the Nation-supported anti-Zionists in what will, no doubt, turn into the usual pointless shouting matches. But if there is one group of Jews that ought to argue with the Nation’s acolytes, it’s not the usual right-wing suspects who turn up at these things but that famous “pro-Israel” group that calls itself J Street. On its Website, J Street says it is against the apartheid libels thrown at Israel.

But in December 2008, when Israelis from Left to Right united behind Operation Cast Lead, J Street opposed the counterattack on Gaza. So it is understandable that “peace” activists who back the group may feel conflicted about taking on fellow left-wingers who took seriously the organization’s rhetoric opposing Israeli self-defense.

But instead of firing on the mainstream pro-Israel community or pushing the Obama administration to pressure the Jewish state, J Street — which has repeatedly asserted during the past year that it is as “pro-Israel” as it is “pro-peace” — has a responsibility to confront some of its erstwhile friends on the Left who seek to demonize the State of Israel and its defenders.

If the Jewish rump of Moveon.org that formed J Street wants to make its bones as part of the pro-Israel coalition in this country, it can do no better than to protest the Nation’s decision to label Israeli soldiers as war criminals.

Were there any lingering doubts about the toxic nature of the American Left’s allergy to Israel, the Nation removes them today. Its website branded the head of the Israeli Defense Forces a “war criminal” that righteous New Yorkers should picket.

The event that got the Nation’s knickers in a twist is a fundraising dinner to be held at the Waldorf Astoria for the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, a nonprofit group that provides aid to soldiers. The keynote speaker is Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, the chief of staff of the IDF and the man who led Israel’s forces last year in its counterattack against terrorist fire on southern Israel. In Europe, Israelis like Ashkenazi have been subjected to harassment and bogus legal action, an outrageous situation that hard-core leftists here would like to emulate.

Indeed, what they want is to end the international isolation of the Hamas regime in Gaza and, instead, impose a blockade on Israel. But the irony of the Nation and its übersecular followers fronting for the Islamist murderers of Hamas is lost on the magazine.

The main point here is that the flagship American publication of the Left has no compunction about attempting to delegitimize the right of Jews to self-defense against terror, or about promoting an event that is part of the vicious International Israeli Apartheid Week libel fest.

Some pro-Israel activists will be counterdemonstrating against the Nation-supported anti-Zionists in what will, no doubt, turn into the usual pointless shouting matches. But if there is one group of Jews that ought to argue with the Nation’s acolytes, it’s not the usual right-wing suspects who turn up at these things but that famous “pro-Israel” group that calls itself J Street. On its Website, J Street says it is against the apartheid libels thrown at Israel.

But in December 2008, when Israelis from Left to Right united behind Operation Cast Lead, J Street opposed the counterattack on Gaza. So it is understandable that “peace” activists who back the group may feel conflicted about taking on fellow left-wingers who took seriously the organization’s rhetoric opposing Israeli self-defense.

But instead of firing on the mainstream pro-Israel community or pushing the Obama administration to pressure the Jewish state, J Street — which has repeatedly asserted during the past year that it is as “pro-Israel” as it is “pro-peace” — has a responsibility to confront some of its erstwhile friends on the Left who seek to demonize the State of Israel and its defenders.

If the Jewish rump of Moveon.org that formed J Street wants to make its bones as part of the pro-Israel coalition in this country, it can do no better than to protest the Nation’s decision to label Israeli soldiers as war criminals.

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RE: Keeping the Boot Off

Jen, I too was impressed with Bret Stephens’s powerful column on Iraq – and grateful that he quoted the late Michael Kelly. I have written about Mike before. He wrote so well on so many topics, from politics to his family to matters of war and peace. On the matter of Iraq and the tyranny of Saddam, these words are worth recalling as well:

I covered the Gulf War as a reporter, and it was this experience, later compounded by what I saw reporting in Bosnia, that convinced me of the moral imperative, sometimes, for war.

In liberated Kuwait City, one vast crime scene, I toured the morgue on day and inspected torture and murder victims left behind by the departing Iraqis. “The corpse in drawer 3… belonged to a young man,” I later wrote. “When he was alive, he had been beaten from the soles of the feet to the crown of the head, and every inch of his skin was covered with purple-and-black bruises…. The man in drawer 12 had been burned to death with some flammable liquid…. Corpses 18 and 19… belonged to the brothers Abbas… the eyeballs of the elder of the Abbas brothers had been removed. The sockets were bloody holes.”

That was the beginning of the making of me as at least an honorary chicken hawk. After that, I never again could stand the arguments of those who sat in the luxury of safety – “in advocating nonresistance behind the guns of the American Fleet,” as George Orwell wrote of World War II pacifists – and held that the moral course was, in crimes against humanity as in crimes on the street corner: Better not to get involved, dear.

The last two sentences of Bret’s column are these:

I still miss Kelly. Sunday’s election was his vindication, too.

So do I. And yes it was.

Jen, I too was impressed with Bret Stephens’s powerful column on Iraq – and grateful that he quoted the late Michael Kelly. I have written about Mike before. He wrote so well on so many topics, from politics to his family to matters of war and peace. On the matter of Iraq and the tyranny of Saddam, these words are worth recalling as well:

I covered the Gulf War as a reporter, and it was this experience, later compounded by what I saw reporting in Bosnia, that convinced me of the moral imperative, sometimes, for war.

In liberated Kuwait City, one vast crime scene, I toured the morgue on day and inspected torture and murder victims left behind by the departing Iraqis. “The corpse in drawer 3… belonged to a young man,” I later wrote. “When he was alive, he had been beaten from the soles of the feet to the crown of the head, and every inch of his skin was covered with purple-and-black bruises…. The man in drawer 12 had been burned to death with some flammable liquid…. Corpses 18 and 19… belonged to the brothers Abbas… the eyeballs of the elder of the Abbas brothers had been removed. The sockets were bloody holes.”

That was the beginning of the making of me as at least an honorary chicken hawk. After that, I never again could stand the arguments of those who sat in the luxury of safety – “in advocating nonresistance behind the guns of the American Fleet,” as George Orwell wrote of World War II pacifists – and held that the moral course was, in crimes against humanity as in crimes on the street corner: Better not to get involved, dear.

The last two sentences of Bret’s column are these:

I still miss Kelly. Sunday’s election was his vindication, too.

So do I. And yes it was.

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Troubling, Indeed

Stuart Rothenberg writes:

With a nearly 80-seat House majority, 60 seats in the Senate for more than eight months, a GOP brand so damaged that the party looked completely incompetent and a charismatic African-American president taking over from a failed two-term Republican president, you’d have thought that Democrats were set up for a pretty decent two years.

But only one year after the passage of the economic stimulus that was advertised as the first step to revitalizing the American economy and getting Americans back to work, the outlook for November is increasingly troubling for Democrats.

Troubling is one way to put it. He lists the problems. There is “depressing” economic news. Then, the “Democrats have botched their top legislative priority — health care reform — in so many ways that there is plenty of blame to go around. Yes, they may pass a comprehensive bill, but at a steep cost.”Next you can add in the ethics scandals, made more juicy for the media because the Democrats “ran against the ‘culture of corruption’ just a couple of cycles ago.” Then there is Obama (“it’s the rise in his disapproval ratings from the mid-20s in early March 2009 to the mid-40s now that ought to be troubling for Democratic strategists”) and all those disaffected independents who have gone “from virtually mirroring the sentiments of Democrats during the last two election cycles to now more closely resembling the views of Republicans.”

