Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 23, 2010

Settlement Freeze: An Unacceptable Veto

It has always been the case that Israel’s government would have to choose, at some point, to lift the freeze on settlement construction. The reason is simple: Israel can’t give anyone else an effective veto over settlement activities. Protecting settlements in Judea and Samaria is a matter of national security: it prevents the Palestinian Arabs from using the territory to menace Israelis across the Green Line. Past Israeli withdrawals from strategic or disputed territories have produced ever-present menaces along its other boundaries, as demonstrated in Gaza and the Hezbollah fiefdom in southern Lebanon. The West Bank, moreover, is an even more dangerous case from a geographic standpoint, because its mountainous heights look down on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the heart of Israel’s national and economic life.

In the absence of an enforceable, good-faith agreement with the Palestinian Authority, Israel can’t let either the PA or the U.S. exercise a de facto veto over its administration of the settlements. The right to such a veto, once established, would be wielded in incremental steps to prejudice Israel’s security and bargaining position. It would amount to much more than a minor concession in the interest of the current talks. Accepting a de facto settlement veto would open the door to a campaign of attrition against the settlements, just as it would validate the Palestinian negotiating principle of winning major and debilitating concessions as a prior condition of talks — and therefore without the Palestinians themselves having to commit to anything.

In light of this reality, the lament of Roger Cohen in the New York Times today is both ironic and poignant. If the talks break down over the settlement issue, says Cohen, “Netanyahu and Abbas know … Obama would look amateurish.” It would be a “terrible mistake,” in his view, for Netanyahu to reject a formal extension of the settlement freeze. He and Abbas both need the United States, which is “an incentive to avoid humiliating Obama.” Obama himself “should fight it until the last minute. His international credibility is on the line.”

But it’s Obama who put himself in this position. He and his foreign-policy team are amateurish; that’s the whole problem. Regardless of whether they agree with Israel’s view of the settlements and their relation to national security, they should have understood and acknowledged it as real. No negotiations can succeed if the concerns of one party are ignored or dismissed. For that party, accepting the breakdown of negotiations is likely to be the lesser of two evils.

Netanyahu must lift the settlement freeze sometime, and the longer he waits, the more of a political disruption it will be.  He can’t let it become the status quo by default. He may yet find some way to navigate between two difficult positions, at least for another few weeks. But ultimately, his obligation is to the security of Israel. I believe that will be at least as much of a motive for him as retaining his coalition in the Knesset.

Obama’s credibility, meanwhile, is Obama’s problem. If he wants to see it undamaged, he could not do better than to learn from the present impasse and avoid backing himself into a corner again. Roger Cohen may think it’s a good idea to bolster Obama’s credibility with unilateral security concessions from Israel, but it’s a good bet Bibi doesn’t.

It has always been the case that Israel’s government would have to choose, at some point, to lift the freeze on settlement construction. The reason is simple: Israel can’t give anyone else an effective veto over settlement activities. Protecting settlements in Judea and Samaria is a matter of national security: it prevents the Palestinian Arabs from using the territory to menace Israelis across the Green Line. Past Israeli withdrawals from strategic or disputed territories have produced ever-present menaces along its other boundaries, as demonstrated in Gaza and the Hezbollah fiefdom in southern Lebanon. The West Bank, moreover, is an even more dangerous case from a geographic standpoint, because its mountainous heights look down on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the heart of Israel’s national and economic life.

In the absence of an enforceable, good-faith agreement with the Palestinian Authority, Israel can’t let either the PA or the U.S. exercise a de facto veto over its administration of the settlements. The right to such a veto, once established, would be wielded in incremental steps to prejudice Israel’s security and bargaining position. It would amount to much more than a minor concession in the interest of the current talks. Accepting a de facto settlement veto would open the door to a campaign of attrition against the settlements, just as it would validate the Palestinian negotiating principle of winning major and debilitating concessions as a prior condition of talks — and therefore without the Palestinians themselves having to commit to anything.

In light of this reality, the lament of Roger Cohen in the New York Times today is both ironic and poignant. If the talks break down over the settlement issue, says Cohen, “Netanyahu and Abbas know … Obama would look amateurish.” It would be a “terrible mistake,” in his view, for Netanyahu to reject a formal extension of the settlement freeze. He and Abbas both need the United States, which is “an incentive to avoid humiliating Obama.” Obama himself “should fight it until the last minute. His international credibility is on the line.”

But it’s Obama who put himself in this position. He and his foreign-policy team are amateurish; that’s the whole problem. Regardless of whether they agree with Israel’s view of the settlements and their relation to national security, they should have understood and acknowledged it as real. No negotiations can succeed if the concerns of one party are ignored or dismissed. For that party, accepting the breakdown of negotiations is likely to be the lesser of two evils.

Netanyahu must lift the settlement freeze sometime, and the longer he waits, the more of a political disruption it will be.  He can’t let it become the status quo by default. He may yet find some way to navigate between two difficult positions, at least for another few weeks. But ultimately, his obligation is to the security of Israel. I believe that will be at least as much of a motive for him as retaining his coalition in the Knesset.

Obama’s credibility, meanwhile, is Obama’s problem. If he wants to see it undamaged, he could not do better than to learn from the present impasse and avoid backing himself into a corner again. Roger Cohen may think it’s a good idea to bolster Obama’s credibility with unilateral security concessions from Israel, but it’s a good bet Bibi doesn’t.

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Reading (and Misreading) Kim

Now and then a media theme comes along that can only be called fatuous. Next week, North Korea will hold its first ruling-party conference in 30 years. In advance of the conference, the Kim government has promoted to higher office three senior officials with career connections to the nuclear program. The three men in question were prominent in previous iterations of the multilateral negotiations over Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

Therefore, Western media are depicting these personnel moves as a sign that “the country’s leaders are seeking to stabilize foreign relations and encourage diplomacy.” Very few of the mainstream media outlets report, however, that Kang Sok Ju, who has been made the new vice premier, was the chief designer of the North Korean nuclear program. He was chosen in 1994 to negotiate the Agreed Framework with the Clinton administration because he was the North’s nuclear chief. From the perspective of the Kim regime — which intended all along to retain its program and achieve a weapons capability — the most senior proponent of the program was the appropriate emissary to the proceedings.

There are a number of indications that Kim Jong-Il is planning to introduce his youngest son, Kim Jong-Un, as his political successor next week. The current Kim was named successor at the last such conference in 1980. Close followers of Pyongyang’s ineffable party media note that in the last six months, Kim Jong-Il has been referred to as “Great Leader,” a title once reserved for his father Kim Il-Sung.  The post of “Dear Leader” is now unoccupied, just in time for the rare party conference. The three men in the new government positions are Kim Jong-Il loyalists: from any standpoint — tensions with the South, the terrible toll of typhoons and flooding this summer, the need to secure a succession — it makes sense for the current Kim to ensure loyalty in his senior ranks.

The logical interpretation of the personnel moves is that they are intended to secure the optimum conditions for Kim’s internal political plans. The men in question are trusted, long-time aides of the regime: that’s why they were associated with the nuclear program to begin with, it’s why they were dispatched for nuclear negotiations in the past, and it’s why they are being shuffled upward now.

It bears reiterating that their record in foreign negotiations was all to Pyongyang’s advantage. They never negotiated in good faith and North Korea never kept the commitments it made. At no time were they or their regime negotiating in order to cultivate good foreign relations — or, in fact, to seek any common objective with the other parties to the talks.

It hasn’t been that long since the Soviet Union collapsed. But today’s mainstream media seem to retain no corporate memory of the dynamics of secretive Communist regimes. Regime succession is a recurring national-security emergency for such governments. Many Western media outlets have picked up on the warning from a Russian diplomat this week that the Koreas are on the brink of conflict. But if the Russians are observing a bustling in North Korea’s national-defense apparatus, that would be perfectly in character for a Communist thugocracy before a landmark party conference. “The wicked flee when none pursueth,” say the Proverbs; it’s much more likely that the Kim regime is maneuvering, in the Communist manner, against anticipated threats to itself rather than taking a vow of “good diplomacy” to improve relations with the U.S.

Now and then a media theme comes along that can only be called fatuous. Next week, North Korea will hold its first ruling-party conference in 30 years. In advance of the conference, the Kim government has promoted to higher office three senior officials with career connections to the nuclear program. The three men in question were prominent in previous iterations of the multilateral negotiations over Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

Therefore, Western media are depicting these personnel moves as a sign that “the country’s leaders are seeking to stabilize foreign relations and encourage diplomacy.” Very few of the mainstream media outlets report, however, that Kang Sok Ju, who has been made the new vice premier, was the chief designer of the North Korean nuclear program. He was chosen in 1994 to negotiate the Agreed Framework with the Clinton administration because he was the North’s nuclear chief. From the perspective of the Kim regime — which intended all along to retain its program and achieve a weapons capability — the most senior proponent of the program was the appropriate emissary to the proceedings.

There are a number of indications that Kim Jong-Il is planning to introduce his youngest son, Kim Jong-Un, as his political successor next week. The current Kim was named successor at the last such conference in 1980. Close followers of Pyongyang’s ineffable party media note that in the last six months, Kim Jong-Il has been referred to as “Great Leader,” a title once reserved for his father Kim Il-Sung.  The post of “Dear Leader” is now unoccupied, just in time for the rare party conference. The three men in the new government positions are Kim Jong-Il loyalists: from any standpoint — tensions with the South, the terrible toll of typhoons and flooding this summer, the need to secure a succession — it makes sense for the current Kim to ensure loyalty in his senior ranks.

The logical interpretation of the personnel moves is that they are intended to secure the optimum conditions for Kim’s internal political plans. The men in question are trusted, long-time aides of the regime: that’s why they were associated with the nuclear program to begin with, it’s why they were dispatched for nuclear negotiations in the past, and it’s why they are being shuffled upward now.

It bears reiterating that their record in foreign negotiations was all to Pyongyang’s advantage. They never negotiated in good faith and North Korea never kept the commitments it made. At no time were they or their regime negotiating in order to cultivate good foreign relations — or, in fact, to seek any common objective with the other parties to the talks.

