Commentary Magazine


Posts For: December 9, 2010

Who’s Taking Whom Hostage?

John, it looks like President Obama was right after all when he described the difficulty of bargaining with hostage takers: “It’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage takers unless the hostage gets harmed.”

But he had the wrong hostage takers in mind. House Democrats are the ones taking the Obama tax compromise and the American people hostage as they try to lard up the tax bill with billions in new goodies, which they’ll pay for by taxing dead people.

Maybe Obama will get some good advice from Bill Clinton when the two meet at the White House tomorrow. He could always send the former president up to the Hill as hostage negotiator with Pelosi & Co.

John, it looks like President Obama was right after all when he described the difficulty of bargaining with hostage takers: “It’s tempting not to negotiate with hostage takers unless the hostage gets harmed.”

But he had the wrong hostage takers in mind. House Democrats are the ones taking the Obama tax compromise and the American people hostage as they try to lard up the tax bill with billions in new goodies, which they’ll pay for by taxing dead people.

Maybe Obama will get some good advice from Bill Clinton when the two meet at the White House tomorrow. He could always send the former president up to the Hill as hostage negotiator with Pelosi & Co.

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You Want to See Islamophobia?

Perhaps American journalists eager to apologize to the world for America’s Islamophobia should take note of the following. According to the AP, “An Islamic centre has been firebombed in Berlin — one of more than half a dozen arson attacks on Islamic institutions in the city this year — prompting a Muslim official to demand police protection for all mosques in Germany.”

If New York City had seen six arson attacks on mosques in one year, Manhattanites would probably be under something like open-ended martial law. A handful of peaceful protests brought presidential pronouncements, sensational front-page scare stories, and New York Times apologias. One oddball Florida preacher mentioned his intention to burn the Koran and figures from all spheres of American leadership, including David Petraeus and Hillary Clinton, stepped in to dissuade him.

As Jonathan Tobin pointed out last week, the newest FBI data on hate-crime in the U.S. this past year shows “931 anti-Semitic incidents, compared with 107 anti-Islamic incidents, a ratio of better than 8 to 1.” There’s your great Islamophobic America for you. If someone really wants to have fun, they should compare the number of anti-Islamic incidents in the U.S. to figures for the rest of the world.

Perhaps American journalists eager to apologize to the world for America’s Islamophobia should take note of the following. According to the AP, “An Islamic centre has been firebombed in Berlin — one of more than half a dozen arson attacks on Islamic institutions in the city this year — prompting a Muslim official to demand police protection for all mosques in Germany.”

If New York City had seen six arson attacks on mosques in one year, Manhattanites would probably be under something like open-ended martial law. A handful of peaceful protests brought presidential pronouncements, sensational front-page scare stories, and New York Times apologias. One oddball Florida preacher mentioned his intention to burn the Koran and figures from all spheres of American leadership, including David Petraeus and Hillary Clinton, stepped in to dissuade him.

As Jonathan Tobin pointed out last week, the newest FBI data on hate-crime in the U.S. this past year shows “931 anti-Semitic incidents, compared with 107 anti-Islamic incidents, a ratio of better than 8 to 1.” There’s your great Islamophobic America for you. If someone really wants to have fun, they should compare the number of anti-Islamic incidents in the U.S. to figures for the rest of the world.

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No Scold Like a Liberal Scold

If you’d like yet more evidence of the current liberal crack-up, you can watch liberal Lawrence O’Donnell scolding liberal Alan Grayson here.

So now we know: takes an MSNBC host to make Mr. Grayson look like a voice of tranquility and reason.

If you’d like yet more evidence of the current liberal crack-up, you can watch liberal Lawrence O’Donnell scolding liberal Alan Grayson here.

So now we know: takes an MSNBC host to make Mr. Grayson look like a voice of tranquility and reason.

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Hollywood Irony Watch: Political Fantasist Sorkin Calls Palin a Fake

In the 1990s, liberals weren’t entirely happy with a triangulating and philandering Bill Clinton, but they were able to escape from that reality in a movie written by Aaron Sorkin called The American President, in which Michael Douglas plays a Clinton-like chief executive. The biggest difference between the movie and real life was that the president in the film didn’t have an annoying Hillary-type wife around to cramp his style, since, in the script, she is conveniently dead. That allowed the movie prez to date a hot DC lefty lobbyist played by Annette Bening. In the film, both liberalism and love triumph as the president eschews a Clintonesque pragmatic compromise in order to win back his girlfriend. The film inspired a TV series, The West Wing, also written by Sorkin. That show (which ran from September 1999 to May 2006) depicted the doings of another fictional White House and enabled liberals to escape into a fantasy world in which the George W. Bush administration didn’t exist.

Sorkin is reported to be currently working on adapting a tell-all book about John Edwards for the silver screen, but he took time out from his labors to blog at the Huffington Post about another TV series with heavy political overtones: TLC’s Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

It’s hardly a surprise that a lefty like Sorkin has no use for Palin, but his denunciation of her show was focused primarily on his opinion that its depiction of the former governor as an outdoorswoman was largely fake and also because it showed fish and animals being killed. The TLC channel responded to his accusations by saying that, contrary to Sorkin’s accusation, there was no hair and makeup trailer standing by as Palin shot at a caribou in the wild. But frankly, who cares? All reality shows are to some extent fake, even if the characters are real people rather than fictional characters.

But one needn’t be a fan of Palin to observe that a person who has made a nice living producing politically slanted movies and TV shows — all of which were intended to promote the sort of liberal politics Sorkin likes and to generally trash conservatives — is in no position to cry foul over Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Unlike The American President and The West Wing, Palin’s show doesn’t pretend to be art. It’s just pure Palin and should be judged as such. That makes it a good deal more honest than Sorkin’s more sophisticated productions.

Sorkin’s second accusation is that Palin’s show is, in effect, a politically motivated “snuff film” because (unlike that disclaimer at the end of every movie you see these days) animals were definitely harmed in the making of the show. Now for those of us who don’t number among the 10 percent of Americans who hunt, this may be gruesome stuff. Yet Sorkin goes further and claims there’s no difference between the Great White Huntress Palin and dog killer/quarterback Michael Vick.

