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Posts For: May 22, 2010

Judicial Victory

Kudos to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for overturning a lower court’s ruling according to which some detainees being held at the Bagram detention facility in Afghanistan were entitled to habeas corpus hearings. Federal Judge John Bates’s ruling had applied only to non-Afghanis, but it is not hard to imagine that if his ruling had been allowed to stand, it would have led to the extension of criminal-justice protections to all suspected terrorists held in American detention facilities overseas.

That would have made it extraordinarily hard to wage war on terrorism, or whatever it’s being called this week. It is simply impossible to apply domestic standards of civil liberties to a foreign battlefield — not if you want to be able to defeat ruthless organizations like al-Qaeda. The Obama administration deserves credit for recognizing that and for fighting Judge Bates’s misguided decision. Credit also goes, of course, to the three-judge panel of the D.C. court for unanimously overturning his ruling.

The fact that the appeals-court decision came from a conservative judge (David Sentelle) and two liberals (Harry Edwards and David Tatel) means that it is unlikely to be overturned by the full court or by the Supreme Court. That’s a victory for the good guys: the men and women of the military, intelligence, and law-enforcement services, who risk their lives to capture dangerous extremists and whose work would be for naught if the courts created a revolving door for detainees.

Kudos to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for overturning a lower court’s ruling according to which some detainees being held at the Bagram detention facility in Afghanistan were entitled to habeas corpus hearings. Federal Judge John Bates’s ruling had applied only to non-Afghanis, but it is not hard to imagine that if his ruling had been allowed to stand, it would have led to the extension of criminal-justice protections to all suspected terrorists held in American detention facilities overseas.

That would have made it extraordinarily hard to wage war on terrorism, or whatever it’s being called this week. It is simply impossible to apply domestic standards of civil liberties to a foreign battlefield — not if you want to be able to defeat ruthless organizations like al-Qaeda. The Obama administration deserves credit for recognizing that and for fighting Judge Bates’s misguided decision. Credit also goes, of course, to the three-judge panel of the D.C. court for unanimously overturning his ruling.

The fact that the appeals-court decision came from a conservative judge (David Sentelle) and two liberals (Harry Edwards and David Tatel) means that it is unlikely to be overturned by the full court or by the Supreme Court. That’s a victory for the good guys: the men and women of the military, intelligence, and law-enforcement services, who risk their lives to capture dangerous extremists and whose work would be for naught if the courts created a revolving door for detainees.

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The Problem with Newt

I suppose Newt Gingrich might thank Rand Paul and Richard Blumenthal, who took up nearly all the political oxygen and the “politicians hang themselves with their own words” stories. Had those individuals not been dominating the headlines, more attention would have been paid to Gingrich’s own comments, comparing liberal Democrats to the Nazis:

“In the 20th Century, America fought and defeated Nazism, fascism, imperialism and communism — four existential threats to our survival,” he wrote. “In this century, America is facing two different kinds of threats, though no less grave.”

The first threat the Gingrich listed was “non-state terrorist networks to kill Americans.”

“But even more disturbing than the threats from foreign terrorists is a second threat that is right here at home,” he wrote. “It is an ideology so fundamentally at odds with historic American values that it threatens to undo the cultural ethics that have made our country great. I call it ‘secular-socialism.’”

Yikes. No, Obamaism isn’t worse than the ideology of jihadist murderers. And the Nazi analogy shouldn’t be bandied about.

It was, alas, a reminder that Gingrich, while creative, smart, and rock solid on many issues that conservatives and Israel’s supporters hold dear, has a penchant for saying wild things. As Steven Calabresi wrote, after praising Gingrich’s ability to unite “economic, social, and foreign policy conservatives”:

The Democrats are not Nazis and socialists, however, and to succeed Gingrich has to show more self control than he did in 1995 right after Republicans took control of the House.

In a very real sense, Rand Paul is a warning to Republicans as they begin to consider 2012 contenders. Freshness, dynamism, and creativity have to be balanced by other qualities. We will — of course — be talking about the presidency, and in order to dislodge a sitting president, the Republican nominee will need to be sober, not prone to gaffes, and project the sense that he or she is worthy of the public’s trust. Americans took a flyer on Obama and, I suspect, will not be in the mood to roll the dice on an unpredictable challenger.

