Commentary Magazine


Posts For: June 9, 2010

Barack Obama, Voting Present in the Middle East

The question of the hour is whether the Obama administration is actually going to sit on its hands and do nothing as the Middle East edges closer and closer toward a major conflict.

Where is the administration on Turkey’s dangerous provocations and outrageous rhetoric? Where does the administration stand on the Israeli blockade of Gaza — for it or against it? What does the administration think about the impending arrival of three Iranian “aid” vessels in the Mediterranean that intend to break that blockade? What does Obama think about the rising tide of eliminationist rhetoric coming from Bashar Assad, one of the primary beneficiaries of Obama’s “outreach”? Now would be a good time for the president to clear up where America stands. Instead, we have sunk to such a sordid and embarrassing place that the Obama administration’s representative to the UN Human Rights Council said nothing after the Syrian representative promoted a blood libel about Jews during the council proceedings.

What Barack Obama clearly is not learning is that his campaign to put “daylight” between the United States and Israel is creating serious strategic risks: it is an invitation to the region’s dictators and terrorists to test just how far they can needle and provoke Israel, knowing that when they push too far — such as we saw last week with the flotilla — there will be no consequences from an American president who has proved himself virtually incapable of speaking with moral clarity about the enemies of Israel.

Over the past few months, the Turkish prime minister has staged an Islamist coming-out party, with a display of thuggish bravado matched in the region only by Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad — and Obama says nothing. Syria is supplying ever more dangerous weapons to Hezbollah, and Obama not only says nothing but is also trying to reward Syria by returning the U.S. ambassador to Damascus. Iran conspires in ever more creative ways to extend its power across the Middle East and into the Mediterranean, and Obama does nothing. He appears not even to realize that these forces are escalating their war of words and deeds against Israel as a way of humiliating America and Barack Obama himself by showing the world that a great power is doing nothing as one of its closest allies is ambushed by terrorists and pummeled by the “international community.” What we lack in military and economic strength, the Islamists are saying, we more than make up for in audacity, willpower, and solidarity with our allies. And they are right.

I can understand Obama’s silence: doing anything else — anything more than repeating the same empty platitude about the U.S.-Israel bond being “unshakable” — would require him to be seen openly siding with the hated Zionists after he has invested so much in “outreach” to Muslims and demonstrated so much exquisite sensitivity to how offended the Islamic world is by American support for Israel.

This is steering us into dangerous waters. Seeing not just passivity from the White House but also a willingness to throw Israel to the jackals, the Jewish state’s enemies are aggressively testing the limits of what they can get away with. They do this largely because Barack Obama and American leadership and power are nowhere to be found. One gets the disturbing feeling that the president cannot bring himself to say or do anything that could be construed as an example of overtly and unambiguously taking Israel’s side against its Muslim antagonists. In transforming America into an “evenhanded” arbiter between Israelis and Arabs, Obama risks turning us into bystanders to war.

The question of the hour is whether the Obama administration is actually going to sit on its hands and do nothing as the Middle East edges closer and closer toward a major conflict.

Where is the administration on Turkey’s dangerous provocations and outrageous rhetoric? Where does the administration stand on the Israeli blockade of Gaza — for it or against it? What does the administration think about the impending arrival of three Iranian “aid” vessels in the Mediterranean that intend to break that blockade? What does Obama think about the rising tide of eliminationist rhetoric coming from Bashar Assad, one of the primary beneficiaries of Obama’s “outreach”? Now would be a good time for the president to clear up where America stands. Instead, we have sunk to such a sordid and embarrassing place that the Obama administration’s representative to the UN Human Rights Council said nothing after the Syrian representative promoted a blood libel about Jews during the council proceedings.

What Barack Obama clearly is not learning is that his campaign to put “daylight” between the United States and Israel is creating serious strategic risks: it is an invitation to the region’s dictators and terrorists to test just how far they can needle and provoke Israel, knowing that when they push too far — such as we saw last week with the flotilla — there will be no consequences from an American president who has proved himself virtually incapable of speaking with moral clarity about the enemies of Israel.

Over the past few months, the Turkish prime minister has staged an Islamist coming-out party, with a display of thuggish bravado matched in the region only by Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad — and Obama says nothing. Syria is supplying ever more dangerous weapons to Hezbollah, and Obama not only says nothing but is also trying to reward Syria by returning the U.S. ambassador to Damascus. Iran conspires in ever more creative ways to extend its power across the Middle East and into the Mediterranean, and Obama does nothing. He appears not even to realize that these forces are escalating their war of words and deeds against Israel as a way of humiliating America and Barack Obama himself by showing the world that a great power is doing nothing as one of its closest allies is ambushed by terrorists and pummeled by the “international community.” What we lack in military and economic strength, the Islamists are saying, we more than make up for in audacity, willpower, and solidarity with our allies. And they are right.