Kind of a mess, isn’t it? What is remarkable is that at multiple points — after the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races or after Scott Brown’s election — Obama and the Congress could have looked up, taken stock, and readjusted. They either didn’t care that their party was plummeting (“Take one for the team!” they essentially keep telling to panicky Democrats) or really were deluded, believing that none of these elections or polling was indicative of anything they were doing wrong.

Obama has already hinted that a single term might be good enough for him. But in his hubris (hubris is like this, of course) he has neglected to recognize that his own political nosedive has real-world consequences both for his agenda (no one is taking his political advice all that seriously) and for his party. That may all become clear after November. As he said, that’s what elections are for.

Stuart Rothenberg writes:

With a nearly 80-seat House majority, 60 seats in the Senate for more than eight months, a GOP brand so damaged that the party looked completely incompetent and a charismatic African-American president taking over from a failed two-term Republican president, you’d have thought that Democrats were set up for a pretty decent two years.

But only one year after the passage of the economic stimulus that was advertised as the first step to revitalizing the American economy and getting Americans back to work, the outlook for November is increasingly troubling for Democrats.

Troubling is one way to put it. He lists the problems. There is “depressing” economic news. Then, the “Democrats have botched their top legislative priority — health care reform — in so many ways that there is plenty of blame to go around. Yes, they may pass a comprehensive bill, but at a steep cost.”Next you can add in the ethics scandals, made more juicy for the media because the Democrats “ran against the ‘culture of corruption’ just a couple of cycles ago.” Then there is Obama (“it’s the rise in his disapproval ratings from the mid-20s in early March 2009 to the mid-40s now that ought to be troubling for Democratic strategists”) and all those disaffected independents who have gone “from virtually mirroring the sentiments of Democrats during the last two election cycles to now more closely resembling the views of Republicans.”

Kind of a mess, isn’t it? What is remarkable is that at multiple points — after the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races or after Scott Brown’s election — Obama and the Congress could have looked up, taken stock, and readjusted. They either didn’t care that their party was plummeting (“Take one for the team!” they essentially keep telling to panicky Democrats) or really were deluded, believing that none of these elections or polling was indicative of anything they were doing wrong.

Obama has already hinted that a single term might be good enough for him. But in his hubris (hubris is like this, of course) he has neglected to recognize that his own political nosedive has real-world consequences both for his agenda (no one is taking his political advice all that seriously) and for his party. That may all become clear after November. As he said, that’s what elections are for.

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Dignity and a Back Wax

Watching a candidate, especially a sitting lawmaker, melt apart before your eyes is discouraging. Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who now trails Marco Rubio by a staggering 32 points in the Republican primary, is doing just that. He’s getting desperate and, in the process, looking petty and small-minded. The latest charge by Crist is that Rubio can’t possibly be a fiscal conservative because Rubio spent $130 on a back wax – “maybe” – and a haircut. This silly charge will only diminish Crist in the eyes of, well, everyone.

Politics is a serious profession; I wish more of its practitioners acted as if it were.

Charlie Crist will lose, and losing can be very hard to take. But at this stage, he should think about maintaining his dignity and reputation.

Watching a candidate, especially a sitting lawmaker, melt apart before your eyes is discouraging. Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who now trails Marco Rubio by a staggering 32 points in the Republican primary, is doing just that. He’s getting desperate and, in the process, looking petty and small-minded. The latest charge by Crist is that Rubio can’t possibly be a fiscal conservative because Rubio spent $130 on a back wax – “maybe” – and a haircut. This silly charge will only diminish Crist in the eyes of, well, everyone.

Politics is a serious profession; I wish more of its practitioners acted as if it were.

Charlie Crist will lose, and losing can be very hard to take. But at this stage, he should think about maintaining his dignity and reputation.

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Worth Watching

If you want to get a better sense of where things stand in the world we face and in the wars we are in, I’d highly recommend watching this recent interview between Charlie Rose and General David Petraeus. They cover the waterfront, from Iraq to Afghanistan to Iran to Pakistan. No one knows these issues better than General Petraeus, and no individual has done more to change the trajectories of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. If you’ve got some time to set aside and want to see human excellence on display, take a look.

If you want to get a better sense of where things stand in the world we face and in the wars we are in, I’d highly recommend watching this recent interview between Charlie Rose and General David Petraeus. They cover the waterfront, from Iraq to Afghanistan to Iran to Pakistan. No one knows these issues better than General Petraeus, and no individual has done more to change the trajectories of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. If you’ve got some time to set aside and want to see human excellence on display, take a look.

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Democrats in the Spotlight

Even among high-ranking and dependable veteran House Democrats, enthusiasm for ObamaCare is underwhelming. The Hill reports:

A handful of House committee chairmen are either undecided about or plan to reject the healthcare reform bill that is expected to be voted on as early as next week.

The prospect of several panel chairmen voting against the healthcare bill comes as the White House and Democratic leaders are ramping up their efforts to attract the necessary votes to move the Senate-passed bill. The White House wants the House to clear the bill by March 18 and then have the upper chamber amend the measure through reconciliation. … According to the survey conducted by The Hill. … there are already 11 firm “no” votes.

Needless to say, if committee chairmen are underwhelmed with the president’s arguments, it may be hard to corral the rank and file. Jake Tapper and Hotline are keeping tabs, and so far, there are a lot of noes and undecideds. But for now the Obama-spun (and media-favorite) storyline that “Republicans Obstruct ObamaCare!” has been properly tossed aside. The issue has never been whether Republicans oppose the monstrous tax-and-spend bill. They do. (The unanimity is perhaps a bit of a surprise.) The issue has been and remains whether moderate Democrats can be persuaded to vote for something their constituents hate and that, if they vote for it, will quite possibly end their careers. Stay tuned.

Even among high-ranking and dependable veteran House Democrats, enthusiasm for ObamaCare is underwhelming. The Hill reports:

A handful of House committee chairmen are either undecided about or plan to reject the healthcare reform bill that is expected to be voted on as early as next week.

The prospect of several panel chairmen voting against the healthcare bill comes as the White House and Democratic leaders are ramping up their efforts to attract the necessary votes to move the Senate-passed bill. The White House wants the House to clear the bill by March 18 and then have the upper chamber amend the measure through reconciliation. … According to the survey conducted by The Hill. … there are already 11 firm “no” votes.

Needless to say, if committee chairmen are underwhelmed with the president’s arguments, it may be hard to corral the rank and file. Jake Tapper and Hotline are keeping tabs, and so far, there are a lot of noes and undecideds. But for now the Obama-spun (and media-favorite) storyline that “Republicans Obstruct ObamaCare!” has been properly tossed aside. The issue has never been whether Republicans oppose the monstrous tax-and-spend bill. They do. (The unanimity is perhaps a bit of a surprise.) The issue has been and remains whether moderate Democrats can be persuaded to vote for something their constituents hate and that, if they vote for it, will quite possibly end their careers. Stay tuned.

