Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 19, 2010

Boneheaded Birthright Citizenship Fight

Jen is right on both the substance and politics of a GOP move to revoke birthright citizenship from children born to illegal aliens. As I’ve written here and here, the 14th Amendment was carefully drawn and debated to exclude only two categories of persons: the children of diplomats and children born on Indian reservations that were deemed sovereign territories at the time.

But the political objections are even greater. Republicans lost two Senate seats — in Nevada and Colorado — that they should have won on Election Day, largely because of the nasty tenor of debate on illegal immigration. Sharron Angle ran ads depicting illegal immigrants as gang members and criminals and accused them of stealing jobs from Nevadans in a state in which nearly one in five voters were Hispanic. Ken Buck lost in Colorado in part because former Republican congressman and anti-immigrant stalwart Tom Tancredo was on the ticket as an independent running for governor, a race that turned out Hispanic voters who do not normally vote in non-presidential years.

Bashing illegal immigrants may work in districts where Hispanics don’t vote, but it’s a loser nationally and in states that the GOP has to win in 2012 if it has any hope of replacing the current occupant in the White House.

Jen is right on both the substance and politics of a GOP move to revoke birthright citizenship from children born to illegal aliens. As I’ve written here and here, the 14th Amendment was carefully drawn and debated to exclude only two categories of persons: the children of diplomats and children born on Indian reservations that were deemed sovereign territories at the time.

But the political objections are even greater. Republicans lost two Senate seats — in Nevada and Colorado — that they should have won on Election Day, largely because of the nasty tenor of debate on illegal immigration. Sharron Angle ran ads depicting illegal immigrants as gang members and criminals and accused them of stealing jobs from Nevadans in a state in which nearly one in five voters were Hispanic. Ken Buck lost in Colorado in part because former Republican congressman and anti-immigrant stalwart Tom Tancredo was on the ticket as an independent running for governor, a race that turned out Hispanic voters who do not normally vote in non-presidential years.

Bashing illegal immigrants may work in districts where Hispanics don’t vote, but it’s a loser nationally and in states that the GOP has to win in 2012 if it has any hope of replacing the current occupant in the White House.

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Joe Biden’s—and the President’s—Sycophancy Problem

In an interview with GQ magazine, Vice President Biden, when asked about Barack Obama’s problem in being perceived as aloof, provided us with this answer: “I think what it is, is he’s so brilliant. He is an intellectual.”

So that’s the real explanation for the president’s troubles. It isn’t really a communications problem after all; it’s an IQ Gap between Obama and America. He’s just so much smarter, and so much better, than the rest of us. It can’t be easy for a man so gifted in so many ways to maintain the common touch. That, at least, seems to be the view from ObamaLand.

This, of course, is exactly what the president doesn’t need: aides like Biden, Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod, and others who, as things get worse for Mr. Obama, double down on their flattery of him.

There are many things in life I’m confident Mr. Obama needs; more sycophancy from his advisers is not one of them. What he needs, in fact, are mature, responsible, well-grounded people with standing in his life to let him know what is happening to his presidency. It is coming apart for a variety of reasons, including dogmatism and ideological rigidity, growing incompetence, unwise policies, and the poor performance of the American economy. The problems are not all of Obama’s making — but he bears a large share of the blame for taking America in the wrong direction.

I have little doubt that Vice President Biden’s words reflect his true views. That may be the most worrisome thing of all for the president. Because if this fiction continues to be entertained, things will only get worse for Obama, and for us.

In an interview with GQ magazine, Vice President Biden, when asked about Barack Obama’s problem in being perceived as aloof, provided us with this answer: “I think what it is, is he’s so brilliant. He is an intellectual.”

So that’s the real explanation for the president’s troubles. It isn’t really a communications problem after all; it’s an IQ Gap between Obama and America. He’s just so much smarter, and so much better, than the rest of us. It can’t be easy for a man so gifted in so many ways to maintain the common touch. That, at least, seems to be the view from ObamaLand.

This, of course, is exactly what the president doesn’t need: aides like Biden, Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod, and others who, as things get worse for Mr. Obama, double down on their flattery of him.

There are many things in life I’m confident Mr. Obama needs; more sycophancy from his advisers is not one of them. What he needs, in fact, are mature, responsible, well-grounded people with standing in his life to let him know what is happening to his presidency. It is coming apart for a variety of reasons, including dogmatism and ideological rigidity, growing incompetence, unwise policies, and the poor performance of the American economy. The problems are not all of Obama’s making — but he bears a large share of the blame for taking America in the wrong direction.

I have little doubt that Vice President Biden’s words reflect his true views. That may be the most worrisome thing of all for the president. Because if this fiction continues to be entertained, things will only get worse for Obama, and for us.

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Good News on Durban III?

The 10th-anniversary commemoration of the UN’s “Durban I” conference on racism will apparently face opposition from the United States. It was announced earlier this month that the conference, billed as Durban III, will be held in conjunction with the UN General Assembly session in September 2011. That would make New York City host to the third in a series of conferences that have twice served as forums for vociferous anti-Semitism and invective against Israel.

The Jerusalem Post reports today, however, that the U.S. opposes holding Durban III at the proposed time. This was to be expected, considering that the U.S. delegation walked out of the first Durban conference and pulled out of the second one in advance. But the proposal to hold Durban III in New York raises a deeper issue. Will the U.S. merely oppose holding Durban III on our soil, or will we prohibit it? We may have to do the latter if we want to prevent an episode of unseemly triumphalism in our most iconic metropolis. But doing so would not be without hazards. The choice of the UN headquarters in New York sets up the potential for a confrontation. It’s an ambiguous venue from the standpoint of sovereignty: on American soil, but in theory dedicated to multilateral UN purposes.

The traditional U.S. reluctance to exercise force majeure over the UN’s political activities has good arguments behind it. In the case of Durban III, however, American national sentiment is unlikely to tolerate the principle of host-nation quiescence regarding UN activism. The New York Daily News captured it crudely but accurately with its assessment of the Durban III planners: “Clearly, they intend to stick it in America’s eye.”

President Obama’s speech of national self-abnegation to the General Assembly in September 2009, delivered on America’s behalf, opened the door to attempts of this kind. I have no doubt that his representatives in the UN honestly oppose the current plan for Durban III, but it’s a natural consequence of the president’s rhetoric and policies. This is what the UN’s anti-liberal factions do: take miles when inches are given. In terms of posturing and rhetoric, there is no meeting them halfway.

If American diplomats can induce our fellows on the UN Human Rights Council to think better of their Durban III plan, that will be a satisfactory outcome. If the Durban III proponents force the issue, the U.S. will have some choices to make. I’m optimistic that the American people will oppose a Durban III in New York with vigor; if it ends up being held here, it will galvanize and focus domestic political opposition to the Durban process in a way neither previous conference has. Unfortunately, it will also increase public alienation from the Obama presidency. Americans are accustomed — and properly so — to presidents keeping our nation’s name out of the foreign political movements we find vile and distasteful.