I suppose Newt Gingrich might thank Rand Paul and Richard Blumenthal, who took up nearly all the political oxygen and the “politicians hang themselves with their own words” stories. Had those individuals not been dominating the headlines, more attention would have been paid to Gingrich’s own comments, comparing liberal Democrats to the Nazis:

“In the 20th Century, America fought and defeated Nazism, fascism, imperialism and communism — four existential threats to our survival,” he wrote. “In this century, America is facing two different kinds of threats, though no less grave.”

The first threat the Gingrich listed was “non-state terrorist networks to kill Americans.”

“But even more disturbing than the threats from foreign terrorists is a second threat that is right here at home,” he wrote. “It is an ideology so fundamentally at odds with historic American values that it threatens to undo the cultural ethics that have made our country great. I call it ‘secular-socialism.’”

Yikes. No, Obamaism isn’t worse than the ideology of jihadist murderers. And the Nazi analogy shouldn’t be bandied about.

It was, alas, a reminder that Gingrich, while creative, smart, and rock solid on many issues that conservatives and Israel’s supporters hold dear, has a penchant for saying wild things. As Steven Calabresi wrote, after praising Gingrich’s ability to unite “economic, social, and foreign policy conservatives”:

The Democrats are not Nazis and socialists, however, and to succeed Gingrich has to show more self control than he did in 1995 right after Republicans took control of the House.

In a very real sense, Rand Paul is a warning to Republicans as they begin to consider 2012 contenders. Freshness, dynamism, and creativity have to be balanced by other qualities. We will — of course — be talking about the presidency, and in order to dislodge a sitting president, the Republican nominee will need to be sober, not prone to gaffes, and project the sense that he or she is worthy of the public’s trust. Americans took a flyer on Obama and, I suspect, will not be in the mood to roll the dice on an unpredictable challenger.

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Bribing Russia, Letting Iran Off Easy

In case you had a question about the meaning of “reset,” it means “giving the Russians everything they want.” Picking up on Eli Lake and Bill Gertz’s previous report, the Washington Post explains:

The Obama administration on Friday lifted sanctions against four Russian entities involved in illicit weapons trade with Iran and Syria since 1999, and acknowledged exempting a Russian-Iranian missile deal from a U.N. draft resolution banning most missile sales to Iran. The move comes just three days after the U.S., Russia and other key powers reached agreement on a draft resolution sanctioning Iran for violating U.N. demands to halt its uranium enrichment program. The draft includes a loophole that would exempt a 2005 Russian deal, valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, to sell Tehran five S-300 surface-to-air missile systems. … The removal of the four entities, which was recorded in Friday’s Federal Register, suggested that the United States engaged in some last-minute bargaining to ensure Moscow’s support for sanctions.

This is, even for the Obama team, a disgrace. This is Obama’s face-saving act, not a serious effort to thwart the Iranians’ nuclear program. Indeed, this is arguably worse than merely a watered-down sanctions agreement. Why worse? Obama has now made hash out of our policy with two countries. This message of appeasement signals to Russian leaders that they can extract virtually anything from Obama, as long as his personal vanity and the preservation of the patina of competence are at stake.

We’ll see how lawmakers react to this development. As for the Democrats, they will be hard-pressed to defend the president and his hapless secretary of state on this one.

In case you had a question about the meaning of “reset,” it means “giving the Russians everything they want.” Picking up on Eli Lake and Bill Gertz’s previous report, the Washington Post explains:

The Obama administration on Friday lifted sanctions against four Russian entities involved in illicit weapons trade with Iran and Syria since 1999, and acknowledged exempting a Russian-Iranian missile deal from a U.N. draft resolution banning most missile sales to Iran. The move comes just three days after the U.S., Russia and other key powers reached agreement on a draft resolution sanctioning Iran for violating U.N. demands to halt its uranium enrichment program. The draft includes a loophole that would exempt a 2005 Russian deal, valued at hundreds of millions of dollars, to sell Tehran five S-300 surface-to-air missile systems. … The removal of the four entities, which was recorded in Friday’s Federal Register, suggested that the United States engaged in some last-minute bargaining to ensure Moscow’s support for sanctions.

This is, even for the Obama team, a disgrace. This is Obama’s face-saving act, not a serious effort to thwart the Iranians’ nuclear program. Indeed, this is arguably worse than merely a watered-down sanctions agreement. Why worse? Obama has now made hash out of our policy with two countries. This message of appeasement signals to Russian leaders that they can extract virtually anything from Obama, as long as his personal vanity and the preservation of the patina of competence are at stake.

We’ll see how lawmakers react to this development. As for the Democrats, they will be hard-pressed to defend the president and his hapless secretary of state on this one.

