Commentary Magazine


Posts For: October 14, 2010

Starstruck Clooney Misses the Point About Disastrous Sudan Policy

George Clooney’s visit to the White House yesterday sent the press corps into something like a swoon as press secretary Robert Gibbs cut short the daily press conference so all present could ogle the actor and pepper him with a few easy questions. Clooney was there to talk to President Obama about the trip he had just taken to southern Sudan, a place that may soon replace Darfur as the focus of fears about the genocidal behavior of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s criminal regime.

To Clooney’s credit, his interest in Sudan seems genuine. He has lent his name and support to the Enough Project (which is run out of the left-wing Center for American Progress), a group that seeks to prevent African genocides such as the ones that have taken place in Darfur and Rwanda. But as much as Clooney’s concern about the imminent threat of war in southern Sudan between the largely Christian inhabitants of the region and the Muslim government in Khartoum is justified, his prescription for preventing it is a bit vague.

As for his reception by President Obama, Clooney was rapturous in describing his joy at what he thought was Obama’s intense interest in the subject — “You could feel the energy in the room” — and the sharpness of his questions. But what Clooney and the similarly starstruck press coverage of his visit failed to understand is that the current mess and the strength of Bashir’s current position stems in no small measure from the lack of “energy” demonstrated by the administration on this issue in the last year and a half. In case Clooney hasn’t noticed, human rights concerns have been accorded the lowest possible foreign policy priority by the Obama administration, as its stances toward Iran and China have demonstrated.

Even more to the point, the president’s special envoy to Sudan, Scot Gration, has placed the United States firmly on the side of appeasing Bashir, to the dismay of many advocates for the Darfuri people. That policy has set up the southern Sudanese as Bashir’s next likely victims, since the only way to ensure that such genocides don’t take place is by helping to get rid of Bashir and his Islamist gang, not by buying them off.

But unfortunately, Clooney’s idea of “robust diplomacy” is not designed to generate much pressure on the White House. He wants America to do something, but he’s not sure what. At one point, Clooney discussed the possibility for increased sanctions on the Sudanese government and the indicted war criminal at its head. At others, he mooted the possibility of a U.S. decision to normalize relations with Bashir and even consent to the suspension of his indictment by the International Criminal Court if the Sudanese leader makes peace with both southern Sudan and Darfur. As a last resort, he spoke of U.S. military action to interdict the Sudanese government’s forces and prevent another mass slaughter.

The answer for Clooney is that Gration has already proved that appeasement won’t work and that getting Bashir off the hook on war-crimes charges will merely give him impunity to commit future atrocities. As for the prospect of American intervention, Clooney ought not to hold his breath waiting for Obama to act. Having come in to office decrying the “neoconservative” agenda of trying to promote human rights and democracy around the world, the president has demonstrated that such causes are unlikely to generate action from this White House.

The disconnect between the sincere desire of liberals like Clooney to do something to help the Sudanese and their unwillingness to draw serious conclusions about how America should deal with Islamist mass murderers like Bashir is the problem here. If Clooney wants something more than lip service from Obama, he’s going to have to confront the administration, not lend his star power to the White House media strategy.

George Clooney’s visit to the White House yesterday sent the press corps into something like a swoon as press secretary Robert Gibbs cut short the daily press conference so all present could ogle the actor and pepper him with a few easy questions. Clooney was there to talk to President Obama about the trip he had just taken to southern Sudan, a place that may soon replace Darfur as the focus of fears about the genocidal behavior of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s criminal regime.

To Clooney’s credit, his interest in Sudan seems genuine. He has lent his name and support to the Enough Project (which is run out of the left-wing Center for American Progress), a group that seeks to prevent African genocides such as the ones that have taken place in Darfur and Rwanda. But as much as Clooney’s concern about the imminent threat of war in southern Sudan between the largely Christian inhabitants of the region and the Muslim government in Khartoum is justified, his prescription for preventing it is a bit vague.

As for his reception by President Obama, Clooney was rapturous in describing his joy at what he thought was Obama’s intense interest in the subject — “You could feel the energy in the room” — and the sharpness of his questions. But what Clooney and the similarly starstruck press coverage of his visit failed to understand is that the current mess and the strength of Bashir’s current position stems in no small measure from the lack of “energy” demonstrated by the administration on this issue in the last year and a half. In case Clooney hasn’t noticed, human rights concerns have been accorded the lowest possible foreign policy priority by the Obama administration, as its stances toward Iran and China have demonstrated.

Even more to the point, the president’s special envoy to Sudan, Scot Gration, has placed the United States firmly on the side of appeasing Bashir, to the dismay of many advocates for the Darfuri people. That policy has set up the southern Sudanese as Bashir’s next likely victims, since the only way to ensure that such genocides don’t take place is by helping to get rid of Bashir and his Islamist gang, not by buying them off.

But unfortunately, Clooney’s idea of “robust diplomacy” is not designed to generate much pressure on the White House. He wants America to do something, but he’s not sure what. At one point, Clooney discussed the possibility for increased sanctions on the Sudanese government and the indicted war criminal at its head. At others, he mooted the possibility of a U.S. decision to normalize relations with Bashir and even consent to the suspension of his indictment by the International Criminal Court if the Sudanese leader makes peace with both southern Sudan and Darfur. As a last resort, he spoke of U.S. military action to interdict the Sudanese government’s forces and prevent another mass slaughter.

The answer for Clooney is that Gration has already proved that appeasement won’t work and that getting Bashir off the hook on war-crimes charges will merely give him impunity to commit future atrocities. As for the prospect of American intervention, Clooney ought not to hold his breath waiting for Obama to act. Having come in to office decrying the “neoconservative” agenda of trying to promote human rights and democracy around the world, the president has demonstrated that such causes are unlikely to generate action from this White House.

The disconnect between the sincere desire of liberals like Clooney to do something to help the Sudanese and their unwillingness to draw serious conclusions about how America should deal with Islamist mass murderers like Bashir is the problem here. If Clooney wants something more than lip service from Obama, he’s going to have to confront the administration, not lend his star power to the White House media strategy.

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The Limits of Technology in Counterinsurgency

The Washington Post has an interesting if depressing report on the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, 2nd infantry division — the unit where five soldiers who are accused of killing several Afghan men “for sport” came from.

The Post notes that the brigade’s commander, Col. Harry Tunnell, was adamantly opposed to the prevailing counterinsurgency doctrine, which emphasizes protecting the population. He believed in “counterguerrilla operations” along the lines of his brigade’s motto, “Strike and destroy.” He encouraged an aggressive attitude that resulted in many casualties — both among Afghans and among his own men. Some of those losses were no doubt inevitable, because the 5th Brigade was deployed to a heavily Taliban-infested area on the outskirts of Kandahar. But it is striking, and alarming, that the army allowed the deployment of this brigade to a vital area even when it was obvious to all, as far back as pre-deployment training, that Col. Tunnell was dangerously out of sync with the state-of-the-art thinking on how to fight counterinsurgency. The Washington Post article notes that Tunnell is not implicated in the atrocities allegedly committed by his men, but it raises legitimate questions about whether his overly aggressive attitude may have been at the root of some of the brigade’s problems.