The 10th-anniversary commemoration of the UN’s “Durban I” conference on racism will apparently face opposition from the United States. It was announced earlier this month that the conference, billed as Durban III, will be held in conjunction with the UN General Assembly session in September 2011. That would make New York City host to the third in a series of conferences that have twice served as forums for vociferous anti-Semitism and invective against Israel.

The Jerusalem Post reports today, however, that the U.S. opposes holding Durban III at the proposed time. This was to be expected, considering that the U.S. delegation walked out of the first Durban conference and pulled out of the second one in advance. But the proposal to hold Durban III in New York raises a deeper issue. Will the U.S. merely oppose holding Durban III on our soil, or will we prohibit it? We may have to do the latter if we want to prevent an episode of unseemly triumphalism in our most iconic metropolis. But doing so would not be without hazards. The choice of the UN headquarters in New York sets up the potential for a confrontation. It’s an ambiguous venue from the standpoint of sovereignty: on American soil, but in theory dedicated to multilateral UN purposes.

The traditional U.S. reluctance to exercise force majeure over the UN’s political activities has good arguments behind it. In the case of Durban III, however, American national sentiment is unlikely to tolerate the principle of host-nation quiescence regarding UN activism. The New York Daily News captured it crudely but accurately with its assessment of the Durban III planners: “Clearly, they intend to stick it in America’s eye.”

President Obama’s speech of national self-abnegation to the General Assembly in September 2009, delivered on America’s behalf, opened the door to attempts of this kind. I have no doubt that his representatives in the UN honestly oppose the current plan for Durban III, but it’s a natural consequence of the president’s rhetoric and policies. This is what the UN’s anti-liberal factions do: take miles when inches are given. In terms of posturing and rhetoric, there is no meeting them halfway.

If American diplomats can induce our fellows on the UN Human Rights Council to think better of their Durban III plan, that will be a satisfactory outcome. If the Durban III proponents force the issue, the U.S. will have some choices to make. I’m optimistic that the American people will oppose a Durban III in New York with vigor; if it ends up being held here, it will galvanize and focus domestic political opposition to the Durban process in a way neither previous conference has. Unfortunately, it will also increase public alienation from the Obama presidency. Americans are accustomed — and properly so — to presidents keeping our nation’s name out of the foreign political movements we find vile and distasteful.

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How Not to Spend Political Capital

Let’s hope that this report is not accurate:

As one of its first acts, the new Congress will consider denying citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants who are born in the United States. Those children, who are now automatically granted citizenship at birth, will be one of the first targets of the Republican-led House when it convenes in January.

As I have previously written (here and here), futzing with the Constitution is a perfectly awful idea. As a substantive matter and as a political matter, it is not what conservatives should be focused on if they want to promote the image that they are sober, responsible lawmakers. And they certainly don’t want to make it one their “first” targets. This is ObamaCare for Republicans — a distraction and a partisan fight that should not be a top priority when unemployment is high, the debt is massive, and real questions exist as to the country’s financial stability and international staying power. It would be irresponsible for the House leadership to go on an immigration jaunt — a sign that they didn’t really learn all they should have from the Democrats’ errors. As a matter of constitutional sobriety and political smarts, the Republican leaders should put this on the back burner. For a good long time.

Let’s hope that this report is not accurate:

As one of its first acts, the new Congress will consider denying citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants who are born in the United States. Those children, who are now automatically granted citizenship at birth, will be one of the first targets of the Republican-led House when it convenes in January.

As I have previously written (here and here), futzing with the Constitution is a perfectly awful idea. As a substantive matter and as a political matter, it is not what conservatives should be focused on if they want to promote the image that they are sober, responsible lawmakers. And they certainly don’t want to make it one their “first” targets. This is ObamaCare for Republicans — a distraction and a partisan fight that should not be a top priority when unemployment is high, the debt is massive, and real questions exist as to the country’s financial stability and international staying power. It would be irresponsible for the House leadership to go on an immigration jaunt — a sign that they didn’t really learn all they should have from the Democrats’ errors. As a matter of constitutional sobriety and political smarts, the Republican leaders should put this on the back burner. For a good long time.

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Forget “Front-runner”

There is a bizarre obsession with declaring in the fall of 2010 that one candidate or another is the “front-runner” in the GOP presidential primary. Sarah Palin will be the front-runner, the pundits pronounce, because she’s so very popular with the base (but maybe not as popular as the mainstream media imagine). Mitt Romney is the front-runner, we are told, because he is “next in line” and will have loads of money and name recognition. This is all hogwash.

Rudy Giuliani was the “front-runner” for all of 2007 — and then the race actually started. Romney had tons of money last time, but John McCain’s pauper campaign beat him. (And if anything, Romney is in worse shape this time with the RomneyCare cloud over his head.) It’s daft to talk of front-runners when the candidates aren’t set, we are two years from any votes being cast, and there is such obvious discontent with the most likely contenders.

The 2012 polls mean absolutely nothing at this point, reflecting only current familiarity with the candidates. Bestowing front-runner status on this or that candidate provides reporters and pundits with a way of organizing their storylines (“front-runner stumbles”), but it’s not informative. What would be illuminating is to probe the strengths and weaknesses of each, the source of support (financial and otherwise) each might have, and the potential strategy for each. But, by gosh, that takes a lot of work. So much easier just to debate who the “front-runner” is and ponder whether Palin will run or not.

There is a bizarre obsession with declaring in the fall of 2010 that one candidate or another is the “front-runner” in the GOP presidential primary. Sarah Palin will be the front-runner, the pundits pronounce, because she’s so very popular with the base (but maybe not as popular as the mainstream media imagine). Mitt Romney is the front-runner, we are told, because he is “next in line” and will have loads of money and name recognition. This is all hogwash.

Rudy Giuliani was the “front-runner” for all of 2007 — and then the race actually started. Romney had tons of money last time, but John McCain’s pauper campaign beat him. (And if anything, Romney is in worse shape this time with the RomneyCare cloud over his head.) It’s daft to talk of front-runners when the candidates aren’t set, we are two years from any votes being cast, and there is such obvious discontent with the most likely contenders.

The 2012 polls mean absolutely nothing at this point, reflecting only current familiarity with the candidates. Bestowing front-runner status on this or that candidate provides reporters and pundits with a way of organizing their storylines (“front-runner stumbles”), but it’s not informative. What would be illuminating is to probe the strengths and weaknesses of each, the source of support (financial and otherwise) each might have, and the potential strategy for each. But, by gosh, that takes a lot of work. So much easier just to debate who the “front-runner” is and ponder whether Palin will run or not.