It hasn’t been that long since the Soviet Union collapsed. But today’s mainstream media seem to retain no corporate memory of the dynamics of secretive Communist regimes. Regime succession is a recurring national-security emergency for such governments. Many Western media outlets have picked up on the warning from a Russian diplomat this week that the Koreas are on the brink of conflict. But if the Russians are observing a bustling in North Korea’s national-defense apparatus, that would be perfectly in character for a Communist thugocracy before a landmark party conference. “The wicked flee when none pursueth,” say the Proverbs; it’s much more likely that the Kim regime is maneuvering, in the Communist manner, against anticipated threats to itself rather than taking a vow of “good diplomacy” to improve relations with the U.S.

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A Study in Contrast on Iran

Obama went to the UN and delivered namby-pamby remarks on Iran, eschewing any mention of the potential for military force. The sum total of his remarks:

As part of our effort on non-proliferation, I offered the Islamic Republic of Iran an extended hand last year, and underscored that it has both rights and responsibilities as a member of the international community. I also said — in this hall — that Iran must be held accountable if it failed to meet those responsibilities.  And that is what we have done.

Iran is the only party to the NPT that cannot demonstrate the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program, and those actions have consequences. Through UN Security Council Resolution 1929, we made it clear that international law is not an empty promise.

Now let me be clear once more: The United States and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it. But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.

That is it. Bet they are high-fiving in Tehran.

Meanwhile, in the American reality-based community, more serious voices are being heard. Christians United for Israel have produced a remarkable video, featuring Pastor John Hagee, Harvard University Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), and Nobel Laureate, author, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel (Got to hand it to those community organizers). They are also circulating a petition that already has at least 118,000 signatures. The message: we should be indicting Ahmadinejad as a war criminal for “incitement to genocide.” Really, what’s the excuse not to?

Meanwhile, a letter signed by 50 Republicans yesterday to the president urged him to “take whatever action is necessary to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. All options must be on the table.” They urged Obama to state “unequivocally” at the UN that we will prevent Iran from going nuclear. No such luck.

Why do private groups, members of Congress and citizens seem so much more serious than the president? Well, we’ve learned and relearned that foreign-policy commitments just aren’t Obama’s thing. Kudos to those who appeared in the CUFI video and signed the letter. Now, how about the largest Jewish organizations themselves going on record? Not only should the president be urged to take all action needed to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear plans but it should be clear that this is not “an Israeli” problem. It is the West’s problem. It would be a sorry state of affairs if tiny Israel had to act in our defense. Nevertheless, that looks like the direction in which we are heading. The public, Congress, and private groups should prepare themselves to insist that if Israel does act alone, the U.S. will stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel.

Obama went to the UN and delivered namby-pamby remarks on Iran, eschewing any mention of the potential for military force. The sum total of his remarks:

As part of our effort on non-proliferation, I offered the Islamic Republic of Iran an extended hand last year, and underscored that it has both rights and responsibilities as a member of the international community. I also said — in this hall — that Iran must be held accountable if it failed to meet those responsibilities.  And that is what we have done.

Iran is the only party to the NPT that cannot demonstrate the peaceful intentions of its nuclear program, and those actions have consequences. Through UN Security Council Resolution 1929, we made it clear that international law is not an empty promise.

Now let me be clear once more: The United States and the international community seek a resolution to our differences with Iran, and the door remains open to diplomacy should Iran choose to walk through it. But the Iranian government must demonstrate a clear and credible commitment and confirm to the world the peaceful intent of its nuclear program.

That is it. Bet they are high-fiving in Tehran.

Meanwhile, in the American reality-based community, more serious voices are being heard. Christians United for Israel have produced a remarkable video, featuring Pastor John Hagee, Harvard University Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Malcolm Hoenlein, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), and Nobel Laureate, author, and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel (Got to hand it to those community organizers). They are also circulating a petition that already has at least 118,000 signatures. The message: we should be indicting Ahmadinejad as a war criminal for “incitement to genocide.” Really, what’s the excuse not to?

Meanwhile, a letter signed by 50 Republicans yesterday to the president urged him to “take whatever action is necessary to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. All options must be on the table.” They urged Obama to state “unequivocally” at the UN that we will prevent Iran from going nuclear. No such luck.

Why do private groups, members of Congress and citizens seem so much more serious than the president? Well, we’ve learned and relearned that foreign-policy commitments just aren’t Obama’s thing. Kudos to those who appeared in the CUFI video and signed the letter. Now, how about the largest Jewish organizations themselves going on record? Not only should the president be urged to take all action needed to thwart the mullahs’ nuclear plans but it should be clear that this is not “an Israeli” problem. It is the West’s problem. It would be a sorry state of affairs if tiny Israel had to act in our defense. Nevertheless, that looks like the direction in which we are heading. The public, Congress, and private groups should prepare themselves to insist that if Israel does act alone, the U.S. will stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel.

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Pity the Spinners

We’ve reached the point in the Obama presidency where members of the administration are looking to rescue their own reputations. We saw some of this earlier when Rahm Emanuel or F of RE let it be known that none of the dopey war on terror moves were his idea. With Bob Woodward’s book, Obama’s staff actually has a plausible excuse on foreign policy: their boss wouldn’t listen to the evidence and wanted an exit path more than a victory strategy. On that, they have a point.

The staffers who remain and the few hearty Obama spinners outside the White House will have their work cut out. He was a political messiah — so how did it all go wrong? The Republicans are impossible. Or, he’s too good for us. He hobbled our war effort in Afghanistan by setting a counterproductive deadline that smart conservatives were right to oppose — so what kind of commander in chief is he? He sent the troops, so what the leader of the Free World says is no big deal — everyone has tuned him out anyway. Disregard the military men complaining about it and Secretary Gates and Clinton trying to fuzz it up. ObamaCare is a millstone around the Democrats necks’ — isn’t his “achievement” worthless? Just you wait, any day now the public will begin to like it.

It’s not easy to defend the indefensible or to pretend that Obama did not have a unique opportunity both politically (to capture the middle of the political spectrum) and substantively (to wholeheartedly fight that “good” war, attack the entitlement programs, etc). He frittered it away — a function of his lack of managerial adeptness and his political extremism. You wonder whether Obama wishes he could leave with Rahm. Things are so much simpler in Chicago where all the pols are Democrats and you get kudos when the trash gets picked up and the buses are on time.

We’ve reached the point in the Obama presidency where members of the administration are looking to rescue their own reputations. We saw some of this earlier when Rahm Emanuel or F of RE let it be known that none of the dopey war on terror moves were his idea. With Bob Woodward’s book, Obama’s staff actually has a plausible excuse on foreign policy: their boss wouldn’t listen to the evidence and wanted an exit path more than a victory strategy. On that, they have a point.

The staffers who remain and the few hearty Obama spinners outside the White House will have their work cut out. He was a political messiah — so how did it all go wrong? The Republicans are impossible. Or, he’s too good for us. He hobbled our war effort in Afghanistan by setting a counterproductive deadline that smart conservatives were right to oppose — so what kind of commander in chief is he? He sent the troops, so what the leader of the Free World says is no big deal — everyone has tuned him out anyway. Disregard the military men complaining about it and Secretary Gates and Clinton trying to fuzz it up. ObamaCare is a millstone around the Democrats necks’ — isn’t his “achievement” worthless? Just you wait, any day now the public will begin to like it.

It’s not easy to defend the indefensible or to pretend that Obama did not have a unique opportunity both politically (to capture the middle of the political spectrum) and substantively (to wholeheartedly fight that “good” war, attack the entitlement programs, etc). He frittered it away — a function of his lack of managerial adeptness and his political extremism. You wonder whether Obama wishes he could leave with Rahm. Things are so much simpler in Chicago where all the pols are Democrats and you get kudos when the trash gets picked up and the buses are on time.

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Even Obama’s Fire Sale Didn’t Sell Out

Gail Sheehy, writing for the Daily Beast, reports from the Roosevelt Hotel:

Who would have thought that six weeks before a cliffhanger election, President Obama would have to reach down to the D list to fill a room to listen to him? Most of us low rollers arrived early to see President Obama up close and personal. Our tickets for the general reception at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York were only $100. Some thought the email invitation was a joke. Some bought tickets for $50 from their desperate Democratic committeeman. Some bought the same day.

“It’s Filene’s,” enthused Sharon Douglas, reliving her heady days as a volunteer in Obama’s 2008 campaign. The doorman beckoned conspiratorially and ushered us out one door and in through another to stand at the back of the $500 line. Their crowd came from Wall Street in car services and killer heels. Our crowd came on subways in flats and scuffed teacher’s shoes.

Only after I received four email invitations and two personal calls imploring me to come did I call Speaker Pelosi’s office to check the admission price. “You mean, to be in the room with the President of the United States is now on fire sale for $100?”

“Yup.”

“How long do we get?”

“Half hour.”

“How many $100 givers have rsvp’d?”

“Mmmm 250.”

“Do we need to line up early to get in?”

“That’s not necessary. Everybody will get in.”

And everybody did — 450 people in a room that holds 650. Even Obama’s fire sale didn’t sell out.

This is what the “enthusiasm gap” looks like when it’s translated from polling data to actual events. And it explains, in part, why the Democratic Party is going to be lacerated in the mid-term elections.

Gail Sheehy, writing for the Daily Beast, reports from the Roosevelt Hotel:

Who would have thought that six weeks before a cliffhanger election, President Obama would have to reach down to the D list to fill a room to listen to him? Most of us low rollers arrived early to see President Obama up close and personal. Our tickets for the general reception at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York were only $100. Some thought the email invitation was a joke. Some bought tickets for $50 from their desperate Democratic committeeman. Some bought the same day.

“It’s Filene’s,” enthused Sharon Douglas, reliving her heady days as a volunteer in Obama’s 2008 campaign. The doorman beckoned conspiratorially and ushered us out one door and in through another to stand at the back of the $500 line. Their crowd came from Wall Street in car services and killer heels. Our crowd came on subways in flats and scuffed teacher’s shoes.