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Lawyers and Double Standards

There has been much huffing and puffing about the criticism of Justice Department lawyers who used to represent al-Qaeda defendants and now represent the U.S. in making terrorism policy and litigate on behalf of the U.S. government. Bill Kristol strikes back today. His retort is worth reading in full, but here’s a sample:

If you want to see some really high-class smoke being blown, it’s worth taking a look at the recent statement signed by a bunch of Republican lawyers defending liberal lawyers now working at the Justice Department who’d previously represented or advocated for terrorist detainees. Nameless straw men (including me) and women (Liz Cheney) are subject to name-calling — ‘shameful,’ ‘unjust,’ and ‘destructive’ appear in the first paragraph alone. In all three paragraphs of the lawyers’ letter, highfaluting generalities are generally and highfalutingly invoked. The self-esteem and self-importance of lawyers are much in evidence. The only thing missing is an actual argument.

The reason I suspect the letter is light in arguments is that there is nothing wrong with asking who is making the cockeyed policy. And there is reason to find out why are we coming up with an approach that looks as though it were straight from the ACLU handbook. A couple of points are worth noting. First, there is an issue of potential conflicts of interest. (You aren’t supposed to hop from one side to another regarding the same legal matter, and perhaps in related matters as well). And second, there is legitimate concern as to whether Eric Holder hired a bunch of lefty ideologues with extreme views when he was supposed to be hiring the best and brightest lawyers to advance, within the bounds of ethics, the interests of the U.S. government.

Interestingly, today Hans Von Spakovsky goes through the profiles of the lawyers who now popualate the Civil Rights Division. It’s amusing, if not horrifying, to see what kind of ideological extremists and, as he puts it, “hacks” have gotten jobs there. He sums up:

The new administration is free to select whomever it wants for political posts at the Justice Department — even lawyers who were involved in lawsuits that resulted in sanctions against the Department. But we all remember the Left’s relentless attacks upon the Bush Civil Rights Division for installing conservatives in leadership positions. We were subjected to endless blather about the Bush team’s arrogance for refusing to approve a handful of cases recommended by career staff, its chutzpah in allowing political appointees to manage certain litigation, and its sheer temerity for stripping some career section chiefs of their authority to exercise unfettered discretion in establishing the enforcement and policy agendas of the Division. The soaring rhetoric turned out to be just that, rhetoric.

Hypocrisy, actually.

In short, the Obami can hire anyone they want to the Justice Department. But then they should be prepared to defend their hires and get off their high horses. After screaming that  George W. Bush “politicized” the  Justice Department, they have a lot to answer for. But they prefer to just holler at their critics.

There has been much huffing and puffing about the criticism of Justice Department lawyers who used to represent al-Qaeda defendants and now represent the U.S. in making terrorism policy and litigate on behalf of the U.S. government. Bill Kristol strikes back today. His retort is worth reading in full, but here’s a sample:

If you want to see some really high-class smoke being blown, it’s worth taking a look at the recent statement signed by a bunch of Republican lawyers defending liberal lawyers now working at the Justice Department who’d previously represented or advocated for terrorist detainees. Nameless straw men (including me) and women (Liz Cheney) are subject to name-calling — ‘shameful,’ ‘unjust,’ and ‘destructive’ appear in the first paragraph alone. In all three paragraphs of the lawyers’ letter, highfaluting generalities are generally and highfalutingly invoked. The self-esteem and self-importance of lawyers are much in evidence. The only thing missing is an actual argument.

The reason I suspect the letter is light in arguments is that there is nothing wrong with asking who is making the cockeyed policy. And there is reason to find out why are we coming up with an approach that looks as though it were straight from the ACLU handbook. A couple of points are worth noting. First, there is an issue of potential conflicts of interest. (You aren’t supposed to hop from one side to another regarding the same legal matter, and perhaps in related matters as well). And second, there is legitimate concern as to whether Eric Holder hired a bunch of lefty ideologues with extreme views when he was supposed to be hiring the best and brightest lawyers to advance, within the bounds of ethics, the interests of the U.S. government.

Interestingly, today Hans Von Spakovsky goes through the profiles of the lawyers who now popualate the Civil Rights Division. It’s amusing, if not horrifying, to see what kind of ideological extremists and, as he puts it, “hacks” have gotten jobs there. He sums up:

The new administration is free to select whomever it wants for political posts at the Justice Department — even lawyers who were involved in lawsuits that resulted in sanctions against the Department. But we all remember the Left’s relentless attacks upon the Bush Civil Rights Division for installing conservatives in leadership positions. We were subjected to endless blather about the Bush team’s arrogance for refusing to approve a handful of cases recommended by career staff, its chutzpah in allowing political appointees to manage certain litigation, and its sheer temerity for stripping some career section chiefs of their authority to exercise unfettered discretion in establishing the enforcement and policy agendas of the Division. The soaring rhetoric turned out to be just that, rhetoric.

Hypocrisy, actually.

In short, the Obami can hire anyone they want to the Justice Department. But then they should be prepared to defend their hires and get off their high horses. After screaming that  George W. Bush “politicized” the  Justice Department, they have a lot to answer for. But they prefer to just holler at their critics.

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The Elite Education Sidestep

As a Cal graduate (that would be the University of California, Berkeley, to all of you non-Californians), I don’t usually have kind words for our archrival from across the Bay, Stanford. But I am cheered to see Stanford reconsidering its ban on the ROTC on campus, a change being pushed by two liberals — history professor David Kennedy and former Defense Secretary William Perry. It’s truly shameful that the officer-education program has been barred from some of America’s most elite campuses — not only Stanford but also five out of eight Ivies including Harvard and Yale. Cornell, Penn, and Princeton allow ROTC classes on campus; at other Ivy League schools, students have to travel to nearby colleges. At Stanford (not an Ivy but similar in status), students go to San Jose State, Santa Clara University, or Cal, which has a flourishing ROTC program. (Being a state school, it could not bar the military.)

During the 2008 presidential campaign, both John McCain and Barack Obama called for the re-admittance of ROTC, but so far, dismayingly little has happened. The universities hide their 1960s-era anti-military animus behind opposition to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Perhaps if that policy is finally lifted, in whole or in part, these colleges will lose their last excuse to keep ROTC off campus — a policy that only further expands the needless divide between the armed forces and the leaders of the society they protect.

As a Cal graduate (that would be the University of California, Berkeley, to all of you non-Californians), I don’t usually have kind words for our archrival from across the Bay, Stanford. But I am cheered to see Stanford reconsidering its ban on the ROTC on campus, a change being pushed by two liberals — history professor David Kennedy and former Defense Secretary William Perry. It’s truly shameful that the officer-education program has been barred from some of America’s most elite campuses — not only Stanford but also five out of eight Ivies including Harvard and Yale. Cornell, Penn, and Princeton allow ROTC classes on campus; at other Ivy League schools, students have to travel to nearby colleges. At Stanford (not an Ivy but similar in status), students go to San Jose State, Santa Clara University, or Cal, which has a flourishing ROTC program. (Being a state school, it could not bar the military.)