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Just Hold Them

Benjamin Wittes of Brookings and Jack Goldsmith, a former assistant attorney general in the Bush administration (of which he was a sometimes critic), make a compelling case: forget civilian trials and military tribunals for enemy combatants. Their logic is sound:

Many critics of civilian trials claim that this problem would not have occurred in a military commission, but that is very probably wrong. The legal standard for excluding such evidence in military commissions would depend on the military judge’s sense of the “interests of justice.” The government would be foolish to rely on military judges’ willingness to admit evidence obtained – even in a derivative fashion — as a result of coercion. There is not much reason to think that the government would have had an easier time against Ghailani on this score if it had proceeded in a commission.

There is, however, reason to think that a commission trial would have presented problems not present in Ghailani’s civilian trial. One central problem is that the conspiracy charge on which Ghailani was nabbed might not be valid in military commissions; three sitting Supreme Court justices have said as much, and many scholars agree. On this and other issues from evidentiary and procedural rules to fundamental constitutional questions, military commissions raise legal uncertainties that have yet to be sorted out by appellate courts.

Instead, just hold the terrorists indefinitely. It’s tried and true and perfectly legal:

The government has a lesser burden in justifying military detention before a habeas corpus court than it has in convicting a terrorist of a crime at trial. The courts broadly accept that Congress has authorized military detention and that it is a perfectly legitimate form of terrorist incapacitation. … Military detention was designed precisely to prevent such fighters from returning to the battlefield. It is a tradition-sanctioned, congressionally authorized, court-blessed, resource-saving, security-preserving, easier-than-trial option for long-term terrorist incapacitation.

Oh the jaws that will drop in European salons! Oh the howls from the ACLU! But at this point, these are precisely the sorts of elites that the Obama administration should dismiss with a back of the hand. The American people and our enemies abroad look at the Obama detention operation with a mix of astonishment and contempt. The White House, however, created the fiction that only civilian trials are true to our “values” but now has figured out that they may be inimical to our national security. It has puffed and postured about closing Guantanamo but has now discovered its utility.

So what better time to wipe the slate clean, declare that Guantanamo will remain in operation for the “worst of the worst,” and relegate KSM and the rest to indefinite detention? That would redound to Obama’s political benefit and restore some oomph to a commander in chief badly in need of some; moreover, it would finally recognize the obvious: we’re at war, and combatants are not criminal defendants.

Benjamin Wittes of Brookings and Jack Goldsmith, a former assistant attorney general in the Bush administration (of which he was a sometimes critic), make a compelling case: forget civilian trials and military tribunals for enemy combatants. Their logic is sound:

Many critics of civilian trials claim that this problem would not have occurred in a military commission, but that is very probably wrong. The legal standard for excluding such evidence in military commissions would depend on the military judge’s sense of the “interests of justice.” The government would be foolish to rely on military judges’ willingness to admit evidence obtained – even in a derivative fashion — as a result of coercion. There is not much reason to think that the government would have had an easier time against Ghailani on this score if it had proceeded in a commission.

There is, however, reason to think that a commission trial would have presented problems not present in Ghailani’s civilian trial. One central problem is that the conspiracy charge on which Ghailani was nabbed might not be valid in military commissions; three sitting Supreme Court justices have said as much, and many scholars agree. On this and other issues from evidentiary and procedural rules to fundamental constitutional questions, military commissions raise legal uncertainties that have yet to be sorted out by appellate courts.

Instead, just hold the terrorists indefinitely. It’s tried and true and perfectly legal:

The government has a lesser burden in justifying military detention before a habeas corpus court than it has in convicting a terrorist of a crime at trial. The courts broadly accept that Congress has authorized military detention and that it is a perfectly legitimate form of terrorist incapacitation. … Military detention was designed precisely to prevent such fighters from returning to the battlefield. It is a tradition-sanctioned, congressionally authorized, court-blessed, resource-saving, security-preserving, easier-than-trial option for long-term terrorist incapacitation.

Oh the jaws that will drop in European salons! Oh the howls from the ACLU! But at this point, these are precisely the sorts of elites that the Obama administration should dismiss with a back of the hand. The American people and our enemies abroad look at the Obama detention operation with a mix of astonishment and contempt. The White House, however, created the fiction that only civilian trials are true to our “values” but now has figured out that they may be inimical to our national security. It has puffed and postured about closing Guantanamo but has now discovered its utility.

So what better time to wipe the slate clean, declare that Guantanamo will remain in operation for the “worst of the worst,” and relegate KSM and the rest to indefinite detention? That would redound to Obama’s political benefit and restore some oomph to a commander in chief badly in need of some; moreover, it would finally recognize the obvious: we’re at war, and combatants are not criminal defendants.

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Here’s the “Civil War” the Press Has Been Looking For

The civil war between Tea Partiers and establishment Republicans never really emerged. Candidates won and lost in primaries, the old guard agreed with the new on earmarks, and all the elected and re-elected GOP senators and House members are on board with key elements of the conservative agenda (extend the Bush tax cuts, refudiate ObamaCare, cut spending, etc.). However, the Dems are another story. This report will amuse Republicans and, frankly, shock a lot of readers who imagined that Obama had retained some level of respect in his own party:

Senate Democrats — including typically mild-mannered Bill Nelson of Florida — lit into President Barack Obama during an unusually tense air-clearing caucus session on Thursday, senators and staffers told POLITICO.

Nelson told colleagues Obama’s unpopularity has become a serious liability for Democrats in his state and blamed the president for creating a toxic political environment for Democrats nationwide, according to two Democrats familiar with his remarks. …

In interviews after the marathon three hour meeting, several senators and senior aides told POLITICO that Nelson was just one of several senators to express anger at White House missteps – and air deep concerns about their own political fates if Obama and the Democratic Party leadership can’t turn things around by 2012.

Added one veteran senator: “It was the most frank exchange of views I’ve ever seen.”

“Frank” is one way to put it. Another way of putting it is that Obama has lost his luster and the respect and trust of his party. Democrats are alarmed, and rightly so, that this president is in over his head.

The solution is simple for those who want to survive: make common cause with Republicans to roll back the Obama agenda, cut taxes, and restore business confidence. On foreign policy, urge resoluteness on Afghanistan, military action if needed to disarm the mullahs, and an end to smart silly diplomacy in the Middle East and elsewhere. In other words, they should fend for themselves, and in the process do what is right on the merits. They might survive the 2012 election, even if Obama does not.

The civil war between Tea Partiers and establishment Republicans never really emerged. Candidates won and lost in primaries, the old guard agreed with the new on earmarks, and all the elected and re-elected GOP senators and House members are on board with key elements of the conservative agenda (extend the Bush tax cuts, refudiate ObamaCare, cut spending, etc.). However, the Dems are another story. This report will amuse Republicans and, frankly, shock a lot of readers who imagined that Obama had retained some level of respect in his own party:

Senate Democrats — including typically mild-mannered Bill Nelson of Florida — lit into President Barack Obama during an unusually tense air-clearing caucus session on Thursday, senators and staffers told POLITICO.

