Commentary Magazine


Posts For: May 20, 2010

The Koreas: Sanctions Effectiveness Watch

The most informative development in the Korean ship-sinking case this week is the silence of China on the matter, something South Korea’s press has addressed in pointed fashion. The Chinese announced on the 19th, moreover, that their ambassador would send a deputy to Thursday’s high-level diplomatic briefing from the South Korean government rather than attending it himself. Editorial staffs in Seoul interpret this as de facto support for North Korea’s position in the confrontation. They have reason to.

In the month before the sinking of South Korean navy corvette Cheonan (on March 26), North Korea extended to 2028 China’s lease on the eastern port of Rajin, which sits on the Sea of Japan. China is modernizing the port extensively for commercial use; Japan and South Korea have the obvious concern that China might begin sending warships there as well. In the month after Cheonans sinking, North Korea switched partners in its flagship tourism venture from South Korea to China. China’s tourists lost no time in taking advantage of that opportunity: the first tourist train from China entered North Korea on April 24. Tourism is a latecomer to the burgeoning trade between China and North Korea, which reportedly hit an all-time high in the first two months of 2010.

China’s proprietary relations with North Korea face an aggressive rival in Russia, which obtained a new 50-year lease on the Rajin port in March and plans to connect the port to its eastern railway system. Maintaining China’s position as Pyongyang’s principal patron is high on Beijing’s priority list, which explains why the Chinese welcomed a rare visit from Kim Jong-Il in early May and allowed North Korea to capitalize on that trip with its first-ever national display at the World Expo in Shanghai. (The chirpy cluelessness of MSNBC’s coverage here is priceless.) Neither the Cheonan incident nor reports in April that Pyongyang is planning a third nuclear test threw a damper on the fraternal amity blossoming in Northeast Asia.

The sense among China’s leaders that they have the latitude to display their true intentions in Korea has grown markedly in the last year. It was never accurate to perceive China as a like-minded ally of the U.S. in the Six-Party talks but, as late as April 2009, Beijing was still making a show of acting from common interests. That it no longer does can be attributed largely to the passivity and incoherence of the Obama administration. The administration’s only serious diplomatic response during the tense period after Cheonan’s sinking was to offer food aid to North Korea if it would rejoin the Six-Party talks.

But China has other examples to draw from as well, such as Obama’s unrealistic handling of Iran. The parallels between the Iran and Korea situations include, of course, multiple rounds of toothless international sanctions and U.S. bluster unsupported by any effective action. In the case of the Cheonan sinking, they also include a very specific analogue: the North Korean naval weapons involved. The analytical team’s finding is that North Korea used a Yono-class “midget” submarine to launch a former-Soviet-style 21-inch torpedo — the world’s most common type — at the South Korean corvette. Iran has produced seven Yono-design hulls as its Ghadir class since 2007, has fitted them to launch 21-inch torpedoes, and began adding them to the fleet in 2009. Iran, like North Korea, has been under UN sanctions throughout that period.

The most informative development in the Korean ship-sinking case this week is the silence of China on the matter, something South Korea’s press has addressed in pointed fashion. The Chinese announced on the 19th, moreover, that their ambassador would send a deputy to Thursday’s high-level diplomatic briefing from the South Korean government rather than attending it himself. Editorial staffs in Seoul interpret this as de facto support for North Korea’s position in the confrontation. They have reason to.

In the month before the sinking of South Korean navy corvette Cheonan (on March 26), North Korea extended to 2028 China’s lease on the eastern port of Rajin, which sits on the Sea of Japan. China is modernizing the port extensively for commercial use; Japan and South Korea have the obvious concern that China might begin sending warships there as well. In the month after Cheonans sinking, North Korea switched partners in its flagship tourism venture from South Korea to China. China’s tourists lost no time in taking advantage of that opportunity: the first tourist train from China entered North Korea on April 24. Tourism is a latecomer to the burgeoning trade between China and North Korea, which reportedly hit an all-time high in the first two months of 2010.

China’s proprietary relations with North Korea face an aggressive rival in Russia, which obtained a new 50-year lease on the Rajin port in March and plans to connect the port to its eastern railway system. Maintaining China’s position as Pyongyang’s principal patron is high on Beijing’s priority list, which explains why the Chinese welcomed a rare visit from Kim Jong-Il in early May and allowed North Korea to capitalize on that trip with its first-ever national display at the World Expo in Shanghai. (The chirpy cluelessness of MSNBC’s coverage here is priceless.) Neither the Cheonan incident nor reports in April that Pyongyang is planning a third nuclear test threw a damper on the fraternal amity blossoming in Northeast Asia.

The sense among China’s leaders that they have the latitude to display their true intentions in Korea has grown markedly in the last year. It was never accurate to perceive China as a like-minded ally of the U.S. in the Six-Party talks but, as late as April 2009, Beijing was still making a show of acting from common interests. That it no longer does can be attributed largely to the passivity and incoherence of the Obama administration. The administration’s only serious diplomatic response during the tense period after Cheonan’s sinking was to offer food aid to North Korea if it would rejoin the Six-Party talks.

But China has other examples to draw from as well, such as Obama’s unrealistic handling of Iran. The parallels between the Iran and Korea situations include, of course, multiple rounds of toothless international sanctions and U.S. bluster unsupported by any effective action. In the case of the Cheonan sinking, they also include a very specific analogue: the North Korean naval weapons involved. The analytical team’s finding is that North Korea used a Yono-class “midget” submarine to launch a former-Soviet-style 21-inch torpedo — the world’s most common type — at the South Korean corvette. Iran has produced seven Yono-design hulls as its Ghadir class since 2007, has fitted them to launch 21-inch torpedoes, and began adding them to the fleet in 2009. Iran, like North Korea, has been under UN sanctions throughout that period.

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RE: Meaningless Sanctions

As least one candidate has her eye on the ball. Carly Fiorina has figured out that the UN sanctions deal is toothless. So she is calling on Congress to step it up:

Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and it continues its efforts to export its revolution. The regime’s acquisition of nuclear weapons capability would pose a grave and direct threat to the national security of the United States and our allies in the Middle East, Europe and Asia, destroy the fabric of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime and deeply undermine global stability. …

We can no longer afford to bypass the opportunity to implement crippling sanctions against Iran, including against its oil-export business. The United States must demonstrate its willingness to act swiftly and decisively — even if it would mean initially acting alone — to persuade the regime to suspend its nuclear program. … I again call on our leaders in Congress to act swiftly to reconcile the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act and present the bill to the president for his signature.