Now it is one thing to have moral qualms about hunting animals for sport (despite Palin’s claim in the show that the animals actually have the advantage, I think that would be true only if they had guns and could shoot back). But it is another to damn her as a murderer and to express, as Sorkin does in a sentence replete with profanity, joy over instances of hunters killing each other by accident. After all, approximately 30 million Americans hunt. And a lot of those people are Democrats and others who share Sorkin’s liberal views.

Sorkin claims the caribou that Palin kills in one episode “was the first moose ever murdered for political gain.” Maybe, but it’s funny that Sorkin doesn’t seem to remember the goose that was murdered in a vain attempt to save John Kerry’s candidacy in October 2004. Desperate to establish a sense of authenticity, Kerry bought a hunting license, donned camouflage gear, and, while toting a 12-gauge shotgun, the Democratic presidential candidate traipsed around rural Ohio trying to kill geese and then claimed to have bagged one.

7_23_102104_kerry_huntingI don’t recall Sorkin expressing any public outrage over that incident since its intent was to further a political aim he supported: George W. Bush’s defeat at the polls. All of which goes to show that whatever you may think about Palin or hunting, Sorkin’s hissy fit is mere partisan tripe. Which, come to think of it, is as apt a characterization of his film and TV work as it is of Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

In the 1990s, liberals weren’t entirely happy with a triangulating and philandering Bill Clinton, but they were able to escape from that reality in a movie written by Aaron Sorkin called The American President, in which Michael Douglas plays a Clinton-like chief executive. The biggest difference between the movie and real life was that the president in the film didn’t have an annoying Hillary-type wife around to cramp his style, since, in the script, she is conveniently dead. That allowed the movie prez to date a hot DC lefty lobbyist played by Annette Bening. In the film, both liberalism and love triumph as the president eschews a Clintonesque pragmatic compromise in order to win back his girlfriend. The film inspired a TV series, The West Wing, also written by Sorkin. That show (which ran from September 1999 to May 2006) depicted the doings of another fictional White House and enabled liberals to escape into a fantasy world in which the George W. Bush administration didn’t exist.

Sorkin is reported to be currently working on adapting a tell-all book about John Edwards for the silver screen, but he took time out from his labors to blog at the Huffington Post about another TV series with heavy political overtones: TLC’s Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

It’s hardly a surprise that a lefty like Sorkin has no use for Palin, but his denunciation of her show was focused primarily on his opinion that its depiction of the former governor as an outdoorswoman was largely fake and also because it showed fish and animals being killed. The TLC channel responded to his accusations by saying that, contrary to Sorkin’s accusation, there was no hair and makeup trailer standing by as Palin shot at a caribou in the wild. But frankly, who cares? All reality shows are to some extent fake, even if the characters are real people rather than fictional characters.

But one needn’t be a fan of Palin to observe that a person who has made a nice living producing politically slanted movies and TV shows — all of which were intended to promote the sort of liberal politics Sorkin likes and to generally trash conservatives — is in no position to cry foul over Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Unlike The American President and The West Wing, Palin’s show doesn’t pretend to be art. It’s just pure Palin and should be judged as such. That makes it a good deal more honest than Sorkin’s more sophisticated productions.

Sorkin’s second accusation is that Palin’s show is, in effect, a politically motivated “snuff film” because (unlike that disclaimer at the end of every movie you see these days) animals were definitely harmed in the making of the show. Now for those of us who don’t number among the 10 percent of Americans who hunt, this may be gruesome stuff. Yet Sorkin goes further and claims there’s no difference between the Great White Huntress Palin and dog killer/quarterback Michael Vick.

Now it is one thing to have moral qualms about hunting animals for sport (despite Palin’s claim in the show that the animals actually have the advantage, I think that would be true only if they had guns and could shoot back). But it is another to damn her as a murderer and to express, as Sorkin does in a sentence replete with profanity, joy over instances of hunters killing each other by accident. After all, approximately 30 million Americans hunt. And a lot of those people are Democrats and others who share Sorkin’s liberal views.

Sorkin claims the caribou that Palin kills in one episode “was the first moose ever murdered for political gain.” Maybe, but it’s funny that Sorkin doesn’t seem to remember the goose that was murdered in a vain attempt to save John Kerry’s candidacy in October 2004. Desperate to establish a sense of authenticity, Kerry bought a hunting license, donned camouflage gear, and, while toting a 12-gauge shotgun, the Democratic presidential candidate traipsed around rural Ohio trying to kill geese and then claimed to have bagged one.

7_23_102104_kerry_huntingI don’t recall Sorkin expressing any public outrage over that incident since its intent was to further a political aim he supported: George W. Bush’s defeat at the polls. All of which goes to show that whatever you may think about Palin or hunting, Sorkin’s hissy fit is mere partisan tripe. Which, come to think of it, is as apt a characterization of his film and TV work as it is of Sarah Palin’s Alaska.

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This Is What Happens When You Get Engulfed by a Wave

Today on Capitol Hill, the Democratic Party appears to have gone somewhat insane. The House Democratic Caucus voted to oppose the tax-cut deal struck between Barack Obama and Senate Republicans; it’s a non-binding vote, but an embarrassing one for the president. It’s not nuts — the bill is obviously problematic for liberals — but its practical political effect is negligible, and it seems more like a tantrum than anything else. Roll Call even reports that someone at the meeting shouted “—- the president”; imagine if such a thing had been reported out of a Republican caucus meeting.

In the Senate, a complicated procedural maneuver to pass the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” failed, apparently due to as-yet incomprehensible machinations by Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had some deal struck with moderate Republican Susan Collins that he decided to renege on and hold a vote anyway. Nobody understood what was happening, the vote (not to repeal, but to end debate)  failed, and Collins voted with Reid anyway.

There was more chaos relating to other legislation as well. Meanwhile, Obama press spokesman Robert Gibbs told Democrats that if they have better ideas, they should make like The Price Is Right and “come on down.”

The machinery of the Democratic Party in Washington is in desperate need of overhaul. The November 2 tsunami shorted everything out.

Today on Capitol Hill, the Democratic Party appears to have gone somewhat insane. The House Democratic Caucus voted to oppose the tax-cut deal struck between Barack Obama and Senate Republicans; it’s a non-binding vote, but an embarrassing one for the president. It’s not nuts — the bill is obviously problematic for liberals — but its practical political effect is negligible, and it seems more like a tantrum than anything else. Roll Call even reports that someone at the meeting shouted “—- the president”; imagine if such a thing had been reported out of a Republican caucus meeting.