Nelson told colleagues Obama’s unpopularity has become a serious liability for Democrats in his state and blamed the president for creating a toxic political environment for Democrats nationwide, according to two Democrats familiar with his remarks. …

In interviews after the marathon three hour meeting, several senators and senior aides told POLITICO that Nelson was just one of several senators to express anger at White House missteps – and air deep concerns about their own political fates if Obama and the Democratic Party leadership can’t turn things around by 2012.

Added one veteran senator: “It was the most frank exchange of views I’ve ever seen.”

“Frank” is one way to put it. Another way of putting it is that Obama has lost his luster and the respect and trust of his party. Democrats are alarmed, and rightly so, that this president is in over his head.

The solution is simple for those who want to survive: make common cause with Republicans to roll back the Obama agenda, cut taxes, and restore business confidence. On foreign policy, urge resoluteness on Afghanistan, military action if needed to disarm the mullahs, and an end to smart silly diplomacy in the Middle East and elsewhere. In other words, they should fend for themselves, and in the process do what is right on the merits. They might survive the 2012 election, even if Obama does not.

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On Roger Ailes’s Apology

Fox News chairman Roger Ailes has apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for comments he made comparing NPR executives to “Nazis.” The ADL accepted the mea culpa pretty quickly (too quickly, some say), but there is still a great deal of criticism of Ailes emanating from the media.

“The ADL has repeatedly placed its alliance with Israel’s supporters over its stated reason for existence, and excused inexcusable instances of bigotry, even anti-Semitism,” wrote Ben Adler at Newsweek. “The most recent example is the league’s quick forgiveness of Ailes.”

Adler is right that Ailes’s comments were off-base. But to call his words anti-Semitic is not just an extreme overreaction; it’s also outrageously unfair. A single foolish statement can’t be examined in a vacuum. Ailes’s consistent public support for Israel is a major indicator of his respect for the Jewish community. In fact, the award he received from the Jewish Community Relations Council in 2005 says just that.

Moreover, Ailes’s initial statement needs to be examined in context. The Fox News chairman said that NPR executives were “of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude.” He didn’t praise Nazism. He didn’t claim that Nazis never existed. He didn’t accuse Jews of running the media, pushing the U.S. into international wars on behalf of Israel, bamboozling non-Jews out of money, or other such nonsense that regularly erupts from the mouths of vicious anti-Semites.

Again, that’s not to say that Ailes’s words were acceptable. The Fox News Channel has a longstanding problem with its use of Nazi comparisons. Glenn Beck has been a repeat offender, likening aspects of the progressive movement to the Third Reich, while Bill O’Reilly has previously described the Huffington Post’s comment policy as “the same exact tactics that the Nazis used.” (Of course, conservatives aren’t alone in these remarks. The political left has also made its fair share of Nazi comparisons.)

But perhaps by apologizing, Ailes is acknowledging that this type of rhetoric is problematic. It will be interesting to see if he also re-evaluates the nature of the comments thrown out so casually by his network’s hosts.

Fox News chairman Roger Ailes has apologized to the Anti-Defamation League for comments he made comparing NPR executives to “Nazis.” The ADL accepted the mea culpa pretty quickly (too quickly, some say), but there is still a great deal of criticism of Ailes emanating from the media.

“The ADL has repeatedly placed its alliance with Israel’s supporters over its stated reason for existence, and excused inexcusable instances of bigotry, even anti-Semitism,” wrote Ben Adler at Newsweek. “The most recent example is the league’s quick forgiveness of Ailes.”

Adler is right that Ailes’s comments were off-base. But to call his words anti-Semitic is not just an extreme overreaction; it’s also outrageously unfair. A single foolish statement can’t be examined in a vacuum. Ailes’s consistent public support for Israel is a major indicator of his respect for the Jewish community. In fact, the award he received from the Jewish Community Relations Council in 2005 says just that.

Moreover, Ailes’s initial statement needs to be examined in context. The Fox News chairman said that NPR executives were “of course, Nazis. They have a kind of Nazi attitude.” He didn’t praise Nazism. He didn’t claim that Nazis never existed. He didn’t accuse Jews of running the media, pushing the U.S. into international wars on behalf of Israel, bamboozling non-Jews out of money, or other such nonsense that regularly erupts from the mouths of vicious anti-Semites.

Again, that’s not to say that Ailes’s words were acceptable. The Fox News Channel has a longstanding problem with its use of Nazi comparisons. Glenn Beck has been a repeat offender, likening aspects of the progressive movement to the Third Reich, while Bill O’Reilly has previously described the Huffington Post’s comment policy as “the same exact tactics that the Nazis used.” (Of course, conservatives aren’t alone in these remarks. The political left has also made its fair share of Nazi comparisons.)

But perhaps by apologizing, Ailes is acknowledging that this type of rhetoric is problematic. It will be interesting to see if he also re-evaluates the nature of the comments thrown out so casually by his network’s hosts.

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It’s Getting Painful to Watch

Those who were supportive of Obama’s latest stunt to keep the “peace process” going argued that at least Israel would get some very expensive fighter aircraft for a mere 90-day extension. Well, not so fast, according to this report:

On Wednesday, Ynet reported of the disagreement between Israel and the US over the F-35 fighter jets which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed will be included in the freeze deal. Sources familiar with the matter said Thursday that progress has been made on the issue and stated that the aircraft will arrive in Israel in 2015. Nevertheless, it appears there still is a misunderstanding regarding the payment for the jets.

In his meetings with the seven ministers Saturday night and the Likud ministers, Netanyahu stressed that the 20 fighter jets will be given as a gift from the US and that Israel will not have to pay for them using funds from the security aid budget.

The parties are still working out the details of the matter, as it appears the US had a different take on the understandings reached between Clinton and Netanyahu in New York. It also appears there were misunderstandings regarding the time in which the aircraft will be provided, as Israel expected to receive them in the coming years while the US planned on supplying them after a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians is achieved.

Got that? The planes aren’t free and are conditioned on a peace deal that is unlikely to be made by 2015 — or 2025, for that matter. Now this seems like a pretty fundamental point, and yet the parties aren’t clear on the contours of the deal? Yes, the more we learn, the more discombobulated the Obama team seems.

Oh, and the promise not to include East Jerusalem in the deal is also sort of up in the air: “The paper is slated to include a US pledge not to demand an additional moratorium at the end of the second freeze. The issue of Jerusalem is not mentioned, however, sources close to the negotiations noted that the document suggests that Jerusalem is not included in the freeze.” So East Jerusalem is simply ignored? “Suggests” suggests that this, too, is fuzzy.

I’m sure professional negotiators must be appalled by all this. Every aspect of the undertaking — the investment of so much presidential prestige in a long-shot proposition, the notion that the PA can make a deal, the obsession with settlements, the frantic last-minute bribe, the lack of clarity, the preposterous assumption that we’ll get a deal in 90 days — reveals a lack of sophistication and understanding of the region. It has taken on the feel of an international-relations exam: how many errors can you find in this undertaking?