Whether we bury our heads in the sand or demand tougher action from the administration should be a defining issue in the election. Which candidates are going to shuffle their feet and which are going to step up to the plate to take on the administration’s timid efforts? Especially for the Democrats, it would be a good idea to put into practice the lesson of this week’s primary: if you want to survive, take on Obama.

As least one candidate has her eye on the ball. Carly Fiorina has figured out that the UN sanctions deal is toothless. So she is calling on Congress to step it up:

Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and it continues its efforts to export its revolution. The regime’s acquisition of nuclear weapons capability would pose a grave and direct threat to the national security of the United States and our allies in the Middle East, Europe and Asia, destroy the fabric of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime and deeply undermine global stability. …

We can no longer afford to bypass the opportunity to implement crippling sanctions against Iran, including against its oil-export business. The United States must demonstrate its willingness to act swiftly and decisively — even if it would mean initially acting alone — to persuade the regime to suspend its nuclear program. … I again call on our leaders in Congress to act swiftly to reconcile the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act and present the bill to the president for his signature.

Whether we bury our heads in the sand or demand tougher action from the administration should be a defining issue in the election. Which candidates are going to shuffle their feet and which are going to step up to the plate to take on the administration’s timid efforts? Especially for the Democrats, it would be a good idea to put into practice the lesson of this week’s primary: if you want to survive, take on Obama.

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RE: More Obama!

Jen, I wanted to pick up on your post that calls attention to the front page Washington Post story, according to which:

Strategists at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue say it is now clear that, although Obama’s name will not be on the ballot, it will fall to him to build the case for the activist approach that he has pressed his party to take over the past 16 months. And just as important, they say, he must take the lead in making the argument against the Republicans.

To which one can only ask: Are they out of their minds? After all, Obama has been spending his entire presidency trying to build the case for the activist approach to government — and he has failed in almost every respect and in almost every particular. Trust in government is at an all-time low. ObamaCare is hugely unpopular. The president’s agenda is mostly radioactive, to the point that the only successful Democrats, such as Mark Critz, are now running against it. Obama himself has lost more support in less time than any president in modern history and has turned out to be (according to both Pew and Gallup polls) the most polarizing president in our lifetime.

We have, in fact, seen a fascinating phenomenon take place: the more Barack Obama — supposedly the Democrat Party’s answer to the Republican Party’s “the great communicator,” Ronald Reagan — speaks out in behalf of a topic, the more unpopular it becomes. If Democrats are staking their future on Obama becoming their “salesman in chief,” the GOP has a very bright future ahead of itself.

Jen, I wanted to pick up on your post that calls attention to the front page Washington Post story, according to which:

Strategists at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue say it is now clear that, although Obama’s name will not be on the ballot, it will fall to him to build the case for the activist approach that he has pressed his party to take over the past 16 months. And just as important, they say, he must take the lead in making the argument against the Republicans.

To which one can only ask: Are they out of their minds? After all, Obama has been spending his entire presidency trying to build the case for the activist approach to government — and he has failed in almost every respect and in almost every particular. Trust in government is at an all-time low. ObamaCare is hugely unpopular. The president’s agenda is mostly radioactive, to the point that the only successful Democrats, such as Mark Critz, are now running against it. Obama himself has lost more support in less time than any president in modern history and has turned out to be (according to both Pew and Gallup polls) the most polarizing president in our lifetime.

We have, in fact, seen a fascinating phenomenon take place: the more Barack Obama — supposedly the Democrat Party’s answer to the Republican Party’s “the great communicator,” Ronald Reagan — speaks out in behalf of a topic, the more unpopular it becomes. If Democrats are staking their future on Obama becoming their “salesman in chief,” the GOP has a very bright future ahead of itself.

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Obama’s Immigration-Reform Gambit Unmasked

Speaking in the Rose Garden with Mexican President Calderón, Obama let the cat out of the bag. Recall that he and the Democrats put immigration on the to-do list with great fanfare, grandstanding to their Hispanic base that yes — yes, they really were serious about immigration reform. But Obama let on that, by gosh, “I don’t have 60 votes in the Senate.”

So this is now the Republicans’ fault, because they would insist on a tough border control bill. And more important, in pointing fingers and lowering expectations, Obama revealed that his promise to pass immigration reform is less than sincere. After all, the president is incapable of persuading anyone who doesn’t already agree with him to pass something he really cares about. (He does care about this, right?) So nothing is going to happen on immigration for the balance of his term.

In this moment, Obama revealed both his lack of political muscle and his lack of sincerity. He revealed himself to be just another slick pol, spouting whatever promises the voters will buy. Voters should take note. After all, if the Democrats get enough Senate seats and flip the House to GOP control, there just might be an immigration bill that would land on his desk. Not the sort he had in mind, of course.

Speaking in the Rose Garden with Mexican President Calderón, Obama let the cat out of the bag. Recall that he and the Democrats put immigration on the to-do list with great fanfare, grandstanding to their Hispanic base that yes — yes, they really were serious about immigration reform. But Obama let on that, by gosh, “I don’t have 60 votes in the Senate.”

So this is now the Republicans’ fault, because they would insist on a tough border control bill. And more important, in pointing fingers and lowering expectations, Obama revealed that his promise to pass immigration reform is less than sincere. After all, the president is incapable of persuading anyone who doesn’t already agree with him to pass something he really cares about. (He does care about this, right?) So nothing is going to happen on immigration for the balance of his term.

In this moment, Obama revealed both his lack of political muscle and his lack of sincerity. He revealed himself to be just another slick pol, spouting whatever promises the voters will buy. Voters should take note. After all, if the Democrats get enough Senate seats and flip the House to GOP control, there just might be an immigration bill that would land on his desk. Not the sort he had in mind, of course.

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Meaningless Sanctions

The Iran sanctions agreement’s phoniness is becoming more clear each day. This report explains that the Iran oil business is booming:

None of the current sanctions proposals in the United Nations or the U.S. — including the latest ones agreed to this week by the U.S., Russia and China — would target Iran’s oil-export business, which generates about half of its government revenues. …

“Everyone buys from the Iranians — governments, states, other companies,” says Mark Ware, a spokesman for Vitol Group, an energy-trading company that continues to deal in Iranian crude and is one of the few companies willing to talk about it. “It’s not subject to any legislation.”

Now companies don’t like to talk about it, according to the report, because of the “stigma.” You see, doing business with a state sponsor of terrorism that is dedicated to the destruction of Israel might be a PR problem.

So, it’s pure fantasy to believe that we will impact the Iranian regime in any meaningful way with the grab bag of pin-prick sanctions. It is the Jewish holiday of Shavuot so many Jewish organizations are not conducting business. After the holiday we’ll see if there are any howls — peeps, even — of criticism from the “leaders” of the Jewish community — or those Jewish Democratic lawmakers who recently met with Obama — who have been largely pusillanimous as Obama has wreaked havoc on the U.S.-Israel relationship and signaled that he intends to take no military action to prevent Iran from going nuclear.

