Commentary Magazine


Posts For: April 14, 2011

Why the Budget Deal Passed Even Though It Was a Trick

The big question is: As the deficit reduction in the budget deal turned out to be a mirage, totaling just $352 million despite an initial claim of a $38.5 billion cut, why didn’t last week’s deal collapse? In the end, 59 Republicans voted against it, though they did so, clearly, with a signal from the House leadership that it had enough votes to pass the thing and those 59 could do as they chose (sometimes called a “free no” vote)—and the bill passed comfortably. The answer, I think, is that a) the GOP leadership is still prepared to argue that its cuts are real even if they are not immediate (there’s a good summary of why by the Weekly Standard‘s John McCormack); and b) the Republican party wasn’t going to commit suicide over this. A failure to pass the bill would have led to an immediate shutdown for which there would be no question that the GOP was responsible and for which it would be blamed—and not casually blamed, either.

You have to be a very driven, very confrontational, very ideological person to believe it is best for the country that the government to shut down because legislators have failed to press a point about immediate deficit reduction. Most Americans do not fit that description, and the Republican party would have reaped the whirlwind from them. In the end, this proved an important political test for the GOP majority. The problem for Washington Republicans is that the passage of the legislation will not end the matter; the budget cuts that weren’t could prove a powerful rallying cry for a grassroots movement more radical on these matters that could end up splitting the Tea Party and cause the populist moment to disintegrate into a purity test.

The big question is: As the deficit reduction in the budget deal turned out to be a mirage, totaling just $352 million despite an initial claim of a $38.5 billion cut, why didn’t last week’s deal collapse? In the end, 59 Republicans voted against it, though they did so, clearly, with a signal from the House leadership that it had enough votes to pass the thing and those 59 could do as they chose (sometimes called a “free no” vote)—and the bill passed comfortably. The answer, I think, is that a) the GOP leadership is still prepared to argue that its cuts are real even if they are not immediate (there’s a good summary of why by the Weekly Standard‘s John McCormack); and b) the Republican party wasn’t going to commit suicide over this. A failure to pass the bill would have led to an immediate shutdown for which there would be no question that the GOP was responsible and for which it would be blamed—and not casually blamed, either.

You have to be a very driven, very confrontational, very ideological person to believe it is best for the country that the government to shut down because legislators have failed to press a point about immediate deficit reduction. Most Americans do not fit that description, and the Republican party would have reaped the whirlwind from them. In the end, this proved an important political test for the GOP majority. The problem for Washington Republicans is that the passage of the legislation will not end the matter; the budget cuts that weren’t could prove a powerful rallying cry for a grassroots movement more radical on these matters that could end up splitting the Tea Party and cause the populist moment to disintegrate into a purity test.

Read Less

An Anemic Recovery at Best

In his budget speech yesterday, President Obama took great pride in talking about how “our economic recovery is gaining strength.” So just how is that wonderful recovery going? According to USA Today, not terribly well.

The paper reports that last year the share of the population that is employed fell to its lowest level since women started entering the workforce in large numbers three decades ago. Only 45.4 percent of Americans had jobs in 2010, the lowest rate since 1983. And just 66.8 percent of men had jobs, the lowest on record.

We’re experiencing one of the most anemic post-recession recoveries in history; this data is simply more confirmation of it. There’s very little economic good news for which the president can claim credit. No wonder he’s going on the attack so soon against the GOP. He has a dismal record to defend.

In his budget speech yesterday, President Obama took great pride in talking about how “our economic recovery is gaining strength.” So just how is that wonderful recovery going? According to USA Today, not terribly well.

The paper reports that last year the share of the population that is employed fell to its lowest level since women started entering the workforce in large numbers three decades ago. Only 45.4 percent of Americans had jobs in 2010, the lowest rate since 1983. And just 66.8 percent of men had jobs, the lowest on record.

We’re experiencing one of the most anemic post-recession recoveries in history; this data is simply more confirmation of it. There’s very little economic good news for which the president can claim credit. No wonder he’s going on the attack so soon against the GOP. He has a dismal record to defend.