In the Senate, a complicated procedural maneuver to pass the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” failed, apparently due to as-yet incomprehensible machinations by Majority Leader Harry Reid, who had some deal struck with moderate Republican Susan Collins that he decided to renege on and hold a vote anyway. Nobody understood what was happening, the vote (not to repeal, but to end debate)  failed, and Collins voted with Reid anyway.

There was more chaos relating to other legislation as well. Meanwhile, Obama press spokesman Robert Gibbs told Democrats that if they have better ideas, they should make like The Price Is Right and “come on down.”

The machinery of the Democratic Party in Washington is in desperate need of overhaul. The November 2 tsunami shorted everything out.

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Reich and the Worldview the Tax-Cut Deal Reveals

The liberal Robert Reich understands why, on an intellectual level, the Obama embrace of tax cuts is so significant:

Apart from its extraordinary cost and regressive tilt, the tax deal negotiated between the president and the Republicans has another fatal flaw. It confirms the Republican worldview. … By agreeing to another round of massive tax cuts for the wealthy, the president confirms the Republican story. Cutting taxes on the rich while freezing discretionary spending (which he’s also agreed to do) affirms that the underlying problem is big government, and the solution is to shrink government and expect the extra wealth at the top to trickle down to everyone else.

Obama’s new tax compromise is not only bad economics; it’s also disastrous from the standpoint of educating the public about what has happened and what needs to happen in the future. It reinforces the Republican story and makes mincemeat out of the truthful one Democrats should be telling.

Reich is wrong on substance, but he is, as Jennifer Rubin points out, right on narrative. And politics is about narratives as well as policies.

There are several things that explain the current liberal rage at Obama; kicking the intellectual props out from liberalism — arguing that tax cuts are critical to economic growth — is among them.

The liberal Robert Reich understands why, on an intellectual level, the Obama embrace of tax cuts is so significant:

Apart from its extraordinary cost and regressive tilt, the tax deal negotiated between the president and the Republicans has another fatal flaw. It confirms the Republican worldview. … By agreeing to another round of massive tax cuts for the wealthy, the president confirms the Republican story. Cutting taxes on the rich while freezing discretionary spending (which he’s also agreed to do) affirms that the underlying problem is big government, and the solution is to shrink government and expect the extra wealth at the top to trickle down to everyone else.

Obama’s new tax compromise is not only bad economics; it’s also disastrous from the standpoint of educating the public about what has happened and what needs to happen in the future. It reinforces the Republican story and makes mincemeat out of the truthful one Democrats should be telling.

Reich is wrong on substance, but he is, as Jennifer Rubin points out, right on narrative. And politics is about narratives as well as policies.

There are several things that explain the current liberal rage at Obama; kicking the intellectual props out from liberalism — arguing that tax cuts are critical to economic growth — is among them.

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Saudis and Lebanon

Among the many things confirmed by the latest WikiLeaks data dump is Saudi Arabia’s concern about the inroads of Iran in Lebanon. Moreover, a U.S. diplomatic cable from May 2008 confirms that Saudi thinking has been centered on a military response to the Iranian encroachment. These facts reinforce thoughts I voiced earlier this year about the purpose of Saudi Arabia’s $60 billion military shopping list. But the apparent progress of Saudi thinking, from May 2008 to the summer of 2010, may be even more informative.

What the Saudis proposed in 2008 was a combined Arab peacekeeping force, deployed to Lebanon under UN auspices and supported with air cover and logistics by NATO. Having Arab forces on the ground in Lebanon — supplanting Hezbollah and Iran — was clearly the motivating factor. A force of this kind would have been lightly armed and dependent on the firepower of NATO, but it would have been Arab.

The arms sought by Riyadh in the $60 billion deal this year represent vastly more capability for an offensive military campaign than would be appropriate for a peacekeeping force. The Arab nations could have put together a peacekeeping force without buying anything new. Meanwhile, as I discussed in September, the Saudis face no threat for which the strike aircraft and assault helicopters in the new arms deal would fill a defensive role. The particulars of the deal indicate that offensive action is envisioned. And the campaign the hardware is best suited for is armed action against the Levant.

Concern about Iran (and, I suspect, about Turkey) increases the urgency of these preparations for the Saudis. The $60 billion arms deal was announced within months of a February meeting in Damascus — between Bashar Al-Assad, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah — which was widely touted in the region as a “war council.”Arming up is not the Saudis’ only reaction: they sponsored a rare summit with Syria’s Al-Assad in Beirut in July and have kept a steady stream of senior Saudis going through Lebanon for one conference after another throughout the latter half of 2010. Establishing the Saudis — and, by extension, an Arab coalition — as leaders in resolving Lebanon’s internal instability is a central motivation for Riyadh.

The $60 billion arms deal indicates that the Saudis are not planning to leave the outcome to diplomacy, chance, or the United States. Population and geography mean the Saudis cannot launch an offensive strike without a coalition; it’s not something they foresee doing soon. It’s undoubtedly contingent on other developments. But what Americans should keep in mind is that the joust over Lebanon is a central front, not a sideshow, for the factions of the Middle East. This applies in the military as well as in the political realm. Lebanon, the most vulnerable nation bordering Israel, is key terrain — and it’s in dispute. Given the advanced state of Iran’s proxy campaign there — and the declining decisiveness of U.S. power — it’s also becoming urgent.

Among the many things confirmed by the latest WikiLeaks data dump is Saudi Arabia’s concern about the inroads of Iran in Lebanon. Moreover, a U.S. diplomatic cable from May 2008 confirms that Saudi thinking has been centered on a military response to the Iranian encroachment. These facts reinforce thoughts I voiced earlier this year about the purpose of Saudi Arabia’s $60 billion military shopping list. But the apparent progress of Saudi thinking, from May 2008 to the summer of 2010, may be even more informative.

What the Saudis proposed in 2008 was a combined Arab peacekeeping force, deployed to Lebanon under UN auspices and supported with air cover and logistics by NATO. Having Arab forces on the ground in Lebanon — supplanting Hezbollah and Iran — was clearly the motivating factor. A force of this kind would have been lightly armed and dependent on the firepower of NATO, but it would have been Arab.