That was certainly an issue in my mind when I visited Col. Tunnell and was briefed by him at his brigade operations center at Kandahar Air Field in October 2009. A related issue, which isn’t mentioned in the Post article, is Tunnell’s faith in technology. The Stryker brigades are among the most high-tech in the army, equipped with armored vehicles that are “networked” to provide a common “operating picture” of the battlefield. This can breed hubris among soldiers who think that their gee-whiz gadgets give them an insuperable advantage over a more primitive foe. That was certainly the case with Tunnell, who actually told me that all his sophisticated computer systems gave him a better picture of his area’s “human terrain” than that that possessed by the insurgents. I thought this was a pretty amazing statement considering that few if any of his soldiers spoke Pashto or understand anything about local customs — all of which was second nature to the Taliban.

The army has made great strides in counterinsurgency, but this shows clearly that it still has a way to go. It clearly has to do a better job of making sure that all those in such important combat commands have a better understanding of counterinsurgency doctrine — which includes a keen appreciation of the need for cultural knowledge and the limits of technology in this kind of fight.

The Washington Post has an interesting if depressing report on the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade, 2nd infantry division — the unit where five soldiers who are accused of killing several Afghan men “for sport” came from.

The Post notes that the brigade’s commander, Col. Harry Tunnell, was adamantly opposed to the prevailing counterinsurgency doctrine, which emphasizes protecting the population. He believed in “counterguerrilla operations” along the lines of his brigade’s motto, “Strike and destroy.” He encouraged an aggressive attitude that resulted in many casualties — both among Afghans and among his own men. Some of those losses were no doubt inevitable, because the 5th Brigade was deployed to a heavily Taliban-infested area on the outskirts of Kandahar. But it is striking, and alarming, that the army allowed the deployment of this brigade to a vital area even when it was obvious to all, as far back as pre-deployment training, that Col. Tunnell was dangerously out of sync with the state-of-the-art thinking on how to fight counterinsurgency. The Washington Post article notes that Tunnell is not implicated in the atrocities allegedly committed by his men, but it raises legitimate questions about whether his overly aggressive attitude may have been at the root of some of the brigade’s problems.

That was certainly an issue in my mind when I visited Col. Tunnell and was briefed by him at his brigade operations center at Kandahar Air Field in October 2009. A related issue, which isn’t mentioned in the Post article, is Tunnell’s faith in technology. The Stryker brigades are among the most high-tech in the army, equipped with armored vehicles that are “networked” to provide a common “operating picture” of the battlefield. This can breed hubris among soldiers who think that their gee-whiz gadgets give them an insuperable advantage over a more primitive foe. That was certainly the case with Tunnell, who actually told me that all his sophisticated computer systems gave him a better picture of his area’s “human terrain” than that that possessed by the insurgents. I thought this was a pretty amazing statement considering that few if any of his soldiers spoke Pashto or understand anything about local customs — all of which was second nature to the Taliban.

The army has made great strides in counterinsurgency, but this shows clearly that it still has a way to go. It clearly has to do a better job of making sure that all those in such important combat commands have a better understanding of counterinsurgency doctrine — which includes a keen appreciation of the need for cultural knowledge and the limits of technology in this kind of fight.

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Shift in Momentum in Afghanistan

I am soon heading to Afghanistan to see for myself how the war effort is progressing, but in the meantime I note several news accounts that give a sense of cautious optimism. That doesn’t include the reports this morning that high-level negotiations with the Taliban are starting and are being facilitated by NATO forces. There have been stories along those lines for years, and they haven’t gone anywhere, because the Taliban have no serious incentive to negotiate until they see that they are losing the war on the ground.

In that connection, it is interesting to read the assessment of a French general that the situation has improved dramatically in his area of operations in eastern Afghanistan. He even claims that Afghan troops will be ready to take responsibility for this once-dangerous area by next summer. Is he right? Who knows? But it does indicate that things are moving in the right direction in at least one important area.

That is also the assessment of retired Gen. Jack Keane — one of the architects of the Iraq surge — who has just returned from Afghanistan and reports: “There are already some early signs of a beginning of a momentum shift in our favor.”

New York Times correspondent C.J. Chivers, a former Marine, also notes progress in training Afghan security forces:

Two main training sites — the Kabul Military Training Center, used principally by the Afghan Army, and the Central Training Center, used by the police — have become bustling bases, packed with trainers and recruits, and there is a sense among the officers that they are producing better soldiers than before.

The military center has been graduating 1,400 newly trained soldiers every two …. The ratio of instructors to students has gone from one for every 79 trainees in 2009 to one for every 29, officers at the center say, suggesting that the new police officers and soldiers are getting more attention than in years past. The soldiers are paid better and desert less often, officials say.

Another interesting data point comes from this report that coalition air strikes are up 172 percent: “Last month, NATO attack planes dropped their bombs and fired their guns on 700 separate missions, according to U.S. Air Force statistics. That’s more than double the 257 attack sorties they flew in September 2009, and one of the highest single-month totals of the entire nine-year Afghan campaign.” That should help allay the concerns of those who worry that U.S. forces are so handicapped by rules of engagement that they can’t take the fight to the enemy. In fact, tight rules are necessary to prevent unnecessary civilian casualties, but these statistics suggest that American airpower is still being used effectively to help win the fight. There has also been a less-publicized increase in Special Operations raids, which are taking a nightly toll on the Taliban’s leadership.

I would caution against reading too much into any of this. It’s still early days, the full complement of surge forces having arrived in Afghanistan only last month. There is much hard fighting ahead, and many setbacks are certain. But at least there is now a sense that the war may be moving, however haltingly and slowly, in the right direction.

I am soon heading to Afghanistan to see for myself how the war effort is progressing, but in the meantime I note several news accounts that give a sense of cautious optimism. That doesn’t include the reports this morning that high-level negotiations with the Taliban are starting and are being facilitated by NATO forces. There have been stories along those lines for years, and they haven’t gone anywhere, because the Taliban have no serious incentive to negotiate until they see that they are losing the war on the ground.

In that connection, it is interesting to read the assessment of a French general that the situation has improved dramatically in his area of operations in eastern Afghanistan. He even claims that Afghan troops will be ready to take responsibility for this once-dangerous area by next summer. Is he right? Who knows? But it does indicate that things are moving in the right direction in at least one important area.

That is also the assessment of retired Gen. Jack Keane — one of the architects of the Iraq surge — who has just returned from Afghanistan and reports: “There are already some early signs of a beginning of a momentum shift in our favor.”

New York Times correspondent C.J. Chivers, a former Marine, also notes progress in training Afghan security forces:

Two main training sites — the Kabul Military Training Center, used principally by the Afghan Army, and the Central Training Center, used by the police — have become bustling bases, packed with trainers and recruits, and there is a sense among the officers that they are producing better soldiers than before.

The military center has been graduating 1,400 newly trained soldiers every two …. The ratio of instructors to students has gone from one for every 79 trainees in 2009 to one for every 29, officers at the center say, suggesting that the new police officers and soldiers are getting more attention than in years past. The soldiers are paid better and desert less often, officials say.

Another interesting data point comes from this report that coalition air strikes are up 172 percent: “Last month, NATO attack planes dropped their bombs and fired their guns on 700 separate missions, according to U.S. Air Force statistics. That’s more than double the 257 attack sorties they flew in September 2009, and one of the highest single-month totals of the entire nine-year Afghan campaign.” That should help allay the concerns of those who worry that U.S. forces are so handicapped by rules of engagement that they can’t take the fight to the enemy. In fact, tight rules are necessary to prevent unnecessary civilian casualties, but these statistics suggest that American airpower is still being used effectively to help win the fight. There has also been a less-publicized increase in Special Operations raids, which are taking a nightly toll on the Taliban’s leadership.