Read Less

Enough about the Birth Certificate Already

I have an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal on why Donald Trump’s obsession with President Obama’s birth certificate is both silly and pernicious, and why it would be wise for influential voices within the GOP to come out and say so. Among my arguments is this:

In self-governing societies, there have to be unwritten rules by which we abide. Among them is that we accept the outcome of elections and keep our public debates tethered to reality. From time to time people emerge who violate these unwritten codes. They delight in making our public discourse more childish and freakish, focusing attention on absurdities rather than substantive issues, and stirring up mistrust among citizens. When they do, those they claim to represent should speak out forcefully against them.

You can read the whole thing here.

I have an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal on why Donald Trump’s obsession with President Obama’s birth certificate is both silly and pernicious, and why it would be wise for influential voices within the GOP to come out and say so. Among my arguments is this:

In self-governing societies, there have to be unwritten rules by which we abide. Among them is that we accept the outcome of elections and keep our public debates tethered to reality. From time to time people emerge who violate these unwritten codes. They delight in making our public discourse more childish and freakish, focusing attention on absurdities rather than substantive issues, and stirring up mistrust among citizens. When they do, those they claim to represent should speak out forcefully against them.

You can read the whole thing here.

Read Less

Guardian and Times Ignore Truth about Biased Goldstone Panel Members

It is was no surprise to learn today that the other members of the United Nations panel that issued the Goldstone Report disagree with their chairman’s decision to disavow the panel’s main accusation against Israel. Like many of those who applauded a report that was filled with lies and half truths, Hina Jilani of Pakistan, Desmond Travers of Ireland, and Christine Chinkin of Great Britain are too committed to the notion that Israel’s efforts to stop Hamas terrorist attacks is inherently illegitimate to take an honest second look at their work. In a statement issued to the Guardian today, the trio rejected Richard Goldstone’s retraction as well as the justified demands put forth by the report’s critics that it be disavowed by the United Nations panel that sponsored it.

In their statement, the group defends the one-sided nature of their screed by merely saying that theirs was not a judicial proceeding. They also claimed that they had been subjected to “extraordinary pressure,” but avowed they had too much “integrity” to back away from their unfounded and scurrilous charges aimed at Israel. Left to inference is their suggestion that Goldstone has compromised his integrity by caving to such pressure.

Read More

It is was no surprise to learn today that the other members of the United Nations panel that issued the Goldstone Report disagree with their chairman’s decision to disavow the panel’s main accusation against Israel. Like many of those who applauded a report that was filled with lies and half truths, Hina Jilani of Pakistan, Desmond Travers of Ireland, and Christine Chinkin of Great Britain are too committed to the notion that Israel’s efforts to stop Hamas terrorist attacks is inherently illegitimate to take an honest second look at their work. In a statement issued to the Guardian today, the trio rejected Richard Goldstone’s retraction as well as the justified demands put forth by the report’s critics that it be disavowed by the United Nations panel that sponsored it.

In their statement, the group defends the one-sided nature of their screed by merely saying that theirs was not a judicial proceeding. They also claimed that they had been subjected to “extraordinary pressure,” but avowed they had too much “integrity” to back away from their unfounded and scurrilous charges aimed at Israel. Left to inference is their suggestion that Goldstone has compromised his integrity by caving to such pressure.

But aside from their disingenuous defense of the report, what the trio’s statement really lacks is transparency. While they claim to be impartial, Jilani, Travers and Chinkin all signed open letters accusing Israel of “war crimes” long before the panel began to deliberate in 2009. A majority of this supposedly unbiased jury that calls itself a “committee of independent experts” had already decided on the outcome of the investigation before it began. All three are ardent foes of Israel and have deemed virtually any Israeli measures of self-defense against Palestinian terror as out of bounds.

Not surprisingly this basic fact about the trio was omitted from the Guardian’s article about their statement. Nor did it make an appearance in the New York Times’sarticle on this subject today.