As a keen observer put it regarding the Jerusalem building tizzy, but even more appropriate to this context:

The Jews who ought to have something to say about the ill wind blowing toward Israel from Mr. Obama’s office are passing their whispered worries from one to another “Oy! What should we do? Oy! What should we say? Is it enough that X is saying something? Can we hide behind that? Do we have to say something, too? Oy!”

Yes, as she aptly put it, American Jewry’s non-leaders’ “almost chemical dependence” on Obama and the Democratic Party seems to be so addictive and so intoxicating that they fail to discern that their muteness is placing the Jewish state in peril and endangering the lives of Israelis. Will they now, finally, demand sterner stuff from the president? Not from this Oval Office occupant, I fear.

The Iran sanctions agreement’s phoniness is becoming more clear each day. This report explains that the Iran oil business is booming:

None of the current sanctions proposals in the United Nations or the U.S. — including the latest ones agreed to this week by the U.S., Russia and China — would target Iran’s oil-export business, which generates about half of its government revenues. …

“Everyone buys from the Iranians — governments, states, other companies,” says Mark Ware, a spokesman for Vitol Group, an energy-trading company that continues to deal in Iranian crude and is one of the few companies willing to talk about it. “It’s not subject to any legislation.”

Now companies don’t like to talk about it, according to the report, because of the “stigma.” You see, doing business with a state sponsor of terrorism that is dedicated to the destruction of Israel might be a PR problem.

So, it’s pure fantasy to believe that we will impact the Iranian regime in any meaningful way with the grab bag of pin-prick sanctions. It is the Jewish holiday of Shavuot so many Jewish organizations are not conducting business. After the holiday we’ll see if there are any howls — peeps, even — of criticism from the “leaders” of the Jewish community — or those Jewish Democratic lawmakers who recently met with Obama — who have been largely pusillanimous as Obama has wreaked havoc on the U.S.-Israel relationship and signaled that he intends to take no military action to prevent Iran from going nuclear.

As a keen observer put it regarding the Jerusalem building tizzy, but even more appropriate to this context:

The Jews who ought to have something to say about the ill wind blowing toward Israel from Mr. Obama’s office are passing their whispered worries from one to another “Oy! What should we do? Oy! What should we say? Is it enough that X is saying something? Can we hide behind that? Do we have to say something, too? Oy!”

Yes, as she aptly put it, American Jewry’s non-leaders’ “almost chemical dependence” on Obama and the Democratic Party seems to be so addictive and so intoxicating that they fail to discern that their muteness is placing the Jewish state in peril and endangering the lives of Israelis. Will they now, finally, demand sterner stuff from the president? Not from this Oval Office occupant, I fear.

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Impotent Measures Against Iran

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won grudging praise even from the Wall Street Journal editorial board for managing to reach agreement with China and Russia on a UN Security Council sanctions resolution against Iran. That accomplishment was touted as undercutting Iran’s attempts to avoid a fresh round of sanctions by agreeing to export some of its enriched uranium in a deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil. But now the details of the sanctions resolution are emerging and they are even worse than expected.

As the New York Times notes, “What is notably absent from the draft resolution, however, is any binding restriction on transactions with Iran’s central bank.” Nor is there any binding language limiting Iran’s oil trade, the basis of its entire rotten regime. As the Wall Street Journal notes: “The resolution — which followed 20 rounds of ‘hard bargaining,’ said Chinese diplomats quoted by the state-run Xinhua news agency — puts no direct restrictions on investing in Iran’s energy sector. That should allow Chinese oil companies to continue working in Iran, and China to continue consuming Iranian oil. Iran was the third-biggest supplier of oil to China last year after Saudi Arabia and Angola.” Oh, and the sanctions resolution even lacks a total ban on weapons sales to Iran.

That rather undercuts the Obama administration’s naive rationale for reaching out to the mullahs last year even as their own people were rebelling against them. The administration claimed that an outreach effort in good faith would make it easier to rally world opinion in favor of tough sanctions. Skeptics (myself included) were never convinced that countries like Russia and China would agree to binding sanctions under any circumstances. That skepticism certainly seems warranted now.

Given the weak nature of the latest sanctions resolution, one wonders, “What’s the point?” Certainly no serious analyst can possibly imagine that this will stop the Iranians from going nuclear. At most it provides a talking point for the administration to claim that it’s doing something about Iran’s nuclear program while in fact avoiding tough action – such as imposing sanctions on Shell, Total, and other Western oil companies that, according to the Wall Street Journal, continue to trade with Iran. Such sanctions are already possible under the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, which would be strengthened by legislation that has already passed both houses. But the Obama administration shows no interest in implementing such tough measures. Instead, we are left with empty posturing. One suspects that the president has already decided that a nuclear Iran is a done deal and that the U.S. should concentrate on containment and deterrence rather than on prevention. If so, I wish the White House would just come out and say so rather than pretending that this new sanctions resolution will achieve anything.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won grudging praise even from the Wall Street Journal editorial board for managing to reach agreement with China and Russia on a UN Security Council sanctions resolution against Iran. That accomplishment was touted as undercutting Iran’s attempts to avoid a fresh round of sanctions by agreeing to export some of its enriched uranium in a deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil. But now the details of the sanctions resolution are emerging and they are even worse than expected.

As the New York Times notes, “What is notably absent from the draft resolution, however, is any binding restriction on transactions with Iran’s central bank.” Nor is there any binding language limiting Iran’s oil trade, the basis of its entire rotten regime. As the Wall Street Journal notes: “The resolution — which followed 20 rounds of ‘hard bargaining,’ said Chinese diplomats quoted by the state-run Xinhua news agency — puts no direct restrictions on investing in Iran’s energy sector. That should allow Chinese oil companies to continue working in Iran, and China to continue consuming Iranian oil. Iran was the third-biggest supplier of oil to China last year after Saudi Arabia and Angola.” Oh, and the sanctions resolution even lacks a total ban on weapons sales to Iran.

That rather undercuts the Obama administration’s naive rationale for reaching out to the mullahs last year even as their own people were rebelling against them. The administration claimed that an outreach effort in good faith would make it easier to rally world opinion in favor of tough sanctions. Skeptics (myself included) were never convinced that countries like Russia and China would agree to binding sanctions under any circumstances. That skepticism certainly seems warranted now.