The arms sought by Riyadh in the $60 billion deal this year represent vastly more capability for an offensive military campaign than would be appropriate for a peacekeeping force. The Arab nations could have put together a peacekeeping force without buying anything new. Meanwhile, as I discussed in September, the Saudis face no threat for which the strike aircraft and assault helicopters in the new arms deal would fill a defensive role. The particulars of the deal indicate that offensive action is envisioned. And the campaign the hardware is best suited for is armed action against the Levant.

Concern about Iran (and, I suspect, about Turkey) increases the urgency of these preparations for the Saudis. The $60 billion arms deal was announced within months of a February meeting in Damascus — between Bashar Al-Assad, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah — which was widely touted in the region as a “war council.”Arming up is not the Saudis’ only reaction: they sponsored a rare summit with Syria’s Al-Assad in Beirut in July and have kept a steady stream of senior Saudis going through Lebanon for one conference after another throughout the latter half of 2010. Establishing the Saudis — and, by extension, an Arab coalition — as leaders in resolving Lebanon’s internal instability is a central motivation for Riyadh.

The $60 billion arms deal indicates that the Saudis are not planning to leave the outcome to diplomacy, chance, or the United States. Population and geography mean the Saudis cannot launch an offensive strike without a coalition; it’s not something they foresee doing soon. It’s undoubtedly contingent on other developments. But what Americans should keep in mind is that the joust over Lebanon is a central front, not a sideshow, for the factions of the Middle East. This applies in the military as well as in the political realm. Lebanon, the most vulnerable nation bordering Israel, is key terrain — and it’s in dispute. Given the advanced state of Iran’s proxy campaign there — and the declining decisiveness of U.S. power — it’s also becoming urgent.

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WikiLeaks Precedent Points to the Proper U.S. Response: Get Over It!

Leave it to master historian and COMMENTARY contributor Andrew Roberts to come up with a historical precedent for the latest WikiLeaks fiasco. In today’s Daily Beast, Roberts writes that Julian Assange’s assault on America’s secrets is not so very different from what happened to Benjamin Disraeli’s British government back in 1878.

At that time, Dizzy’s last government was attempting to prop up the tottering Ottoman Empire at the Congress of Berlin by standing off an aggressive Russia that was looking to knock the Turks out of the Balkans. But while the world was focusing on the diplomats meeting in Germany, the Brits and Russians had already concluded a treaty sorting everything out to Disraeli’s satisfaction. But a copying clerk in Britain’s Foreign Office named Charles Marvin sold the secret treaty to the Globe newspaper for 40 pounds. The Globe published it in full, a development that might have thrown a less confident figure than Disraeli’s foreign secretary, the Marquess of Salisbury. As Roberts puts it:

Although Lord Salisbury initially described the scoop as “incomplete, and therefore inaccurate”—which Hillary Clinton can hardly do over WikiLeaks—he then basically told the chancelleries of Europe to get over it. Such was the self-confidence of the British Empire of the day, that the rest of Europe—though privately outraged at his duplicity—had little option but to comply.

Roberts’s point here is that for all the justified outrage about the WikiLeaks disclosures of diplomatic cables, Salisbury’s response is one that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should follow. Instead of “squirming with embarrassment,” the United States should tell the world to just get over it. American diplomats can and should pursue our country’s diplomatic and security ends and report candidly about their observations to the State Department. The problem is that not only does the feckless Obama administration lack the chutzpah to assume such an attitude but also that America’s current standing around the world is such that no one would accept it.

Roberts sums up the situation when he notes: “As well as being a snapshot of the retreat of American power, therefore, these WikiLeaks could also become a contributing factor to it. America should tell the world to get over it, but whether the world will listen is another matter.”

Leave it to master historian and COMMENTARY contributor Andrew Roberts to come up with a historical precedent for the latest WikiLeaks fiasco. In today’s Daily Beast, Roberts writes that Julian Assange’s assault on America’s secrets is not so very different from what happened to Benjamin Disraeli’s British government back in 1878.

At that time, Dizzy’s last government was attempting to prop up the tottering Ottoman Empire at the Congress of Berlin by standing off an aggressive Russia that was looking to knock the Turks out of the Balkans. But while the world was focusing on the diplomats meeting in Germany, the Brits and Russians had already concluded a treaty sorting everything out to Disraeli’s satisfaction. But a copying clerk in Britain’s Foreign Office named Charles Marvin sold the secret treaty to the Globe newspaper for 40 pounds. The Globe published it in full, a development that might have thrown a less confident figure than Disraeli’s foreign secretary, the Marquess of Salisbury. As Roberts puts it:

Although Lord Salisbury initially described the scoop as “incomplete, and therefore inaccurate”—which Hillary Clinton can hardly do over WikiLeaks—he then basically told the chancelleries of Europe to get over it. Such was the self-confidence of the British Empire of the day, that the rest of Europe—though privately outraged at his duplicity—had little option but to comply.

Roberts’s point here is that for all the justified outrage about the WikiLeaks disclosures of diplomatic cables, Salisbury’s response is one that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should follow. Instead of “squirming with embarrassment,” the United States should tell the world to just get over it. American diplomats can and should pursue our country’s diplomatic and security ends and report candidly about their observations to the State Department. The problem is that not only does the feckless Obama administration lack the chutzpah to assume such an attitude but also that America’s current standing around the world is such that no one would accept it.

Roberts sums up the situation when he notes: “As well as being a snapshot of the retreat of American power, therefore, these WikiLeaks could also become a contributing factor to it. America should tell the world to get over it, but whether the world will listen is another matter.”

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The Tax Deal? “No-Brainer.”

My former White House colleague Keith Hennessey lists the terms of the tax deal, his analysis, and his recommendation.

The bottom line? “No-brainer.  Support the deal.” I concur with Keith; it is, in its totality, several steps in the right direction.

My former White House colleague Keith Hennessey lists the terms of the tax deal, his analysis, and his recommendation.

The bottom line? “No-brainer.  Support the deal.” I concur with Keith; it is, in its totality, several steps in the right direction.

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Cyberwar Is Here. Now What?

When al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. on 9/11, the country discovered to its complete shock that it was at war and ill-prepared to do much about it. Once again, the U.S. is waking up to the fact that it’s under attack and not yet up to fighting back. This enemy, like the last one, is nontraditional in nature, and the battle is asymmetrical.