It is difficult to accept Goldstone’s non-apologetic apology for his part in the panel’s farrago of lies in which he stated that “had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.” Perhaps he really was as ignorant of the nature of Hamas as he claims to be and has since understood his mistake. But what is clearer than ever is that the choice of Goldstone, a South African Jew, to head the panel, was a thinly veiled attempt at concealing the bias of the other three members. If his intention was to balance their malice for the Jewish state, he failed miserably.

But as dismal as Goldstone’s failure was, the refusal of these newspapers to balance their coverage of the controversy with the truth about the prejudices of the other three panel members is an unforgivable lapse of journalistic ethics.

Read Less

Whatever You Do, Don’t Alienate Pelosi

President Obama has Rep. Nancy Pelosi to thank for all of his legislative “accomplishments,” but with her clout fading and presidential elections looming, the administration is now eager to get as far away from her as possible. At Politico, Jonathan Allen reports:

Pelosi’s shutout from the biggest deal so far this year is a remarkable comedown for a former speaker who drove the legislative process in the past Congress. Some Democrats also say they’re steamed at the White House for mistreating Pelosi after she delivered the president’s legislative agenda in the past Congress and took lumps for him on the campaign trail. A Pelosi aide insists that during the budget negotiations, “she made it clear to all parties that there was a willingness on the part of House Democrats to work to keep government open.”

You can’t blame Obama for wanting to keep his distance from a politician with a 34 percent approval rating and a reputation as a fierce left-wing reactionary. But she’s still hugely popular on the left, especially since she was seen as the driving force behind Obamacare.

And Obama still needs her to keep House Democrats in line. Pelosi told The Hill this afternoon that she may vote against the spending plan hashed out by Obama, Reid and the GOP leadership. “We’ll see” is all she would say when asked how she would vote.

There’s also another reason why Obama may have problems if he alienates Pelosi. She is an excellent fundraiser. Her active assistance will be important in the lead-up to the 2012 election.

“Pelosi still holds great sway with a critical constituency: rich liberal donors who adore her and write generous checks for Democratic causes when she headlines fundraising events,” Politico reports. “She also remains unchallenged as the Democratic Caucus leader.”

President Obama has Rep. Nancy Pelosi to thank for all of his legislative “accomplishments,” but with her clout fading and presidential elections looming, the administration is now eager to get as far away from her as possible. At Politico, Jonathan Allen reports:

Pelosi’s shutout from the biggest deal so far this year is a remarkable comedown for a former speaker who drove the legislative process in the past Congress. Some Democrats also say they’re steamed at the White House for mistreating Pelosi after she delivered the president’s legislative agenda in the past Congress and took lumps for him on the campaign trail. A Pelosi aide insists that during the budget negotiations, “she made it clear to all parties that there was a willingness on the part of House Democrats to work to keep government open.”

You can’t blame Obama for wanting to keep his distance from a politician with a 34 percent approval rating and a reputation as a fierce left-wing reactionary. But she’s still hugely popular on the left, especially since she was seen as the driving force behind Obamacare.

And Obama still needs her to keep House Democrats in line. Pelosi told The Hill this afternoon that she may vote against the spending plan hashed out by Obama, Reid and the GOP leadership. “We’ll see” is all she would say when asked how she would vote.

There’s also another reason why Obama may have problems if he alienates Pelosi. She is an excellent fundraiser. Her active assistance will be important in the lead-up to the 2012 election.

“Pelosi still holds great sway with a critical constituency: rich liberal donors who adore her and write generous checks for Democratic causes when she headlines fundraising events,” Politico reports. “She also remains unchallenged as the Democratic Caucus leader.”

Read Less

The Potemkin Palestinian State

This week the “UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process” issued his report on “Palestinian State-Building,” with a press release asserting that “government functions are now sufficient for a functioning government of a state.” If you read the report instead of the press release, you might come to a different conclusion.

Take “rule of law”—an area where the Palestinian Authority is “clearly on track” as it finishes up its two-year state-building effort. The report does not tell you much (the PA is “drafting legislation,” issuing “regulations,” providing “improved access” to legal services). You need to go on to the “annex.” There you find that “rule of law” does not mean what you think it means.