Given the weak nature of the latest sanctions resolution, one wonders, “What’s the point?” Certainly no serious analyst can possibly imagine that this will stop the Iranians from going nuclear. At most it provides a talking point for the administration to claim that it’s doing something about Iran’s nuclear program while in fact avoiding tough action – such as imposing sanctions on Shell, Total, and other Western oil companies that, according to the Wall Street Journal, continue to trade with Iran. Such sanctions are already possible under the 1996 Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, which would be strengthened by legislation that has already passed both houses. But the Obama administration shows no interest in implementing such tough measures. Instead, we are left with empty posturing. One suspects that the president has already decided that a nuclear Iran is a done deal and that the U.S. should concentrate on containment and deterrence rather than on prevention. If so, I wish the White House would just come out and say so rather than pretending that this new sanctions resolution will achieve anything.

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George Will on the Democrats’ Situation

George Will has a wonderful column today that begins this way:

The candidate who on Tuesday won the special election in a Pennsylvania congressional district is right-to-life and pro-gun. He accused his opponent of wanting heavier taxes. He said he would have voted against Barack Obama’s health-care plan and promised to vote against cap-and-trade legislation, which is a tax increase supposedly somehow related to turning down the planet’s thermostat. This candidate, Mark Critz, is a Democrat.

And that just about exhausts the good news for Democrats on a surreal Tuesday when their presumptive candidate for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut — the state’s attorney general, Richard Blumenthal — chose to hold a news conference at a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall to discuss why he had falsely said he fought in a foreign war. National Democrats may try to find a less damaged candidate for Connecticut, but first they may have to do that in Illinois.

Their candidate to hold the Senate seat Obama held, Alexi Giannoulias, has a problem: The failure of the bank owned by his family — it made loans to Tony Rezko, the convicted developer who helped Obama with a 2006 property transaction — may cost taxpayers many millions. Proving his credentials as a disciple of the president, Giannoulias blamed the bank’s failure on George W. Bush. …

The whole thing is worth reading.

George Will has a wonderful column today that begins this way:

The candidate who on Tuesday won the special election in a Pennsylvania congressional district is right-to-life and pro-gun. He accused his opponent of wanting heavier taxes. He said he would have voted against Barack Obama’s health-care plan and promised to vote against cap-and-trade legislation, which is a tax increase supposedly somehow related to turning down the planet’s thermostat. This candidate, Mark Critz, is a Democrat.

And that just about exhausts the good news for Democrats on a surreal Tuesday when their presumptive candidate for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut — the state’s attorney general, Richard Blumenthal — chose to hold a news conference at a Veterans of Foreign Wars hall to discuss why he had falsely said he fought in a foreign war. National Democrats may try to find a less damaged candidate for Connecticut, but first they may have to do that in Illinois.

Their candidate to hold the Senate seat Obama held, Alexi Giannoulias, has a problem: The failure of the bank owned by his family — it made loans to Tony Rezko, the convicted developer who helped Obama with a 2006 property transaction — may cost taxpayers many millions. Proving his credentials as a disciple of the president, Giannoulias blamed the bank’s failure on George W. Bush. …

The whole thing is worth reading.

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How Western Engagement Thwarts Israeli-Syrian Peace

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s candid interview this week with Lebanon’s As-Safir paper ought to be studied by anyone who still believes in either the possibility of Israeli-Syrian peace or the utility of Western engagement with Syria.

According to both the Jerusalem Post and Ynet (the website of Israel’s largest daily, Yedioth Ahronoth), Assad told As-Safir that Israeli President Shimon Peres sent a message via Russia offering him the entire Golan Heights if Syria would sever ties with Iran and with terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. But Assad said he wasn’t interested: He refuses to abandon the option of “resistance.”

Whether or not Peres actually made this offer (which his office vehemently denies) is irrelevant. The point is that Assad claims it was made. Yet his response was not to pursue it via direct or even indirect talks with Israel. It was to assert that Syria will never pressure Hamas and co. to disarm; that Israel doesn’t want peace anyway, so there’s no point in talking; and that it would be a “mistake” to “erase the resistance option,” thereby “becoming hostage to the peace option.”

This response has three noteworthy aspects. First, Israeli advocates of peace with Syria all claim that previous talks collapsed over one single issue: Jerusalem insisted that the border be the recognized international border, while Damascus demanded the pre-1967 border, which includes Israeli territory that Syria illegally occupied in 1948. Therefore, they argue, if Israel would just stop fussing over that sliver of land and cede it all, a deal would swiftly be signed.

Second, these advocates always said peace would bring one major benefit: Syria’s removal from the Iran-Hezbollah-Hamas axis.

Yet now, Assad claims that Peres offered precisely what Israeli peace advocates always wanted: the whole Golan. And he contemptuously refused to pay the desired quid pro quo.

Most noteworthy of all, however, was his reason: Abandoning “resistance” would be foolish, because it works. And as evidence, he cited Syria’s renewed ties with the West, especially Washington. In short, he views the Obama administration’s engagement drive as proof that supporting terror pays.

Moreover, when asked to identify Syria’s key regional interests, peace with Israel didn’t make the list — but “dialogue with the U.S.” did. Thus peace with Israel no longer offers any compensation that would justify abandoning “resistance”: The one benefit it was traditionally thought to offer — an opening to Washington — has now been achieved by “resistance” instead.

This also explains why Assad eagerly engaged in indirect talks with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert just two years ago, but scorns the idea today. Then, he was being boycotted by the West, and especially by former President George W. Bush, so talks with Israel were needed to end the boycott. Today, he is courted by Europe and Washington alike. So who needs peace with Israel?

The conclusion is clear: As long as Assad can get everything he wants from the West without a peace deal, Israeli-Syrian peace will be unattainable. Only when the West starts punishing “resistance” rather than rewarding it will Assad’s strategic calculation change.

Syrian President Bashar Assad’s candid interview this week with Lebanon’s As-Safir paper ought to be studied by anyone who still believes in either the possibility of Israeli-Syrian peace or the utility of Western engagement with Syria.

According to both the Jerusalem Post and Ynet (the website of Israel’s largest daily, Yedioth Ahronoth), Assad told As-Safir that Israeli President Shimon Peres sent a message via Russia offering him the entire Golan Heights if Syria would sever ties with Iran and with terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. But Assad said he wasn’t interested: He refuses to abandon the option of “resistance.”

Whether or not Peres actually made this offer (which his office vehemently denies) is irrelevant. The point is that Assad claims it was made. Yet his response was not to pursue it via direct or even indirect talks with Israel. It was to assert that Syria will never pressure Hamas and co. to disarm; that Israel doesn’t want peace anyway, so there’s no point in talking; and that it would be a “mistake” to “erase the resistance option,” thereby “becoming hostage to the peace option.”