Just as we’d been practiced in fighting other countries when we were attacked by a network of transnational Islamists, we’ve mostly considered the possibility of cyber-attack as coming from another nation, whereas it has come (and continues to come) from loosely connected global networks. After WikiLeaks exposed hundreds of thousands of national security secrets and put untold lives at risk, WikiLeaks’s cyber-allies are now attacking the websites (and, thus, the functional capabilities) of perceived corporate, organizational, and governmental enemies.  An expansion of these kinds of breaches and attacks has the potential to bring our hi-tech world to a standstill. The fecklessness being displayed by American officials, the insistent downplaying of the disaster, and the pervasive sense of confusion all point to the likelihood that we are in for yet another long, controversial, and little-understood war. Read More

When al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. on 9/11, the country discovered to its complete shock that it was at war and ill-prepared to do much about it. Once again, the U.S. is waking up to the fact that it’s under attack and not yet up to fighting back. This enemy, like the last one, is nontraditional in nature, and the battle is asymmetrical.

Just as we’d been practiced in fighting other countries when we were attacked by a network of transnational Islamists, we’ve mostly considered the possibility of cyber-attack as coming from another nation, whereas it has come (and continues to come) from loosely connected global networks. After WikiLeaks exposed hundreds of thousands of national security secrets and put untold lives at risk, WikiLeaks’s cyber-allies are now attacking the websites (and, thus, the functional capabilities) of perceived corporate, organizational, and governmental enemies.  An expansion of these kinds of breaches and attacks has the potential to bring our hi-tech world to a standstill. The fecklessness being displayed by American officials, the insistent downplaying of the disaster, and the pervasive sense of confusion all point to the likelihood that we are in for yet another long, controversial, and little-understood war.

Once again, we are not only unprepared in terms of legal frameworks and battle strategies; we find ourselves essentially weak of character. In the New York Times, Robert Wright writes that WikiLeaks “is doing God’s work.” Regarding the revelations about secret American actions taken against terrorists in the Middle East, he notes, “I’d put this stuff on the positive side of the ledger.” Meanwhile, civil libertarians go on television to rail against the mistreatment of WikiLeaks mastermind Julian Assange and liberal journalists, such as the Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan, decry Assange’s “demonization.”

The facts around Assange’s arrest provide a stick-figure sketch of the perplexing cultural battle now underway in the West. On the one side we have a hip techno-nihilism, utilizing the infinite resources of the Internet and finding support in a warped libertarianism. And on the other, the only thing going up against it with enough conviction to bring Assange to justice is the politically correct junior-high sex-ed police, who managed to collar him in Britain on an unsafe-sex rap. Perhaps Colin Powell used the wrong props at the UN back in 2003. Forget WMD. If he just held up some defective birth control nabbed from Saddam’s bedroom, the sanctioned social workers of Europe might have gone to Baghdad and toppled him for us.

Real threats are no longer taken seriously, while small antagonisms and inconveniences are elevated to capital crimes. This holds true across the political spectrum and in government and among the public. We’ve just had a record year in attempted jihadist attacks against America, but if you’re on the right, chances are you’re fighting the War on Airport Pat-Downs.  The Obama administration made prisoner transfer from Guantanamo Bay its very first order of business. Never mind that one out of every four prisoners released from Gitmo in the last two years is “confirmed or suspected” of having returned to terrorism. We’re too busy with cheap self-righteousness and cheaper “outreach” to address the previous enemy, let alone the new one.

In accordance with the new doctrine of Western war, we’ve taken the first step in response to attack: apology. After 9/11, we apologized to Muslims. Today Hillary Clinton is traveling the world apologizing to foreign governments for leaked State Department cables.  That’s fine as far as it goes, but saying, “Sorry, we’re weak” doesn’t do much to stop the attacks still underway. As someone recently put it, “The war is on. And everyone ought to spend some time thinking about it, discussing it with others, preparing yourselves so you know how to act if something compels you to make a decision. Be very careful not to err on the side of inaction.” Those are the words of a contributor to a cyber-anarchist site called whyweprotest.net. Once again, the enemy has a better handle on the war than we do. We’re sure to busy ourselves finding out more about why they “protest” than reaffirming our conviction to stop them.

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The Obama Primary Challenger Issue and Why It’s Misunderstood

With angry leftists starting to discuss the possibility of a primary challenge to Barack Obama, the general reaction from serious and clever political observers has been that the idea is a preposterous one. Ed Kilgore on the New Republic‘s website (trans-ideological congratulations, by the way, to TNR’s new editor, Richard Just), my former colleague Jennifer Rubin on the WaPo site, Dave Weigel in Slate, and many others have sensibly pointed out that such a challenge would be doomed. Obama’s approval ratings among Democrats is in the 80s and not much lower among liberals (despite the outrage this week about the tax-cut deal).

The fact that Obama can surely depend on nearly universal support from black Democrats makes a primary challenge even more unlikely, they say. And not only unlikely, but pointless. Rather than achieving the near-win Eugene McCarthy scored in the 1968 Democratic primary in New Hampshire against sitting president LBJ or Pat Buchanan’s getting 38 percent against Bush the Elder in 1992, Weigel suggests that the outcome would be more like the foolish bid by Ohio Republican Rep. John Ashbrook against Richard Nixon in 1972 from the right, when Ashbrook got 9 percent there.

All worth considering. But in Kilgore’s case, the wish is father to the thought; he doesn’t want a challenge and is offering an analysis intended to talk interested Democrats and leftists out of attempting one. Weigel is giving voice to the “Oh, come on” school oft affected by those who spend most of their time thinking about politics and can’t imagine why anybody would make a political move that seems fruitless.

But here’s the thing. An Obama primary challenger wouldn’t be getting in the race to win. Pat Buchanan didn’t think he’d win, and I don’t think Eugene McCarthy thought so either. The question is whether a collection of factors next year — continued weakness in the economy and the fact that we haven’t pulled out of Afghanistan — creates the conditions under which a primary challenge will be staged. The point, which I make in my COMMENTARY article this month, is that one would arise in that instance because, in effect, the dynamic of the American political system would demand it. Read More

With angry leftists starting to discuss the possibility of a primary challenge to Barack Obama, the general reaction from serious and clever political observers has been that the idea is a preposterous one. Ed Kilgore on the New Republic‘s website (trans-ideological congratulations, by the way, to TNR’s new editor, Richard Just), my former colleague Jennifer Rubin on the WaPo site, Dave Weigel in Slate, and many others have sensibly pointed out that such a challenge would be doomed. Obama’s approval ratings among Democrats is in the 80s and not much lower among liberals (despite the outrage this week about the tax-cut deal).