Read More

This week the “UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process” issued his report on “Palestinian State-Building,” with a press release asserting that “government functions are now sufficient for a functioning government of a state.” If you read the report instead of the press release, you might come to a different conclusion.

Take “rule of law”—an area where the Palestinian Authority is “clearly on track” as it finishes up its two-year state-building effort. The report does not tell you much (the PA is “drafting legislation,” issuing “regulations,” providing “improved access” to legal services). You need to go on to the “annex.” There you find that “rule of law” does not mean what you think it means.

Here is the conclusion regarding the interplay of the judicial, legislative and executive branches of the PA:

The lack of clarity in roles and responsibilities of the various judicial organs, including security/military courts, is an ongoing challenge that the PA should continue to address. Other on-going challenges result from the absence of the Palestinian Legislative Council, with the result that legislation continues to be passed by Presidential decree rather than in parliament.

In other words, the “rule of law” is whatever the Palestinian “president”—currently serving the 76th month of his 48-month term—decrees; there is no functioning legislature and no clarity in the roles of the “judicial organs.”

The annex notes the “continued divide” between the West Bank and Gaza “presents a major challenge to coherence between legal systems”:

Hamas is gradually replacing the formal judicial system with another system. Hamas appointed new judges, prosecutors, police officers and Ministry of Justice staff in Gaza, and has not invested in the capacity building of these new staff. Furthermore, the traditional/tribal information justice systems have been replaced by “reconciliation men”.

In other words, in Gaza they’ve decided they don’t need no stinkin’ rule of law. They have “reconciliation men,” who probably administer justice by advising Gazans they have a “nice little _____ there” and it would be a shame if something happened to it.

The UN report demonstrates that Fatah and Hamas cannot live side-by-side in peace and security, and PA “rule of law” consists of decrees by an unelected “president.” Yet the Special Coordinator believes the Palestinians are ready for a state; I think not so much.  

Read Less

Obama Refuses More Help for Libyan Rebels

At a NATO summit earlier today, the Obama administration reportedly rejected calls to provide more support for the mission in Libya. NATO specifically needs the low-flying planes that the U.S. was previously providing, which extended their capability to identify and target Qaddafi forces. According to an administration source quoted in the Washington Post, the U.S. won’t be giving additional assistance to NATO because they haven’t been asked: “If the commanders feel they need more capability, the commanders will ask for more capability. That’s not what they are doing so far.” The NATO commanders “seem satisfied with pace of the operation and we’re satisfied,” he said.

But France and Britain have been complaining to the media for days that the U.S. and other countries need to bring more to the table. It’s hard to imagine they weren’t raising these same concerns privately.

Read More

At a NATO summit earlier today, the Obama administration reportedly rejected calls to provide more support for the mission in Libya. NATO specifically needs the low-flying planes that the U.S. was previously providing, which extended their capability to identify and target Qaddafi forces. According to an administration source quoted in the Washington Post, the U.S. won’t be giving additional assistance to NATO because they haven’t been asked: “If the commanders feel they need more capability, the commanders will ask for more capability. That’s not what they are doing so far.” The NATO commanders “seem satisfied with pace of the operation and we’re satisfied,” he said.

But France and Britain have been complaining to the media for days that the U.S. and other countries need to bring more to the table. It’s hard to imagine they weren’t raising these same concerns privately.

As the Washington Post reports, NATO specifically requested more U.S. assistance during the summit. In a news briefing, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO commanders had specifically requested equipment that can carry out precision attacks on ground forces.

NATO’s equipment problems have seriously impeded its mission, according to reports. A French diplomatic source warned earlier this week that France and allies had already given up hope of a rebel military victory, and were instead focusing on getting rid of Qaddafi through diplomatic channels.

As David Frum pointed out on Twitter today, the recent arrest of Hosni Mubarak makes it less likely that Qaddafi can be persuaded to step down. So unless the NATO military mission starts making more progress, it doesn’t sound as if Qaddafi will be going anywhere any time soon.