And by the way, the parties broke off whatever minimal talks they were having nearly two months ago. At some point, as the U.S.’s haggling with Bibi’s government continues (Well, when we said “give” we didn’t mean for free!), perhaps they will declare a “recess” and all go home to work out the details at the staff level. And then this entire, shabby episode can be left for the history books — and the graduate students — we hope never to be repeated.

Those who were supportive of Obama’s latest stunt to keep the “peace process” going argued that at least Israel would get some very expensive fighter aircraft for a mere 90-day extension. Well, not so fast, according to this report:

On Wednesday, Ynet reported of the disagreement between Israel and the US over the F-35 fighter jets which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed will be included in the freeze deal. Sources familiar with the matter said Thursday that progress has been made on the issue and stated that the aircraft will arrive in Israel in 2015. Nevertheless, it appears there still is a misunderstanding regarding the payment for the jets.

In his meetings with the seven ministers Saturday night and the Likud ministers, Netanyahu stressed that the 20 fighter jets will be given as a gift from the US and that Israel will not have to pay for them using funds from the security aid budget.

The parties are still working out the details of the matter, as it appears the US had a different take on the understandings reached between Clinton and Netanyahu in New York. It also appears there were misunderstandings regarding the time in which the aircraft will be provided, as Israel expected to receive them in the coming years while the US planned on supplying them after a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians is achieved.

Got that? The planes aren’t free and are conditioned on a peace deal that is unlikely to be made by 2015 — or 2025, for that matter. Now this seems like a pretty fundamental point, and yet the parties aren’t clear on the contours of the deal? Yes, the more we learn, the more discombobulated the Obama team seems.

Oh, and the promise not to include East Jerusalem in the deal is also sort of up in the air: “The paper is slated to include a US pledge not to demand an additional moratorium at the end of the second freeze. The issue of Jerusalem is not mentioned, however, sources close to the negotiations noted that the document suggests that Jerusalem is not included in the freeze.” So East Jerusalem is simply ignored? “Suggests” suggests that this, too, is fuzzy.

I’m sure professional negotiators must be appalled by all this. Every aspect of the undertaking — the investment of so much presidential prestige in a long-shot proposition, the notion that the PA can make a deal, the obsession with settlements, the frantic last-minute bribe, the lack of clarity, the preposterous assumption that we’ll get a deal in 90 days — reveals a lack of sophistication and understanding of the region. It has taken on the feel of an international-relations exam: how many errors can you find in this undertaking?

And by the way, the parties broke off whatever minimal talks they were having nearly two months ago. At some point, as the U.S.’s haggling with Bibi’s government continues (Well, when we said “give” we didn’t mean for free!), perhaps they will declare a “recess” and all go home to work out the details at the staff level. And then this entire, shabby episode can be left for the history books — and the graduate students — we hope never to be repeated.

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Good Works Plus Firepower Equals Effective Counterinsurgency

Among some Army traditionalists (and some ultra-hawkish conservatives), the knock on “population-centric” counterinsurgency — whose most prominent advocate is General David Petraeus — is that it is nothing more than “social work” that ignores the need to kill or capture the enemy. Nothing could be further from the truth, as current events in Afghanistan demonstrate. Yes, Petraeus has put more emphasis on securing the population, improving governance, and decreasing corruption. But, no, he hasn’t ignored the imperative to hit the enemy and to hit him hard.

That should be clear from this Washington Post article reporting on a decision to send a company of M1 Abrams tanks to assist Marine infantrymen fighting in Helmand Province. Gen. David McKiernan, a previous NATO commander who ironically had a reputation for being overly conventional, had actually turned down a prior Marine request for heavy armor because he thought it would reek too much of the Red Army’s tactics. Now Petraeus has approved the dispatch of tanks that are needed to aid Marines who are in a tough fight in places like Sangin.

That should hardly be surprising, because Petraeus is overseeing an impressive increase in overall firepower. As the Post notes:

Despite an overall counterinsurgency strategy that emphasizes the use of troops to protect Afghan civilians from insurgents, statistics released by the NATO military command in Kabul and interviews with several senior commanders indicate that U.S. troop operations over the past two months have been more intense and have had a harder edge than at any point since the initial 2001 drive to oust the Taliban government.

The pace of Special Operations missions to kill or capture Taliban leaders has more than tripled over the past three months. U.S. and NATO aircraft unleashed more bombs and missiles in October – 1,000 total – than in any single month since 2001. In the districts around the southern city of Kandahar, soldiers from the Army’s 101st Airborne Division have demolished dozens of homes that were thought to be booby-trapped, and they have used scores of high-explosive line charges — a weapon that had been used only sparingly in the past — to blast through minefields.

That is not a repudiation of counterinsurgency doctrine but a good example of how it is supposed to work: melding kinetic and non-kinetic operations into a seamless whole. While more troops are among the population, and doing more civil-action projects, they are also gaining the trust and confidence of the locals and learning the lay of the land. That allows them to use firepower far more effectively than in the past, when the U.S. relied on a “small footprint,” counterterrorism-focused strategy.

In years past, air strikes resulted in many civilian deaths because we had so few boots on the ground; that meant we did not have good intelligence about where exactly the enemy was hiding. Now U.S. troops are able to call in air strikes far more precisely, which is why the considerable increase in air strikes has not led to a corresponding increase in civilian casualties or to widespread accusations of brutality, such as were common when U.S. bombs were blamed for blowing up wedding parties.

What Petraeus realizes — and his critics seem to miss — is that effective counterinsurgency can’t rely on force alone or on good works alone. Both are necessary to defeat a tenacious foe and secure a scared populace.

Among some Army traditionalists (and some ultra-hawkish conservatives), the knock on “population-centric” counterinsurgency — whose most prominent advocate is General David Petraeus — is that it is nothing more than “social work” that ignores the need to kill or capture the enemy. Nothing could be further from the truth, as current events in Afghanistan demonstrate. Yes, Petraeus has put more emphasis on securing the population, improving governance, and decreasing corruption. But, no, he hasn’t ignored the imperative to hit the enemy and to hit him hard.

That should be clear from this Washington Post article reporting on a decision to send a company of M1 Abrams tanks to assist Marine infantrymen fighting in Helmand Province. Gen. David McKiernan, a previous NATO commander who ironically had a reputation for being overly conventional, had actually turned down a prior Marine request for heavy armor because he thought it would reek too much of the Red Army’s tactics. Now Petraeus has approved the dispatch of tanks that are needed to aid Marines who are in a tough fight in places like Sangin.

That should hardly be surprising, because Petraeus is overseeing an impressive increase in overall firepower. As the Post notes:

Despite an overall counterinsurgency strategy that emphasizes the use of troops to protect Afghan civilians from insurgents, statistics released by the NATO military command in Kabul and interviews with several senior commanders indicate that U.S. troop operations over the past two months have been more intense and have had a harder edge than at any point since the initial 2001 drive to oust the Taliban government.