I can understand Obama’s silence: doing anything else — anything more than repeating the same empty platitude about the U.S.-Israel bond being “unshakable” — would require him to be seen openly siding with the hated Zionists after he has invested so much in “outreach” to Muslims and demonstrated so much exquisite sensitivity to how offended the Islamic world is by American support for Israel.

This is steering us into dangerous waters. Seeing not just passivity from the White House but also a willingness to throw Israel to the jackals, the Jewish state’s enemies are aggressively testing the limits of what they can get away with. They do this largely because Barack Obama and American leadership and power are nowhere to be found. One gets the disturbing feeling that the president cannot bring himself to say or do anything that could be construed as an example of overtly and unambiguously taking Israel’s side against its Muslim antagonists. In transforming America into an “evenhanded” arbiter between Israelis and Arabs, Obama risks turning us into bystanders to war.

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Obama Deserved This One

After sneering at Sarah Palin on everything from the death panels (i.e., Medicare rationing) to nuclear policy (Obama is enthralled with START and NPT, renounces nuclear retaliation against NPT signatories if they strike with chemical or biological weapons, and has done precious little to halt Iran and now Burma as they pursue nuclear weapons), Obama got his comeuppance from the former governor, who knows a thing or two about oil spills. She writes:

[A]s a former chief executive, I humbly offer this advice to the President: you must verify. That means you must meet with [BP CEO  Hayward. Demand answers. In the interview today, the President said: “I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.”

Please, sir, for the sake of the Gulf residents, reach out to experts who have experience holding oil companies accountable. I suggested a few weeks ago that you start with Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, led by Commissioner Tom Irwin. Having worked with Tom and his DNR and AGIA team led by Marty Rutherford, I can vouch for their integrity and expertise in dealing with Big Oil and overseeing its developments. We’ve all lived and worked through the Exxon-Valdez spill. They can help you. Give them a call. Or, what the heck, give me a call.

Ouch. At times like this, you appreciate both her innate political smarts and the degree to which the media vastly overestimated Obama’s.

After sneering at Sarah Palin on everything from the death panels (i.e., Medicare rationing) to nuclear policy (Obama is enthralled with START and NPT, renounces nuclear retaliation against NPT signatories if they strike with chemical or biological weapons, and has done precious little to halt Iran and now Burma as they pursue nuclear weapons), Obama got his comeuppance from the former governor, who knows a thing or two about oil spills. She writes:

[A]s a former chief executive, I humbly offer this advice to the President: you must verify. That means you must meet with [BP CEO  Hayward. Demand answers. In the interview today, the President said: “I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.”

Please, sir, for the sake of the Gulf residents, reach out to experts who have experience holding oil companies accountable. I suggested a few weeks ago that you start with Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, led by Commissioner Tom Irwin. Having worked with Tom and his DNR and AGIA team led by Marty Rutherford, I can vouch for their integrity and expertise in dealing with Big Oil and overseeing its developments. We’ve all lived and worked through the Exxon-Valdez spill. They can help you. Give them a call. Or, what the heck, give me a call.

Ouch. At times like this, you appreciate both her innate political smarts and the degree to which the media vastly overestimated Obama’s.

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The Virginia 11th

As I noted yesterday, Gerry Connolly, the freshman representative from Virginia’s 11th, is one of a handful of vulnerable Democrats in the state. In the Republican primary, which was thought to be competitive, businessman Keith Fimian faced off against Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity, whose father was a legendary and beloved figure in the county.

This was not the year to run an establishment insider. Fimian cruised to a huge double-digit win. Herrity said Fimian was too conservative, a losing argument in an off-year primary when the most devoted Republicans turn out to vote. Fimian accused Herrity of raising taxes, and that seemed to gain traction. Lesson: run as an outsider, adamantly opposed to tax increases.

Fimian and Connolly will stage a rematch of the 2008 contest. Then Connolly won by 11 points, with Obama carrying the district by 15 points. But this time around, Obama isn’t on the ballot to drive turnout and is a drag on his party, not a boost. Connolly will try to separate himself from the Washington spend-a-thon, but his record speaks for itself. Republicans smell a pickup. We’ll see how smart a race Fimian runs. He at least has the experience of beating one insider who was vulnerable on the tax issue.