During the 2008 presidential campaign, both John McCain and Barack Obama called for the re-admittance of ROTC, but so far, dismayingly little has happened. The universities hide their 1960s-era anti-military animus behind opposition to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Perhaps if that policy is finally lifted, in whole or in part, these colleges will lose their last excuse to keep ROTC off campus — a policy that only further expands the needless divide between the armed forces and the leaders of the society they protect.

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The Los Angeles Times on the Case

As we noted over the weekend, the letter Tom Campbell wrote to the University of South Florida in 2002 on behalf of Sami Al-Arian has snarled him in yet another controversy over his record on Israel and Islamic terrorism. Now the Los Angeles Times has perked up:

Campbell had previously conceded that he wrote a letter on Al-Arian’s behalf, but had said during a candidates’ debate Friday that he did so before Al-Arian’s interview with O’Reilly. His campaign’s website also said the letter was written before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The text of the letter showed otherwise. Dated Jan. 21, 2002, it said, ” . . . I respectfully wish to convey my sincere alarm that Professor Al-Arian may be treated harshly because of the substance of his views.”

Campbell went on to write that “I have formed this fear because of the paucity of evidence supporting the purported reasons for this discipline against him. 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.”

Now Campbell is changing his tune yet again:

On Monday, Campbell said in an interview that despite the language of his letter, he had never read the full transcript of the O’Reilly interview, specifically the “Death to Israel” language. If he had seen it, he said, he never would have written the letter.

“That’s too zealous,” he said. “Unacceptable. Calling for death to a country or individual is unacceptable.”

This is rather pathetic. He said in the interview that he wasn’t aware of Al-Arian’s inflammatory rhetoric. The letter says he was, in fact, aware of it. But now he says he really didn’t know, although he wrote that he did. This is the meticulous, smart guy his proponents defend? His campaign now states that Campbell’s memory is “foggy.” Perhaps it’s foggy on many counts, and the best thing for Campbell would be to review his own record, come up with a definitive defense for his votes to cut aid to Israel and his association with Islamic terrorists, and then hold a press conference and get it all out in the open. As Chuck DeVore’s campaign spokesman said, “Whether it’s absent-mindedness or deception — the only person who knows that for sure is Tom Campbell — there’s a pattern of inaccuracy whenever Tom Campbell ventures into these subjects. … We have to double-check everything he says about his past associations with these radicals because we can’t trust him to give us the whole truth.”

And when the issue migrates from Israel to terrorism to credibility, there’s a problem. California voters have much to consider, it seems.

As we noted over the weekend, the letter Tom Campbell wrote to the University of South Florida in 2002 on behalf of Sami Al-Arian has snarled him in yet another controversy over his record on Israel and Islamic terrorism. Now the Los Angeles Times has perked up:

Campbell had previously conceded that he wrote a letter on Al-Arian’s behalf, but had said during a candidates’ debate Friday that he did so before Al-Arian’s interview with O’Reilly. His campaign’s website also said the letter was written before the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The text of the letter showed otherwise. Dated Jan. 21, 2002, it said, ” . . . I respectfully wish to convey my sincere alarm that Professor Al-Arian may be treated harshly because of the substance of his views.”

Campbell went on to write that “I have formed this fear because of the paucity of evidence supporting the purported reasons for this discipline against him. 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.”

Now Campbell is changing his tune yet again:

On Monday, Campbell said in an interview that despite the language of his letter, he had never read the full transcript of the O’Reilly interview, specifically the “Death to Israel” language. If he had seen it, he said, he never would have written the letter.

“That’s too zealous,” he said. “Unacceptable. Calling for death to a country or individual is unacceptable.”

This is rather pathetic. He said in the interview that he wasn’t aware of Al-Arian’s inflammatory rhetoric. The letter says he was, in fact, aware of it. But now he says he really didn’t know, although he wrote that he did. This is the meticulous, smart guy his proponents defend? His campaign now states that Campbell’s memory is “foggy.” Perhaps it’s foggy on many counts, and the best thing for Campbell would be to review his own record, come up with a definitive defense for his votes to cut aid to Israel and his association with Islamic terrorists, and then hold a press conference and get it all out in the open. As Chuck DeVore’s campaign spokesman said, “Whether it’s absent-mindedness or deception — the only person who knows that for sure is Tom Campbell — there’s a pattern of inaccuracy whenever Tom Campbell ventures into these subjects. … We have to double-check everything he says about his past associations with these radicals because we can’t trust him to give us the whole truth.”

And when the issue migrates from Israel to terrorism to credibility, there’s a problem. California voters have much to consider, it seems.

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RE: Obama’s Terror Policies Get Thumbs Down

Actually, according to the Democracy Corps–Third Way poll, Obama’s entire national-security approach gets thumbs down:

The Democracy Corps–Third Way survey released Monday finds that by a 10-point margin — 51 percent to 41 percent — Americans think the standing of the United States has dropped during the first 13 months of Mr. Obama’s presidency.

“This is surprising, given the global acclaim — and Nobel peace prize — that flowed to the new president after he took office,” the pollsters said.

The Democratic Party also plummeted on national security. A May survey by the pollsters found that the public saw the Democratic and Republican parties as equally able to handle national security (41 percent trusted Democrats more and 43 percent trusted Republicans more). On conducting the war on terrorism, the two parties were tied at 41 percent.

But the latest poll shows a massive gap, with Democrats trailing by 17 points, 33 percent to 50 percent, on which party likely voters think would do a better job on national security.

It seems that the apology jag, Iran engagement, pulling the rug out from under allies, harping on nuclear disarmament while despots pursue their own weapons, and penny-pinching on the defense budget — not to mention the not-Bush anti-terrorism policies — have not endeared Obama to the public as a stalwart commander in chief or foreign-policy wizard. The Democratic pollsters offer up the predictable excuses: “Americans remain in an unhappy mood, which is going to drive down a lot of numbers across the board for many different issues, including international affairs. … Add to that a need for the White House and national Democrats to more effectively communicate.” It’s never the policies, you see.

Foreign policy is rarely the top issue in a campaign year, unless Americans get the sense they are less safe and the policies being pursued are reckless and irresponsible. And then the voters can get very, very upset. The White House would be well advised to look at the substance of their policies and whether they are engendering respect here and abroad. If not, maybe the Obami’s problems are not just poor communication or a grouchy electorate.

Actually, according to the Democracy Corps–Third Way poll, Obama’s entire national-security approach gets thumbs down:

The Democracy Corps–Third Way survey released Monday finds that by a 10-point margin — 51 percent to 41 percent — Americans think the standing of the United States has dropped during the first 13 months of Mr. Obama’s presidency.

“This is surprising, given the global acclaim — and Nobel peace prize — that flowed to the new president after he took office,” the pollsters said.

The Democratic Party also plummeted on national security. A May survey by the pollsters found that the public saw the Democratic and Republican parties as equally able to handle national security (41 percent trusted Democrats more and 43 percent trusted Republicans more). On conducting the war on terrorism, the two parties were tied at 41 percent.

But the latest poll shows a massive gap, with Democrats trailing by 17 points, 33 percent to 50 percent, on which party likely voters think would do a better job on national security.