This response has three noteworthy aspects. First, Israeli advocates of peace with Syria all claim that previous talks collapsed over one single issue: Jerusalem insisted that the border be the recognized international border, while Damascus demanded the pre-1967 border, which includes Israeli territory that Syria illegally occupied in 1948. Therefore, they argue, if Israel would just stop fussing over that sliver of land and cede it all, a deal would swiftly be signed.

Second, these advocates always said peace would bring one major benefit: Syria’s removal from the Iran-Hezbollah-Hamas axis.

Yet now, Assad claims that Peres offered precisely what Israeli peace advocates always wanted: the whole Golan. And he contemptuously refused to pay the desired quid pro quo.

Most noteworthy of all, however, was his reason: Abandoning “resistance” would be foolish, because it works. And as evidence, he cited Syria’s renewed ties with the West, especially Washington. In short, he views the Obama administration’s engagement drive as proof that supporting terror pays.

Moreover, when asked to identify Syria’s key regional interests, peace with Israel didn’t make the list — but “dialogue with the U.S.” did. Thus peace with Israel no longer offers any compensation that would justify abandoning “resistance”: The one benefit it was traditionally thought to offer — an opening to Washington — has now been achieved by “resistance” instead.

This also explains why Assad eagerly engaged in indirect talks with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert just two years ago, but scorns the idea today. Then, he was being boycotted by the West, and especially by former President George W. Bush, so talks with Israel were needed to end the boycott. Today, he is courted by Europe and Washington alike. So who needs peace with Israel?

The conclusion is clear: As long as Assad can get everything he wants from the West without a peace deal, Israeli-Syrian peace will be unattainable. Only when the West starts punishing “resistance” rather than rewarding it will Assad’s strategic calculation change.

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The Great Hezbollah Snipe Hunt

John Brennan, deputy national security adviser for homeland security, has come up with a new way to waste the foreign-policy establishment’s time  — locate the so-called “moderate elements” within Hezbollah and somehow promote them.

“There is [sic] certainly the elements of Hezbollah that are truly a concern to us what [sic] they’re doing,” he said. “And what we need to do is to [sic] find ways to diminish their influence within the organization and to try to build up the more moderate elements.”

There are no moderates within Hezbollah, at least not any who stand a chance of changing Hezbollah’s behavior. Sure, the terrorist militia has sent a handful of its members to parliament, as Brennan says, and once in a while they sound more reasonable than its secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, but these people are employees. They don’t make policy.

If you want to catch a glimpse of Hezbollah’s org chart, just rent a car in Beirut and drive south. You’ll see billboards and posters all over the place in the areas Hezbollah controls. Some show the portraits of “martyrs” killed in battle with Israel. Others show the mug shots of Hezbollah’s leadership, most prominently Nasrallah and his deceased military commander, truck bomber, and airplane hijacker Imad Mugniyeh. Alongside the pictures of Hezbollah’s leaders, you’ll also see Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the two “supreme guides” of the Islamic Republic regime in Iran.

It’s obvious, if you know who and what you’re looking at, that Hezbollah is still subservient to Khamenei. His face is almost as ubiquitous as that of Nasrallah and the deceased faqih Khomeini himself. Hezbollah’s state-within-a-state doesn’t even look like it’s in Lebanon. It looks like, and effectively is, an Iranian satellite. Iran’s heads of state appear everywhere down there, while Lebanon’s heads of state are personae non grata.

I’ve met those you might call moderate supporters of Hezbollah, Lebanese citizens who believe Hezbollah is there to defend Lebanon from Israel rather than to attack — which is not at all what anyone at the top thinks. Even if second-tier leaders were less belligerent, it wouldn’t matter. The organization takes its order from Tehran. Hezbollah won’t change until its masters change in Iran, and the U.S. is no more able to “build up” any imagined moderates within its ranks than it is able to replace Khamenei’s hated dictatorship with the Green Revolution.

John Brennan, deputy national security adviser for homeland security, has come up with a new way to waste the foreign-policy establishment’s time  — locate the so-called “moderate elements” within Hezbollah and somehow promote them.

“There is [sic] certainly the elements of Hezbollah that are truly a concern to us what [sic] they’re doing,” he said. “And what we need to do is to [sic] find ways to diminish their influence within the organization and to try to build up the more moderate elements.”

There are no moderates within Hezbollah, at least not any who stand a chance of changing Hezbollah’s behavior. Sure, the terrorist militia has sent a handful of its members to parliament, as Brennan says, and once in a while they sound more reasonable than its secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, but these people are employees. They don’t make policy.

If you want to catch a glimpse of Hezbollah’s org chart, just rent a car in Beirut and drive south. You’ll see billboards and posters all over the place in the areas Hezbollah controls. Some show the portraits of “martyrs” killed in battle with Israel. Others show the mug shots of Hezbollah’s leadership, most prominently Nasrallah and his deceased military commander, truck bomber, and airplane hijacker Imad Mugniyeh. Alongside the pictures of Hezbollah’s leaders, you’ll also see Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the two “supreme guides” of the Islamic Republic regime in Iran.

It’s obvious, if you know who and what you’re looking at, that Hezbollah is still subservient to Khamenei. His face is almost as ubiquitous as that of Nasrallah and the deceased faqih Khomeini himself. Hezbollah’s state-within-a-state doesn’t even look like it’s in Lebanon. It looks like, and effectively is, an Iranian satellite. Iran’s heads of state appear everywhere down there, while Lebanon’s heads of state are personae non grata.

I’ve met those you might call moderate supporters of Hezbollah, Lebanese citizens who believe Hezbollah is there to defend Lebanon from Israel rather than to attack — which is not at all what anyone at the top thinks. Even if second-tier leaders were less belligerent, it wouldn’t matter. The organization takes its order from Tehran. Hezbollah won’t change until its masters change in Iran, and the U.S. is no more able to “build up” any imagined moderates within its ranks than it is able to replace Khamenei’s hated dictatorship with the Green Revolution.

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More Obama!

The Washington Post tries to throw Obama and the Democrats a lifeline. It’s understandable that the liberal media — which witnessed a complete repudiation of Obama and his agenda at the polls — would scramble to help him out. After all, they invested so much credibility in helping to elect him. But the advice they offer is simply daft:

Strategists at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue say it is now clear that, although Obama’s name will not be on the ballot, it will fall to him to build the case for the activist approach that he has pressed his party to take over the past 16 months. And just as important, they say, he must take the lead in making the argument against the Republicans.

Are they joking? The president who in 17 months could not sell ObamaCare to the American people and whose agenda has shifted the country to the right is now expected to remind the entire populace, when his poll numbers are sliding downward, that Democrats believe in big government, lots of regulation, and higher taxes? The Republican reaction is likely to be: Oh, please do!