Read Less

A Prescription for American Decline

The U.S. is currently engaged in three active wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya)—four if you count the war on terror, five if you count the war on piracy. We are increasingly hard-pressed to stave off the aggressive military designs of a resurgent China. We have to deter a nuclear North Korea and prevent Iran from going nuclear. We have to prepare for the possibility of an implosion in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed, highly unstable state. We have to maintain free movement across the global commons, meaning air and sea-lanes along with outer space and cyberspace. And at the same time we have to perform myriad humanitarian missions, such as the one currently being conducted by U.S. Pacific Command to assist Japan in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami.

Is this any time to cut defense spending? Apparently President Obama thinks so.

Read More

The U.S. is currently engaged in three active wars (Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya)—four if you count the war on terror, five if you count the war on piracy. We are increasingly hard-pressed to stave off the aggressive military designs of a resurgent China. We have to deter a nuclear North Korea and prevent Iran from going nuclear. We have to prepare for the possibility of an implosion in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed, highly unstable state. We have to maintain free movement across the global commons, meaning air and sea-lanes along with outer space and cyberspace. And at the same time we have to perform myriad humanitarian missions, such as the one currently being conducted by U.S. Pacific Command to assist Japan in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami.

Is this any time to cut defense spending? Apparently President Obama thinks so.

He just announced that he would like to see $400 billion in cuts over the next 12 years. Yet at the same time he didn’t specify which missions he would like the U.S. military to drop. Nor did he offer any assurance that fresh missions won’t be thrown its way. How could he? Just last month he ordered the U.S. armed forces into harm’s way in Libya—a conflict that no one could have foreseen at the start of the year. So the implication is that the U.S. armed forces will have to do everything they’re currently doing—but with significantly fewer resources. That’s a recipe for trouble—a prescription for American decline.

Already Defense Secretary Bob Gates has overseen a tough round of defense cutbacks which has resulted in an estimated $400 billion of cost savings. As Mackenzie Eglen of the Heritage Foundation notes, those cuts have resulted in the termination of numerous weapons systems, such as the F-22 fighter, the C-17 cargo plane, and the Marines’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. Other systems have been delayed or downsized. I have not been unduly alarmed by these cutbacks; I don’t think our defense will be imperiled by the loss of the F-22, C-17, or EFV per se. But there is only so much fat you can cut before you start to hit muscle.

The U.S. military is already operating at full capacity. It is already too small for all the missions thrown its way. It is already overstressed and over-deployed. It is already facing a major procurement shortfall because we took a holiday from history in the 1990s. Thus we continue to rely on systems (such as the M-1 tank, F-15 fighter, and Los Angeles-class submarine) that date back to the 1970s. No equipment, no matter how well maintained, can last indefinitely. There is an urgent need to recapitalize the force—and also to expand the number of soldiers and marines, rather than to downsize the force, as currently planned.

Gates is right to warn that “further significant defense cuts cannot be accomplished without reducing force structure and military capability.” The question is whether President Obama and Congressional leaders are listening. The indication so far is that they’re not. The result is likely to be that the country—indeed the world—will pay a high price when the U.S. military is not ready to confront some crisis in the future.

Read Less

The Missing Element in Arab Revolution: America

The Arab spring is on course to yield many poisonous flowers. This was not inevitable. From the Islamist rise in Egypt to the redoubled brutality of Syria’s crackdown to Qaddafi the superpower slayer, we see the consequences of an absentee America. Days after President Ben Ali was ousted from Tunisia, the Daily Beast’s Peter Beinart wrote a column declaring, “The lesson is that even in a post-American world, democracy has legs.” Three months later, it’s clear those legs are being broken by thugs and theocrats.

In the latest issue of the al-Qaeda magazine Inspire, Abu Suhail writes,

This is what your brothers in the al-Qaida Organization and other jihadi organizations have been working for: inspiring the people all over the world to rise up for the Islamic cause of eliminating tyrants so that we have a clear shot at Israel.

It is a collective effort that requires the ummah [community of Muslim believers] to be on the same page. The fat donkey sitting on the pathway however is America. With a weakened America, it will allow us to stride about the lands in honor, with the permission of Allah.

And stride they do.