I would caution against reading too much into any of this. It’s still early days, the full complement of surge forces having arrived in Afghanistan only last month. There is much hard fighting ahead, and many setbacks are certain. But at least there is now a sense that the war may be moving, however haltingly and slowly, in the right direction.

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Harry Reid Not Closing the Sale

The Conventional Wisdom was that the Tea Party–backed Sharron Angle was a disaster for the GOP. Harry Reid would crush her, the theory went. She was too “wacky” for the voters. The New York Times confesses that this turned out to be nonsense:

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada first thought he could scrape his way to re-election by invoking his power as majority leader and reminding voters what that means for his home state. When that didn’t seem to work, he thought he could pull out this election with a scorched-earth campaign aimed at his Republican opponent, Sharron Angle, a Tea Party candidate with a rich history of unorthodox statements and politically unpopular positions. …

On the eve of the only debate of this contest, and as early voting begins on Saturday — a two-week period in which 50 percent of Nevadans are expected to cast ballots — Mr. Reid finds himself trapped in the race he has, in many ways, always feared. Ms. Angle, an opponent his campaign had viewed as the most flawed on the Republican bench, has not only held her own, but has become a national symbol of the Tea Party attempt to upend politics in Washington.

Angle is out-fundraising the Senate majority leader (has this ever happened?) and is running dead even with Reid. So it comes down to this:

For all the money gushing through the state, aides to both candidates described the central question of the race in similar terms: whether the intensity of Ms. Angle’s supporters, and their dislike of Mr. Reid — a statement from Ms. Angle’s campaign boasting of the fund-raising take talked about the “the hatred of Harry Reid” — would be enough to overcome the incumbent’s get-out-the-vote operation.

In a year in which Republicans are pumped up and Democrats’ enthusiasm is lagging, that would seem to give Angle the edge. And frankly, with Christine O’Donnell in the news, Angle seems awfully mainstream.

If the Senate majority leader hasn’t closed the sale and squashed his pesky challenger by now, it may be that the voters have simply had enough:

“My sense all along is at the end of the day this is a referendum on Reid,” [the director of Mason-Dixon polling] said. “No matter how kooky they try to portray Angle, I think at the end of the day, people, if they have to make a choice between the lesser of two evils, they’ll vote against Harry Reid.”

Come to think of it, the same could be said of all Democrats on the ballot, and the 2010 midterms as a whole.

The Conventional Wisdom was that the Tea Party–backed Sharron Angle was a disaster for the GOP. Harry Reid would crush her, the theory went. She was too “wacky” for the voters. The New York Times confesses that this turned out to be nonsense:

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada first thought he could scrape his way to re-election by invoking his power as majority leader and reminding voters what that means for his home state. When that didn’t seem to work, he thought he could pull out this election with a scorched-earth campaign aimed at his Republican opponent, Sharron Angle, a Tea Party candidate with a rich history of unorthodox statements and politically unpopular positions. …

On the eve of the only debate of this contest, and as early voting begins on Saturday — a two-week period in which 50 percent of Nevadans are expected to cast ballots — Mr. Reid finds himself trapped in the race he has, in many ways, always feared. Ms. Angle, an opponent his campaign had viewed as the most flawed on the Republican bench, has not only held her own, but has become a national symbol of the Tea Party attempt to upend politics in Washington.

Angle is out-fundraising the Senate majority leader (has this ever happened?) and is running dead even with Reid. So it comes down to this:

For all the money gushing through the state, aides to both candidates described the central question of the race in similar terms: whether the intensity of Ms. Angle’s supporters, and their dislike of Mr. Reid — a statement from Ms. Angle’s campaign boasting of the fund-raising take talked about the “the hatred of Harry Reid” — would be enough to overcome the incumbent’s get-out-the-vote operation.

In a year in which Republicans are pumped up and Democrats’ enthusiasm is lagging, that would seem to give Angle the edge. And frankly, with Christine O’Donnell in the news, Angle seems awfully mainstream.

If the Senate majority leader hasn’t closed the sale and squashed his pesky challenger by now, it may be that the voters have simply had enough:

“My sense all along is at the end of the day this is a referendum on Reid,” [the director of Mason-Dixon polling] said. “No matter how kooky they try to portray Angle, I think at the end of the day, people, if they have to make a choice between the lesser of two evils, they’ll vote against Harry Reid.”

Come to think of it, the same could be said of all Democrats on the ballot, and the 2010 midterms as a whole.

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The Art of Discontent

Peter Baker, one of the nation’s finest and fairest political reporters, has written an illuminating story for the New York Times Magazine. “Education of a President” is based on interviews with Barack Obama and a dozen of his advisers.

There are three overriding impression I took away from the piece, beginning with how much events are humbling the president and his top aides. “This is an administration that feels shellshocked,” Baker writes. “Many officials worry, they say, that the best days of the Obama presidency are behind them.” One aide confessed to Baker, “We’re all a lot more cynical now.” In their darkest moments, Baker informs us, “White House aides wonder aloud whether it is even possible for a modern president to succeed.”

The second takeaway from Baker’s piece is how the blame for Obama’s failures rests with everyone else. “Washington is even more broken than we thought,” one aide tells Baker. The system “is not on the level” — a phrase commonly used around the West Wing meaning “Republicans, the news media, the lobbyists, the whole Washington culture is not serious about solving problems.” Obama himself says, “Given how much stuff was coming at us, we probably spent much more time trying to get the policy right than trying to get the politics right.” (Read: we were too virtuous for our own good.)

The third impression from Baker’s article is the degree of self-pity and moral and intellectual superiority that remains so prevalent in the Obama White House. “The view from inside the administration starts with a basic mantra,” Baker writes. “Obama inherited the worst problems of any president in years. Or in generations. Or in American history.” Obama does little to disguise his disdain for Washington and the conventions of modern politics, Baker writes. He has little patience for what Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser, calls “the inevitable theatrics of Washington.” And in his conversation with Baker, Obama used some variation of the phrase “they’re not serious” four times in referring to Republican budget plans. One prominent Democratic lawmaker told Baker that Obama “always believes he is the smartest person in any room.”

The White House, then, is characterized by habitual vanity, rising cynicism, collapsing morale, and increasing resentment toward politics and governing, itself. Having worked in the White House for most of two terms, I understand that life there can present an array of challenges. Still, those working in the Obama White House seem utterly devoid of any enchantment and joy rooted in an appreciation of history — the kind of that that makes working in the White House, even on the worst days, an honor beyond measure.

In writing about Edward Grey, John Buchan told about how he had been the most fortunate of mortals, for he had everything — health, beauty, easy means, a great reputation, innumerable friends. One by one, the sources of his happiness vanished, yet Grey persevered. “Under the buffetings of life he never winced or complained,” Buchan writes, “and the spectacle of his gentle fortitude was . . . an inspiration.”

Later in Pilgrim’s Way, Buchan, in describing himself, says, “I was brought up in times when one was not ashamed to be happy, and I have never learned the art of discontent.”