The fact that Obama can surely depend on nearly universal support from black Democrats makes a primary challenge even more unlikely, they say. And not only unlikely, but pointless. Rather than achieving the near-win Eugene McCarthy scored in the 1968 Democratic primary in New Hampshire against sitting president LBJ or Pat Buchanan’s getting 38 percent against Bush the Elder in 1992, Weigel suggests that the outcome would be more like the foolish bid by Ohio Republican Rep. John Ashbrook against Richard Nixon in 1972 from the right, when Ashbrook got 9 percent there.

All worth considering. But in Kilgore’s case, the wish is father to the thought; he doesn’t want a challenge and is offering an analysis intended to talk interested Democrats and leftists out of attempting one. Weigel is giving voice to the “Oh, come on” school oft affected by those who spend most of their time thinking about politics and can’t imagine why anybody would make a political move that seems fruitless.

But here’s the thing. An Obama primary challenger wouldn’t be getting in the race to win. Pat Buchanan didn’t think he’d win, and I don’t think Eugene McCarthy thought so either. The question is whether a collection of factors next year — continued weakness in the economy and the fact that we haven’t pulled out of Afghanistan — creates the conditions under which a primary challenge will be staged. The point, which I make in my COMMENTARY article this month, is that one would arise in that instance because, in effect, the dynamic of the American political system would demand it.

First, presume that, if the status quo remains largely unchanged, Obama’s support will decline somewhat among Democrats and liberals. They won’t like the state of things; he’ll start to smell like a loser and people tend to desert losers; and many will be genuinely angry that his ideological concessions on taxes and war have not improved matters from their perspective. Someone would do it at that point because (and this sounds sentimental, but isn’t) he actually does hear the leftist body politic crying out for someone to represent its views. Protest candidacies are not about victory, which is why Hillary Clinton won’t stage one; they’re about protest.

Also remember that the cost of entry for a protest candidate is far lower than people realize. One would get in to make a showing in New Hampshire, which is not expensive to run in — and a protest candidacy that gets any kind of purchase will, in any case, be able to raise money very fast. (If Christine O’Donnell can raise a few million dollars in three days, so can Russ Feingold under the right circumstances, like the Huffington Post’s pushing his campaign.) The question then would be what kind of showing such a person could make in that one state. As it happens, it might well be built to help a leftist protest candidate.

For one thing, African Americans make up less than 2 percent of the population of New Hampshire. (Remember: Hillary Clinton won here in 2008.) For another, independents can vote in the New Hampshire Democratic primary, which could allow some genuinely angry people to cast protest votes just to send Obama a message, even though such people would probably end up voting Republican in November 2012.

I have no idea whether there will be such a candidate, because I have no idea what things will look like next fall. I do know that if a candidate turns out to be less like Ashbrook and more like Buchanan, Obama will be in serious trouble. (Read my piece to find out more.) Right now, it is as foolish to presume there won’t be one, or to argue that such a candidate would be unable to make a bid damaging to Obama, as it would be to presume one will definitely rise up to challenge him.

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Morning Commentary

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) has hit the ground running as the new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. First items on the agenda: cutting the State Department budget, forcing significant changes at the UN, and increasing pressure on “rogue states.”

Ron Paul is the only member of Congress to vote against a resolution honoring Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Paul has been an outspoken critic of the National Endowment of Democracy, which he claims helps stir up international conflict with taxpayer money. Much of Xiaobo’s fine work has been funded through grants from the NED.

George H.W. Bush has thrown his support behind New START, becoming the most prominent Republican figure yet to publicly back the controversial legislation.

James Fallows cautions not to put too much stock into those exceptional Shanghai test scores, noting that the students tested may not have been representative of the average Chinese student. “No doubt these results reflect something real,” wrote Fallows. “But as with just about everything concerning modern China, the results should also be viewed with some distance and possible skepticism.”

Former Army analyst Bradley Manning is facing half a century in prison for leaking secret military documents to WikiLeaks, but it seems he’s become something of a folk hero among left-wingers. The city council of Berkeley is considering a resolution honoring his “patriotism.” The Washington Examiner’s Mark Hemingway suggests: “Once they take care of this vital matter, perhaps they can get around to finally doing something about all the deranged panhandlers on Telegraph Avenue.”

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg may protest allegations that he’s running for president, but his speech yesterday sure sounded like it. And as NBC’s Mark Murray noted, the words also sounded vaguely familiar.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) has hit the ground running as the new chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. First items on the agenda: cutting the State Department budget, forcing significant changes at the UN, and increasing pressure on “rogue states.”

Ron Paul is the only member of Congress to vote against a resolution honoring Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Paul has been an outspoken critic of the National Endowment of Democracy, which he claims helps stir up international conflict with taxpayer money. Much of Xiaobo’s fine work has been funded through grants from the NED.

George H.W. Bush has thrown his support behind New START, becoming the most prominent Republican figure yet to publicly back the controversial legislation.

James Fallows cautions not to put too much stock into those exceptional Shanghai test scores, noting that the students tested may not have been representative of the average Chinese student. “No doubt these results reflect something real,” wrote Fallows. “But as with just about everything concerning modern China, the results should also be viewed with some distance and possible skepticism.”

Former Army analyst Bradley Manning is facing half a century in prison for leaking secret military documents to WikiLeaks, but it seems he’s become something of a folk hero among left-wingers. The city council of Berkeley is considering a resolution honoring his “patriotism.” The Washington Examiner’s Mark Hemingway suggests: “Once they take care of this vital matter, perhaps they can get around to finally doing something about all the deranged panhandlers on Telegraph Avenue.”

New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg may protest allegations that he’s running for president, but his speech yesterday sure sounded like it. And as NBC’s Mark Murray noted, the words also sounded vaguely familiar.

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Obama’s Biggest Challenge: Reselling Himself and His Party

In his column Charlie Cook writes, “Many Democrats seem to take solace in the idea that stubbornly high unemployment and the terrible economy are to blame for their midterm election losses. They are unwilling to acknowledge that there were some more fundamental factors at work, ones that may be too unpleasant for them to face.”