The pace of Special Operations missions to kill or capture Taliban leaders has more than tripled over the past three months. U.S. and NATO aircraft unleashed more bombs and missiles in October – 1,000 total – than in any single month since 2001. In the districts around the southern city of Kandahar, soldiers from the Army’s 101st Airborne Division have demolished dozens of homes that were thought to be booby-trapped, and they have used scores of high-explosive line charges — a weapon that had been used only sparingly in the past — to blast through minefields.

That is not a repudiation of counterinsurgency doctrine but a good example of how it is supposed to work: melding kinetic and non-kinetic operations into a seamless whole. While more troops are among the population, and doing more civil-action projects, they are also gaining the trust and confidence of the locals and learning the lay of the land. That allows them to use firepower far more effectively than in the past, when the U.S. relied on a “small footprint,” counterterrorism-focused strategy.

In years past, air strikes resulted in many civilian deaths because we had so few boots on the ground; that meant we did not have good intelligence about where exactly the enemy was hiding. Now U.S. troops are able to call in air strikes far more precisely, which is why the considerable increase in air strikes has not led to a corresponding increase in civilian casualties or to widespread accusations of brutality, such as were common when U.S. bombs were blamed for blowing up wedding parties.

What Petraeus realizes — and his critics seem to miss — is that effective counterinsurgency can’t rely on force alone or on good works alone. Both are necessary to defeat a tenacious foe and secure a scared populace.

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New York Times, Cool with Ghailani Verdict

The New York Times editors scold those politicians who are alarmed by the verdict in the civilian trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani. “They are disappointed that the defendant was only convicted of one count of conspiring to blow up American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 — a crime for which he will probably serve a life sentence,” they write. “That clearly wasn’t enough for Representative Peter King, a Long Island Republican who will be the next chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.” They close their editorial with the following: “The federal courts have proved their ability to hold fair trials and punish the guilty. That is what we call getting the job done.”

The time to be served is not the issue. The fact is that a universe of critical and hard-earned evidence was thrown out due to the incompatibility of the war on terror and our civil court system. The Times omits the glaring, screaming, phosphorescent reality that Ghailani was found not guilty of 284 out of 285 charges against him. This case establishes a precedent that will have us crossing our fingers in hopes that .35 percent of the charges against a given suspect will be viable enough to allow for civil prosecution. The courts got .35 percent of the “job done.”

The Times editors understand this, of course. They are playing a shell game with the salient facts to put a respectable face on their frenzied denunciations of war tribunals for terrorists. In this case, pretending that justice was served strikes me as being more abject than actually believing it.

The New York Times editors scold those politicians who are alarmed by the verdict in the civilian trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani. “They are disappointed that the defendant was only convicted of one count of conspiring to blow up American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 — a crime for which he will probably serve a life sentence,” they write. “That clearly wasn’t enough for Representative Peter King, a Long Island Republican who will be the next chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.” They close their editorial with the following: “The federal courts have proved their ability to hold fair trials and punish the guilty. That is what we call getting the job done.”

The time to be served is not the issue. The fact is that a universe of critical and hard-earned evidence was thrown out due to the incompatibility of the war on terror and our civil court system. The Times omits the glaring, screaming, phosphorescent reality that Ghailani was found not guilty of 284 out of 285 charges against him. This case establishes a precedent that will have us crossing our fingers in hopes that .35 percent of the charges against a given suspect will be viable enough to allow for civil prosecution. The courts got .35 percent of the “job done.”

The Times editors understand this, of course. They are playing a shell game with the salient facts to put a respectable face on their frenzied denunciations of war tribunals for terrorists. In this case, pretending that justice was served strikes me as being more abject than actually believing it.

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Coming Apart at the Seams

As much as Obama’s aura has dimmed in the United States, his international standing is potentially in worse condition, and with more dire consequences. As this report explains, he’s finding it hard — no matter how lucrative the bribe — to get any nation to make a deal:

From failing to secure a free-trade agreement in South Korea to struggling to win Senate ratification of an arms-control treaty with Russia, Obama has bumped up against the boundaries of his power at a defining moment of his presidency. …

“He assumed that because he was liked so clearly and overwhelmingly he could merely assert what he wanted to achieve and people would follow,” said Simon Serfaty, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Clearly enough, the world that he imagined proved to be different than the world as it is.” …

The Middle East peace process he inaugurated two months ago has stalled. His mercurial ally in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai, is calling for scaled-back U.S. military operations there at the height of the 30,000-troop escalation Obama approved a year ago.

His pledge to remedy one polarizing legacy of the Bush administration by closing the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, suffered this week when a jury convicted the first former detainee to face civilian trial on only one of 285 criminal counts. Read More

As much as Obama’s aura has dimmed in the United States, his international standing is potentially in worse condition, and with more dire consequences. As this report explains, he’s finding it hard — no matter how lucrative the bribe — to get any nation to make a deal:

From failing to secure a free-trade agreement in South Korea to struggling to win Senate ratification of an arms-control treaty with Russia, Obama has bumped up against the boundaries of his power at a defining moment of his presidency. …

“He assumed that because he was liked so clearly and overwhelmingly he could merely assert what he wanted to achieve and people would follow,” said Simon Serfaty, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Clearly enough, the world that he imagined proved to be different than the world as it is.” …

The Middle East peace process he inaugurated two months ago has stalled. His mercurial ally in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai, is calling for scaled-back U.S. military operations there at the height of the 30,000-troop escalation Obama approved a year ago.

His pledge to remedy one polarizing legacy of the Bush administration by closing the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, suffered this week when a jury convicted the first former detainee to face civilian trial on only one of 285 criminal counts.

You get the picture. So Obama’s gambits become more and more desperate. Hence, the cockeyed attempt to spare himself the collapse of the non-direct, non-peace talks. “National security analysts say the price Obama is willing to pay for another three months of talks is high, in part because he set a one-year timeline for their successful conclusion. Many believe that the deadline, like other of Obama’s foreign policy goals, was overly optimistic.” Well, that’s a generous way of putting it. To be blunt, he’s made hash out of our relationship with Israel, diminished our credibility with every player in the Middle East, and now is panicked that it is all about to come tumbling down around his ears.

Likewise, out of desperation to get a “win,” Obama is trying to force a Senate vote on New START. Saner voices are trying to warn him:

Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations who held senior foreign-policy positions in both Bush administrations, said “it’s no big deal if gets kicked off until February, March, then passes.”

“You don’t want to bring this to a vote and lose,” Haass said. “You don’t want to have the Senate equivalent of going to Seoul and not getting a trade agreement.”

Funny how each new foreign policy fumble has a precursor. Seoul is like Copenhagen. New START is like the Syrian ambassador’s nomination. The handling of the Honduras “coup” is like pulling the rug out from under our Eastern European allies on missile defense. And on it goes — an endless series of half-baked ideas, offended allies, stalled negotiations, and poorly executed gambits. And we haven’t even gotten to the worst of it: an emboldened Iran racing toward membership in the nuclear power club.