The White House today seems to be inhabited by people who have learned the art of discontent. Some day, it may dawn on them what a privilege and gift their White House years really were. But by then, the moment will be gone with the wind.

Peter Baker, one of the nation’s finest and fairest political reporters, has written an illuminating story for the New York Times Magazine. “Education of a President” is based on interviews with Barack Obama and a dozen of his advisers.

There are three overriding impression I took away from the piece, beginning with how much events are humbling the president and his top aides. “This is an administration that feels shellshocked,” Baker writes. “Many officials worry, they say, that the best days of the Obama presidency are behind them.” One aide confessed to Baker, “We’re all a lot more cynical now.” In their darkest moments, Baker informs us, “White House aides wonder aloud whether it is even possible for a modern president to succeed.”

The second takeaway from Baker’s piece is how the blame for Obama’s failures rests with everyone else. “Washington is even more broken than we thought,” one aide tells Baker. The system “is not on the level” — a phrase commonly used around the West Wing meaning “Republicans, the news media, the lobbyists, the whole Washington culture is not serious about solving problems.” Obama himself says, “Given how much stuff was coming at us, we probably spent much more time trying to get the policy right than trying to get the politics right.” (Read: we were too virtuous for our own good.)

The third impression from Baker’s article is the degree of self-pity and moral and intellectual superiority that remains so prevalent in the Obama White House. “The view from inside the administration starts with a basic mantra,” Baker writes. “Obama inherited the worst problems of any president in years. Or in generations. Or in American history.” Obama does little to disguise his disdain for Washington and the conventions of modern politics, Baker writes. He has little patience for what Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser, calls “the inevitable theatrics of Washington.” And in his conversation with Baker, Obama used some variation of the phrase “they’re not serious” four times in referring to Republican budget plans. One prominent Democratic lawmaker told Baker that Obama “always believes he is the smartest person in any room.”

The White House, then, is characterized by habitual vanity, rising cynicism, collapsing morale, and increasing resentment toward politics and governing, itself. Having worked in the White House for most of two terms, I understand that life there can present an array of challenges. Still, those working in the Obama White House seem utterly devoid of any enchantment and joy rooted in an appreciation of history — the kind of that that makes working in the White House, even on the worst days, an honor beyond measure.

In writing about Edward Grey, John Buchan told about how he had been the most fortunate of mortals, for he had everything — health, beauty, easy means, a great reputation, innumerable friends. One by one, the sources of his happiness vanished, yet Grey persevered. “Under the buffetings of life he never winced or complained,” Buchan writes, “and the spectacle of his gentle fortitude was . . . an inspiration.”

Later in Pilgrim’s Way, Buchan, in describing himself, says, “I was brought up in times when one was not ashamed to be happy, and I have never learned the art of discontent.”

The White House today seems to be inhabited by people who have learned the art of discontent. Some day, it may dawn on them what a privilege and gift their White House years really were. But by then, the moment will be gone with the wind.

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Brooks: Obama Behaves Like an MSNBC Host!

David Brooks is bummed:

I must say this has been a tough week for those of us who personally admire President Obama and his advisers. … [M]y general rule is that if the president and his advisers are going to accuse somebody of committing a crime, they should have some scintilla of evidence behind the charge. Yet Obama seems to have precisely none behind his accusation that the Chamber of Commerce is using foreign money to influence the elections.

Brooks seems amazed that the high-minded Obama would stoop to such tactics: “[I]t is depressing to see Obama and others going off on this jag. There must be other ways of firing up the Democratic base. Is there no substantive issue they can talk about?” Umm, no. But had Brooks been paying closer attention, or been less enthralled with the president and his advisers, he would have noticed that playing fast and loose with the facts and vilifying the opposition is pretty much par for the course.

Brooks is appalled that the White House is “getting mentally captured by the lefty blogosphere.” Again, perhaps he missed the trend. It was the White House that made Rush Limbaugh into a bogeyman. And then Fox. And then Wall Street. Who but the White House and the lefty blogosphere cheered the building of the Ground Zero mosque? The president and the leftist activists have been joined at the hip for some time now. That, if you recall, was the Journolist scandal — faux journalists working in concert with a hyper-partisan White House.

Brooks also seems amazed that Obama is exhibiting none of the political smarts evident in his campaign. He seems — oh, my! — to be acting like Keith Olbermann. “Declaring war on the Chamber of Commerce may be a good idea for somebody hosting a show on MSNBC, but there are chambers in towns across America.” In other words, what is wrong with this guy?

The myth that Obama was a fact-driven moderate was shattered for many Americans months ago. But apparently, many in the punditocracy are only now coming to terms with a president whose maturity, political judgment, and competence were badly oversold. Oversold by these very same pundits, of course.

David Brooks is bummed:

I must say this has been a tough week for those of us who personally admire President Obama and his advisers. … [M]y general rule is that if the president and his advisers are going to accuse somebody of committing a crime, they should have some scintilla of evidence behind the charge. Yet Obama seems to have precisely none behind his accusation that the Chamber of Commerce is using foreign money to influence the elections.

Brooks seems amazed that the high-minded Obama would stoop to such tactics: “[I]t is depressing to see Obama and others going off on this jag. There must be other ways of firing up the Democratic base. Is there no substantive issue they can talk about?” Umm, no. But had Brooks been paying closer attention, or been less enthralled with the president and his advisers, he would have noticed that playing fast and loose with the facts and vilifying the opposition is pretty much par for the course.

Brooks is appalled that the White House is “getting mentally captured by the lefty blogosphere.” Again, perhaps he missed the trend. It was the White House that made Rush Limbaugh into a bogeyman. And then Fox. And then Wall Street. Who but the White House and the lefty blogosphere cheered the building of the Ground Zero mosque? The president and the leftist activists have been joined at the hip for some time now. That, if you recall, was the Journolist scandal — faux journalists working in concert with a hyper-partisan White House.

Brooks also seems amazed that Obama is exhibiting none of the political smarts evident in his campaign. He seems — oh, my! — to be acting like Keith Olbermann. “Declaring war on the Chamber of Commerce may be a good idea for somebody hosting a show on MSNBC, but there are chambers in towns across America.” In other words, what is wrong with this guy?

The myth that Obama was a fact-driven moderate was shattered for many Americans months ago. But apparently, many in the punditocracy are only now coming to terms with a president whose maturity, political judgment, and competence were badly oversold. Oversold by these very same pundits, of course.

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Another Group Turns on the Dems

Every day it’s a new problem for Democrats. First, independents, we hear, have deserted them in droves. Then Hispanics are soured. Young people aren’t enthusiastic. Jews are turned off. Ohio wants George W. Bush back. And on it goes.

Now it’s older voters:

Among seniors who say that they are very interested in the upcoming election, 51 percent prefer to see Republicans in control of the next Congress while 40 percent say they want Democrats in charge. …

Older voters — Democrats, Republicans or independents — are more pessimistic in their assessments of Washington’s performance than are younger voters. Based on historical voting patterns, they are also more likely to turn out in November — a potentially toxic combination for the Democrats.

Older voters say the federal government is not focused on the right priorities. They think Washington is working less well these days that it did in the past.

Three in 10 older voters give the government a failing grade, compared with 8 percent of voters younger than 30. Older voters also are much harsher in their judgments than they were a decade ago, when just more than one in 10 gave Washington an F … [O]lder Republicans and, crucially, older independents are more likely than their younger counterparts to say the administration has made things worse.