Among the fundamental factors at work, according to Cook, is the public’s view of government. He calls attention to one classic poll question: “Do you think that government should do more to solve problems, or is government trying to do too many things that would be better left to businesses and individuals?” (The wording of the question varies from pollster to pollster.)

In the 2008 national exit poll, 51 percent of voters surveyed said government should do more to solve problems, while 43 percent said government was trying to do too much. In 2010, only 38 percent thought government should do more, while 56 percent said government was trying to do too much. That’s a 26-point swing in just two years.

Set aside for now the reasons for why the public has turned against government; there’s simply no disputing the fact that they have. And because Barack Obama personifies Big Government in a way no other figure since Lyndon Johnson has, he and his party have suffered mightily.

President Obama’s challenge over the next two years is either to revivify the public’s faith in government or to change people’s impressions of him as the embodiment of a modern, activist liberal. Given his record over the last two years, that won’t be easy. What also complicates matters is that Obama is instinctively and intellectually a man of the left. That is apparent even in the deal he supports to cut tax rates for all Americans, including top income earners. The president cannot help but (repeatedly) express his disdain for key elements of a deal he himself is championing.

The task Mr. Obama faces over the next two years isn’t an impossible one, but it is formidable. He has to remake and resell himself (and his party) after two years of nearly unchecked liberalism. Having cemented this impression with the public, Obama now has the unenviable task of having to employ a political jackhammer to break it apart. Doing so is never easy or pretty.

In his column Charlie Cook writes, “Many Democrats seem to take solace in the idea that stubbornly high unemployment and the terrible economy are to blame for their midterm election losses. They are unwilling to acknowledge that there were some more fundamental factors at work, ones that may be too unpleasant for them to face.”

Among the fundamental factors at work, according to Cook, is the public’s view of government. He calls attention to one classic poll question: “Do you think that government should do more to solve problems, or is government trying to do too many things that would be better left to businesses and individuals?” (The wording of the question varies from pollster to pollster.)

In the 2008 national exit poll, 51 percent of voters surveyed said government should do more to solve problems, while 43 percent said government was trying to do too much. In 2010, only 38 percent thought government should do more, while 56 percent said government was trying to do too much. That’s a 26-point swing in just two years.

Set aside for now the reasons for why the public has turned against government; there’s simply no disputing the fact that they have. And because Barack Obama personifies Big Government in a way no other figure since Lyndon Johnson has, he and his party have suffered mightily.

President Obama’s challenge over the next two years is either to revivify the public’s faith in government or to change people’s impressions of him as the embodiment of a modern, activist liberal. Given his record over the last two years, that won’t be easy. What also complicates matters is that Obama is instinctively and intellectually a man of the left. That is apparent even in the deal he supports to cut tax rates for all Americans, including top income earners. The president cannot help but (repeatedly) express his disdain for key elements of a deal he himself is championing.

The task Mr. Obama faces over the next two years isn’t an impossible one, but it is formidable. He has to remake and resell himself (and his party) after two years of nearly unchecked liberalism. Having cemented this impression with the public, Obama now has the unenviable task of having to employ a political jackhammer to break it apart. Doing so is never easy or pretty.

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Gross Diplomatic Malfeasance on Turkey

Halting donations to the JNF undoubtedly ranks high on the list of unhelpful responses to Israel’s Carmel fire. But it pales beside that of Israel’s own prime minister: using the fact that Turkey was one of 18 nations that helped extinguish the blaze as an excuse to “mend relations” with Ankara by apologizing and paying compensation for May’s raid on a Turkish-sponsored flotilla to Gaza.

The deal may yet fall through, since Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan still insists that Israel “apologize” for the raid, in which nine Turks were killed, while Benjamin Netanyahu wants merely to “regret” the deaths. But Israel has already reportedly agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation to the killed and wounded “activists.”

Netanyahu claims that this will be “humanitarian” compensation, not an admission of fault. That’s tommyrot. When you apologize and pay compensation, you’re admitting fault, whether you say so explicitly or not. That means Israel is tacitly implying either that it was wrong to enforce its naval blockade of Gaza — established to keep Hamas from shipping in boatloads of arms with which to attack it — or that its soldiers were wrong to fire in self-defense when brutally assaulted by the flotilla’s passengers.

Even worse, Israel would thereby absolve the real culprits: the Turkish organization IHH, whose “activists” deliberately laid an ambush, and the Turkish government, which, according to information that emerged after the raid, was involved in the flotilla at the highest levels. None of the numerous other flotillas to Gaza has produced any casualties, because their passengers didn’t attack Israeli soldiers. The Turkish flotilla would have been similarly casualty-free had its “activists” not launched a violent assault.

Indeed, since IHH sent most noncombatants below deck before beginning its assault, the passengers Israel would be compensating were almost certainly active participants in the attack. As Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman correctly said (via his aides), this is “surrendering to terror,” pure and simple.

But it gets even worse — because Israel would also thereby whitewash Turkey’s turn toward Islamic extremism under Erdogan, when it should be leading the effort to get the West to acknowledge this about-face and respond appropriately.

By crawling to Erdogan in this fashion — after six months of correctly insisting that Israel would neither apologize nor pay compensation — Netanyahu implies that Turkey is still a valued ally, both for Israel and, by implication, for other Western countries. Yet in reality, Ankara openly works against Israeli interests in every possible forum (for instance, regarding NATO’s missile defense system); it had halted joint military exercises even before the flotilla; and Jerusalem no longer trusts it not to share Israeli secrets with Iran. Thanks to WikiLeaks, we now know that even America’s ambassador to Turkey concluded that “Erdogan simply hates Israel.” So what could Israel possibly gain by “mending ties” with it?

Thus, on every possible front, Netanyahu’s overture to Turkey sends exactly the wrong message. This is gross diplomatic malfeasance. And Israel’s friends should make that clear to him before it’s too late.

Halting donations to the JNF undoubtedly ranks high on the list of unhelpful responses to Israel’s Carmel fire. But it pales beside that of Israel’s own prime minister: using the fact that Turkey was one of 18 nations that helped extinguish the blaze as an excuse to “mend relations” with Ankara by apologizing and paying compensation for May’s raid on a Turkish-sponsored flotilla to Gaza.

The deal may yet fall through, since Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan still insists that Israel “apologize” for the raid, in which nine Turks were killed, while Benjamin Netanyahu wants merely to “regret” the deaths. But Israel has already reportedly agreed to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in compensation to the killed and wounded “activists.”