Only after I received four email invitations and two personal calls imploring me to come did I call Speaker Pelosi’s office to check the admission price. “You mean, to be in the room with the President of the United States is now on fire sale for $100?”

“Yup.”

“How long do we get?”

“Half hour.”

“How many $100 givers have rsvp’d?”

“Mmmm 250.”

“Do we need to line up early to get in?”

“That’s not necessary. Everybody will get in.”

And everybody did — 450 people in a room that holds 650. Even Obama’s fire sale didn’t sell out.

This is what the “enthusiasm gap” looks like when it’s translated from polling data to actual events. And it explains, in part, why the Democratic Party is going to be lacerated in the mid-term elections.

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Watching History Be Rewritten

From an AP report by Edith M. Lederer:

Just ahead of Obama’s speech, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorin sharply criticized the United States, saying that the 2003 invasion of Iraq demonstrated that the “blind faith in intelligence reports tailored to justify political goals must be rejected.”

“We must ban once and for all the use of force inconsistent with international law,” Amorin told the General Assembly, adding that all international disputes should be peacefully resolved through dialogue.

The Bush administration did not seek authorization from the U.N. Security Council for the invasion, which would have legitimized the action under international law.

A quick reality check: The administration sought UN authorization via months of speeches, presentations, and UN Security Council resolutions. Jacques Chirac and others were prepared to veto any authorization for as long as the debate raged.  Now, according to the AP, Bush didn’t even seek UN authorization. In another year we’ll read that he flew Air Force One over Baghdad to drop the first bomb himself.

From an AP report by Edith M. Lederer:

Just ahead of Obama’s speech, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorin sharply criticized the United States, saying that the 2003 invasion of Iraq demonstrated that the “blind faith in intelligence reports tailored to justify political goals must be rejected.”

“We must ban once and for all the use of force inconsistent with international law,” Amorin told the General Assembly, adding that all international disputes should be peacefully resolved through dialogue.

The Bush administration did not seek authorization from the U.N. Security Council for the invasion, which would have legitimized the action under international law.

A quick reality check: The administration sought UN authorization via months of speeches, presentations, and UN Security Council resolutions. Jacques Chirac and others were prepared to veto any authorization for as long as the debate raged.  Now, according to the AP, Bush didn’t even seek UN authorization. In another year we’ll read that he flew Air Force One over Baghdad to drop the first bomb himself.

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On Bob Woodward’s Revelations

I haven’t read Bob Woodward’s new book yet (apparently, it hasn’t been released yet), so I will reserve final judgment until I do. But based on the excerpts published so far in the New York Times and Washington Post, I am less exercised than some colleagues about what it reveals.

The book’s most explosive revelation is said to be a quote from Obama: “We can absorb a terrorist attack. We’ll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever … we absorbed it and we are stronger.” This is a gaffe in the Michael Kinsley sense, defined as what happens when a politician inadvertently tells the truth. Would it have been better if Obama said we couldn’t survive a terrorist attack? Probably it would have been preferable if he had said nothing at all, because his nonchalant way of talking seems to slight the pain incurred by 9/11 casualties and their families. Moreover, his comment might be interpreted as though he didn’t care much about terrorism. I doubt that’s true or fair, and, in fact, there is a case to be made for advertising our ability not only to defend against, but also to absorb terrorist attacks, based on the theory that this may deter potential attacks.

Most of the other excerpts concern infighting among Obama’s aides over Afghanistan policy (this is a surprise?) and Obama’s desire to create an exit strategy — also, not exactly news. “This needs to be a plan about how we’re going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan,” Obama is quoted as telling his aides. “Everything we’re doing has to be focused on how we’re going to get to the point where we can reduce our footprint. It’s in our national security interest. There cannot be any wiggle room.”

On the contrary, I believe the plan in Afghanistan needs to be about how to achieve victory — not about how to leave early. Obama’s emphasis on an eventual pullout, which led him to announce a timeline for withdrawal, is, I believe, deeply misguided and actually makes it harder for us to leave by making it harder for Afghans to trust us.

But I judge a president more by his actions than by his words. For all of Obama’s talk about an exit strategy, the fact remains that he has consistently stiffed those in his administration who favored a precipitous pullout. Now all the signals emanating from the administration suggest that the vaunted December policy review won’t amount to much and that we are unlikely to see a major drawdown next summer. Obama may talk exit strategies but his actions support General Petraeus’s counterinsurgency strategy.

The most interesting news in the Woodward excerpts concerns the CIA’s private army – 3,000-strong Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams. It is common knowledge that the CIA has been running black ops in Afghanistan but Woodward sheds light on the strength of its forces and suggests that they have penetrated into Pakistan as well — apparently only for intelligence gathering and not actual fighting, though who knows?

On one level, this is encouraging news, which shows how our presence in Afghanistan can be a strategic asset to deal with terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan. On the other hand, this raises all sorts of troubling questions about what the teams’ impact is on our overall counterinsurgency strategy. The CIA has a tendency to strike deals with warlords who produce gunmen. Problem is, these warlords tend to be deeply corrupt, often complicit in the drug trade, and their conduct undermines the legitimacy of the Afghan government and drives ordinary people into the arms of the Taliban.

I don’t doubt that that CIA’s paramilitaries are effective and well-paid, but their existence also serves to siphon away top-tier fighters from the Afghan Security Forces. Their operations are probably not well integrated with US military operations, either, since the CIA doesn’t report to the military chain of command. The CIA’s resort to its own paramilitaries may still be useful but it made a lot more sense back in the early days of the war, when there were few American forces in the country, than it does today when there are 100,000 U.S. troops (and 40,000 allies) in Afghanistan.

I haven’t read Bob Woodward’s new book yet (apparently, it hasn’t been released yet), so I will reserve final judgment until I do. But based on the excerpts published so far in the New York Times and Washington Post, I am less exercised than some colleagues about what it reveals.

The book’s most explosive revelation is said to be a quote from Obama: “We can absorb a terrorist attack. We’ll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever … we absorbed it and we are stronger.” This is a gaffe in the Michael Kinsley sense, defined as what happens when a politician inadvertently tells the truth. Would it have been better if Obama said we couldn’t survive a terrorist attack? Probably it would have been preferable if he had said nothing at all, because his nonchalant way of talking seems to slight the pain incurred by 9/11 casualties and their families. Moreover, his comment might be interpreted as though he didn’t care much about terrorism. I doubt that’s true or fair, and, in fact, there is a case to be made for advertising our ability not only to defend against, but also to absorb terrorist attacks, based on the theory that this may deter potential attacks.

Most of the other excerpts concern infighting among Obama’s aides over Afghanistan policy (this is a surprise?) and Obama’s desire to create an exit strategy — also, not exactly news. “This needs to be a plan about how we’re going to hand it off and get out of Afghanistan,” Obama is quoted as telling his aides. “Everything we’re doing has to be focused on how we’re going to get to the point where we can reduce our footprint. It’s in our national security interest. There cannot be any wiggle room.”

On the contrary, I believe the plan in Afghanistan needs to be about how to achieve victory — not about how to leave early. Obama’s emphasis on an eventual pullout, which led him to announce a timeline for withdrawal, is, I believe, deeply misguided and actually makes it harder for us to leave by making it harder for Afghans to trust us.

But I judge a president more by his actions than by his words. For all of Obama’s talk about an exit strategy, the fact remains that he has consistently stiffed those in his administration who favored a precipitous pullout. Now all the signals emanating from the administration suggest that the vaunted December policy review won’t amount to much and that we are unlikely to see a major drawdown next summer. Obama may talk exit strategies but his actions support General Petraeus’s counterinsurgency strategy.

The most interesting news in the Woodward excerpts concerns the CIA’s private army – 3,000-strong Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams. It is common knowledge that the CIA has been running black ops in Afghanistan but Woodward sheds light on the strength of its forces and suggests that they have penetrated into Pakistan as well — apparently only for intelligence gathering and not actual fighting, though who knows?

On one level, this is encouraging news, which shows how our presence in Afghanistan can be a strategic asset to deal with terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan. On the other hand, this raises all sorts of troubling questions about what the teams’ impact is on our overall counterinsurgency strategy. The CIA has a tendency to strike deals with warlords who produce gunmen. Problem is, these warlords tend to be deeply corrupt, often complicit in the drug trade, and their conduct undermines the legitimacy of the Afghan government and drives ordinary people into the arms of the Taliban.

I don’t doubt that that CIA’s paramilitaries are effective and well-paid, but their existence also serves to siphon away top-tier fighters from the Afghan Security Forces. Their operations are probably not well integrated with US military operations, either, since the CIA doesn’t report to the military chain of command. The CIA’s resort to its own paramilitaries may still be useful but it made a lot more sense back in the early days of the war, when there were few American forces in the country, than it does today when there are 100,000 U.S. troops (and 40,000 allies) in Afghanistan.

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RE: Why We Don’t Have Peace

I sure do miss the days when George W. Bush went to the UN, gritting his teeth and delivering speeches that appalled the representatives of despotic regimes. As one wit put it, he treated them as if they were mental patients or overly exuberant fans — keep your distance, get out quickly, and don’t take anything in writing from them. But alas, we have the president from Harvard by way of Hyde Park. The UN folks are his kind of people. He shares his bon mots with them. He shares his fondness for paper agreements and platitudes. Reality need play no role. He is in his element.

The Dodgers have long since departed Brooklyn, but the borough now is home to an even more entertaining figure. “Brooklyn Boy” observes of Obama’s nonsensical remarks (“If an agreement is not reached, Palestinians will never know the pride and dignity that comes with their own state. Israelis will never know the certainty and security that comes with sovereign and stable neighbors who are committed to co-existence”):

Why is it that Israel will ‘never’ know security until there is an agreement? Why is it just assumed that Palestinians will always seek to murder Jews until one day they magically have a state for themselves? … What he is saying might be true—that the Palestinians today will always seek to harm Israelis—but he’s missing the corollary fact: that neither security nor certainty will come from a paper document, least of all one signed by people whose ravening hatred would have to be, in his theory, hemmed in by a signature on a dotted line.