Let’s be candid — it’s increasingly hard to find a pro-Obama slice of the electorate that is going to turn out in large numbers for the midterms. Scaring them didn’t work. Cajoling them didn’t help. What do all these voters expect — results? And hence the problem for the Democratic incumbents.

Every day it’s a new problem for Democrats. First, independents, we hear, have deserted them in droves. Then Hispanics are soured. Young people aren’t enthusiastic. Jews are turned off. Ohio wants George W. Bush back. And on it goes.

Now it’s older voters:

Among seniors who say that they are very interested in the upcoming election, 51 percent prefer to see Republicans in control of the next Congress while 40 percent say they want Democrats in charge. …

Older voters — Democrats, Republicans or independents — are more pessimistic in their assessments of Washington’s performance than are younger voters. Based on historical voting patterns, they are also more likely to turn out in November — a potentially toxic combination for the Democrats.

Older voters say the federal government is not focused on the right priorities. They think Washington is working less well these days that it did in the past.

Three in 10 older voters give the government a failing grade, compared with 8 percent of voters younger than 30. Older voters also are much harsher in their judgments than they were a decade ago, when just more than one in 10 gave Washington an F … [O]lder Republicans and, crucially, older independents are more likely than their younger counterparts to say the administration has made things worse.

Let’s be candid — it’s increasingly hard to find a pro-Obama slice of the electorate that is going to turn out in large numbers for the midterms. Scaring them didn’t work. Cajoling them didn’t help. What do all these voters expect — results? And hence the problem for the Democratic incumbents.

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WEB EXCLUSIVE: ‘The Aim Is to Make Israel a Pariah’

Last night, Rupert Murdoch gave an extraordinary speech at an Anti-Defamation League dinner in which he revealed, yet again, that he is a true and selfless friend of the Jewish people and of Israel. Here is the text:

You [the ADL] were founded a century ago against the backdrop of something we cannot imagine in America today:  the conviction and then lynching of an innocent Jew. In the century since then, you have fought anti-Semitism wherever you have found it.  You have championed equal treatment for all races and creeds.  And you have held America to her founding promise. So successful have you been, a few years ago some people were beginning to say, “maybe we don’t need an ADL anymore.” That is a much harder argument to make these days. Now, there’s not a single person in this room who needs a lecture on the evil of anti-Semitism.  My own perspective is simple:  We live in a world where there is an ongoing war against the Jews.  For the first decades after Israel’s founding, this war was conventional in nature.  The goal was straightforward:  to use military force to overrun Israel.  Well before the Berlin Wall came down, that approach had clearly failed. …

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

Last night, Rupert Murdoch gave an extraordinary speech at an Anti-Defamation League dinner in which he revealed, yet again, that he is a true and selfless friend of the Jewish people and of Israel. Here is the text:

You [the ADL] were founded a century ago against the backdrop of something we cannot imagine in America today:  the conviction and then lynching of an innocent Jew. In the century since then, you have fought anti-Semitism wherever you have found it.  You have championed equal treatment for all races and creeds.  And you have held America to her founding promise. So successful have you been, a few years ago some people were beginning to say, “maybe we don’t need an ADL anymore.” That is a much harder argument to make these days. Now, there’s not a single person in this room who needs a lecture on the evil of anti-Semitism.  My own perspective is simple:  We live in a world where there is an ongoing war against the Jews.  For the first decades after Israel’s founding, this war was conventional in nature.  The goal was straightforward:  to use military force to overrun Israel.  Well before the Berlin Wall came down, that approach had clearly failed. …

To read the rest of this COMMENTARY Web Exclusive, click here.

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Business Execs vs. Professional Pols

Linda McMahon has steadily narrowed the gap between herself and state attorney general and faux Vietnam vet Richard Blumenthal. She has run a disciplined campaign and focused voters on job creation. Her message is simple: she knows how to create jobs (600 in the state of Connecticut alone) and Blumenthal never has. The Wall Street Journal editors have some fun with Blumenthal’s response:

The polls say job creation is the number one campaign issue, so the prize for proposal of the year goes to Connecticut Attorney General and Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal. Asked in a debate to justify the hundreds of lawsuits he’s filed against companies—employers—in his state, the Democrat replied: “Our lawsuits, our legal actions, actually create jobs.”

We’ve heard of those who believe we can spend our way to prosperity, and others want to inflate our way. But the shovel-ready lawsuit as an economic stimulus is a genuine novelty. …

There’s the case of toolmaker Stanley Works, which Mr. Blumenthal sued in 2002 to block it from relocating to Bermuda to save $30 million in corporate income taxes. A year later a less competitive Stanley laid off 1,000 workers. His 2003 suit against small business-owner Gina Malapanis inspired a counter-suit, and a jury awarded her $18 million from the state.

There is a theme here, of course. Obama fessed up that he didn’t realize when he spent more than $800B of the taxpayers’ money that there are no shovel-ready jobs. It seems he doesn’t understand how job creation works either.

Like Blumenthal and Obama, Democrats Barbara Boxer, Jerry Brown, and Russ Feingold are professional politicians with no experience managing a business, making payroll, or creating wealth and jobs. Faced with business executives like Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, and Ron Johnson, the professional politicians are somewhat flummoxed. Run government more like a business? Lower costs of labor? Reduce corporate taxes to encourage domestic investment? Return to 2008 spending levels? Wow. The pols hardly know what to say; so instead, they run negative, ad hominem campaigns.

The voters are not thrilled with professional politicians these days, in no small part because they seem so clueless when it comes to the economy. That leaves an opening for candidates who know something about the private sector and understand that the demonization of business is among the least-helpful things the president and Democratic Congress have done.

Linda McMahon has steadily narrowed the gap between herself and state attorney general and faux Vietnam vet Richard Blumenthal. She has run a disciplined campaign and focused voters on job creation. Her message is simple: she knows how to create jobs (600 in the state of Connecticut alone) and Blumenthal never has. The Wall Street Journal editors have some fun with Blumenthal’s response:

The polls say job creation is the number one campaign issue, so the prize for proposal of the year goes to Connecticut Attorney General and Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal. Asked in a debate to justify the hundreds of lawsuits he’s filed against companies—employers—in his state, the Democrat replied: “Our lawsuits, our legal actions, actually create jobs.”

We’ve heard of those who believe we can spend our way to prosperity, and others want to inflate our way. But the shovel-ready lawsuit as an economic stimulus is a genuine novelty. …

There’s the case of toolmaker Stanley Works, which Mr. Blumenthal sued in 2002 to block it from relocating to Bermuda to save $30 million in corporate income taxes. A year later a less competitive Stanley laid off 1,000 workers. His 2003 suit against small business-owner Gina Malapanis inspired a counter-suit, and a jury awarded her $18 million from the state.

There is a theme here, of course. Obama fessed up that he didn’t realize when he spent more than $800B of the taxpayers’ money that there are no shovel-ready jobs. It seems he doesn’t understand how job creation works either.

Like Blumenthal and Obama, Democrats Barbara Boxer, Jerry Brown, and Russ Feingold are professional politicians with no experience managing a business, making payroll, or creating wealth and jobs. Faced with business executives like Carly Fiorina, Meg Whitman, and Ron Johnson, the professional politicians are somewhat flummoxed. Run government more like a business? Lower costs of labor? Reduce corporate taxes to encourage domestic investment? Return to 2008 spending levels? Wow. The pols hardly know what to say; so instead, they run negative, ad hominem campaigns.