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Is Silence Enough?

Rand Paul is learning what it means to have the bright, hot light of national media on him. After an obnoxious outing on ABC during which Paul whined and railed at the mainstream media for outing his views on federal anti-discrimination legislation, he changed his tune and told Wolf Blitzer on CNN point blank that he would have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. With little explanation of the quick evolution in his views, he said he’s a definite yes on whether he’d have voted for the Act in 1964. On the Americans with Disabilities Act, he flailed around for a bit and then came down on the side of maybe.

Should we be surprised, then, that Paul abruptly cancelled on short notice his appearance on Meet the Press? I suppose he could try to hide from every unsympathetic reporter in the country, but such a decision will simply underscore the fact that he can’t be trusted to go out in public.

And one other disturbing note about the Blitzer interview: he didn’t firmly disassociate himself from his father’s foreign-policy views:

BLITZER: I want you to have a chance to differentiate, if you want to differentiate, with your dad. I’ve interviewed Congressman Ron Paul on many occasions and we’ve gone through all of these issues. He’s a principled libertarian, as you well know. First of all, are you as principled a libertarian in — from your perspective, as your dad?

PAUL:  Some will say not. I call myself a constitutional conservative, which I’m — means that I believe that the constitution does restrict and restrain the federal government and we should be doing a lot less than we’re doing. And if we did so, I think we would balance the budget and we would have more local and state control…

BLITZER: All right.

PAUL: So we’ll agree on a lot of issues and we’ll disagree on some and there may be some nuance. But I would say I —  you know, he will probably still be the — the number one libertarian in the country. I’m probably not going to supplant him there.

BLITZER: You’re not going to be able to compete, because there are four votes — and I’ve discussed this with him himself — in with the vote was 425-1 or 421-1, 424-1, for example, a war — asking Arab states to acknowledge genocide in Darfur, asking Vietnam to release a political prisoner, condemning the Zimbabwe government, awarding a gold medal to Rosa Parks.

Your dad was the only member on the Democratic and Republican side to vote against that because he’s a principled libertarian and he doesn’t want the U.S. government involved in any of these issues.

Are you the same as him?

PAUL:  Probably not. And the thing is, is that he is incredibly principled. And I admire him for the stands he’s taken. Interestingly, some of those things, it sounds like how could anybody be against that? The reason he votes against it a lot of times is not that he disagrees with the position. Often, he’ll disa — he’ll agree with the position of the resolution, but just think that the government really shouldn’t be making a statement on some of these things.

I think it’s yet to be seen how I’ll vote on resolutions — non-binding resolutions. But I’m probably not going to be the great path breaker that he is. But I think he stands on principle and I think he’s well respected because he doesn’t compromise his principles.

Does this include resolutions on Israel? Is he on board with the war in Afghanistan or not? Does he think we should be promoting human rights abroad? He recently did put out a position paper on Israel — presumably drafted for him — which was a step in the right direction. So one doesn’t sense that he’s exactly in lockstep with his father on foreign policy, but neither is he interested in conducting a robust war on Islamic jihadists or promoting American values around the world. If elected, will he have more in common with Obama on foreign policy than with any other Republican senator? I would think so.

If Paul is going to survive — and it’s an open question whether he should — he can’t hide from the media or the voters. He’s going to have to articulate a non-wacky view of foreign and domestic policy that is in line with average Kentucky voters. And if he can’t do that, or if he doesn’t really feel comfortable with non-wacky views, then Kentucky Republicans made a big mistake in nominating him. Other Republicans, conservative activists, and bloggers should consider their nominees this year and in 2012 very carefully; otherwise they will lose a golden opportunity afforded by Obama to unify conservatives and attract independent voters. They might want to consider the Republicans who won high-profile races: Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown. Yes, they ran against big government and Obamaism, but they were all well-versed in policy and ideologically well within mainstream conservatism.

And if Republicans want an example of political suicide, they can take a look at the Democrats both in and outside of Connecticut. They collectively have failed the political sobriety test. Connecticut Democrats on Friday formally nominated Richard Blumenthal. With the Democrats painting Ron Paul as the GOP’s poster boy and Republicans doing the same with Blumenthal for the Democratic Party, voters may decide that sometimes it’s better to have a candidate with a bit of experience, who’s been vetted before the primary, and who doesn’t spend his time denying that he is a liar or an extremist.