It’s not all a disaster. Obama is showing some recognition that we must remain engaged in Iraq. He’s coming around to erasing the ill-advised Afghanistan deadline. And perhaps, after two years, he’s cluing into the need to get serious about human rights in Egypt and elsewhere. But the continuities with his predecessor (annoyingly accompanied by chest-puffing and refusal to credit President Bush) are outnumbered and overshadowed by the gaffes.

This is not a time for conservatives to cheer. It is deeply troubling that the president has imperiled our standing in the world. Congress is no substitute for a commander in chief, but responsible voices in the House and Senate should work — by resolution, oversight, private conversation, and funding — to guide the administration to more sober policymaking and less erratic execution. Unfortunately, once the credibility of the American president is diminished by hapless moves and unserious rhetoric, it’s hard to get it back.

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Paul Ryan Articulates Conservative Philosophy

Representative Paul Ryan appeared on PBS’s Charlie Rose program earlier this week. The interview demonstrates Ryan’s mastery of budget and economic issues; he also speaks fluently and convincingly on taxes, health care, spending cuts, housing policy, Social Security, the Fed’s policy on quantitative easing, the German vs. the Japanese model, and the inner workings of Congress. He also shows an impressive ability to articulate the philosophical precepts underlying conservatism. But see for yourself.

Representative Paul Ryan appeared on PBS’s Charlie Rose program earlier this week. The interview demonstrates Ryan’s mastery of budget and economic issues; he also speaks fluently and convincingly on taxes, health care, spending cuts, housing policy, Social Security, the Fed’s policy on quantitative easing, the German vs. the Japanese model, and the inner workings of Congress. He also shows an impressive ability to articulate the philosophical precepts underlying conservatism. But see for yourself.

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Time to Be the Not-Not Bush Commander in Chief

Michael Gerson sums up where the moral preener has left us: “Under Holder’s influence, American detainee policy is a botched, hypocritical, politicized mess.” Botched because a mass murderer has been acquitted of all murder-related charges. Hypocritical because the Obama administration is unlikely to release him after his sentence is up. (In other words, who cares what the judicial system says: the man’s a terrorist!) And politicized because decisions were made by the agenda-driven leftist intention of proving that the Bush administration was composed of a bunch of knuckle-draggers — legally and morally unsophisticated.

But as it turns out, the things that work in the war against Islamic fascism are the policies that the Bush team employed (staying the course in Iraq, indefinite detention — Bagram or Guantanamo, what’s the difference?), and the things that don’t work (closing Guantanamo, using civilian courtrooms for terrorists, second- and third-guessing intelligence operatives) are generally the missteps the Bush team sidestepped. Who’s the more unsophisticated commander in chief?

Bush had no trouble deciding that waterboarding in limited circumstances to extract actionable information was preferable to letting Americans die. The press is still horrified. Obama concludes that the use of drones to kill terrorists and, inadvertently, some civilians is a necessary wartime strategy. He’s commended for his no-nonsense approach to the war. Does Obama occupy any higher moral ground?

The lesson of the past two years is that there is no benefit in playing to the sensitivities of European elites and university professors. If the administration is going to lose its reputation for being feckless and inconsistent, it should drop those tactics designed merely to distinguish it from the previous administration and stop applying the American legal system in inappropriate contexts in order to demonstrate its superiority. Oh, and of course, Eric Holder needs to go. He has proved politically tone-deaf and legally incompetent. What good is he to the administration, or to the country?

Michael Gerson sums up where the moral preener has left us: “Under Holder’s influence, American detainee policy is a botched, hypocritical, politicized mess.” Botched because a mass murderer has been acquitted of all murder-related charges. Hypocritical because the Obama administration is unlikely to release him after his sentence is up. (In other words, who cares what the judicial system says: the man’s a terrorist!) And politicized because decisions were made by the agenda-driven leftist intention of proving that the Bush administration was composed of a bunch of knuckle-draggers — legally and morally unsophisticated.

But as it turns out, the things that work in the war against Islamic fascism are the policies that the Bush team employed (staying the course in Iraq, indefinite detention — Bagram or Guantanamo, what’s the difference?), and the things that don’t work (closing Guantanamo, using civilian courtrooms for terrorists, second- and third-guessing intelligence operatives) are generally the missteps the Bush team sidestepped. Who’s the more unsophisticated commander in chief?

Bush had no trouble deciding that waterboarding in limited circumstances to extract actionable information was preferable to letting Americans die. The press is still horrified. Obama concludes that the use of drones to kill terrorists and, inadvertently, some civilians is a necessary wartime strategy. He’s commended for his no-nonsense approach to the war. Does Obama occupy any higher moral ground?

The lesson of the past two years is that there is no benefit in playing to the sensitivities of European elites and university professors. If the administration is going to lose its reputation for being feckless and inconsistent, it should drop those tactics designed merely to distinguish it from the previous administration and stop applying the American legal system in inappropriate contexts in order to demonstrate its superiority. Oh, and of course, Eric Holder needs to go. He has proved politically tone-deaf and legally incompetent. What good is he to the administration, or to the country?

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Iran Issues Travel Warning on Canada

Well, this story is fairly ironic. The satirical geniuses over at the Iranian Foreign Ministry have reportedly just advised Iranian citizens to avoid the country of Canada, claiming that it’s a hotbed of human rights abuses and corrupt courts.

The travel warning alleges that Canada’s rampant “Islamophobia” and violence have deprived Muslims of their political and legal rights:

IRI’s Foreign Ministry has warned Iranian nationals against traveling to Canada as the new wave of Islamophobia is sweeping across the North American country.

The ministry issued a statement on Tuesday, cautioning Iranian citizens who plan to visit Canada to take precautionary steps.

The statement warns that the wave of Islamophobia in the Western countries has expanded its reach and is claiming new victims as a number of Muslims, especially Iranian nationals, have been deported under different pretexts, while Ottawa actively hinders Iranian nationals who want to seek justice through the Canadian courts, IRIB reported.

Many Muslims, particularly Iranians, are deprived of their social and political rights and Canadian police have proved to be incapable of following the cases filed by Iranians residing in Canada, the statement added.

According to the Iranian foreign ministry statement, the crime rate has soared in Canada recently, hence Iranian visitors may fall victim to various crimes in that country.

It’s pretty laughable to think of Iran scolding any country for human rights abuses. But when the country is Canada, it just reaches another level of absurdity. What makes Iran’s ridiculous statement a bit more sobering, however, is the still-vivid memory of the murder of Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi, who was killed at the hands of her Iranian jailers in 2003. The story consumed Canada for years and serves as just one example of the true human rights abuses committed regularly by the Iranian government.

Well, this story is fairly ironic. The satirical geniuses over at the Iranian Foreign Ministry have reportedly just advised Iranian citizens to avoid the country of Canada, claiming that it’s a hotbed of human rights abuses and corrupt courts.