The voters are not thrilled with professional politicians these days, in no small part because they seem so clueless when it comes to the economy. That leaves an opening for candidates who know something about the private sector and understand that the demonization of business is among the least-helpful things the president and Democratic Congress have done.

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Washington’s Master Bashes Washington

In the New York Post today, I ask why Barack Obama speaks so ill of Washington, in fact, he has gotten his way there to an astonishing degree:

Shouldn’t he have a better opinion of the city to which he is assigning nearly divine powers over the good working order of an economy in desperate condition?

There’s more here.

In the New York Post today, I ask why Barack Obama speaks so ill of Washington, in fact, he has gotten his way there to an astonishing degree:

Shouldn’t he have a better opinion of the city to which he is assigning nearly divine powers over the good working order of an economy in desperate condition?

There’s more here.

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No Sale on Obama’s Middle East Policy

The reaction to the AJC’s recent poll suggests that Obama is losing all but the hard-core Israel-haters. As this report explains, Stephen Walt sees the growing opposition to Obama’s policies and concern over a nuclear-armed Iran as the result of “the drumbeat of Islamophobia in the American media, the constant pounding on the Iran threat by Israeli politicians and their supporters here.” Well, as we saw, those supporters of Israel happen to be a majority of Americans, the vast majority of which are non-Jews.

But outside the realm of anti-Israel conspiracy theorists, the implications of the AJC survey are clear:

It was released just three weeks before mid-term elections in which Republicans, whose leadership has strongly assailed Obama over his sometimes rocky relations with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his efforts to engage Iran diplomatically, are expected to regain control of at least one of the two houses of Congress.

AJC president David Harris appeared to echo those Republican themes Tuesday, claiming that “the nervousness of American Jews about two of our nation’s top foreign policy issues and how our leadership is responding” was “the most disturbing” of the survey’s findings.

Or, as Larry Sabato put it, “A 50 percent positive rating for a Democratic president among Jews is, frankly, terrible.”

As for the Obama team’s obsession with non-direct, non-peace, non-talking negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis, there is now evidence that “for at least some U.S. Jews, Obama may have emerged as the loser in his contretemps with Netanyahu over settlements earlier this year. In addition to the 45 percent of Jews who expressed disapproval of his handling of U.S.-Israeli relations, the survey found that approval of Netanyahu’s handling of bilateral ties has risen — from 57 percent in March to 62 percent.” Approval for Obama’s Iran policy is also cratering. (“While a plurality of 47 percent approved of his performance last March, a 46-percent plurality now disapprove.”)

The Obama presidency has been an interesting, albeit dangerous, test case: is there an appetite for a reversal of America’s traditional warm relationship with Israel and its forceful presence in the Middle East? The answer is emphatically no.

The reaction to the AJC’s recent poll suggests that Obama is losing all but the hard-core Israel-haters. As this report explains, Stephen Walt sees the growing opposition to Obama’s policies and concern over a nuclear-armed Iran as the result of “the drumbeat of Islamophobia in the American media, the constant pounding on the Iran threat by Israeli politicians and their supporters here.” Well, as we saw, those supporters of Israel happen to be a majority of Americans, the vast majority of which are non-Jews.

But outside the realm of anti-Israel conspiracy theorists, the implications of the AJC survey are clear:

It was released just three weeks before mid-term elections in which Republicans, whose leadership has strongly assailed Obama over his sometimes rocky relations with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his efforts to engage Iran diplomatically, are expected to regain control of at least one of the two houses of Congress.

AJC president David Harris appeared to echo those Republican themes Tuesday, claiming that “the nervousness of American Jews about two of our nation’s top foreign policy issues and how our leadership is responding” was “the most disturbing” of the survey’s findings.

Or, as Larry Sabato put it, “A 50 percent positive rating for a Democratic president among Jews is, frankly, terrible.”

As for the Obama team’s obsession with non-direct, non-peace, non-talking negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis, there is now evidence that “for at least some U.S. Jews, Obama may have emerged as the loser in his contretemps with Netanyahu over settlements earlier this year. In addition to the 45 percent of Jews who expressed disapproval of his handling of U.S.-Israeli relations, the survey found that approval of Netanyahu’s handling of bilateral ties has risen — from 57 percent in March to 62 percent.” Approval for Obama’s Iran policy is also cratering. (“While a plurality of 47 percent approved of his performance last March, a 46-percent plurality now disapprove.”)

The Obama presidency has been an interesting, albeit dangerous, test case: is there an appetite for a reversal of America’s traditional warm relationship with Israel and its forceful presence in the Middle East? The answer is emphatically no.

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Why Didn’t Chile’s President Thank Barack Obama?

He did, after all, thank Bibi Netanyahu, among others. So why the silence from Sebastian Pinera about Obama? Simple: the mining operation was a shovel-ready project, and Obama told Peter Baker of the New York Times those projects don’t exist.

He did, after all, thank Bibi Netanyahu, among others. So why the silence from Sebastian Pinera about Obama? Simple: the mining operation was a shovel-ready project, and Obama told Peter Baker of the New York Times those projects don’t exist.

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Foreign Policy Alternatives

Foreign Policy has a symposium on “Plan B” for Obama’s foreign policy. The assumption is, of course, that what he’s tried hasn’t worked very well.

Elliott Abrams suggests:

Forget the peace talks. A lasting, final Israeli-Palestinian agreement is nowhere in sight. With the negotiations as background music, Barack Obama should get serious. The rest of his term should be spent building the institutions of a Palestinian state in the West Bank — not chasing a dream.

That’s one of the smartest entries. From the left we also get Bob Shrum (yes, that Bob Shrum), who actually is on to something:

On critical issues like Afghanistan and Iran, Obama will need to take his case to the people directly, as he did so convincingly as a candidate. This means a continuing conversation in town halls and speeches that connect both emotionally and logically with a majority of Americans. … Obama needs to become the diplomat-in-chief — not just for U.S. allies overseas, but for his own citizenry at home.

But then again, Obama is not convincing Americans of much of anything, so it’s not clear that this would prove a productive exercise. And of course Obama first would have to decide what he wants to do about Iran.

Another helpful contribution comes from Ellen Laipson, who recommends:

Barack Obama needs to rethink his approach to engaging the Muslim world. After the promise of his seminal June 2009 Cairo speech, his administration has not focused on any serious initiatives and has fallen into the trap of fawning over Muslims in ways that are contrary to America’s core values. … The case of Egypt and its upcoming presidential election is a good place to start. The White House must try to ensure that the 2011 contest be fair and legitimate, for Egypt’s sake and ours. But America’s good work with grassroots activists needs to be complemented by a bolder public stance and even tough measures when governments fail to advance the most basic democratic reforms.

One of the more horrid suggestions come from Will Marshall, who wants a new Geneva Convention. One can only imagine what rules they would come up with to further impede America’s and Israel’s security. Nearly as bad is Christopher Preble (demonstrating the danger of the “austerity trap“), who wants massive defense cuts. But don’t worry, he says: “The hawks will scream, but America will be just fine.”