With every riot and every murder of Jews, it becomes harder and harder to subscribe to the view that we should “give the peace process a chance.” Actually, not. It encourages violence and perpetuates the charade that if it weren’t for border squabbles, we’d have peace in our time. It also postpones the hard work Palestinians must undertake to obliterate that “ravening hatred.” I’d support the “peace process” if I thought it productive. I’d be out cheerleading for the two-state solution if I thought it would be a solution and not a rest-stop in the battle for a one-state solution. But outside Turtle Bay and the imagination of our president, there’s no sign that these thing are possible. And, to be blunt, it is going to be years before peace is obtainable. Maybe by the time Marco Rubio completes his second term in the White House. But not now.

I sure do miss the days when George W. Bush went to the UN, gritting his teeth and delivering speeches that appalled the representatives of despotic regimes. As one wit put it, he treated them as if they were mental patients or overly exuberant fans — keep your distance, get out quickly, and don’t take anything in writing from them. But alas, we have the president from Harvard by way of Hyde Park. The UN folks are his kind of people. He shares his bon mots with them. He shares his fondness for paper agreements and platitudes. Reality need play no role. He is in his element.

The Dodgers have long since departed Brooklyn, but the borough now is home to an even more entertaining figure. “Brooklyn Boy” observes of Obama’s nonsensical remarks (“If an agreement is not reached, Palestinians will never know the pride and dignity that comes with their own state. Israelis will never know the certainty and security that comes with sovereign and stable neighbors who are committed to co-existence”):

Why is it that Israel will ‘never’ know security until there is an agreement? Why is it just assumed that Palestinians will always seek to murder Jews until one day they magically have a state for themselves? … What he is saying might be true—that the Palestinians today will always seek to harm Israelis—but he’s missing the corollary fact: that neither security nor certainty will come from a paper document, least of all one signed by people whose ravening hatred would have to be, in his theory, hemmed in by a signature on a dotted line.

With every riot and every murder of Jews, it becomes harder and harder to subscribe to the view that we should “give the peace process a chance.” Actually, not. It encourages violence and perpetuates the charade that if it weren’t for border squabbles, we’d have peace in our time. It also postpones the hard work Palestinians must undertake to obliterate that “ravening hatred.” I’d support the “peace process” if I thought it productive. I’d be out cheerleading for the two-state solution if I thought it would be a solution and not a rest-stop in the battle for a one-state solution. But outside Turtle Bay and the imagination of our president, there’s no sign that these thing are possible. And, to be blunt, it is going to be years before peace is obtainable. Maybe by the time Marco Rubio completes his second term in the White House. But not now.

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Another False Defense of Obama on Terrorism

Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent has now published the full passage from Bob Woodward’s book in which the president discusses his views on terrorism, and claims it reveals the criticism of him from people like me is “thoroughly bogus.” Fine. Here is the passage Sargent quotes:

“I said very early on, as a Senator and continue to believe, as a presidential candidate and now as president, that we can absorb a terrorist attack. We will do everything we can to prevent it. but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever, that every took palce on our soil, we absorbed it, and we are stronger. This is a strong, powerful country that we live in, and our people are incredibly resilient.”

Then he addressed his big concern. “A potential game changer would be a nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists, blowing up a major American city. Or a weapon of mass destruction in a major American city. and so when I go down on the list of things I have to worry about all the time, that is at the top, because that’s one area where you can’t afford any mistakes. And so right away, coming in, we said, how are we going to start ramping up and putting that at the center of a lot of our national security discussion? Making sure that that occurence, even if remote, never happens.”

Sargent says he hasn’t been able to find evidence of Obama saying we could “absorb” a terrorist attack and unless I’m very much mistaken, he never will, because it would have sunk Obama, no matter what the qualification might have been. (And if he did and the opposition researchers in the Clinton and McCain camps didn’t find it, we will have more evidence of their gross incompetence.)

But just because Obama qualified his words about absorbing an attack by saying America is resilient and we can handle anything but a nuclear attack is no comfort. It may be the opposite. His words suggest the president is engaging in false categorization that may explain why and how he and his administration felt free to define down the threat — such that it became conceivable for reasons other than simple liberal political payoff to  to end CIA interrogation programs on the grounds that they were doing more harm than help.

And the full passage from Woodward’s book reveals something else astonishing: the notion that because Obama knew this nation was so resilient it could absorb an attack and come out stronger, he could now “start ramping up and putting” the nuclear-terrorism threat “at the center of a lot of our national security discussion.”

What?

So in his view, the Bush administration wasn’t focused on the nuclear/unconventional threat? What, then, explains in the act now considered a crime by so many in Obama’s camp — taking the nation to war in Iraq in part to preempt one? What explained the persistence of the interrogation programs Obama so blithely cancelled?

The president seems to think the terrorist threat is not a continuum from box cutters to shoe bombs to potential nukes. But that is exactly what it is. And that is, if anything, even more terrifying than a president so emotionally insulated from the true aftereffects of a terrorist attack — which, as I said earlier, are not to be confused with the momentary spasm of unity and good feeling that overtook the country in the months following 9/11 —  that he seems already to have graded his own response and the country’s on a morally unforgivable curve.

Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent has now published the full passage from Bob Woodward’s book in which the president discusses his views on terrorism, and claims it reveals the criticism of him from people like me is “thoroughly bogus.” Fine. Here is the passage Sargent quotes:

“I said very early on, as a Senator and continue to believe, as a presidential candidate and now as president, that we can absorb a terrorist attack. We will do everything we can to prevent it. but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever, that every took palce on our soil, we absorbed it, and we are stronger. This is a strong, powerful country that we live in, and our people are incredibly resilient.”

Then he addressed his big concern. “A potential game changer would be a nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists, blowing up a major American city. Or a weapon of mass destruction in a major American city. and so when I go down on the list of things I have to worry about all the time, that is at the top, because that’s one area where you can’t afford any mistakes. And so right away, coming in, we said, how are we going to start ramping up and putting that at the center of a lot of our national security discussion? Making sure that that occurence, even if remote, never happens.”

Sargent says he hasn’t been able to find evidence of Obama saying we could “absorb” a terrorist attack and unless I’m very much mistaken, he never will, because it would have sunk Obama, no matter what the qualification might have been. (And if he did and the opposition researchers in the Clinton and McCain camps didn’t find it, we will have more evidence of their gross incompetence.)

But just because Obama qualified his words about absorbing an attack by saying America is resilient and we can handle anything but a nuclear attack is no comfort. It may be the opposite. His words suggest the president is engaging in false categorization that may explain why and how he and his administration felt free to define down the threat — such that it became conceivable for reasons other than simple liberal political payoff to  to end CIA interrogation programs on the grounds that they were doing more harm than help.

And the full passage from Woodward’s book reveals something else astonishing: the notion that because Obama knew this nation was so resilient it could absorb an attack and come out stronger, he could now “start ramping up and putting” the nuclear-terrorism threat “at the center of a lot of our national security discussion.”

What?

So in his view, the Bush administration wasn’t focused on the nuclear/unconventional threat? What, then, explains in the act now considered a crime by so many in Obama’s camp — taking the nation to war in Iraq in part to preempt one? What explained the persistence of the interrogation programs Obama so blithely cancelled?

The president seems to think the terrorist threat is not a continuum from box cutters to shoe bombs to potential nukes. But that is exactly what it is. And that is, if anything, even more terrifying than a president so emotionally insulated from the true aftereffects of a terrorist attack — which, as I said earlier, are not to be confused with the momentary spasm of unity and good feeling that overtook the country in the months following 9/11 —  that he seems already to have graded his own response and the country’s on a morally unforgivable curve.

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Why We Don’t Have Peace

Here’s how it works in the Middle East. An Israeli security guard travels through a section of the nation’s capital (no, dear liberals, East Jerusalem is not a “settlement”). Palestinians set upon him, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. Afraid for his life, the guard shoots in self defense, killing one assailant. (“The guard, fearing for his life, allegedly opened fire with his personal firearm at a group of rock throwers and killed a resident. Police found two knives and screwdriver on the body of the victim, who had a previous criminal history and was known to police.”) The Palestinians commence a riot, injuring innocent Israelis. The world blames Israel.

Here’s the Palestinian mindset, displaying all its splendid victimology. The residents complain that the assailants should have been “warned” (before of after the Molotov cocktails rained down?) .Everyone gets into the act:

There’s going to be a huge mess in Silwan, something big will happen. They killed a man, what should I do, be quiet? What about his family, his little kids?” asked another neighbor of the victim, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of police reprisal.

“This was a calculated, violent act with political goals,” Dimitri Diliani, the head of Fatah’s Social Development Committee, told the Jerusalem Post as he was standing with mourners outside the family’s house. “We view it as a right-wing Israeli effort to undermine the peace process and to draw Palestinians into violent action so that the right-wing government will be provided with a window of opportunity to escape into national pressure regarding illegal settlement activities.”

Not sure if the “calculated” maneuver he refers to is meant to suggest that Israelis deployed the rock throwers, but then the facts are utterly irrelevant here.

Meanwhile the rioters — calculated and violent, one would say — injured ten (including “a 35-year-old Israeli in moderate condition who was stabbed in the back near the Mount of Olives”) and destroyed vehicles.

This certainly highlights the delusional nature of the peace process. The Israelis can only make peace with those who want it and are prepared to put down the guns, the stones, the knives, the rocks, and the Molotov cocktails to build a civil (in both senses of the word) society. Peace won’t come from any conference room. We’ll have peace, as a commentator elegantly described it, when and if Palestinians “can renounce once and for all the creeping Islamism that would sooner see them suffering the miseries and oppression of twelfth-century religious and cultural practice than thriving in a modern society; if they can cast off at last the self-strangling mythology of their own victimhood;  and if they can shed their century-old yearning to set the blood of their Jewish neighbors flowing in the streets.” No sign of that so far.