The travel warning alleges that Canada’s rampant “Islamophobia” and violence have deprived Muslims of their political and legal rights:

IRI’s Foreign Ministry has warned Iranian nationals against traveling to Canada as the new wave of Islamophobia is sweeping across the North American country.

The ministry issued a statement on Tuesday, cautioning Iranian citizens who plan to visit Canada to take precautionary steps.

The statement warns that the wave of Islamophobia in the Western countries has expanded its reach and is claiming new victims as a number of Muslims, especially Iranian nationals, have been deported under different pretexts, while Ottawa actively hinders Iranian nationals who want to seek justice through the Canadian courts, IRIB reported.

Many Muslims, particularly Iranians, are deprived of their social and political rights and Canadian police have proved to be incapable of following the cases filed by Iranians residing in Canada, the statement added.

According to the Iranian foreign ministry statement, the crime rate has soared in Canada recently, hence Iranian visitors may fall victim to various crimes in that country.

It’s pretty laughable to think of Iran scolding any country for human rights abuses. But when the country is Canada, it just reaches another level of absurdity. What makes Iran’s ridiculous statement a bit more sobering, however, is the still-vivid memory of the murder of Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi, who was killed at the hands of her Iranian jailers in 2003. The story consumed Canada for years and serves as just one example of the true human rights abuses committed regularly by the Iranian government.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Could the 2012 GOP presidential primary start closer to 2012? “Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is letting donors know it’ll be a while before he looks to 2012 — and that any presidential campaign he builds will have a much smaller staff than in 2008 … and no one is in a big hurry. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has said he’ll wait until after the Indiana legislative term ends in the spring before he decides, and South Dakota Sen. John Thune hasn’t laid out a timeline. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told The New York Times that she’s considering a bid but didn’t elaborate on timing. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s team has alluded to an announcement in the spring.”

Could there be a better formulation of the GOP’s approach than this by Speaker-to-be John Boehner? “We think that Obamacare ruined the best healthcare in the country, we believe it will bankrupt our nation, we believe it needs to be repealed and replaced with commonsense reforms to bring down the cost of health insurance and you’ll see us move quickly enough.” The “how” is still to be determined, but the goal is crystal clear.

Could the Dems be any more tone-deaf? “House Democrats on Thursday shot down a G.O.P. attempt to roll back federal funding to NPR, a move that many Republicans have called for since the  public radio network  fired the analyst Juan Williams last month.” I guess we’ll find out when they vote — or not — on the Bush tax cuts.

Could Haley Barbour be a 2012 contender? A “formidable” one, says the Gray Lady: “Mr. Barbour’s political might was on full display at the Hilton Bayside Hotel here in San Diego this week, where Republican governors met for the first time since the elections. He strode like a popular small-town mayor through the hotel’s wide concourses, attracting a steady crush of corporate contributors, political operatives and reporters. In public sessions and private conversations, his fellow governors lavished praise on him.”

Could they have drained the swamp a little earlier? “A House ethics panel Thursday said senior Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel deserved to be censured — the most severe form of punishment short of expulsion from Congress — for nearly a dozen instances of misconduct as a lawmaker.”

Could there be any reason to give the mullahs assurance that we won’t use force? The Washington Post‘s editors don’t think so: “We agree that the administration should continue to focus for now on non-military strategies such as sanctions and support for the Iranian opposition. But that does not require publicly talking down military action. Mr. Gates’s prediction of how Iranians would react to an attack is speculative, but what we do know for sure is that the last decision Iran made to curb its nuclear program, in 2003, came when the regime feared – reasonably or not – that it could be a target of the U.S. forces that had just destroyed the Iraqi army. As for the effect of the sanctions, Tehran has not shown itself ready to begin serious bargaining about its uranium enrichment.” It is one of their more inexplicable foreign policy fetishes.

Could the Dems benefit from listening to William Galston? You betcha. He tells them that they should have dumped Pelosi: “What’s the logic of patiently rebuilding a Democratic majority—for which Pelosi deserves a considerable share of the credit—only to embark on a strategy seemingly calculated to destroy it? And why should the kinds of Democrats without whom no Democratic majority is possible expect anything better in the future? This decision was the victory of inside baseball over common sense, and no amount of spin can change that.”

Could the 2012 GOP presidential primary start closer to 2012? “Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is letting donors know it’ll be a while before he looks to 2012 — and that any presidential campaign he builds will have a much smaller staff than in 2008 … and no one is in a big hurry. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has said he’ll wait until after the Indiana legislative term ends in the spring before he decides, and South Dakota Sen. John Thune hasn’t laid out a timeline. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told The New York Times that she’s considering a bid but didn’t elaborate on timing. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s team has alluded to an announcement in the spring.”

Could there be a better formulation of the GOP’s approach than this by Speaker-to-be John Boehner? “We think that Obamacare ruined the best healthcare in the country, we believe it will bankrupt our nation, we believe it needs to be repealed and replaced with commonsense reforms to bring down the cost of health insurance and you’ll see us move quickly enough.” The “how” is still to be determined, but the goal is crystal clear.

Could the Dems be any more tone-deaf? “House Democrats on Thursday shot down a G.O.P. attempt to roll back federal funding to NPR, a move that many Republicans have called for since the  public radio network  fired the analyst Juan Williams last month.” I guess we’ll find out when they vote — or not — on the Bush tax cuts.

Could Haley Barbour be a 2012 contender? A “formidable” one, says the Gray Lady: “Mr. Barbour’s political might was on full display at the Hilton Bayside Hotel here in San Diego this week, where Republican governors met for the first time since the elections. He strode like a popular small-town mayor through the hotel’s wide concourses, attracting a steady crush of corporate contributors, political operatives and reporters. In public sessions and private conversations, his fellow governors lavished praise on him.”

Could they have drained the swamp a little earlier? “A House ethics panel Thursday said senior Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel deserved to be censured — the most severe form of punishment short of expulsion from Congress — for nearly a dozen instances of misconduct as a lawmaker.”

Could there be any reason to give the mullahs assurance that we won’t use force? The Washington Post‘s editors don’t think so: “We agree that the administration should continue to focus for now on non-military strategies such as sanctions and support for the Iranian opposition. But that does not require publicly talking down military action. Mr. Gates’s prediction of how Iranians would react to an attack is speculative, but what we do know for sure is that the last decision Iran made to curb its nuclear program, in 2003, came when the regime feared – reasonably or not – that it could be a target of the U.S. forces that had just destroyed the Iraqi army. As for the effect of the sanctions, Tehran has not shown itself ready to begin serious bargaining about its uranium enrichment.” It is one of their more inexplicable foreign policy fetishes.

Could the Dems benefit from listening to William Galston? You betcha. He tells them that they should have dumped Pelosi: “What’s the logic of patiently rebuilding a Democratic majority—for which Pelosi deserves a considerable share of the credit—only to embark on a strategy seemingly calculated to destroy it? And why should the kinds of Democrats without whom no Democratic majority is possible expect anything better in the future? This decision was the victory of inside baseball over common sense, and no amount of spin can change that.”

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