It’s a hard choice, but my vote for the dopiest recommendation comes from Joseph Cirincione:

Obama should unilaterally reduce the active U.S. arsenal to 1,000 weapons (which is still three times more than U.S. Air Force experts judge are necessary) and remove the 200 U.S. nuclear bombs that remain in Europe. Such cuts won’t hurt U.S. or global security in the least — and Obama has plenty of bipartisan, expert support for cuts of this size. They would put him on the road to fulfilling his compelling promise of a truly nuclear-free world.

Except for all the other countries that have nukes.

Get the sense that the left isn’t very serious about foreign policy? Me too. And it’s not just the left. As we correctly turn our attention to our massive deficits, the pressure will be on from the right and the left to bring troops home, cut defense spending, and return to Fortress America. But there is no return. Our enemies are real, and we need to rise to meet the challenges they pose to the U.S. and our allies.

Foreign Policy has a symposium on “Plan B” for Obama’s foreign policy. The assumption is, of course, that what he’s tried hasn’t worked very well.

Elliott Abrams suggests:

Forget the peace talks. A lasting, final Israeli-Palestinian agreement is nowhere in sight. With the negotiations as background music, Barack Obama should get serious. The rest of his term should be spent building the institutions of a Palestinian state in the West Bank — not chasing a dream.

That’s one of the smartest entries. From the left we also get Bob Shrum (yes, that Bob Shrum), who actually is on to something:

On critical issues like Afghanistan and Iran, Obama will need to take his case to the people directly, as he did so convincingly as a candidate. This means a continuing conversation in town halls and speeches that connect both emotionally and logically with a majority of Americans. … Obama needs to become the diplomat-in-chief — not just for U.S. allies overseas, but for his own citizenry at home.

But then again, Obama is not convincing Americans of much of anything, so it’s not clear that this would prove a productive exercise. And of course Obama first would have to decide what he wants to do about Iran.

Another helpful contribution comes from Ellen Laipson, who recommends:

Barack Obama needs to rethink his approach to engaging the Muslim world. After the promise of his seminal June 2009 Cairo speech, his administration has not focused on any serious initiatives and has fallen into the trap of fawning over Muslims in ways that are contrary to America’s core values. … The case of Egypt and its upcoming presidential election is a good place to start. The White House must try to ensure that the 2011 contest be fair and legitimate, for Egypt’s sake and ours. But America’s good work with grassroots activists needs to be complemented by a bolder public stance and even tough measures when governments fail to advance the most basic democratic reforms.

One of the more horrid suggestions come from Will Marshall, who wants a new Geneva Convention. One can only imagine what rules they would come up with to further impede America’s and Israel’s security. Nearly as bad is Christopher Preble (demonstrating the danger of the “austerity trap“), who wants massive defense cuts. But don’t worry, he says: “The hawks will scream, but America will be just fine.”

It’s a hard choice, but my vote for the dopiest recommendation comes from Joseph Cirincione:

Obama should unilaterally reduce the active U.S. arsenal to 1,000 weapons (which is still three times more than U.S. Air Force experts judge are necessary) and remove the 200 U.S. nuclear bombs that remain in Europe. Such cuts won’t hurt U.S. or global security in the least — and Obama has plenty of bipartisan, expert support for cuts of this size. They would put him on the road to fulfilling his compelling promise of a truly nuclear-free world.

Except for all the other countries that have nukes.

Get the sense that the left isn’t very serious about foreign policy? Me too. And it’s not just the left. As we correctly turn our attention to our massive deficits, the pressure will be on from the right and the left to bring troops home, cut defense spending, and return to Fortress America. But there is no return. Our enemies are real, and we need to rise to meet the challenges they pose to the U.S. and our allies.

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Christie Momentum?

Earlier this week, I remarked on Chris Christie’s YouTube stardom. I’m not the only one who’s taking him seriously. Matt Continetti thinks Christie may be the candidate the GOP base is looking for:

The New Jersey governor is touring the country in support of Republican candidates. He’s taken on the public sector unions. He’s made some hard calls. He speaks in a blunt, confrontational style. Yet he remains popular. Most striking, he’s a Republican from the Northeast who has national appeal. Last week Christie won a Tea Party presidential straw poll–in Virginia. In September, he came in second in another straw poll–held in Chicago.

Christie denies any interest in the top job. But he’s clearly a born executive. A pro-lifer, he has none of the social-issues baggage that has harmed Northeast Republicans in past primaries. He has a record to be proud of. He’s incredibly well spoken. Other than Paul Ryan, I can’t think of another Republican officeholder who gets conservatives as excited as Christie does.

He doesn’t have explicit foreign policy experience, although he did successfully prosecute a terrorist. (Nor do I see many other foreign policy mavens, other than John Bolton, considering a run. Now there’s a ticket!) And he says he really isn’t interested. But then so did Barak Obama a mere two years before he was elected president.

The Christie buzz will be followed by buzz for and about other potential candidates. But it reminds us that the field has hardly been set and that conservative activists are still shopping around for someone to excite them.

Earlier this week, I remarked on Chris Christie’s YouTube stardom. I’m not the only one who’s taking him seriously. Matt Continetti thinks Christie may be the candidate the GOP base is looking for:

The New Jersey governor is touring the country in support of Republican candidates. He’s taken on the public sector unions. He’s made some hard calls. He speaks in a blunt, confrontational style. Yet he remains popular. Most striking, he’s a Republican from the Northeast who has national appeal. Last week Christie won a Tea Party presidential straw poll–in Virginia. In September, he came in second in another straw poll–held in Chicago.

Christie denies any interest in the top job. But he’s clearly a born executive. A pro-lifer, he has none of the social-issues baggage that has harmed Northeast Republicans in past primaries. He has a record to be proud of. He’s incredibly well spoken. Other than Paul Ryan, I can’t think of another Republican officeholder who gets conservatives as excited as Christie does.

He doesn’t have explicit foreign policy experience, although he did successfully prosecute a terrorist. (Nor do I see many other foreign policy mavens, other than John Bolton, considering a run. Now there’s a ticket!) And he says he really isn’t interested. But then so did Barak Obama a mere two years before he was elected president.

The Christie buzz will be followed by buzz for and about other potential candidates. But it reminds us that the field has hardly been set and that conservative activists are still shopping around for someone to excite them.

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Anti-Terrorism Paralysis

Obama’s anti-terrorism policies have centered on tying our own hands (e.g., prohibiting enhanced interrogations), criminalizing our anti-terror activities (Mirandizing terrorist bombers), and trying to make grand gestures to the Muslim World (announcing Guantanamo’s closing). But mainly, his administration has been delaying, stalling, and frustrating the families of terror victims. A case in point:

The 10th anniversary of the bombing of the USS Cole on Tuesday conjured up painful memories for the families of the 17 Navy sailors who died in the terrorist attack, but it also revealed simmering anger at the Obama administration over the lack of concrete progress in bringing an alleged perpetrator to justice.

In February 2009, less than three weeks after his inauguration, President Barack Obama held an emotional meeting with family members of victims of the Cole bombing and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Families said the new president promised swift action yet pleaded for their patience so his aides and Congress could overhaul the military commission system – which federal courts twice invalidated during the Bush administration.

Yet 20 months later, there are few signs the case against Saudi-born Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri – the alleged mastermind of the Cole bombing who was captured in 2003 – has moved forward.