As I noted yesterday, Gerry Connolly, the freshman representative from Virginia’s 11th, is one of a handful of vulnerable Democrats in the state. In the Republican primary, which was thought to be competitive, businessman Keith Fimian faced off against Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity, whose father was a legendary and beloved figure in the county.

This was not the year to run an establishment insider. Fimian cruised to a huge double-digit win. Herrity said Fimian was too conservative, a losing argument in an off-year primary when the most devoted Republicans turn out to vote. Fimian accused Herrity of raising taxes, and that seemed to gain traction. Lesson: run as an outsider, adamantly opposed to tax increases.

Fimian and Connolly will stage a rematch of the 2008 contest. Then Connolly won by 11 points, with Obama carrying the district by 15 points. But this time around, Obama isn’t on the ballot to drive turnout and is a drag on his party, not a boost. Connolly will try to separate himself from the Washington spend-a-thon, but his record speaks for itself. Republicans smell a pickup. We’ll see how smart a race Fimian runs. He at least has the experience of beating one insider who was vulnerable on the tax issue.

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Maybe His Worst Interview Ever

It is not only that Obama’s “so I know whose a** to kick” language was crude and revealed an unseemly desperation (as Pete pointed out), reinforcing the perception that he doesn’t command respect, let alone fear, from foreign or domestic opponents; it is also not true. Allahpundit points out that Obama never talked to BP’s CEO:

The One’s logic, such as it is, is that it’s not worth talking to Tony Hayward because he’ll only end up giving him the runaround — a curious position coming from a guy who campaigned on the virtues of “dialogue” and who’s been locked in halting negotiations with Iran for fully 16 months. Even Lauer is openly incredulous. Captain Kickass has nothing to say to a guy who potentially holds the fate of his presidency in his hands? Even after yesterday’s hair-raising Times piece claiming that BP’s effort to cut the leaking riser may have actually increased the flow of oil many times over? I thought this was supposed to be the new, improved, “engaged” Hopenchange.

Even Chris Matthews says the “public is probably stunned” that Obama hasn’t talked to the BP CEO. It is a sorry spectacle (both the interview and Obama’s post-spill performance), revealing both the president’s personal immaturity and his lack of managerial acumen. He’s not responsible for the spill, but he is responsible for his own conduct in managing the disaster. On that, even his allies give him a failing grade.

It is not only that Obama’s “so I know whose a** to kick” language was crude and revealed an unseemly desperation (as Pete pointed out), reinforcing the perception that he doesn’t command respect, let alone fear, from foreign or domestic opponents; it is also not true. Allahpundit points out that Obama never talked to BP’s CEO:

The One’s logic, such as it is, is that it’s not worth talking to Tony Hayward because he’ll only end up giving him the runaround — a curious position coming from a guy who campaigned on the virtues of “dialogue” and who’s been locked in halting negotiations with Iran for fully 16 months. Even Lauer is openly incredulous. Captain Kickass has nothing to say to a guy who potentially holds the fate of his presidency in his hands? Even after yesterday’s hair-raising Times piece claiming that BP’s effort to cut the leaking riser may have actually increased the flow of oil many times over? I thought this was supposed to be the new, improved, “engaged” Hopenchange.

Even Chris Matthews says the “public is probably stunned” that Obama hasn’t talked to the BP CEO. It is a sorry spectacle (both the interview and Obama’s post-spill performance), revealing both the president’s personal immaturity and his lack of managerial acumen. He’s not responsible for the spill, but he is responsible for his own conduct in managing the disaster. On that, even his allies give him a failing grade.

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Heal Thyself

Fox News reports:

Don’t point fingers. Don’t make excuses. Don’t pass the buck. That was the advice President Obama gave to a graduating high school class in Michigan Monday night — advice that sent off an irony alert among Republicans who accuse the president of having “spent his tenure” doing exactly that.

No, they really have no self-awareness at the White House. They write off critics as hacks or unrepentant partisans. They consider citizen activists to be dopes or racists. They don’t watch Fox, or watch only to scoff that it isn’t a “real” news outlet. They don’t take seriously bad polling news. So they stumble into situations like this — blissfully unaware that the president’s buck-passing is frequently the subject of those news programs, columns, and talk shows that they routinely discount.

It is the equivalent of driving blindfolded. They have little ability to adjust and avoid potholes because they are oblivious to political reality and indifferent to the results of their misguided policies. For a community organizer, Obama is peculiarly out of touch with the people he’s supposed to serve. And it shows.