It seems that the apology jag, Iran engagement, pulling the rug out from under allies, harping on nuclear disarmament while despots pursue their own weapons, and penny-pinching on the defense budget — not to mention the not-Bush anti-terrorism policies — have not endeared Obama to the public as a stalwart commander in chief or foreign-policy wizard. The Democratic pollsters offer up the predictable excuses: “Americans remain in an unhappy mood, which is going to drive down a lot of numbers across the board for many different issues, including international affairs. … Add to that a need for the White House and national Democrats to more effectively communicate.” It’s never the policies, you see.

Foreign policy is rarely the top issue in a campaign year, unless Americans get the sense they are less safe and the policies being pursued are reckless and irresponsible. And then the voters can get very, very upset. The White House would be well advised to look at the substance of their policies and whether they are engendering respect here and abroad. If not, maybe the Obami’s problems are not just poor communication or a grouchy electorate.

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To Bury Them

In a column either wickedly or inadvertently clever (for who can tell?), David Brooks gives Obama and the Democrats “credit” for their “emotion” on health care (even though the voters want other things, and those who already have coverage and who don’t care about expanded coverage are the ones most likely to vote). Yes, like Mark Antony at the funeral, Brooks has come to bury them.

But the invocation of all that Democratic emotion is only the warm-up. Then he lists the things Democrats aren’t so interested in (like helping small-business job creation, which gets hammered by the coverage requirement/fine). He dryly notes, “Small business owners have been screaming about the health care bill that forces them to offer coverage or pay a $2,000-per-employee fine but doesn’t substantially control rising costs.” And then he reels off the list of “dodges” — the very accounting gimmicks that Rep. Paul Ryan enumerated and that render the whole effort fiscally irresponsible in the extreme. A sample:

They’ve stuffed the legislation with gimmicks and dodges designed to get a good score from the Congressional Budget Office but don’t genuinely control runaway spending.

There is the doc fix dodge. The legislation pretends that Congress is about to cut Medicare reimbursements by 21 percent. Everyone knows that will never happen, so over the next decade actual spending will be $300 billion higher than paper projections.

There is the long-term care dodge. The bill creates a $72 billion trust fund to pay for a new long-term care program. The sponsors count that money as cost-saving, even though it will eventually be paid back out when the program comes on line.

There is the subsidy dodge. Workers making $60,000 and in the health exchanges would receive $4,500 more in subsidies in 2016 than workers making $60,000 and not in the exchanges. There is no way future Congresses will allow that disparity to persist. Soon, everybody will get the subsidy.

You get the idea.

In short, Democrats are so obsessed with coverage expansion, they are willing to wreak havoc on the economy generally and on the budget specifically to get it. It’s a fundamentally dishonest exercise given Obama’s promises to control costs and keep the whole shebang deficit neutral. More remarkable than the president’s chicanery is that the rubes, the ordinary folk, the Tea Party buffoons — well that’s how the Obami regard them — have more or less figured this out. They smelled a rat from the get-go. You can’t give tens of millions of people something free or very cheap and not bust a hole in the budget — so this must be a flimflam. Paul Ryan and now Brooks merely showed how the tricksterism “works.” For that they deserve credit. But the real kudos go to the voters, who had this pegged months ago.

In a column either wickedly or inadvertently clever (for who can tell?), David Brooks gives Obama and the Democrats “credit” for their “emotion” on health care (even though the voters want other things, and those who already have coverage and who don’t care about expanded coverage are the ones most likely to vote). Yes, like Mark Antony at the funeral, Brooks has come to bury them.

But the invocation of all that Democratic emotion is only the warm-up. Then he lists the things Democrats aren’t so interested in (like helping small-business job creation, which gets hammered by the coverage requirement/fine). He dryly notes, “Small business owners have been screaming about the health care bill that forces them to offer coverage or pay a $2,000-per-employee fine but doesn’t substantially control rising costs.” And then he reels off the list of “dodges” — the very accounting gimmicks that Rep. Paul Ryan enumerated and that render the whole effort fiscally irresponsible in the extreme. A sample:

They’ve stuffed the legislation with gimmicks and dodges designed to get a good score from the Congressional Budget Office but don’t genuinely control runaway spending.

There is the doc fix dodge. The legislation pretends that Congress is about to cut Medicare reimbursements by 21 percent. Everyone knows that will never happen, so over the next decade actual spending will be $300 billion higher than paper projections.

There is the long-term care dodge. The bill creates a $72 billion trust fund to pay for a new long-term care program. The sponsors count that money as cost-saving, even though it will eventually be paid back out when the program comes on line.

There is the subsidy dodge. Workers making $60,000 and in the health exchanges would receive $4,500 more in subsidies in 2016 than workers making $60,000 and not in the exchanges. There is no way future Congresses will allow that disparity to persist. Soon, everybody will get the subsidy.

You get the idea.

In short, Democrats are so obsessed with coverage expansion, they are willing to wreak havoc on the economy generally and on the budget specifically to get it. It’s a fundamentally dishonest exercise given Obama’s promises to control costs and keep the whole shebang deficit neutral. More remarkable than the president’s chicanery is that the rubes, the ordinary folk, the Tea Party buffoons — well that’s how the Obami regard them — have more or less figured this out. They smelled a rat from the get-go. You can’t give tens of millions of people something free or very cheap and not bust a hole in the budget — so this must be a flimflam. Paul Ryan and now Brooks merely showed how the tricksterism “works.” For that they deserve credit. But the real kudos go to the voters, who had this pegged months ago.

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Are They Being Smart Yet?

Joe Biden arrived in Israel. A ticker-tape parade he did not receive. As this report notes:

Vice President Biden arrived in Israel on Monday to boost U.S. efforts to mediate talks between Israelis and Palestinians amid criticism that the Obama administration has set back the peace process.

Biden’s four-day visit — in addition to reassuring Israeli leaders about the U.S. commitment to curb Iran’s nuclear program — is designed to prod Israel and the Palestinians to get talks moving again. With a speech in Tel Aviv on Thursday, he will also try to court the Israeli public, some of whom felt snubbed in the past year by President Obama, who has visited Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia but has yet to come to Israel.

All George Mitchell could muster were so-called “proximity” talks, indirect discussions between parties that have little to discuss and, in the case of the Palestinians, little authority or willingness to make a “deal.” So the grousing has begun:

After so many years of direct talks that wrestled with the core issues of the future of Jerusalem, borders, security and Palestinian refugees, Mitchell’s announcement felt to some observers more like a setback than a success.

“It’s hardly a cause for celebration that after 17 years of direct official talks we are regressing to proximity talks,” said Yossi Alpher, co-editor of a Middle East blog and a former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.

Saeb Erekat, the longtime Palestinian negotiator, told Israel’s Army Radio that the indirect talks were a last attempt “to save the peace process.”

My, what a comedown from the previous administrations, which at least were adept at getting the parties in the same room. But then all this is silliness squared. There is no deal to be had and no peace to be processed. That said, it’s painfully obvious that the Obami have made a bad situation worse. In case there was any doubt as to the diplomatic belly flop performed by the Mitchell-Axelrod-Clinton-Emanuel-Obama brain trust, we learn, “Israel announced construction of 112 new housing units in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Ilit. The administration had pushed hard — but unsuccessfully — last year for a complete freeze on settlements, and Israel’s new announcement came as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was meeting with Mitchell.” Message delivered.