Rand Paul is learning what it means to have the bright, hot light of national media on him. After an obnoxious outing on ABC during which Paul whined and railed at the mainstream media for outing his views on federal anti-discrimination legislation, he changed his tune and told Wolf Blitzer on CNN point blank that he would have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. With little explanation of the quick evolution in his views, he said he’s a definite yes on whether he’d have voted for the Act in 1964. On the Americans with Disabilities Act, he flailed around for a bit and then came down on the side of maybe.

Should we be surprised, then, that Paul abruptly cancelled on short notice his appearance on Meet the Press? I suppose he could try to hide from every unsympathetic reporter in the country, but such a decision will simply underscore the fact that he can’t be trusted to go out in public.

And one other disturbing note about the Blitzer interview: he didn’t firmly disassociate himself from his father’s foreign-policy views:

BLITZER: I want you to have a chance to differentiate, if you want to differentiate, with your dad. I’ve interviewed Congressman Ron Paul on many occasions and we’ve gone through all of these issues. He’s a principled libertarian, as you well know. First of all, are you as principled a libertarian in — from your perspective, as your dad?

PAUL:  Some will say not. I call myself a constitutional conservative, which I’m — means that I believe that the constitution does restrict and restrain the federal government and we should be doing a lot less than we’re doing. And if we did so, I think we would balance the budget and we would have more local and state control…

BLITZER: All right.

PAUL: So we’ll agree on a lot of issues and we’ll disagree on some and there may be some nuance. But I would say I —  you know, he will probably still be the — the number one libertarian in the country. I’m probably not going to supplant him there.

BLITZER: You’re not going to be able to compete, because there are four votes — and I’ve discussed this with him himself — in with the vote was 425-1 or 421-1, 424-1, for example, a war — asking Arab states to acknowledge genocide in Darfur, asking Vietnam to release a political prisoner, condemning the Zimbabwe government, awarding a gold medal to Rosa Parks.

Your dad was the only member on the Democratic and Republican side to vote against that because he’s a principled libertarian and he doesn’t want the U.S. government involved in any of these issues.

Are you the same as him?

PAUL:  Probably not. And the thing is, is that he is incredibly principled. And I admire him for the stands he’s taken. Interestingly, some of those things, it sounds like how could anybody be against that? The reason he votes against it a lot of times is not that he disagrees with the position. Often, he’ll disa — he’ll agree with the position of the resolution, but just think that the government really shouldn’t be making a statement on some of these things.

I think it’s yet to be seen how I’ll vote on resolutions — non-binding resolutions. But I’m probably not going to be the great path breaker that he is. But I think he stands on principle and I think he’s well respected because he doesn’t compromise his principles.

Does this include resolutions on Israel? Is he on board with the war in Afghanistan or not? Does he think we should be promoting human rights abroad? He recently did put out a position paper on Israel — presumably drafted for him — which was a step in the right direction. So one doesn’t sense that he’s exactly in lockstep with his father on foreign policy, but neither is he interested in conducting a robust war on Islamic jihadists or promoting American values around the world. If elected, will he have more in common with Obama on foreign policy than with any other Republican senator? I would think so.

If Paul is going to survive — and it’s an open question whether he should — he can’t hide from the media or the voters. He’s going to have to articulate a non-wacky view of foreign and domestic policy that is in line with average Kentucky voters. And if he can’t do that, or if he doesn’t really feel comfortable with non-wacky views, then Kentucky Republicans made a big mistake in nominating him. Other Republicans, conservative activists, and bloggers should consider their nominees this year and in 2012 very carefully; otherwise they will lose a golden opportunity afforded by Obama to unify conservatives and attract independent voters. They might want to consider the Republicans who won high-profile races: Chris Christie, Bob McDonnell, and Scott Brown. Yes, they ran against big government and Obamaism, but they were all well-versed in policy and ideologically well within mainstream conservatism.

And if Republicans want an example of political suicide, they can take a look at the Democrats both in and outside of Connecticut. They collectively have failed the political sobriety test. Connecticut Democrats on Friday formally nominated Richard Blumenthal. With the Democrats painting Ron Paul as the GOP’s poster boy and Republicans doing the same with Blumenthal for the Democratic Party, voters may decide that sometimes it’s better to have a candidate with a bit of experience, who’s been vetted before the primary, and who doesn’t spend his time denying that he is a liar or an extremist.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Whoever wins the Democratic Senate run-off is in for a tough time: “A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Arkansas, taken Wednesday night, shows [Republican John] Boozman, the winner of Tuesday’s state GOP Primary, with 66% support in a match-up with Senator Blanche Lincoln. The Democratic incumbent picks up just 28% of the vote.”