And by the way, the reporters identify not a single “strategist” other than David Axelrod and congressional Democrats. So the sentence is misleading. It should begin “Democratic pols at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have convinced themselves, despite evidence of the president’s declining popularity …”

The reporters then bizarrely offer up Mark Critz as an example of how candidates can craft their own message. But wait: that message was anti-Obama. As George Will reminds Post readers over on the op-ed page, Critz is “right-to-life and pro-gun. He accused his opponent of wanting heavier taxes. He said he would have voted against Barack Obama’s health-care plan and promised to vote against cap-and-trade legislation, which is a tax increase supposedly somehow related to turning down the planet’s thermostat.”

And David Broder, who is not exactly a strategist but is also no GOP booster, is even more blunt in the Post‘s opinion section:

We saw the anti-Washington sentiment Tuesday in Kentucky, where Rand Paul, the physician son of libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, easily defeated Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate for the Republican nomination for a vacant Senate seat — and credited his win to the Tea Partyers. The same sentiment carried to Arkansas, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln was forced into a runoff by her labor-backed challenger, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. And it claimed its largest victim of the year so far in Pennsylvania’s Sen. Arlen Specter. Run out of the Republican Party last year by a GOP challenger, he fell embarrassingly to a less-known younger congressman in a bid for the Democratic nomination. His failure showed the Obama White House once again to be a toothless tiger — with its endorsements now having failed in Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. No good news for the president there.

Republicans would dearly love Obama to test the Post reporters’ theory that the Democrats’ problem is not enough big-government cheerleading. And they would be ecstatic if he came to do it in every close district in the country. Then there will be no denying that the results will be a true reflection of the country’s evaluation of him.

The Washington Post tries to throw Obama and the Democrats a lifeline. It’s understandable that the liberal media — which witnessed a complete repudiation of Obama and his agenda at the polls — would scramble to help him out. After all, they invested so much credibility in helping to elect him. But the advice they offer is simply daft:

Strategists at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue say it is now clear that, although Obama’s name will not be on the ballot, it will fall to him to build the case for the activist approach that he has pressed his party to take over the past 16 months. And just as important, they say, he must take the lead in making the argument against the Republicans.

Are they joking? The president who in 17 months could not sell ObamaCare to the American people and whose agenda has shifted the country to the right is now expected to remind the entire populace, when his poll numbers are sliding downward, that Democrats believe in big government, lots of regulation, and higher taxes? The Republican reaction is likely to be: Oh, please do!

And by the way, the reporters identify not a single “strategist” other than David Axelrod and congressional Democrats. So the sentence is misleading. It should begin “Democratic pols at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue have convinced themselves, despite evidence of the president’s declining popularity …”

The reporters then bizarrely offer up Mark Critz as an example of how candidates can craft their own message. But wait: that message was anti-Obama. As George Will reminds Post readers over on the op-ed page, Critz is “right-to-life and pro-gun. He accused his opponent of wanting heavier taxes. He said he would have voted against Barack Obama’s health-care plan and promised to vote against cap-and-trade legislation, which is a tax increase supposedly somehow related to turning down the planet’s thermostat.”

And David Broder, who is not exactly a strategist but is also no GOP booster, is even more blunt in the Post‘s opinion section:

We saw the anti-Washington sentiment Tuesday in Kentucky, where Rand Paul, the physician son of libertarian Rep. Ron Paul, easily defeated Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate for the Republican nomination for a vacant Senate seat — and credited his win to the Tea Partyers. The same sentiment carried to Arkansas, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln was forced into a runoff by her labor-backed challenger, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter. And it claimed its largest victim of the year so far in Pennsylvania’s Sen. Arlen Specter. Run out of the Republican Party last year by a GOP challenger, he fell embarrassingly to a less-known younger congressman in a bid for the Democratic nomination. His failure showed the Obama White House once again to be a toothless tiger — with its endorsements now having failed in Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. No good news for the president there.

Republicans would dearly love Obama to test the Post reporters’ theory that the Democrats’ problem is not enough big-government cheerleading. And they would be ecstatic if he came to do it in every close district in the country. Then there will be no denying that the results will be a true reflection of the country’s evaluation of him.

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Specter Did Specter In

Margaret Carlson has two smart observations about the political demise of Arlen Specter. First, on top of his general toxicity to Democratic candidates, Obama helped do in Specter by nominating Elena Kagan, “which reminded people of that long-ago performance by Specter as he slammed Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings. Not too long ago, before Specter pledged Democrats his troth, Specter voted against the White House nomination of Kagan for solicitor general. Not surprisingly, he had a hard time finding takers for his reasons why she wasn’t qualified for that job — but should be confirmed to serve on the Supreme Court.”

In this we saw vintage Obama as well as classic Specter. Obama didn’t have a care in the world that his Kagan selection (which has gone over like a lead balloon with his base) would highlight Specter’s lack of core convictions. And Specter was at his typical squishiness in trying to disguise his true motives in these confirmation battles: ensuring his own re-election.

And then, unlike Campbell Brown, Snarlin’ Arlen went out in true form: “Specter did not go quietly into that good night, conceding in the shortest of speeches with no kind words for Sestak. He could have gone out gracefully but so few do — because losing is a little like dying for some.” It was one more reminder that Specter lacks both principles and class.

Politicians don’t often get their just desserts. The crooked ones often avoid prosecution. The ones who go back on campaign promises are rarely held accountable. In sleazy backroom deals, while supposedly representing “the people,” all too many secure comfy jobs on K Street that can benefit their own financial future at the expense of the taxpayers. But once in a while, a clarifying and fully satisfying moment comes along. This is one of them. And on this there is bipartisan agreement: Specter’s forced retirement is good for the Senate and good for the country.

Margaret Carlson has two smart observations about the political demise of Arlen Specter. First, on top of his general toxicity to Democratic candidates, Obama helped do in Specter by nominating Elena Kagan, “which reminded people of that long-ago performance by Specter as he slammed Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings. Not too long ago, before Specter pledged Democrats his troth, Specter voted against the White House nomination of Kagan for solicitor general. Not surprisingly, he had a hard time finding takers for his reasons why she wasn’t qualified for that job — but should be confirmed to serve on the Supreme Court.”

In this we saw vintage Obama as well as classic Specter. Obama didn’t have a care in the world that his Kagan selection (which has gone over like a lead balloon with his base) would highlight Specter’s lack of core convictions. And Specter was at his typical squishiness in trying to disguise his true motives in these confirmation battles: ensuring his own re-election.