Here’s how it works in the Middle East. An Israeli security guard travels through a section of the nation’s capital (no, dear liberals, East Jerusalem is not a “settlement”). Palestinians set upon him, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails. Afraid for his life, the guard shoots in self defense, killing one assailant. (“The guard, fearing for his life, allegedly opened fire with his personal firearm at a group of rock throwers and killed a resident. Police found two knives and screwdriver on the body of the victim, who had a previous criminal history and was known to police.”) The Palestinians commence a riot, injuring innocent Israelis. The world blames Israel.

Here’s the Palestinian mindset, displaying all its splendid victimology. The residents complain that the assailants should have been “warned” (before of after the Molotov cocktails rained down?) .Everyone gets into the act:

There’s going to be a huge mess in Silwan, something big will happen. They killed a man, what should I do, be quiet? What about his family, his little kids?” asked another neighbor of the victim, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of police reprisal.

“This was a calculated, violent act with political goals,” Dimitri Diliani, the head of Fatah’s Social Development Committee, told the Jerusalem Post as he was standing with mourners outside the family’s house. “We view it as a right-wing Israeli effort to undermine the peace process and to draw Palestinians into violent action so that the right-wing government will be provided with a window of opportunity to escape into national pressure regarding illegal settlement activities.”

Not sure if the “calculated” maneuver he refers to is meant to suggest that Israelis deployed the rock throwers, but then the facts are utterly irrelevant here.

Meanwhile the rioters — calculated and violent, one would say — injured ten (including “a 35-year-old Israeli in moderate condition who was stabbed in the back near the Mount of Olives”) and destroyed vehicles.

This certainly highlights the delusional nature of the peace process. The Israelis can only make peace with those who want it and are prepared to put down the guns, the stones, the knives, the rocks, and the Molotov cocktails to build a civil (in both senses of the word) society. Peace won’t come from any conference room. We’ll have peace, as a commentator elegantly described it, when and if Palestinians “can renounce once and for all the creeping Islamism that would sooner see them suffering the miseries and oppression of twelfth-century religious and cultural practice than thriving in a modern society; if they can cast off at last the self-strangling mythology of their own victimhood;  and if they can shed their century-old yearning to set the blood of their Jewish neighbors flowing in the streets.” No sign of that so far.

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RE: Blaming James Madison

A smart political reporter suggests that David Axelrod’s op-ed in the Washington Post is further evidence of the bizarre and entirely unproductive exercise in blaming the First Amendment for the Democrats’ political collapse. Axelrod whines:

All of Washington is in a frenzy, speculating about the outcome of the fall elections. Yet the development that could most tip the scales is getting far too little public attention. That hidden factor is the audacious stealth campaign being mounted by powerful corporate special interests that are vying to put their Republican allies in control of Congress and turn back common-sense reforms that strengthen America’s middle class.

Good grief — maybe that stuff works in Chicago but does the public at large buy any of that, or even care if a group called Americans for Prosperity is raising money for candidates who are attuned to the populist outcry against runaway spending? It is as though Axelrod thinks he is running a Democratic primary race and not working for President of the United States. This is what a high-ranking government official spends his time doing — grousing that the other side has more money?

But the telling sign is the last paragraph:

Pundits will spend a lot of time predicting who will win in November. But more is at stake than the fate of Democrats or Republicans. What’s at stake is whether the powerful corporate special interests will go back to writing our laws or whether our democracy will remain where it belongs — in the hands of the American people.

No, actually, what is at stake is control of the House and Senate and the complete repudiation of the Obama agenda. No wonder Axelrod wants to change the topic.

A smart political reporter suggests that David Axelrod’s op-ed in the Washington Post is further evidence of the bizarre and entirely unproductive exercise in blaming the First Amendment for the Democrats’ political collapse. Axelrod whines:

All of Washington is in a frenzy, speculating about the outcome of the fall elections. Yet the development that could most tip the scales is getting far too little public attention. That hidden factor is the audacious stealth campaign being mounted by powerful corporate special interests that are vying to put their Republican allies in control of Congress and turn back common-sense reforms that strengthen America’s middle class.

Good grief — maybe that stuff works in Chicago but does the public at large buy any of that, or even care if a group called Americans for Prosperity is raising money for candidates who are attuned to the populist outcry against runaway spending? It is as though Axelrod thinks he is running a Democratic primary race and not working for President of the United States. This is what a high-ranking government official spends his time doing — grousing that the other side has more money?

But the telling sign is the last paragraph:

Pundits will spend a lot of time predicting who will win in November. But more is at stake than the fate of Democrats or Republicans. What’s at stake is whether the powerful corporate special interests will go back to writing our laws or whether our democracy will remain where it belongs — in the hands of the American people.

No, actually, what is at stake is control of the House and Senate and the complete repudiation of the Obama agenda. No wonder Axelrod wants to change the topic.

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Gillibrand in Trouble

Listen, the New York Republican Party isn’t exactly a well-oiled machine. Its penchant for supporting bland, unelectable candidates is well known. But the good news for New York conservatives is that the voters don’t pay much attention to the party hacks anymore.

As Jonathan pointed out yesterday, the gubernatorial race is competitive, since the state party’s favorite candidate Rick Lazio was rejected by primary voters. But look at the Senate race. With a virtual unknown Republican opponent, Joe DioGuardi, Kirsten Gillibrand is now in a fight for her political life. Quinnipiac reports that Gillibrand is below 50 percent (the sign of trouble for an incumbent) and leads by only a 48-to-42 percent margin. She trails among independents by a 41-to-42 margin. The Survey USA poll has the race even closer with Gillibrand statistically tied (45 to 44 percent).

So the Republicans could lose Delaware and win New York? Yeah, it’s that kind of year.

Listen, the New York Republican Party isn’t exactly a well-oiled machine. Its penchant for supporting bland, unelectable candidates is well known. But the good news for New York conservatives is that the voters don’t pay much attention to the party hacks anymore.

As Jonathan pointed out yesterday, the gubernatorial race is competitive, since the state party’s favorite candidate Rick Lazio was rejected by primary voters. But look at the Senate race. With a virtual unknown Republican opponent, Joe DioGuardi, Kirsten Gillibrand is now in a fight for her political life. Quinnipiac reports that Gillibrand is below 50 percent (the sign of trouble for an incumbent) and leads by only a 48-to-42 percent margin. She trails among independents by a 41-to-42 margin. The Survey USA poll has the race even closer with Gillibrand statistically tied (45 to 44 percent).

So the Republicans could lose Delaware and win New York? Yeah, it’s that kind of year.

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The Cocooned President

The Washington Post tells us that Obama is to be “deprived” within the next six months or so of the services of Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod (who will go run Obama’s reelection campaign, a task indistinguishable from his current role), James Jones, and other advisers. (Before you get excited, remember who is picking their successors.) The Post tells us that the worldly and sophisticated president (the media told us he was, so how can that be wrong?) “doesn’t like new people.” Let’s hope that isn’t right. Because, to be frank, you’d expect more social adeptness and flexibility from a third grader (and I do). Unfortunately, the problem is all too real:

Recent White House hires reflect the president’s desire to surround himself with people he knows well. Elizabeth Warren, recently tapped as the government’s first consumer protection adviser, is someone Obama describes as a “dear friend.” Austan Goolsbee, brought in as the new chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, has been in the Obama orbit much longer than the woman he replaced, Christina Romer.

It seems — really, who knew? — as though the president is too insulated:

“They miscalculated where people were out in the country on jobs, on spending, on the deficit, on debt,” said a longtime Democratic strategist who works with the White House on a variety of issues. “They have not been able to get ahead of any of it. And it’s all about the insularity. Otherwise how do you explain how a group who came in with more goodwill in decades squandered it?” The strategist asked not to be identified in order to speak freely about the president and his staff.

This is not an uncommon view among Democratic political professionals, many of whom share the goals of the White House but have grown frustrated with a staff they see as unapproachable and set in their ways.

The solution? Valerie Jarrett as chief of staff!

Apparently yes men and women, unwilling to challenge Obama’s basic assumptions or deliver inconvenient truths, are in high demand. No hope and change for Obama.

This peek at the White House’s circle-the-wagons mentality suggests that Obama is not one to reassess, clean house, and chart a new course after the midterms. It might take him out of his comfort zone. That’s bad news for the country, but music to the ears of the 2012 GOP presidential contenders.

The Washington Post tells us that Obama is to be “deprived” within the next six months or so of the services of Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod (who will go run Obama’s reelection campaign, a task indistinguishable from his current role), James Jones, and other advisers. (Before you get excited, remember who is picking their successors.) The Post tells us that the worldly and sophisticated president (the media told us he was, so how can that be wrong?) “doesn’t like new people.” Let’s hope that isn’t right. Because, to be frank, you’d expect more social adeptness and flexibility from a third grader (and I do). Unfortunately, the problem is all too real:

Recent White House hires reflect the president’s desire to surround himself with people he knows well. Elizabeth Warren, recently tapped as the government’s first consumer protection adviser, is someone Obama describes as a “dear friend.” Austan Goolsbee, brought in as the new chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, has been in the Obama orbit much longer than the woman he replaced, Christina Romer.

It seems — really, who knew? — as though the president is too insulated:

“They miscalculated where people were out in the country on jobs, on spending, on the deficit, on debt,” said a longtime Democratic strategist who works with the White House on a variety of issues. “They have not been able to get ahead of any of it. And it’s all about the insularity. Otherwise how do you explain how a group who came in with more goodwill in decades squandered it?” The strategist asked not to be identified in order to speak freely about the president and his staff.

This is not an uncommon view among Democratic political professionals, many of whom share the goals of the White House but have grown frustrated with a staff they see as unapproachable and set in their ways.

The solution? Valerie Jarrett as chief of staff!

Apparently yes men and women, unwilling to challenge Obama’s basic assumptions or deliver inconvenient truths, are in high demand. No hope and change for Obama.