The New York Times digs up another instance in which Richard Blumenthal lied about his Vietnam service. (“In Vietnam we had to endure taunts and insults, and no one said, ‘Welcome home.’ I say welcome home.”)

Obama sees nothing wrong with Blumenthal’s serial lying about his Vietnam service. The Democrats, every one of them, it seems, have lost their moral compass (perhaps they’ve taken it out of the vault and jumped up and down, shattering it) — and their political horse sense.

Not exactly what the left had in mind: “A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that prisoners being held without trial in Afghanistan by the military have no right to challenge their imprisonment in American civilian courts. The decision, overturning a lower court ruling in the detainees’ favor, was a victory for the Obama administration’s efforts to hold terrorism suspects overseas for extended periods without judicial oversight.” So they want to close Guantanamo so they can hold detainees indefinitely in Bagram?

The spirit of Arlen Specter appears in the Senate race in Florida: “Charlie Crist offered his support today for Elena Kagan, saying he’s ‘impressed’ with her so far. … But pressed to explain why he would support Kagan but opposed Sonia Sotomayor while he was a member of the Republican party, Crist was at a loss for words.” He’s impressed with her treatment of military recruiters at Harvard?

Chris Christie’s star will continue to rise if he keeps this up: in his veto of a tax hike, he declared: “I told everybody that if this got sent here that I’d veto it, and I have … New Jersey does not have a tax problem, that we don’t have enough tax revenue. We have a spending and size of government problem and we need to start saying ‘no.’ And today is another one of those examples of saying ‘no.’”

Uh, I don’t think this helps Rand Paul any: “‘When does my honeymoon period start? I had a big victory,’ Paul told George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” today. ‘I’ve just been trashed up and down and they have been saying things that are untrue. And when they say I’m for repealing the Civil Rights Act, it’s absolutely false. It’s never been my position and something that I basically just think is politics.'”

Actually CONTENTIONS contributor Pete Wehner and conservative columnist Michael Gerson are dissecting him very efficiently.

Whoever wins the Democratic Senate run-off is in for a tough time: “A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Arkansas, taken Wednesday night, shows [Republican John] Boozman, the winner of Tuesday’s state GOP Primary, with 66% support in a match-up with Senator Blanche Lincoln. The Democratic incumbent picks up just 28% of the vote.”

The New York Times digs up another instance in which Richard Blumenthal lied about his Vietnam service. (“In Vietnam we had to endure taunts and insults, and no one said, ‘Welcome home.’ I say welcome home.”)

Obama sees nothing wrong with Blumenthal’s serial lying about his Vietnam service. The Democrats, every one of them, it seems, have lost their moral compass (perhaps they’ve taken it out of the vault and jumped up and down, shattering it) — and their political horse sense.

Not exactly what the left had in mind: “A federal appeals court ruled on Friday that prisoners being held without trial in Afghanistan by the military have no right to challenge their imprisonment in American civilian courts. The decision, overturning a lower court ruling in the detainees’ favor, was a victory for the Obama administration’s efforts to hold terrorism suspects overseas for extended periods without judicial oversight.” So they want to close Guantanamo so they can hold detainees indefinitely in Bagram?

The spirit of Arlen Specter appears in the Senate race in Florida: “Charlie Crist offered his support today for Elena Kagan, saying he’s ‘impressed’ with her so far. … But pressed to explain why he would support Kagan but opposed Sonia Sotomayor while he was a member of the Republican party, Crist was at a loss for words.” He’s impressed with her treatment of military recruiters at Harvard?

Chris Christie’s star will continue to rise if he keeps this up: in his veto of a tax hike, he declared: “I told everybody that if this got sent here that I’d veto it, and I have … New Jersey does not have a tax problem, that we don’t have enough tax revenue. We have a spending and size of government problem and we need to start saying ‘no.’ And today is another one of those examples of saying ‘no.’”

Uh, I don’t think this helps Rand Paul any: “‘When does my honeymoon period start? I had a big victory,’ Paul told George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” today. ‘I’ve just been trashed up and down and they have been saying things that are untrue. And when they say I’m for repealing the Civil Rights Act, it’s absolutely false. It’s never been my position and something that I basically just think is politics.'”

Actually CONTENTIONS contributor Pete Wehner and conservative columnist Michael Gerson are dissecting him very efficiently.

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