And then, unlike Campbell Brown, Snarlin’ Arlen went out in true form: “Specter did not go quietly into that good night, conceding in the shortest of speeches with no kind words for Sestak. He could have gone out gracefully but so few do — because losing is a little like dying for some.” It was one more reminder that Specter lacks both principles and class.

Politicians don’t often get their just desserts. The crooked ones often avoid prosecution. The ones who go back on campaign promises are rarely held accountable. In sleazy backroom deals, while supposedly representing “the people,” all too many secure comfy jobs on K Street that can benefit their own financial future at the expense of the taxpayers. But once in a while, a clarifying and fully satisfying moment comes along. This is one of them. And on this there is bipartisan agreement: Specter’s forced retirement is good for the Senate and good for the country.

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Can Democrats Really Replicate the PA-12?

Karl Rove reminds us of several key points regarding the Pennsylvania 12th special election. First, Mark Critz carried no water for Obama, unlike the vast majority of incumbent Democrats:

Murtha’s longtime aide, Mark Critz, won with a message that he was pro-life, pro-gun, and anti-ObamaCare, while benefiting from a sympathy vote for Murtha’s legacy. … White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says “This is the type of race [the] GOP has to win.” He is right, but just how many other Democrats will be running this year as pro-life, pro-gun, anti-ObamaCare, and against cap and trade?

Second, there was a huge advantage in Democratic registration in this race (“Democrats outnumber Republicans by 137,000 voters, 62 percent to 29 percent”) — greater than what dozens of vulnerable House Democrats enjoy. And yet Tim Burns lost by only 7.5 points.

And finally, the enthusiasm gap remains a big concern for Democrats: “The Democratic turnout in Kentucky declined 8 percent from the last midterm, while GOP turnout rose 27 percent. In Arkansas, the hot Democratic Senate primary produced a 15 percent increase in turnout from four years ago — but the GOP turnout more than doubled, up 122 percent.”

To sum up, if Democrats could boost their enthusiasm, run only candidates who opposed the Obama agenda, and had in every race an advantage in registration of more than 30 points, they would be in swell shape. But back in the real world, very few races will look that way.

Karl Rove reminds us of several key points regarding the Pennsylvania 12th special election. First, Mark Critz carried no water for Obama, unlike the vast majority of incumbent Democrats:

Murtha’s longtime aide, Mark Critz, won with a message that he was pro-life, pro-gun, and anti-ObamaCare, while benefiting from a sympathy vote for Murtha’s legacy. … White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says “This is the type of race [the] GOP has to win.” He is right, but just how many other Democrats will be running this year as pro-life, pro-gun, anti-ObamaCare, and against cap and trade?

Second, there was a huge advantage in Democratic registration in this race (“Democrats outnumber Republicans by 137,000 voters, 62 percent to 29 percent”) — greater than what dozens of vulnerable House Democrats enjoy. And yet Tim Burns lost by only 7.5 points.

And finally, the enthusiasm gap remains a big concern for Democrats: “The Democratic turnout in Kentucky declined 8 percent from the last midterm, while GOP turnout rose 27 percent. In Arkansas, the hot Democratic Senate primary produced a 15 percent increase in turnout from four years ago — but the GOP turnout more than doubled, up 122 percent.”

To sum up, if Democrats could boost their enthusiasm, run only candidates who opposed the Obama agenda, and had in every race an advantage in registration of more than 30 points, they would be in swell shape. But back in the real world, very few races will look that way.

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Crist Gets Pummeled for Donations Flip-Flop

PolitFact hands Marco Rubio ad material and helps shove Charlie Crist over the political cliff with this:

Republicans banking on hopes that Gov. Charlie Crist would return donations they made when he was the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate were in for a rude awakening on May 12, 2010, when Crist made it clear he is keeping their money. … The decision to hold on to nearly $10 million in campaign donations prompted cries that Crist was flip-flopping. …

After laboriously tracing all of Crist’s statements, PolitFact concludes: “So in less than three weeks, Crist went from telling reporters he had yet to make a decision on running for independent, to running as an independent and ‘probably’ giving the money back, to ‘officially’ declaring he would keep the money.” This earns Crist the verdict of “Full Flop.”

But it’s more than that. It is confirmation of Crist’s abject lack of principles and his disdain for the voters. He is, in a very real sense, the Arlen Specter of the Florida race. He does an about-face and scoffs at those who expected him to keep his word. In a year during which voters are looking for conviction and for candidates who don’t seem like run-of-the-mill slippery politicians, Crist is precisely the wrong sort of candidate, entirely unsuited to the political moment.

PolitFact hands Marco Rubio ad material and helps shove Charlie Crist over the political cliff with this:

Republicans banking on hopes that Gov. Charlie Crist would return donations they made when he was the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate were in for a rude awakening on May 12, 2010, when Crist made it clear he is keeping their money. … The decision to hold on to nearly $10 million in campaign donations prompted cries that Crist was flip-flopping. …

After laboriously tracing all of Crist’s statements, PolitFact concludes: “So in less than three weeks, Crist went from telling reporters he had yet to make a decision on running for independent, to running as an independent and ‘probably’ giving the money back, to ‘officially’ declaring he would keep the money.” This earns Crist the verdict of “Full Flop.”

But it’s more than that. It is confirmation of Crist’s abject lack of principles and his disdain for the voters. He is, in a very real sense, the Arlen Specter of the Florida race. He does an about-face and scoffs at those who expected him to keep his word. In a year during which voters are looking for conviction and for candidates who don’t seem like run-of-the-mill slippery politicians, Crist is precisely the wrong sort of candidate, entirely unsuited to the political moment.

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Farewell, Blanche

Jane Hamsher — who is fast becoming one of the savviest liberal analysts — waves goodbye to Blanche Lincoln. She explains that the Democratic base — like the Republican — is fed up with mushy moderates, equivocators, and backroom dealers. And that means Lincoln is in deep trouble:

The people who turn out are the ones who really care about the race. Those are the people that really care about getting Blanche out of there. That’s what motivates any protest vote. The people who turn out will drive through golf-ball hail to vote against the incumbent. …

Looking at the national environment, it doesn’t look good for Blanche. If you show up to vote against somebody, you’re not going to later show up to vote [for] them. …  She is absolutely typical of the kind of politician people are absolutely sick of. Congress is always talking about belt-tightening, but they always find the money to bail out the banks.

I differ with Hamsher on her take on left-leaning Lt. Governor Bill Halter, whom she calls more “populist” than liberal and who, according to her, can hold the seat for the Democrats. I doubt there are enough voters in that state who’ll buy that relabeling and vote for a die-hard liberal. But it’s helpful for the Democrats to relearn the same lesson that the Republicans did in 2006 and 2008: you need solid candidates who are appropriate to their electorate and focused on the issues voters care most about.