Even those enamored of Obama and so benighted as to believe that peace is within sight at this juncture are rather disgusted with the Obama effort:

Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. mediator and ambassador to Israel and Egypt who served both Democrat and Republican presidents, took a more skeptical view. He said it’s “not understandable why we would now have them sit in separate rooms and move between them.”

“I have been disappointed this past year with the lack of boldness and the lack of creativity and the lack of strength in our diplomacy with respect to this peace process. We have not articulated a policy, and we don’t have a strategy,” Kurtzer, who advised Obama’s presidential campaign, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week.

And like so many other allies (an entire coalition of the slighted might be assembled), the Israelis can’t quite believe they got a Biden visit. (“‘While we welcome Vice President Biden, a longtime friend and supporter of Israel,’ said Danny Danon, the deputy speaker of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, ‘we see it as nothing short of an insult that President Obama himself is not coming.'”)

When does the smart diplomacy start?

Here’s something smart: Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s alternative vision. It goes like this:

Last August he announced what has come to be known as the “Fayyad Plan” under the heading: “Palestine — Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State.” The idea is to build a de facto Palestinian state by mid-2011, with functioning government and municipal offices, police forces, a central bank, stock market, schools, hospitals, community centers, etc. Fayyad’s watchword is transparency, and his aim is institutions that are corruption-free and provide an array of modern government services.

Then, in mid-2011, with all the trappings of statehood in place, he intends to make his political move: Invite Israel to recognize the well-functioning Palestinian state and withdraw from territories it still occupies, or be forced to do so by the pressure of international opinion.

In February, at the 10th Herzliya Conference, an annual forum on Israel’s national security attended by top decision-makers and academics, Fayyad, the lone Palestinian, gave an articulate off-the-cuff address, leaving little doubt as to what he has in mind.

Now which track do we think has a better chance of success — Mitchell’s or Fayyad’s? And since the answer is so obvious, the mystery remains why Mitchell is still there and why we are still pursuing a fruitless and counterproductive policy.

Joe Biden arrived in Israel. A ticker-tape parade he did not receive. As this report notes:

Vice President Biden arrived in Israel on Monday to boost U.S. efforts to mediate talks between Israelis and Palestinians amid criticism that the Obama administration has set back the peace process.

Biden’s four-day visit — in addition to reassuring Israeli leaders about the U.S. commitment to curb Iran’s nuclear program — is designed to prod Israel and the Palestinians to get talks moving again. With a speech in Tel Aviv on Thursday, he will also try to court the Israeli public, some of whom felt snubbed in the past year by President Obama, who has visited Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia but has yet to come to Israel.

All George Mitchell could muster were so-called “proximity” talks, indirect discussions between parties that have little to discuss and, in the case of the Palestinians, little authority or willingness to make a “deal.” So the grousing has begun:

After so many years of direct talks that wrestled with the core issues of the future of Jerusalem, borders, security and Palestinian refugees, Mitchell’s announcement felt to some observers more like a setback than a success.

“It’s hardly a cause for celebration that after 17 years of direct official talks we are regressing to proximity talks,” said Yossi Alpher, co-editor of a Middle East blog and a former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.

Saeb Erekat, the longtime Palestinian negotiator, told Israel’s Army Radio that the indirect talks were a last attempt “to save the peace process.”

My, what a comedown from the previous administrations, which at least were adept at getting the parties in the same room. But then all this is silliness squared. There is no deal to be had and no peace to be processed. That said, it’s painfully obvious that the Obami have made a bad situation worse. In case there was any doubt as to the diplomatic belly flop performed by the Mitchell-Axelrod-Clinton-Emanuel-Obama brain trust, we learn, “Israel announced construction of 112 new housing units in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Ilit. The administration had pushed hard — but unsuccessfully — last year for a complete freeze on settlements, and Israel’s new announcement came as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was meeting with Mitchell.” Message delivered.

Even those enamored of Obama and so benighted as to believe that peace is within sight at this juncture are rather disgusted with the Obama effort:

Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. mediator and ambassador to Israel and Egypt who served both Democrat and Republican presidents, took a more skeptical view. He said it’s “not understandable why we would now have them sit in separate rooms and move between them.”

“I have been disappointed this past year with the lack of boldness and the lack of creativity and the lack of strength in our diplomacy with respect to this peace process. We have not articulated a policy, and we don’t have a strategy,” Kurtzer, who advised Obama’s presidential campaign, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week.

And like so many other allies (an entire coalition of the slighted might be assembled), the Israelis can’t quite believe they got a Biden visit. (“‘While we welcome Vice President Biden, a longtime friend and supporter of Israel,’ said Danny Danon, the deputy speaker of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, ‘we see it as nothing short of an insult that President Obama himself is not coming.'”)

When does the smart diplomacy start?

Here’s something smart: Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s alternative vision. It goes like this:

Last August he announced what has come to be known as the “Fayyad Plan” under the heading: “Palestine — Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State.” The idea is to build a de facto Palestinian state by mid-2011, with functioning government and municipal offices, police forces, a central bank, stock market, schools, hospitals, community centers, etc. Fayyad’s watchword is transparency, and his aim is institutions that are corruption-free and provide an array of modern government services.

Then, in mid-2011, with all the trappings of statehood in place, he intends to make his political move: Invite Israel to recognize the well-functioning Palestinian state and withdraw from territories it still occupies, or be forced to do so by the pressure of international opinion.

In February, at the 10th Herzliya Conference, an annual forum on Israel’s national security attended by top decision-makers and academics, Fayyad, the lone Palestinian, gave an articulate off-the-cuff address, leaving little doubt as to what he has in mind.

Now which track do we think has a better chance of success — Mitchell’s or Fayyad’s? And since the answer is so obvious, the mystery remains why Mitchell is still there and why we are still pursuing a fruitless and counterproductive policy.

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Keeping the Boot Off

Bret Stephens loudly and appropriately cheers the latest demonstration of Iraqi democracy, a historic achievement he notes was arrived at “first by force of American arms, next by dint of Iraqi will.” And he reminds us of the words of journalist Michael Kelly, killed in 2003 covering the war:

Tyranny truly is a horror: an immense, endlessly bloody, endlessly painful, endlessly varied, endless crime against not humanity in the abstract but a lot of humans in the flesh. It is, as Orwell wrote, a jackboot forever stomping on a human face.

I understand why some dislike the idea, and fear the ramifications of, America as a liberator. But I do not understand why they do not see that anything is better than life with your face under the boot. And that any rescue of a people under the boot (be they Afghan, Kuwaiti or Iraqi) is something to be desired. Even if the rescue is less than perfectly realized. Even if the rescuer is a great, overmuscled, bossy, selfish oaf. Or would you, for yourself, choose the boot?