Netanyahu claims that this will be “humanitarian” compensation, not an admission of fault. That’s tommyrot. When you apologize and pay compensation, you’re admitting fault, whether you say so explicitly or not. That means Israel is tacitly implying either that it was wrong to enforce its naval blockade of Gaza — established to keep Hamas from shipping in boatloads of arms with which to attack it — or that its soldiers were wrong to fire in self-defense when brutally assaulted by the flotilla’s passengers.

Even worse, Israel would thereby absolve the real culprits: the Turkish organization IHH, whose “activists” deliberately laid an ambush, and the Turkish government, which, according to information that emerged after the raid, was involved in the flotilla at the highest levels. None of the numerous other flotillas to Gaza has produced any casualties, because their passengers didn’t attack Israeli soldiers. The Turkish flotilla would have been similarly casualty-free had its “activists” not launched a violent assault.

Indeed, since IHH sent most noncombatants below deck before beginning its assault, the passengers Israel would be compensating were almost certainly active participants in the attack. As Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman correctly said (via his aides), this is “surrendering to terror,” pure and simple.

But it gets even worse — because Israel would also thereby whitewash Turkey’s turn toward Islamic extremism under Erdogan, when it should be leading the effort to get the West to acknowledge this about-face and respond appropriately.

By crawling to Erdogan in this fashion — after six months of correctly insisting that Israel would neither apologize nor pay compensation — Netanyahu implies that Turkey is still a valued ally, both for Israel and, by implication, for other Western countries. Yet in reality, Ankara openly works against Israeli interests in every possible forum (for instance, regarding NATO’s missile defense system); it had halted joint military exercises even before the flotilla; and Jerusalem no longer trusts it not to share Israeli secrets with Iran. Thanks to WikiLeaks, we now know that even America’s ambassador to Turkey concluded that “Erdogan simply hates Israel.” So what could Israel possibly gain by “mending ties” with it?

Thus, on every possible front, Netanyahu’s overture to Turkey sends exactly the wrong message. This is gross diplomatic malfeasance. And Israel’s friends should make that clear to him before it’s too late.

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A Plan in Search of an Avenue

Yesterday’s State Department press conference featured a lengthy discussion about next steps in the administration’s hapless peace process, now that the administration has dropped its attempt to renew for three months an Israeli moratorium that didn’t work when it was tried for 10, and which the administration concluded would not work now even if Israel agreed to it, which Israel wouldn’t do if the U.S. did not put its promises about it in writing, which the U.S. concluded wouldn’t be prudent, and which anyway were a little different than the oral ones, which — are you still with me?

Spokesman P.J. Crowley said that George Mitchell will be traveling to the region again next week (second prize was two trips) and that the U.S. will “engage with both sides on the core substantive issues.” In other words, unable to get the Palestinians to engage in direct negotiations without preconditions on core issues, the administration will nevertheless, in Crowley’s words, “begin to focus intensively on the core issues and see if we can make progress on the substance itself.” Someone has not completely thought this through.

Crowley himself was a little vague about where this is headed:

QUESTION: … you didn’t really say the direction you’re going.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, no. There’s a clear plan for this direction, Lach.

QUESTION: You have a plan?

MR. CROWLEY: No. I mean we think we have the right plan. We think we have the right strategy. We are just adapting the tactics in support of that strategy.

QUESTION: Sorry. What’s the plan again?

Crowley explained that the “moratorium avenue” had not borne fruit, so the administration was now “pursuing a different avenue, but the destination is still the same”:

QUESTION: Okay. What’s the avenue then? If we don’t ask about the plan, what about the avenue. What’s — I mean you seem to be leaving a gap here as to how you get from here to there.

MR. CROWLEY: That’s what we’re trying to figure out.

This seems a particularly inauspicious time to double down on a process that, after two years, is still at square one. Everyone knows the process is not going anywhere until the question of Iran, with its twin proxies on Israel’s northern and southern borders, is resolved. Until then, the idea of another withdrawal, exposing strategic land on Israel’s east to still another jihadist takeover — all in the hope of “peace” — borders on the ludicrous.

But that appears to be the administration’s “plan.” If only it had one for Iran — for when the sanctions-avenue has proved a dead end.

Yesterday’s State Department press conference featured a lengthy discussion about next steps in the administration’s hapless peace process, now that the administration has dropped its attempt to renew for three months an Israeli moratorium that didn’t work when it was tried for 10, and which the administration concluded would not work now even if Israel agreed to it, which Israel wouldn’t do if the U.S. did not put its promises about it in writing, which the U.S. concluded wouldn’t be prudent, and which anyway were a little different than the oral ones, which — are you still with me?

Spokesman P.J. Crowley said that George Mitchell will be traveling to the region again next week (second prize was two trips) and that the U.S. will “engage with both sides on the core substantive issues.” In other words, unable to get the Palestinians to engage in direct negotiations without preconditions on core issues, the administration will nevertheless, in Crowley’s words, “begin to focus intensively on the core issues and see if we can make progress on the substance itself.” Someone has not completely thought this through.

Crowley himself was a little vague about where this is headed:

QUESTION: … you didn’t really say the direction you’re going.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, no. There’s a clear plan for this direction, Lach.

QUESTION: You have a plan?

MR. CROWLEY: No. I mean we think we have the right plan. We think we have the right strategy. We are just adapting the tactics in support of that strategy.

QUESTION: Sorry. What’s the plan again?

Crowley explained that the “moratorium avenue” had not borne fruit, so the administration was now “pursuing a different avenue, but the destination is still the same”:

QUESTION: Okay. What’s the avenue then? If we don’t ask about the plan, what about the avenue. What’s — I mean you seem to be leaving a gap here as to how you get from here to there.

MR. CROWLEY: That’s what we’re trying to figure out.

This seems a particularly inauspicious time to double down on a process that, after two years, is still at square one. Everyone knows the process is not going anywhere until the question of Iran, with its twin proxies on Israel’s northern and southern borders, is resolved. Until then, the idea of another withdrawal, exposing strategic land on Israel’s east to still another jihadist takeover — all in the hope of “peace” — borders on the ludicrous.

But that appears to be the administration’s “plan.” If only it had one for Iran — for when the sanctions-avenue has proved a dead end.

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