This peek at the White House’s circle-the-wagons mentality suggests that Obama is not one to reassess, clean house, and chart a new course after the midterms. It might take him out of his comfort zone. That’s bad news for the country, but music to the ears of the 2012 GOP presidential contenders.

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James Capretta on the Modern Role and Purpose of Government

My colleague at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, James Capretta, has added his important voice to the ongoing debate about the role and purpose of government in the 21st century. As Jim puts it in this post over at e21:

What we are actually witnessing is the end of an economic era. The democratic capitalist countries of the West have all built welfare states of varying sizes and shapes. Europe’s is certainly much larger and more expensive than what has been built in the United States, but all are under severe strain. There is no escaping demographic reality. The aging of populations in the world’s most advanced economies will make it impossible to sustain government programs and protections at the level that exist today.

What’s needed now is an effort to harness the new national energy for reform and retrenchment to solve the nation’s entitlement problem. That will require a frank discussion with the American people about how to apply the enduring principle of limited government to the modern circumstances of a market-driven economy operating within a competitive global environment. That is the most pressing challenge in these early years of the 21st century.

The party that voters consider up to this task will win their votes. Once it does, though, it will need to perform. Promises are fine; but they are not nearly enough, as President Obama and Democratic lawmakers are discovering to their chagrin. If Republicans retake control of one or both branches of Congress — which certainly seems likely as this point — they will face the challenge of translating their pledges into reality.

It won’t be as easy once you’re in power as it is appears when you’re out of power.

My colleague at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, James Capretta, has added his important voice to the ongoing debate about the role and purpose of government in the 21st century. As Jim puts it in this post over at e21:

What we are actually witnessing is the end of an economic era. The democratic capitalist countries of the West have all built welfare states of varying sizes and shapes. Europe’s is certainly much larger and more expensive than what has been built in the United States, but all are under severe strain. There is no escaping demographic reality. The aging of populations in the world’s most advanced economies will make it impossible to sustain government programs and protections at the level that exist today.

What’s needed now is an effort to harness the new national energy for reform and retrenchment to solve the nation’s entitlement problem. That will require a frank discussion with the American people about how to apply the enduring principle of limited government to the modern circumstances of a market-driven economy operating within a competitive global environment. That is the most pressing challenge in these early years of the 21st century.

The party that voters consider up to this task will win their votes. Once it does, though, it will need to perform. Promises are fine; but they are not nearly enough, as President Obama and Democratic lawmakers are discovering to their chagrin. If Republicans retake control of one or both branches of Congress — which certainly seems likely as this point — they will face the challenge of translating their pledges into reality.

It won’t be as easy once you’re in power as it is appears when you’re out of power.

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Batting .000 With the Voters

The Democrats not only got the economic policy wrong (Keynesian economic policy works no better in 2010 than it did in the 1930s) — they, time and again, have gotten the politics wrong.

On taxes, the class-warfare gambit is turning into a retreat:

Going into a pivotal caucus Thursday, Senate Democrats show more and more signs of losing their nerve and backing away from earlier plans with the White House to force a vote on middle-class tax cuts prior to November’s election.

A final decision has not been made by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), but it’s a real political Rubicon with no safe choice in today’s political climate. Taxes have long been a third rail for Democrats, but to have no vote at all could also be seen as a sign of weakness.

Once the Senate Democrats run for the hills, the House Democrats will be close behind. If so, the Democrats will have the worst of both worlds: the voters will know they would dearly love to raise taxes and the base will know they don’t have the political moxie to act on their convictions. (“White House officials have been warning this week that they expected no vote — provoking some frustration among liberals that the administration wasn’t doing more to intercede.”)

That political miscalculation, however, is nothing compared to the ObamaCare debacle. This report suggests that just “everyone” thought ObamaCare would be a winner. (Hmm, a lot of us who were watching the rowdy town-hall protesters and the poll numbers argued it wouldn’t, but no, never mind. It sounds better if everyone was wrong.) Is it really a “riddle” that voters don’t appreciate the “historic” legislation – or has it become crystal clear to all but the deluded that ObamaCare was a bust, politically? It seems that the White House’s assurance that it would prevent an electoral wipe-out was hooey. Now we hear:

“The textbook in a civics class of how the institution should not act was the health care bill,” Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., told NBC News this month. “It was arrogant. Both parties were arrogant and selfish, in my view.”

Did he not vote for it? Whatever — he’s retiring. Too many arrogant ethical lapses.

Inside the Beltway, they are amazed that “rather than being viewed as a kooky notion, the repeal-and-replace battle cry resonates with the electorate: Polls show voters are divided on the question, with about as many people opposed to rolling back the law as those who favor doing so.” Actually, some polls show that many more favor repeal. (“61 percent of likely U.S. voters now at least somewhat favor repeal of the new national health-care law, including 50 percent who Strongly Favor it.”)

Whatever the spin doctors and the media enablers tell us, the historical record is there for all to see. Democrats ignored the public’s anger, pooh-poohed the polls, and scoffed at the conservatives’ warning that a party-line vote on a mammoth bill of taxes and regulations disguised as “reform” was a grave political miscalculation. In the political debate, with a nod to Ronald Reagan, we conservatives win; liberals lose.

This chapter in the Obama era of policy overreach and political tone-deafness will come to an end on election day. Afterwards, the Democrats would be wise to listen more to their Republican colleagues than to the White House. The latter seems not to have a clue about the American electorate.

The Democrats not only got the economic policy wrong (Keynesian economic policy works no better in 2010 than it did in the 1930s) — they, time and again, have gotten the politics wrong.

On taxes, the class-warfare gambit is turning into a retreat:

Going into a pivotal caucus Thursday, Senate Democrats show more and more signs of losing their nerve and backing away from earlier plans with the White House to force a vote on middle-class tax cuts prior to November’s election.

A final decision has not been made by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), but it’s a real political Rubicon with no safe choice in today’s political climate. Taxes have long been a third rail for Democrats, but to have no vote at all could also be seen as a sign of weakness.

Once the Senate Democrats run for the hills, the House Democrats will be close behind. If so, the Democrats will have the worst of both worlds: the voters will know they would dearly love to raise taxes and the base will know they don’t have the political moxie to act on their convictions. (“White House officials have been warning this week that they expected no vote — provoking some frustration among liberals that the administration wasn’t doing more to intercede.”)

That political miscalculation, however, is nothing compared to the ObamaCare debacle. This report suggests that just “everyone” thought ObamaCare would be a winner. (Hmm, a lot of us who were watching the rowdy town-hall protesters and the poll numbers argued it wouldn’t, but no, never mind. It sounds better if everyone was wrong.) Is it really a “riddle” that voters don’t appreciate the “historic” legislation – or has it become crystal clear to all but the deluded that ObamaCare was a bust, politically? It seems that the White House’s assurance that it would prevent an electoral wipe-out was hooey. Now we hear:

“The textbook in a civics class of how the institution should not act was the health care bill,” Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., told NBC News this month. “It was arrogant. Both parties were arrogant and selfish, in my view.”

Did he not vote for it? Whatever — he’s retiring. Too many arrogant ethical lapses.

Inside the Beltway, they are amazed that “rather than being viewed as a kooky notion, the repeal-and-replace battle cry resonates with the electorate: Polls show voters are divided on the question, with about as many people opposed to rolling back the law as those who favor doing so.” Actually, some polls show that many more favor repeal. (“61 percent of likely U.S. voters now at least somewhat favor repeal of the new national health-care law, including 50 percent who Strongly Favor it.”)

Whatever the spin doctors and the media enablers tell us, the historical record is there for all to see. Democrats ignored the public’s anger, pooh-poohed the polls, and scoffed at the conservatives’ warning that a party-line vote on a mammoth bill of taxes and regulations disguised as “reform” was a grave political miscalculation. In the political debate, with a nod to Ronald Reagan, we conservatives win; liberals lose.

This chapter in the Obama era of policy overreach and political tone-deafness will come to an end on election day. Afterwards, the Democrats would be wise to listen more to their Republican colleagues than to the White House. The latter seems not to have a clue about the American electorate.

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Bum Rap?

Stanley McChrystal didn’t do what he was accused of doing. The New York Times reports:

An Army inquiry into a Rolling Stone magazine article about Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal has found that it was not the general or senior officers on his staff who made the most egregious comments that led to his abrupt dismissal as the top Afghan commander in June, according to Army and Pentagon officials.

But the review, commissioned after an embarrassing and disruptive episode, does not wholly resolve who was responsible for the inflammatory quotations, most of which were anonymous.

Did tolerating others’ disparaging comments constitute grounds for firing him? Not so clear.

The assignment of Gen. David Petraeus to the Afghanistan command was certainly a good move. But that’s not what is at issue. The dismissal of McChrystal now looks unduly hasty and frankly a bit unfair.

It is yet one more indication that the White House decision-making process bounces between the slipshod (e.g., Shirley Sherrod, Stanley McChrystal) and the snail-like agonizing that characterized the Afghanistan strategy sessions. As to the latter, if Bob Woodward’s book is remotely accurate, the reason it took so long was that a recalcitrant president resisted the advice of his military advisers and was interested not in a war strategy but in a political one. Credit is due primarily to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who hung in there to get the best result obtainable from a president whose concerns were primarily political.

Stanley McChrystal didn’t do what he was accused of doing. The New York Times reports:

An Army inquiry into a Rolling Stone magazine article about Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal has found that it was not the general or senior officers on his staff who made the most egregious comments that led to his abrupt dismissal as the top Afghan commander in June, according to Army and Pentagon officials.

But the review, commissioned after an embarrassing and disruptive episode, does not wholly resolve who was responsible for the inflammatory quotations, most of which were anonymous.

Did tolerating others’ disparaging comments constitute grounds for firing him? Not so clear.

The assignment of Gen. David Petraeus to the Afghanistan command was certainly a good move. But that’s not what is at issue. The dismissal of McChrystal now looks unduly hasty and frankly a bit unfair.