At what should be a moment of triumph — for the American military, the Iraqi people, and freedom itself — the administration is oddly and painfully muted. It is not simply in Iraq where the impulse to leave seems now to outweigh the desire to ensure the “boot” does not return. (We hear: “Mr. Obama, with the polls barely closed and no votes counted, promptly declares the election makes it possible that ‘by the end of next year, all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq.'”) It is that democracy promotion more generally as an objective in our foreign policy has been downgraded. Democracy and human rights are simply items to be traded away for the sake of getting along with those who oppress their people and threaten our quietude. We’ll turn a blind eye to Syrian brutality, re-engage Burma and Sudan, turn down the volume on criticism of China and Russia, and accept the Iranian regime as the legitimate and inevitable victor in the battle with its people. And for what? If anything, our relations with all of these regimes have worsened and the despots’ behavior has become more outrageous.

There is a price to be paid by systematically ignoring and downplaying human rights and shunting aside the victims of despotic regimes. The immediate victims, of course, are the imprisoned and the oppressed who lose hope and who lack the material and assistance to keep up their resistance. The immediate beneficiaries are those regimes who are emboldened to tighten their chokehold at home and engage in mischief beyond their borders, secure in the knowledge that they’ll suffer few consequences, if any. But the harm to our collective memory and our moral antennae is not inconsequential. We are dimly aware that these are unpleasant regimes, but the extent of the brutality and the horror faced by their victims fades. We tolerate what was intolerable by averting our eyes and sloughing off the details. When we do not document and condemn atrocities, we accept dictatorships an inevitable and “normal.” And we lose our own bearings and sense of moral indignation.

If we continue on this path, the world will be less safe and free, and America will be less respected as a result. The triumph in Iraq should remind us what is at stake and help reaffirm American’s unique role in the world. Will it? One suspects not so long as Obama occupies the White House. This administration is very big on engagement, not so enamored of drawing sharp lines or making open-ended commitments — which are precisely what are required to keep the boot off the faces of millions upon millions of people around the world.

Bret Stephens loudly and appropriately cheers the latest demonstration of Iraqi democracy, a historic achievement he notes was arrived at “first by force of American arms, next by dint of Iraqi will.” And he reminds us of the words of journalist Michael Kelly, killed in 2003 covering the war:

Tyranny truly is a horror: an immense, endlessly bloody, endlessly painful, endlessly varied, endless crime against not humanity in the abstract but a lot of humans in the flesh. It is, as Orwell wrote, a jackboot forever stomping on a human face.

I understand why some dislike the idea, and fear the ramifications of, America as a liberator. But I do not understand why they do not see that anything is better than life with your face under the boot. And that any rescue of a people under the boot (be they Afghan, Kuwaiti or Iraqi) is something to be desired. Even if the rescue is less than perfectly realized. Even if the rescuer is a great, overmuscled, bossy, selfish oaf. Or would you, for yourself, choose the boot?

At what should be a moment of triumph — for the American military, the Iraqi people, and freedom itself — the administration is oddly and painfully muted. It is not simply in Iraq where the impulse to leave seems now to outweigh the desire to ensure the “boot” does not return. (We hear: “Mr. Obama, with the polls barely closed and no votes counted, promptly declares the election makes it possible that ‘by the end of next year, all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq.'”) It is that democracy promotion more generally as an objective in our foreign policy has been downgraded. Democracy and human rights are simply items to be traded away for the sake of getting along with those who oppress their people and threaten our quietude. We’ll turn a blind eye to Syrian brutality, re-engage Burma and Sudan, turn down the volume on criticism of China and Russia, and accept the Iranian regime as the legitimate and inevitable victor in the battle with its people. And for what? If anything, our relations with all of these regimes have worsened and the despots’ behavior has become more outrageous.

There is a price to be paid by systematically ignoring and downplaying human rights and shunting aside the victims of despotic regimes. The immediate victims, of course, are the imprisoned and the oppressed who lose hope and who lack the material and assistance to keep up their resistance. The immediate beneficiaries are those regimes who are emboldened to tighten their chokehold at home and engage in mischief beyond their borders, secure in the knowledge that they’ll suffer few consequences, if any. But the harm to our collective memory and our moral antennae is not inconsequential. We are dimly aware that these are unpleasant regimes, but the extent of the brutality and the horror faced by their victims fades. We tolerate what was intolerable by averting our eyes and sloughing off the details. When we do not document and condemn atrocities, we accept dictatorships an inevitable and “normal.” And we lose our own bearings and sense of moral indignation.

If we continue on this path, the world will be less safe and free, and America will be less respected as a result. The triumph in Iraq should remind us what is at stake and help reaffirm American’s unique role in the world. Will it? One suspects not so long as Obama occupies the White House. This administration is very big on engagement, not so enamored of drawing sharp lines or making open-ended commitments — which are precisely what are required to keep the boot off the faces of millions upon millions of people around the world.

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Obama’s Terror Policies Get Thumbs Down

Obama’s criminal-justice approach to terrorism is proving to be unpopular with the voters:

Fifty-seven percent of likely voters approve of Obama’s handling of national security—ten points higher than his general 47 percent approval rating, according to a new Democracy Corps/GQR/Third Way poll out Monday.

Where Obama loses: interrogation and prosecution of terrorism suspects, where a 51-44 percent majority disapproves. Republicans have hammered the administration for its decision to read the alleged Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights, and the poll results show the message is sticking.

The Democratic pollsters attribute this to those mean Republicans attacking the president:

“Two months of Republican criticism have taken a toll,” the pollsters say, with a plurality of likely voters saying they feel less confident about Obama’s handling of national security because of the way he handled the Christmas Day attempt. “And when phrased as a partisan attack, a 60 percent majority of likely voters feels more confident about the Republicans on national security,” they said.

Now it’s true that Republicans have been remarkably unified and effective in framing the argument, but this — as with so much other excuse-mongering by the Obami — suggests that the policy itself would be perfectly fine if not for all the darn partisanship out there. This ignores the erosion of confidence by Democrats in Congress, who are now stepping forward to criticize the handling of the Christmas Day bombing incident as well as the decision to try KSM in civilian court. And it casts, as Democrats are prone to do, the public as dupes swayed by misinformation by the president’s critics rather than concerned voters who can’t for the life of them understand why we let Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab clam up for weeks or would provide KSM with a public trial to preach his jihadist propaganda.

All that said, there is a reason why Rahm Emanuel is racing through the old and new media shouting, “Not my fault!” Obama’s policies have proved to be unworkable and the president has managed to re-establish his party as “weak on national defense.” That goes hand-in-hand with his domestic accomplishment — which at this point consists of reaffixing the “tax-and-spend liberal” tag to his fellow Democrats. That, it seems, threatens to be the Obama political legacy — unless of course saner heads prevail in the White House, or congressional Democrats step forward and exercise the power of the purse and their jurisdiction over the federal courts to set a new direction for their party and the country.

Obama’s criminal-justice approach to terrorism is proving to be unpopular with the voters:

Fifty-seven percent of likely voters approve of Obama’s handling of national security—ten points higher than his general 47 percent approval rating, according to a new Democracy Corps/GQR/Third Way poll out Monday.

Where Obama loses: interrogation and prosecution of terrorism suspects, where a 51-44 percent majority disapproves. Republicans have hammered the administration for its decision to read the alleged Christmas Day bomber his Miranda rights, and the poll results show the message is sticking.