Fox News reports:

Don’t point fingers. Don’t make excuses. Don’t pass the buck. That was the advice President Obama gave to a graduating high school class in Michigan Monday night — advice that sent off an irony alert among Republicans who accuse the president of having “spent his tenure” doing exactly that.

No, they really have no self-awareness at the White House. They write off critics as hacks or unrepentant partisans. They consider citizen activists to be dopes or racists. They don’t watch Fox, or watch only to scoff that it isn’t a “real” news outlet. They don’t take seriously bad polling news. So they stumble into situations like this — blissfully unaware that the president’s buck-passing is frequently the subject of those news programs, columns, and talk shows that they routinely discount.

It is the equivalent of driving blindfolded. They have little ability to adjust and avoid potholes because they are oblivious to political reality and indifferent to the results of their misguided policies. For a community organizer, Obama is peculiarly out of touch with the people he’s supposed to serve. And it shows.

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Obama Delivers Up Israel to the “International Community”

Earlier this year at AIPAC, Hillary Clinton assured the assembled that the “United States has also led the fight in international institutions against anti-Semitism and efforts to challenge Israel’s legitimacy.” Yesterday, Obama threw Israel to the wolves in the “international community”:

Echoing countless calls on Israel to subject itself to an international investigation of the events that led up to the deaths of nine Turkish activists aboard a Gaza-bound aid ship last week, the U.S. on Tuesday demanded that some international body be involved in the probe of the events. …

“International participation in investigating these matters will be important to the credibility that everybody wants to see,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley on Tuesday. “We are discussing with Israel and others the prospective nature of international participation in the investigation. And we’re sharing different ideas on how to best accomplish that.”

Suffice it to say, there was no instance in the Bush administration when we invited the international community to take a swing at Israel. So what say you, AIPAC and American Jewry? This has, of course, been the modus operandi of the administration — singling out Israel in the NPT concluding statement, failing to veto an Israel-bashing resolution in the UN Security Council, and threatening to do the same if Israel resumed building in its eternal capital. The Obama team keeps snowing gullible Jewish “leaders.” Perhaps at some point American Jewry will figure out they are being ill-served by both.

Earlier this year at AIPAC, Hillary Clinton assured the assembled that the “United States has also led the fight in international institutions against anti-Semitism and efforts to challenge Israel’s legitimacy.” Yesterday, Obama threw Israel to the wolves in the “international community”:

Echoing countless calls on Israel to subject itself to an international investigation of the events that led up to the deaths of nine Turkish activists aboard a Gaza-bound aid ship last week, the U.S. on Tuesday demanded that some international body be involved in the probe of the events. …

“International participation in investigating these matters will be important to the credibility that everybody wants to see,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley on Tuesday. “We are discussing with Israel and others the prospective nature of international participation in the investigation. And we’re sharing different ideas on how to best accomplish that.”

Suffice it to say, there was no instance in the Bush administration when we invited the international community to take a swing at Israel. So what say you, AIPAC and American Jewry? This has, of course, been the modus operandi of the administration — singling out Israel in the NPT concluding statement, failing to veto an Israel-bashing resolution in the UN Security Council, and threatening to do the same if Israel resumed building in its eternal capital. The Obama team keeps snowing gullible Jewish “leaders.” Perhaps at some point American Jewry will figure out they are being ill-served by both.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

But Obama said unemployment would remain under 8 percent if Congress passed the stimulus. “Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the U.S. recovery probably won’t quickly bring down the unemployment rate, which is likely to stay ‘high for a while.’ … The June 4 Labor Department report ‘shows we are still in a jobless recovery,’ Allen Sinai, chief global economist at Decision Economics in New York, said in an interview on Bloomberg Radio. ‘Ex-census we are only 41,000. That is terrible. … The unemployment rate is going to stay 9.5 to ten percent. We are not going to generate a lot of jobs.'”

But Newsweek told us he was “sort of a God.” Gallup has Obama at 45 percent approval, 46 percent disapproval.

But Obama said it was a good idea to join the UN Human Rights Council. “Meeting today in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council heard the following statement from the Syrian representative, First Secretary Rania Al Rifaiy:  ‘Israel … is a state that is built on hatred. … Let me quote a song that a group of children on a school bus in Israel sing merrily as they go to school and I quote ‘With my teeth I will rip your flesh. With my mouth I will suck your blood.’ The Obama administration chose to join this Council, the UN’s lead human rights body, and its representative was present. But they said nothing after hearing this blood libel.”