It is yet one more indication that the White House decision-making process bounces between the slipshod (e.g., Shirley Sherrod, Stanley McChrystal) and the snail-like agonizing that characterized the Afghanistan strategy sessions. As to the latter, if Bob Woodward’s book is remotely accurate, the reason it took so long was that a recalcitrant president resisted the advice of his military advisers and was interested not in a war strategy but in a political one. Credit is due primarily to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who hung in there to get the best result obtainable from a president whose concerns were primarily political.

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Bill Clinton: Giving Carter a Run for His Money

Bill Clinton’s noxious comments, complaining that Russian immigrants to Israel pose an obstacle to peace, sounded like the utterances of xenophobes in America who lament that our country is being “overrun” by outsiders. Clinton’s comments were cringe-inducing:

“An increasing number of the young people in the IDF are the children of Russians and settlers, the hardest-core people against a division of the land. This presents a staggering problem,” Clinton said. “It’s a different Israel. 16 percent of Israelis speak Russian.”

And then to prove that decency and discretion were never Clinton’s strong suits, he cited a conversation between him and Natan Sharansky:

“I said, ‘Natan, what is the deal [about not supporting the peace deal],’” Clinton recalled. “He said, ‘I can’t vote for this, I’m Russian… I come from one of the biggest countries in the world to one of the smallest. You want me to cut it in half. No, thank you.’”

Clinton responded, “Don’t give me this, you came here from a jail cell. It’s a lot bigger than your jail cell.”

Classy, Bill. Maybe next he’ll go after Elie Wiesel.

As you can imagine, Israelis were not too pleased. Bibi, demonstrating the art of understatement which has marked his political maturation, had this to say:

As a friend of Israel, Clinton should know that the immigrants from the former Soviet Union have contributed and are making a great contribution to the advancement, development and strengthening of the IDF and the State of Israel. Only a strong Israel can establish solid and safe peace.

Now with Bill Clinton — it’s always a safe bet that he’s making stuff up. Sharansky’s associates hinted as much. (“Sharansky’s associates were surprised by Clinton’s remarks. The Jewish Agency chairman said, ‘I wasn’t even at Camp David. Clinton may have gotten confused with our conversations three years earlier, when I expressed my doubts over the dictatorial nature of the Palestinian Authority regime.’”)

But, as a colleague observed, the best retort was this:

Coalition Chairman Zeev Elkin said he felt “great pride” following Clinton’s remarks. Elkin, who a Russian immigrant himself, told Ynet, “I am proud of former President Clinton’s distinctions. He made the right distinction that the Russian speakers and settlers have been carrying the Zionism banner in the State of Israel in recent years. “We see this in the number of people graduating from IDF officer courses, and unfortunately, in the Second Lebanon War obituaries. We also see it in the struggle for our right to settle in all of the Land of Israel.”

Well, that’s one way of looking at it. Another, as detailed in Start Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, is that Russians have provided much of the brainpower and entrepreneurial risk-taking that has fueled Israel’s technology boom, transforming Israel’s economy from a socialist basket-case to a vibrant, modern economy.

Why does Clinton say these things? Who knows — maybe he’s tired of Jimmy Carter and his wife getting all the headlines. Or maybe he’s just an undisciplined egomaniac who says whatever pops into his head.

Bill Clinton’s noxious comments, complaining that Russian immigrants to Israel pose an obstacle to peace, sounded like the utterances of xenophobes in America who lament that our country is being “overrun” by outsiders. Clinton’s comments were cringe-inducing:

“An increasing number of the young people in the IDF are the children of Russians and settlers, the hardest-core people against a division of the land. This presents a staggering problem,” Clinton said. “It’s a different Israel. 16 percent of Israelis speak Russian.”

And then to prove that decency and discretion were never Clinton’s strong suits, he cited a conversation between him and Natan Sharansky:

“I said, ‘Natan, what is the deal [about not supporting the peace deal],’” Clinton recalled. “He said, ‘I can’t vote for this, I’m Russian… I come from one of the biggest countries in the world to one of the smallest. You want me to cut it in half. No, thank you.’”

Clinton responded, “Don’t give me this, you came here from a jail cell. It’s a lot bigger than your jail cell.”

Classy, Bill. Maybe next he’ll go after Elie Wiesel.

As you can imagine, Israelis were not too pleased. Bibi, demonstrating the art of understatement which has marked his political maturation, had this to say:

As a friend of Israel, Clinton should know that the immigrants from the former Soviet Union have contributed and are making a great contribution to the advancement, development and strengthening of the IDF and the State of Israel. Only a strong Israel can establish solid and safe peace.

Now with Bill Clinton — it’s always a safe bet that he’s making stuff up. Sharansky’s associates hinted as much. (“Sharansky’s associates were surprised by Clinton’s remarks. The Jewish Agency chairman said, ‘I wasn’t even at Camp David. Clinton may have gotten confused with our conversations three years earlier, when I expressed my doubts over the dictatorial nature of the Palestinian Authority regime.’”)

But, as a colleague observed, the best retort was this:

Coalition Chairman Zeev Elkin said he felt “great pride” following Clinton’s remarks. Elkin, who a Russian immigrant himself, told Ynet, “I am proud of former President Clinton’s distinctions. He made the right distinction that the Russian speakers and settlers have been carrying the Zionism banner in the State of Israel in recent years. “We see this in the number of people graduating from IDF officer courses, and unfortunately, in the Second Lebanon War obituaries. We also see it in the struggle for our right to settle in all of the Land of Israel.”

Well, that’s one way of looking at it. Another, as detailed in Start Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, is that Russians have provided much of the brainpower and entrepreneurial risk-taking that has fueled Israel’s technology boom, transforming Israel’s economy from a socialist basket-case to a vibrant, modern economy.

Why does Clinton say these things? Who knows — maybe he’s tired of Jimmy Carter and his wife getting all the headlines. Or maybe he’s just an undisciplined egomaniac who says whatever pops into his head.

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A Devastating and Depressing Portrait of Obama

The Washington Post’s story on Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book, Obama’s Wars, includes these passages:

Obama rejected the military’s request for 40,000 troops as part of an expansive mission that had no foreseeable end. “I’m not doing 10 years,” he told Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting on Oct. 26, 2009. “I’m not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars.” … At one strategy session, the president waved a memo from the Office of Management and Budget, which put a price tag of $889 billion over 10 years on the military’s open-ended approach.

So we finally found the one institution where Barack Obama is frugal and interested in cost-savings: the military during time of war.

It is quite revealing that this most profligate of presidents — whose spending is nearly limitless when it comes to health care, stimulus packages, bailouts, and non-defense discretionary program — has found his inner Barry Goldwater when it comes to spending on defense matters.

There are two problems for Obama. The first centers on Article II, Section II, of the Constitution, which states, “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States.” The president’s primary responsibility, as envisioned by the Founders, is to serve as commander in chief, not as the tax collector for the welfare state. “Among the many objects to which a wise and free people find it necessary to direct their attention,” John Jay wrote in Federalist No. 3, “is that of providing for their safety seems to be first.”

Mr. Obama seems to have his priorities upside down — largely indifferent to those areas he’s responsible for and hyper-active in areas he’s not.

Second, the military, more than any other branch of the federal government, is showing remarkable results for its work. It has reformed and modernized itself in important respects, advanced the cause of liberty, delivered lethal blows to our enemies, and protected us from harm. Yet with America engaged in a hot war in Afghanistan, where the consequences of failure would be catastrophic, President Obama has decided to be hyper-thrifty with his spending. He repeatedly limits what his generals, including General Petraeus, believe they need to successfully prosecute the war.

Quite apart from being reckless, Obama is reinforcing almost every bad impression of his party: keen on raising taxes, spending record amounts on domestic programs, centralizing power, and expanding the size and reach of the federal government. When it comes to war, though, Obama is conflicted and uncertain, in search of an exit ramp more than victory, and even willing to subordinate security needs to partisan concerns (most especially by insisting on an arbitrary drawdown date of July 2011 in order to please his political advisers). As Politico reports,

the president’s timetable to begin a real drawdown … is considerably more concrete than once thought. The book … has Obama warning the Pentagon that he won’t tolerate a 10-year war that sacrifices American troops, bleeds the treasury or drains his own popularity with the Democratic base.

By most accounts (see here and here), the White House is pleased with how the president is portrayed in Obama’s Wars. It shouldn’t be. The president comes across, at least in the stories released so far, as a man deeply uncomfortable in his role as commander in chief.

It is a devastating, and depressing, portrait.

The Washington Post’s story on Bob Woodward’s forthcoming book, Obama’s Wars, includes these passages:

Obama rejected the military’s request for 40,000 troops as part of an expansive mission that had no foreseeable end. “I’m not doing 10 years,” he told Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at a meeting on Oct. 26, 2009. “I’m not doing long-term nation-building. I am not spending a trillion dollars.” … At one strategy session, the president waved a memo from the Office of Management and Budget, which put a price tag of $889 billion over 10 years on the military’s open-ended approach.

So we finally found the one institution where Barack Obama is frugal and interested in cost-savings: the military during time of war.

It is quite revealing that this most profligate of presidents — whose spending is nearly limitless when it comes to health care, stimulus packages, bailouts, and non-defense discretionary program — has found his inner Barry Goldwater when it comes to spending on defense matters.

There are two problems for Obama. The first centers on Article II, Section II, of the Constitution, which states, “The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States.” The president’s primary responsibility, as envisioned by the Founders, is to serve as commander in chief, not as the tax collector for the welfare state. “Among the many objects to which a wise and free people find it necessary to direct their attention,” John Jay wrote in Federalist No. 3, “is that of providing for their safety seems to be first.”

Mr. Obama seems to have his priorities upside down — largely indifferent to those areas he’s responsible for and hyper-active in areas he’s not.

Second, the military, more than any other branch of the federal government, is showing remarkable results for its work. It has reformed and modernized itself in important respects, advanced the cause of liberty, delivered lethal blows to our enemies, and protected us from harm. Yet with America engaged in a hot war in Afghanistan, where the consequences of failure would be catastrophic, President Obama has decided to be hyper-thrifty with his spending. He repeatedly limits what his generals, including General Petraeus, believe they need to successfully prosecute the war.