But Hamsher’s observation is a keen one: while the media celebrates “moderates,” the voters are not so enamored of them. It’s refreshing and important that each party be clear about what it stands for and what its core beliefs are. Elections should be about choices and they should provide the winner with a clear mandate to carry into office. If Halter runs, Arkansas voters are certainly going to have a stark choice.

Jane Hamsher — who is fast becoming one of the savviest liberal analysts — waves goodbye to Blanche Lincoln. She explains that the Democratic base — like the Republican — is fed up with mushy moderates, equivocators, and backroom dealers. And that means Lincoln is in deep trouble:

The people who turn out are the ones who really care about the race. Those are the people that really care about getting Blanche out of there. That’s what motivates any protest vote. The people who turn out will drive through golf-ball hail to vote against the incumbent. …

Looking at the national environment, it doesn’t look good for Blanche. If you show up to vote against somebody, you’re not going to later show up to vote [for] them. …  She is absolutely typical of the kind of politician people are absolutely sick of. Congress is always talking about belt-tightening, but they always find the money to bail out the banks.

I differ with Hamsher on her take on left-leaning Lt. Governor Bill Halter, whom she calls more “populist” than liberal and who, according to her, can hold the seat for the Democrats. I doubt there are enough voters in that state who’ll buy that relabeling and vote for a die-hard liberal. But it’s helpful for the Democrats to relearn the same lesson that the Republicans did in 2006 and 2008: you need solid candidates who are appropriate to their electorate and focused on the issues voters care most about.

But Hamsher’s observation is a keen one: while the media celebrates “moderates,” the voters are not so enamored of them. It’s refreshing and important that each party be clear about what it stands for and what its core beliefs are. Elections should be about choices and they should provide the winner with a clear mandate to carry into office. If Halter runs, Arkansas voters are certainly going to have a stark choice.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Another idiotic idea from the Obama brain trust: Hezbollah engagement. No, really: “‘There is certainly the elements of Hezbollah that are truly a concern to us what they’re doing. And what we need to do is to find ways to diminish their influence within the organization and to try to build up the more moderate elements,’ [John] Brennan said. He did not spell out how Washington hoped to promote ‘moderate elements’ given that the organization is branded a ‘foreign terrorist organization’ by the United States.”

Another rotten poll for Obama: “Overall, 44% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the president’s performance. Fifty-five percent (55%) disapprove. Those figures also reflect the weakest ratings for the president since the health care bill became law.” Maybe the election reminded voters how much they dislike the president.

Another problem for Obama: the Democrats who won Tuesday ran from his agenda. “Of course, it’s possible that Democrats will fare better than expected this fall. And there’s only so much that any president can do to help other candidates, especially in a non-presidential election year. Still, Obama’s poor record thus far could hurt his legislative agenda if Democratic lawmakers decide they need some distance from him as they seek re-election in what is shaping up as a pro-Republican year. Conversely, it might embolden Republican lawmakers and candidates who oppose him.” Like they say: run away, run away!

Another reason for the Democrats to recover their sanity and dump Blumenthal: his lead over Republican opponents is melting away.

Another scary consequence of Obama’s no-nuke fantasy: Brazil is very likely “working on its own secret nuclear program. … Brazil’s conditioning of NPT cooperation upon the progress made by the existing nuclear powers toward nuclear disarmament reveals how the global ‘nuclear zero’ campaign, of which Barack Obama has made himself the spokesperson, plays into the hands of would-be proliferators.”

Another roll-over-and-play-dead moment for Jewish Democrats: in a meeting to express “misgivings” about Obama’s Israel policy, the president shmoozed them, and at least some felt “like [Obama] is genuinely committed to accomplishing a lasting [Israeli-Palestinian peace] agreement, and that he feels it strongly.” Did they extract from him a promise to use military force if needed to prevent an existential threat to Israel? Did they extract a promise not to impose on or pressure Israel to accept a unilateral peace deal cooked up by Obama? No, I don’t think so.

Another touching reminder that pirates have moms, too: “The mother of a Somali pirate who pleaded guilty to charges of hijacking a U.S.-flagged ship and kidnapping its captain appealed to President Barack Obama on Wednesday to pardon her son and grant him citizenship.”

Another idiotic idea from the Obama brain trust: Hezbollah engagement. No, really: “‘There is certainly the elements of Hezbollah that are truly a concern to us what they’re doing. And what we need to do is to find ways to diminish their influence within the organization and to try to build up the more moderate elements,’ [John] Brennan said. He did not spell out how Washington hoped to promote ‘moderate elements’ given that the organization is branded a ‘foreign terrorist organization’ by the United States.”

Another rotten poll for Obama: “Overall, 44% of voters say they at least somewhat approve of the president’s performance. Fifty-five percent (55%) disapprove. Those figures also reflect the weakest ratings for the president since the health care bill became law.” Maybe the election reminded voters how much they dislike the president.

Another problem for Obama: the Democrats who won Tuesday ran from his agenda. “Of course, it’s possible that Democrats will fare better than expected this fall. And there’s only so much that any president can do to help other candidates, especially in a non-presidential election year. Still, Obama’s poor record thus far could hurt his legislative agenda if Democratic lawmakers decide they need some distance from him as they seek re-election in what is shaping up as a pro-Republican year. Conversely, it might embolden Republican lawmakers and candidates who oppose him.” Like they say: run away, run away!

Another reason for the Democrats to recover their sanity and dump Blumenthal: his lead over Republican opponents is melting away.

Another scary consequence of Obama’s no-nuke fantasy: Brazil is very likely “working on its own secret nuclear program. … Brazil’s conditioning of NPT cooperation upon the progress made by the existing nuclear powers toward nuclear disarmament reveals how the global ‘nuclear zero’ campaign, of which Barack Obama has made himself the spokesperson, plays into the hands of would-be proliferators.”

Another roll-over-and-play-dead moment for Jewish Democrats: in a meeting to express “misgivings” about Obama’s Israel policy, the president shmoozed them, and at least some felt “like [Obama] is genuinely committed to accomplishing a lasting [Israeli-Palestinian peace] agreement, and that he feels it strongly.” Did they extract from him a promise to use military force if needed to prevent an existential threat to Israel? Did they extract a promise not to impose on or pressure Israel to accept a unilateral peace deal cooked up by Obama? No, I don’t think so.

Another touching reminder that pirates have moms, too: “The mother of a Somali pirate who pleaded guilty to charges of hijacking a U.S.-flagged ship and kidnapping its captain appealed to President Barack Obama on Wednesday to pardon her son and grant him citizenship.”

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