Likewise, the trial of KSM is stymied: no locale wants a civilian trial, and the Obama Justice Department is ideologically averse to military tribunals. Meanwhile, Eric Holder’s promised review of Miranda warnings for terrorists has gone nowhere.

As in so many other areas of national security, it appears that the Obama team just doesn’t spend much time or effort on these matters. Perhaps once his domestic agenda is up-ended by a GOP-controlled House (and possibly Senate), he’ll have more time to devote to these issues.

Obama’s anti-terrorism policies have centered on tying our own hands (e.g., prohibiting enhanced interrogations), criminalizing our anti-terror activities (Mirandizing terrorist bombers), and trying to make grand gestures to the Muslim World (announcing Guantanamo’s closing). But mainly, his administration has been delaying, stalling, and frustrating the families of terror victims. A case in point:

The 10th anniversary of the bombing of the USS Cole on Tuesday conjured up painful memories for the families of the 17 Navy sailors who died in the terrorist attack, but it also revealed simmering anger at the Obama administration over the lack of concrete progress in bringing an alleged perpetrator to justice.

In February 2009, less than three weeks after his inauguration, President Barack Obama held an emotional meeting with family members of victims of the Cole bombing and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Families said the new president promised swift action yet pleaded for their patience so his aides and Congress could overhaul the military commission system – which federal courts twice invalidated during the Bush administration.

Yet 20 months later, there are few signs the case against Saudi-born Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri – the alleged mastermind of the Cole bombing who was captured in 2003 – has moved forward.

Likewise, the trial of KSM is stymied: no locale wants a civilian trial, and the Obama Justice Department is ideologically averse to military tribunals. Meanwhile, Eric Holder’s promised review of Miranda warnings for terrorists has gone nowhere.

As in so many other areas of national security, it appears that the Obama team just doesn’t spend much time or effort on these matters. Perhaps once his domestic agenda is up-ended by a GOP-controlled House (and possibly Senate), he’ll have more time to devote to these issues.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Chamber of Commerce gambit is a bust. So Jonathan Chait tries: “Hear me now and believe me later: If Republicans win and maintain control of the House of Representatives, they are going to impeach President Obama.” OK, that’s just pathetic.

A Ben Smith reader also thinks it’s a loser.Why not run against the VFW, Knights of Columbus, or maybe the Lions Club? The ‘Chamber of Congress’ does not exactly conjure up a nefarious image to voters in the middle of the spectrum. Further, it just makes Obama’s anti-business tag stick even harder. I’m not quite sure what the Democrats hope to gain by demonizing these folks, the money is not going to stop and the Democrats’ attacks make for pretty bad optics, unless one is simply very anti-business.”

The liberal meme that the Tea Partiers are racists is fizzling. “A new analysis of political signs displayed at a tea party rally in Washington last month reveals that the vast majority of activists expressed narrow concerns about the government’s economic and spending policies and steered clear of the racially charged anti-Obama messages that have helped define some media coverage of such events.”

The Dems’ “comeback” storyline is a dud, too. Charlie Cook has 92 seats in play. Eighty-five of them are held by Democrats.

Obama’s base-rousing efforts have bombed. “In a punctuation mark to what is shaping up to be a tough political year for the Democrats, Obama’s approval rating dropped to 43 percent from 47 percent last month, with 53 percent disapproving of the way he is handling his job. Obama’s handling of the economy was a leading cause of the drop. And much of this decline came from his own Democrats. The poll found Democrats’ approval rating of Obama has dropped to 70 percent this month from 78 percent last month.”

New evidence every day that Obama’s Middle East policy is a total flop. “Israel’s stance, which has been clearly expressed over recent days, is that Ahmadinejad’s visit proves that Lebanon is becoming more extreme, on its way to becoming an Iranian outpost. ‘Lebanon has joined the axis of extreme nations which object to the peace process and support terror,’ said a senior Israeli official involved in preparations for the two-day visit. … Iran’s president is visiting Lebanon like a commander coming to inspect his troops — Hezbollah terrorists — who serve as a wing of Iran’s military in the region.” This is Iran without the bomb. Imagine when the regime gets nukes.

Obamamania is kaput. “An Associated Press-mtvU poll found college students cooling in their support for President Barack Obama, a fresh sign of trouble for Democrats struggling to rekindle enthusiasm among many of these newest voters for the crucial midterm elections in three weeks. Forty-four percent of students approve of the job Obama is doing as president, while 27 percent are unhappy with his stewardship, according to the survey conducted late last month. … [H]is diminished backing from college students raises further questions about whether the Democrats’ efforts to rally them — and other loyal supporters such as blacks and union members — will be enough to prevent Republicans from winning control of Congress in the Nov. 2 elections.”

The Chamber of Commerce gambit is a bust. So Jonathan Chait tries: “Hear me now and believe me later: If Republicans win and maintain control of the House of Representatives, they are going to impeach President Obama.” OK, that’s just pathetic.

A Ben Smith reader also thinks it’s a loser.Why not run against the VFW, Knights of Columbus, or maybe the Lions Club? The ‘Chamber of Congress’ does not exactly conjure up a nefarious image to voters in the middle of the spectrum. Further, it just makes Obama’s anti-business tag stick even harder. I’m not quite sure what the Democrats hope to gain by demonizing these folks, the money is not going to stop and the Democrats’ attacks make for pretty bad optics, unless one is simply very anti-business.”

The liberal meme that the Tea Partiers are racists is fizzling. “A new analysis of political signs displayed at a tea party rally in Washington last month reveals that the vast majority of activists expressed narrow concerns about the government’s economic and spending policies and steered clear of the racially charged anti-Obama messages that have helped define some media coverage of such events.”

The Dems’ “comeback” storyline is a dud, too. Charlie Cook has 92 seats in play. Eighty-five of them are held by Democrats.

Obama’s base-rousing efforts have bombed. “In a punctuation mark to what is shaping up to be a tough political year for the Democrats, Obama’s approval rating dropped to 43 percent from 47 percent last month, with 53 percent disapproving of the way he is handling his job. Obama’s handling of the economy was a leading cause of the drop. And much of this decline came from his own Democrats. The poll found Democrats’ approval rating of Obama has dropped to 70 percent this month from 78 percent last month.”

New evidence every day that Obama’s Middle East policy is a total flop. “Israel’s stance, which has been clearly expressed over recent days, is that Ahmadinejad’s visit proves that Lebanon is becoming more extreme, on its way to becoming an Iranian outpost. ‘Lebanon has joined the axis of extreme nations which object to the peace process and support terror,’ said a senior Israeli official involved in preparations for the two-day visit. … Iran’s president is visiting Lebanon like a commander coming to inspect his troops — Hezbollah terrorists — who serve as a wing of Iran’s military in the region.” This is Iran without the bomb. Imagine when the regime gets nukes.

Obamamania is kaput. “An Associated Press-mtvU poll found college students cooling in their support for President Barack Obama, a fresh sign of trouble for Democrats struggling to rekindle enthusiasm among many of these newest voters for the crucial midterm elections in three weeks. Forty-four percent of students approve of the job Obama is doing as president, while 27 percent are unhappy with his stewardship, according to the survey conducted late last month. … [H]is diminished backing from college students raises further questions about whether the Democrats’ efforts to rally them — and other loyal supporters such as blacks and union members — will be enough to prevent Republicans from winning control of Congress in the Nov. 2 elections.”

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