The Democratic pollsters attribute this to those mean Republicans attacking the president:

“Two months of Republican criticism have taken a toll,” the pollsters say, with a plurality of likely voters saying they feel less confident about Obama’s handling of national security because of the way he handled the Christmas Day attempt. “And when phrased as a partisan attack, a 60 percent majority of likely voters feels more confident about the Republicans on national security,” they said.

Now it’s true that Republicans have been remarkably unified and effective in framing the argument, but this — as with so much other excuse-mongering by the Obami — suggests that the policy itself would be perfectly fine if not for all the darn partisanship out there. This ignores the erosion of confidence by Democrats in Congress, who are now stepping forward to criticize the handling of the Christmas Day bombing incident as well as the decision to try KSM in civilian court. And it casts, as Democrats are prone to do, the public as dupes swayed by misinformation by the president’s critics rather than concerned voters who can’t for the life of them understand why we let Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab clam up for weeks or would provide KSM with a public trial to preach his jihadist propaganda.

All that said, there is a reason why Rahm Emanuel is racing through the old and new media shouting, “Not my fault!” Obama’s policies have proved to be unworkable and the president has managed to re-establish his party as “weak on national defense.” That goes hand-in-hand with his domestic accomplishment — which at this point consists of reaffixing the “tax-and-spend liberal” tag to his fellow Democrats. That, it seems, threatens to be the Obama political legacy — unless of course saner heads prevail in the White House, or congressional Democrats step forward and exercise the power of the purse and their jurisdiction over the federal courts to set a new direction for their party and the country.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams on the selective indignation over Liz Cheney’s criticism of Justice Department lawyers who previously worked for al-Qaeda clients: “Where were all these principled folk when [John] Yoo and [Jay] Bybee were being attacked for giving a legal opinion? As Ted Olson said, why is it fine to protect a terrorist client but not the client called the USA? I refused to join those who want to push half the argument- and then excommunicate those on the other half. That’s left-right politics, not a principled argument.” And it’s perfectly legitimate to explore whether those lawyers have a conflict of interest because of past representation.

Scott Johnson lays out the tick-tock on Sami al-Arian and concludes that “Tom Campbell flunks the al-Arian test.”

The Ohio Senate seat looks safe for the Republicans: “None of the top contenders for the U.S. Senate in Ohio are gaining ground at this point, with Republican Rob Portman still holding a modest lead. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Portman leading Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher 44% to 39%.”

The president obsessed with campaigning rails against the Washington scene, which is “obsessed with the sport of politics.”

Because you can never have too many foolish blabbermouths: “Biden Brings Chris Matthews to Israel.”

Roger Clegg on the Obami’s idea of “civil rights” in education policy: searching for evidence of disparate impact in school discipline policies. “The disparate-impact approach will also pressure school systems who are not engaged in actual discrimination to get their numbers right, so they won’t be investigated. And how will they do that? There are two ways: Either they will start to discipline, say, Asian students who are not really deserving of such discipline, or they will forego disciplining, say, black students who really ought to be disciplined. The former is merely unfair; the latter, which is the more likely outcome, will be disastrous for all children in the school system, of whatever color.”

Chris Buckley supports Warren Buffett on health care (scrap it!): “I, for one, would sleep very soundly if Warren Buffett were president of the United States, or speaker of the House, or Senate majority leader, or chairman of the Joint Chiefs, yeah.” Alas, he told everyone to vote for Obama, whose monstrous health-care plan Buffett wants to dump.

Two more pro-life Democrats say “no” to ObamaCare without the Stupak anti-abortion-subsidy language.

The buzzards are circling the Charlie Crist campaign: “National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman John Cornyn said Monday that his endorsement of Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida’s GOP Senate primary was ‘selfish’ and that the committee will not stand in Marco Rubio’s way. Cornyn (R-Texas) said he stuck by the endorsement, but he also began minimizing it, now that it looks like Crist may well lose the primary. Recent polls have shown Rubio stealing virtually all the momentum in the race and opening a lead over Crist.”

More buzzards, via Ben Smith: “Alexi Giannoulias — an old Obama ally, but not his preferred candidate — will be by the White House for Greek Independence Day tomorrow. … I’m told he’s likely to stop in and chat with political aides like Axelrod and Patrick Gaspard, part of a running effort to convince national Democrats not to write the race off.” Or look for a replacement.

Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams on the selective indignation over Liz Cheney’s criticism of Justice Department lawyers who previously worked for al-Qaeda clients: “Where were all these principled folk when [John] Yoo and [Jay] Bybee were being attacked for giving a legal opinion? As Ted Olson said, why is it fine to protect a terrorist client but not the client called the USA? I refused to join those who want to push half the argument- and then excommunicate those on the other half. That’s left-right politics, not a principled argument.” And it’s perfectly legitimate to explore whether those lawyers have a conflict of interest because of past representation.

Scott Johnson lays out the tick-tock on Sami al-Arian and concludes that “Tom Campbell flunks the al-Arian test.”

The Ohio Senate seat looks safe for the Republicans: “None of the top contenders for the U.S. Senate in Ohio are gaining ground at this point, with Republican Rob Portman still holding a modest lead. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state finds Portman leading Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher 44% to 39%.”

The president obsessed with campaigning rails against the Washington scene, which is “obsessed with the sport of politics.”

Because you can never have too many foolish blabbermouths: “Biden Brings Chris Matthews to Israel.”

Roger Clegg on the Obami’s idea of “civil rights” in education policy: searching for evidence of disparate impact in school discipline policies. “The disparate-impact approach will also pressure school systems who are not engaged in actual discrimination to get their numbers right, so they won’t be investigated. And how will they do that? There are two ways: Either they will start to discipline, say, Asian students who are not really deserving of such discipline, or they will forego disciplining, say, black students who really ought to be disciplined. The former is merely unfair; the latter, which is the more likely outcome, will be disastrous for all children in the school system, of whatever color.”

Chris Buckley supports Warren Buffett on health care (scrap it!): “I, for one, would sleep very soundly if Warren Buffett were president of the United States, or speaker of the House, or Senate majority leader, or chairman of the Joint Chiefs, yeah.” Alas, he told everyone to vote for Obama, whose monstrous health-care plan Buffett wants to dump.

Two more pro-life Democrats say “no” to ObamaCare without the Stupak anti-abortion-subsidy language.

The buzzards are circling the Charlie Crist campaign: “National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman John Cornyn said Monday that his endorsement of Gov. Charlie Crist in Florida’s GOP Senate primary was ‘selfish’ and that the committee will not stand in Marco Rubio’s way. Cornyn (R-Texas) said he stuck by the endorsement, but he also began minimizing it, now that it looks like Crist may well lose the primary. Recent polls have shown Rubio stealing virtually all the momentum in the race and opening a lead over Crist.”

More buzzards, via Ben Smith: “Alexi Giannoulias — an old Obama ally, but not his preferred candidate — will be by the White House for Greek Independence Day tomorrow. … I’m told he’s likely to stop in and chat with political aides like Axelrod and Patrick Gaspard, part of a running effort to convince national Democrats not to write the race off.” Or look for a replacement.

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