But Obama is still torn between Turkey and Israel: “The Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla sounded ‘the death knell of the Zionist regime,’ Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told an enthusiastic crowd at Istanbul’s Abou Ayyoub Ansari Mosque on Tuesday. He accused Israel of ‘unmatched crimes in the course of sixty some years of its history, that have been unprecedented in the history of mankind, the last of which has been invading the Gaza Peace Flotilla,’ IRNA reported, added that the crowd responded with ‘Allahu akbar.'” And that’s what Major Hasan shouted before he killed 13 people.

But the real fun would be watching the liberal blogosphere completely melt down. Jay Nordlinger: “If [John] Bolton is president, Elliott Abrams can be secretary of state.”

But 78 percent of them voted for the president who is doing nothing about it: “In indignant statements to the media, in Op-Eds and at rallies around the country, American Jews jumping to Israel’s defense are casting the fallout to last week’s flotilla incident — and the mounting opposition to Israel’s blockade of Gaza — as part of a campaign to delegitimize Israel’s right to defend itself.”

But was she quizzed on the part about Islam being the “religion of peace“? “Israeli left-wing activist Tali Fahima has converted to Islam, according to the website of the Islamic Movement in Israel. Fahima is said to have converted at a mosque in Umm al-Fahm in the presence of sheikhs who tested her knowledge of the principles of Islam. … Fahima was released from prison in 2007 after completing a three-year sentence for passing information to the enemy, having contact with a foreign agent and supporting a terrorist organization. … In May 2004, Fahima entered the Jenin area and met with operatives of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the armed wing of the Fatah movement. She met with Zakaria Zubeidi, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade leader in Jenin. Fahima declared that she would serve as a human shield for Zubeidi, who was wanted by Israeli security forces.”

But Obama said unemployment would remain under 8 percent if Congress passed the stimulus. “Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the U.S. recovery probably won’t quickly bring down the unemployment rate, which is likely to stay ‘high for a while.’ … The June 4 Labor Department report ‘shows we are still in a jobless recovery,’ Allen Sinai, chief global economist at Decision Economics in New York, said in an interview on Bloomberg Radio. ‘Ex-census we are only 41,000. That is terrible. … The unemployment rate is going to stay 9.5 to ten percent. We are not going to generate a lot of jobs.'”

But Newsweek told us he was “sort of a God.” Gallup has Obama at 45 percent approval, 46 percent disapproval.

But Obama said it was a good idea to join the UN Human Rights Council. “Meeting today in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council heard the following statement from the Syrian representative, First Secretary Rania Al Rifaiy:  ‘Israel … is a state that is built on hatred. … Let me quote a song that a group of children on a school bus in Israel sing merrily as they go to school and I quote ‘With my teeth I will rip your flesh. With my mouth I will suck your blood.’ The Obama administration chose to join this Council, the UN’s lead human rights body, and its representative was present. But they said nothing after hearing this blood libel.”

But Obama is still torn between Turkey and Israel: “The Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla sounded ‘the death knell of the Zionist regime,’ Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told an enthusiastic crowd at Istanbul’s Abou Ayyoub Ansari Mosque on Tuesday. He accused Israel of ‘unmatched crimes in the course of sixty some years of its history, that have been unprecedented in the history of mankind, the last of which has been invading the Gaza Peace Flotilla,’ IRNA reported, added that the crowd responded with ‘Allahu akbar.'” And that’s what Major Hasan shouted before he killed 13 people.

But the real fun would be watching the liberal blogosphere completely melt down. Jay Nordlinger: “If [John] Bolton is president, Elliott Abrams can be secretary of state.”

But 78 percent of them voted for the president who is doing nothing about it: “In indignant statements to the media, in Op-Eds and at rallies around the country, American Jews jumping to Israel’s defense are casting the fallout to last week’s flotilla incident — and the mounting opposition to Israel’s blockade of Gaza — as part of a campaign to delegitimize Israel’s right to defend itself.”

But was she quizzed on the part about Islam being the “religion of peace“? “Israeli left-wing activist Tali Fahima has converted to Islam, according to the website of the Islamic Movement in Israel. Fahima is said to have converted at a mosque in Umm al-Fahm in the presence of sheikhs who tested her knowledge of the principles of Islam. … Fahima was released from prison in 2007 after completing a three-year sentence for passing information to the enemy, having contact with a foreign agent and supporting a terrorist organization. … In May 2004, Fahima entered the Jenin area and met with operatives of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the armed wing of the Fatah movement. She met with Zakaria Zubeidi, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade leader in Jenin. Fahima declared that she would serve as a human shield for Zubeidi, who was wanted by Israeli security forces.”

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