Quite apart from being reckless, Obama is reinforcing almost every bad impression of his party: keen on raising taxes, spending record amounts on domestic programs, centralizing power, and expanding the size and reach of the federal government. When it comes to war, though, Obama is conflicted and uncertain, in search of an exit ramp more than victory, and even willing to subordinate security needs to partisan concerns (most especially by insisting on an arbitrary drawdown date of July 2011 in order to please his political advisers). As Politico reports,

the president’s timetable to begin a real drawdown … is considerably more concrete than once thought. The book … has Obama warning the Pentagon that he won’t tolerate a 10-year war that sacrifices American troops, bleeds the treasury or drains his own popularity with the Democratic base.

By most accounts (see here and here), the White House is pleased with how the president is portrayed in Obama’s Wars. It shouldn’t be. The president comes across, at least in the stories released so far, as a man deeply uncomfortable in his role as commander in chief.

It is a devastating, and depressing, portrait.

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CAIR Explains to the Media: Shut Up

As I wrote yesterday, the Islamists – and their funders and enablers — have perfected the tactic of intimidating pundits and news outlets that stray from the pro-Islamist line. The Daily Caller reports:

Since their founding in 1994, CAIR has sued and/or attacked with consequence such media outlets as: The Washington Times, The Los Angeles Times, The National Post, National Review, Anti-CAIR, various talk radio hosts, and college newspapers. Recently, even The Daily Caller has found itself caught in CAIR’s cross hairs.

“It is really impossible to know how many people have been intimidated with these lawsuits because if you read the original letter they sent to me, you know, ‘don’t discuss this with anybody else.’ How many people have succumbed to that and said, ‘hey, we don’t want to get involved in this,’ and they’ve quietly gone away,” Andrew Whitehead, a blogger CAIR sued in 2004 for defamation, told The Daily Caller.
Indeed, it was difficult to find individuals to go on the record for this article about CAIR’s alleged intimidation tactics for just that reason, as well as safety concerns of sources.

(As an aside, does Joe Sestak think this is part of CAIR’s wonderful work, which he cooed about at a fundraiser for the free-speech bullies?) It is not hard to figure out the strategy here:

CAIR also has been able to terminate careers. In 2005, despite widespread listener support and lip service to the importance of free speech, ABC radio fired Michael Graham from D.C.’s 630 WMAL in the wake of threats and pressure by CAIR for his criticisms of Islam as a terrorist organization. “What was told to me by people who would have knowledge of this inside ABC Disney was, CAIR sent out an appeal to people with large stock holdings in Disney and people from the Middle East responded to the appeal and pressured ABC Disney to dump me,” Graham said.

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, has been observing CAIR’s tactics for years. “They are completely removed from all responsibility of reform and the ideological problem and to them it is all about intimidation and somehow putting the fear of God into people so that they think it is going to prevent it from happening again,” Jasser said. “And then they get up and start telling America about Islamaphobia, when they’re creating phobias….It almost seems like their role is to inflame Muslims against their own society.”

It is equally obvious how to combat this problem. Politicians who indulge groups like CAIR should be held responsible by voters. Media outlets that adhere to the Islamist line (notice how “Ground Zero” has disappeared and it’s all about “Park51″) should be queried and challenged by readers and competing outlets. And, most important, the scrutiny of and research into terror organizations, their sponsors and apologists should continue unabated. The accusation of “Islamophobia” should be dismissed for what it is — an unsubtle attempt to smear and silence critics.

Obama fancies himself the explainer in chief of Islam. What we need are leaders able to explain what radical Muslims are all about and denounce their thuggish tactics that bespeak of an intolerant and totalitarian outlook.

As I wrote yesterday, the Islamists – and their funders and enablers — have perfected the tactic of intimidating pundits and news outlets that stray from the pro-Islamist line. The Daily Caller reports:

Since their founding in 1994, CAIR has sued and/or attacked with consequence such media outlets as: The Washington Times, The Los Angeles Times, The National Post, National Review, Anti-CAIR, various talk radio hosts, and college newspapers. Recently, even The Daily Caller has found itself caught in CAIR’s cross hairs.

“It is really impossible to know how many people have been intimidated with these lawsuits because if you read the original letter they sent to me, you know, ‘don’t discuss this with anybody else.’ How many people have succumbed to that and said, ‘hey, we don’t want to get involved in this,’ and they’ve quietly gone away,” Andrew Whitehead, a blogger CAIR sued in 2004 for defamation, told The Daily Caller.
Indeed, it was difficult to find individuals to go on the record for this article about CAIR’s alleged intimidation tactics for just that reason, as well as safety concerns of sources.

(As an aside, does Joe Sestak think this is part of CAIR’s wonderful work, which he cooed about at a fundraiser for the free-speech bullies?) It is not hard to figure out the strategy here:

CAIR also has been able to terminate careers. In 2005, despite widespread listener support and lip service to the importance of free speech, ABC radio fired Michael Graham from D.C.’s 630 WMAL in the wake of threats and pressure by CAIR for his criticisms of Islam as a terrorist organization. “What was told to me by people who would have knowledge of this inside ABC Disney was, CAIR sent out an appeal to people with large stock holdings in Disney and people from the Middle East responded to the appeal and pressured ABC Disney to dump me,” Graham said.

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, has been observing CAIR’s tactics for years. “They are completely removed from all responsibility of reform and the ideological problem and to them it is all about intimidation and somehow putting the fear of God into people so that they think it is going to prevent it from happening again,” Jasser said. “And then they get up and start telling America about Islamaphobia, when they’re creating phobias….It almost seems like their role is to inflame Muslims against their own society.”

It is equally obvious how to combat this problem. Politicians who indulge groups like CAIR should be held responsible by voters. Media outlets that adhere to the Islamist line (notice how “Ground Zero” has disappeared and it’s all about “Park51″) should be queried and challenged by readers and competing outlets. And, most important, the scrutiny of and research into terror organizations, their sponsors and apologists should continue unabated. The accusation of “Islamophobia” should be dismissed for what it is — an unsubtle attempt to smear and silence critics.

Obama fancies himself the explainer in chief of Islam. What we need are leaders able to explain what radical Muslims are all about and denounce their thuggish tactics that bespeak of an intolerant and totalitarian outlook.

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Beyond Shame — They Like the Book!

David Ignatius uses a peculiar adjective to describe Obama’s portrayal in Bob Woodward’s new book: “poignant.” An odd word choice, considering Ignatius’s otherwise apt description:

By Woodward’s account, Obama was looking for an exit from Afghanistan even as he sent 30,000 more U.S. combat troops there.

That’s an untenable position. If the president doubted his strategy, he shouldn’t have sent the troops. If he believes his war plan stands a chance of stabilizing Afghanistan so that he can transfer responsibility to the Afghans starting next July, then he must rally the public so that it understands and supports what he’s doing.

Woodward shows us an Obama who is halfway to war, doubting his strategy even as he asks young men and women to die for it. That’s the one thing a president must not do: Sacrifice lives for a policy he doesn’t think can succeed.

Poignant or shameful? Poignant or irresponsible? Poignant is George Bush, an increasingly reviled figure in the White House making a decision for the sake of the country and the Free World that he knew would politically harm him and his party.

The Obami are so lacking in common sense and self-awareness that they apparently like Obama’s portrayal. Honest:

Many of Obama’s senior advisers have already obtained and read the book, “Obama’s Wars,” and are satisfied with the image it conveys of the president, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

“The President comes across in the [Afghanistan] review and throughout the decision-making process as a Commander in Chief who is analytical, strategic, and decisive, with a broad view of history, national security, and his role,” the official said in an e-mail.

They are incapable of being shamed — beyond embarrassment. Not even the “absorb 9/11″ part seems to upset them. Well, to a crew that thinks ObamaCare is a political winner, the economy is in recovery, and the Tea Party is a fringe group, I suppose you can’t be surprised by a book documenting that Obama cares more about politics than winning the war (“I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party,” Woodward quotes him as declaring). And yet it is shocking. We simply don’t  imagine — and find it hard to stomach — a presidency conducted on these terms.

David Ignatius uses a peculiar adjective to describe Obama’s portrayal in Bob Woodward’s new book: “poignant.” An odd word choice, considering Ignatius’s otherwise apt description:

By Woodward’s account, Obama was looking for an exit from Afghanistan even as he sent 30,000 more U.S. combat troops there.

That’s an untenable position. If the president doubted his strategy, he shouldn’t have sent the troops. If he believes his war plan stands a chance of stabilizing Afghanistan so that he can transfer responsibility to the Afghans starting next July, then he must rally the public so that it understands and supports what he’s doing.

Woodward shows us an Obama who is halfway to war, doubting his strategy even as he asks young men and women to die for it. That’s the one thing a president must not do: Sacrifice lives for a policy he doesn’t think can succeed.

Poignant or shameful? Poignant or irresponsible? Poignant is George Bush, an increasingly reviled figure in the White House making a decision for the sake of the country and the Free World that he knew would politically harm him and his party.

The Obami are so lacking in common sense and self-awareness that they apparently like Obama’s portrayal. Honest:

Many of Obama’s senior advisers have already obtained and read the book, “Obama’s Wars,” and are satisfied with the image it conveys of the president, a senior administration official said Wednesday.

“The President comes across in the [Afghanistan] review and throughout the decision-making process as a Commander in Chief who is analytical, strategic, and decisive, with a broad view of history, national security, and his role,” the official said in an e-mail.

They are incapable of being shamed — beyond embarrassment. Not even the “absorb 9/11″ part seems to upset them. Well, to a crew that thinks ObamaCare is a political winner, the economy is in recovery, and the Tea Party is a fringe group, I suppose you can’t be surprised by a book documenting that Obama cares more about politics than winning the war (“I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party,” Woodward quotes him as declaring). And yet it is shocking. We simply don’t  imagine — and find it hard to stomach — a presidency conducted on these terms.

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