Read More

The Arab spring is on course to yield many poisonous flowers. This was not inevitable. From the Islamist rise in Egypt to the redoubled brutality of Syria’s crackdown to Qaddafi the superpower slayer, we see the consequences of an absentee America. Days after President Ben Ali was ousted from Tunisia, the Daily Beast’s Peter Beinart wrote a column declaring, “The lesson is that even in a post-American world, democracy has legs.” Three months later, it’s clear those legs are being broken by thugs and theocrats.

In the latest issue of the al-Qaeda magazine Inspire, Abu Suhail writes,

This is what your brothers in the al-Qaida Organization and other jihadi organizations have been working for: inspiring the people all over the world to rise up for the Islamic cause of eliminating tyrants so that we have a clear shot at Israel.

It is a collective effort that requires the ummah [community of Muslim believers] to be on the same page. The fat donkey sitting on the pathway however is America. With a weakened America, it will allow us to stride about the lands in honor, with the permission of Allah.

And stride they do.

After the social-network crowd vacated Tahrir Square, the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood wandered in, cut a deal with the Egyptian Army, sliced off some infidel ears, and started campaigning for elections. According to Suhail, al Qaeda is scouting out Yemen for its next post-revolution operating base.

The region’s dictators have also seized the moment. Catching up on the latest videos of Bahraini and Syrian massacres is now as commonplace as catching up on last night’s talk-show monologues. There are new reports that Iran has gotten actively involved in the Syrian democracy-suppression campaign.  And Muammar Qaddafi is poised to emerge from the current NATO military muddle as the Teflon madman.

What is the “fat donkey” doing while jihadists swagger and dictators conspire? According to foreign policy sages like Beinart, Tom Friedman, and Fareed Zakaria, Barack Obama is “allowing the Arab revolts of 2011 to be wholly owned by Arabs.”  This is critically important, according to Zakaria, “because the success of these protests hinges on whether they will be seen as organic, indigenous, national movements.”  Strange, then, that they are seen as all three and still managing to fail. In Libya, the organic, indigenous, and national protest movement was so hopeless it was about to turn into a bloodbath. If not for French and British leadership, the Libyans would have “wholly owned” a humanitarian disaster. And if America refuses to finish off the Qaddafi regime, they still might.

A democratic greater Middle East was never going to be easy but it should have been a possibility.  The best hope was for America to have unapologetically assumed its traditional global leadership role. This would have meant everything from covertly assisting democrats in Egypt to withholding foreign aid on conditions of democratic progress to taking early and decisive action in Libya. Instead, we outsourced the job to Facebook and some European allies. The Obama administration had to preserve the liberal narrative of post-colonial grievance at all costs. According to this narrative, all American action is just dressed up imperialism. A little thing like a regional revolution wasn’t going to stand in the way of our superpower retirement.

Arabs still want their freedom, but with the U.S. out of the freedom game the struggle for liberty has been relegated to a human-interest story. Two months ago, everyone was on the lookout for a new Tiananmen moment. Today, young Syrians actually lay down before oncoming tanks and no one knows about it. And why should anyone care? According to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Syrian president is a “reformer.”

So, yes, the oppressed will continue to self-immolate. They will lie down before tanks, make Facebook pages, and gather in town squares. But dictators, too, will continue to fire on their subjects, arrest them, jail them, and let them rot. And jihadists will continue to move in and exploit the chaos. What has ceased—at least for now—is the active American nurturance of liberty abroad. It’s not hard to see what that cessation has meant to the cause of democracy.

Read Less

Trump to Announce—on Reality Show

And people said his presidential ambitions were just a publicity stunt:

If you wonder whether Donald Trump is serious about running for president, tune in to the finale of “The Celebrity Apprentice” on May 15. Trump plans to say on the NBC show that he will be holding a press conference a few days after the May 15th show. At that press conference in the Trump Tower in New York, Trump will be announcing his candidacy for the presidency.

Newsmax’s Ronald Kessler, who broke the story, doesn’t see this as a ratings ploy. “Of all the people on the planet, Donald Trump is the last person who needs more publicity,” wrote Kessler. “And if he is riding a groundswell of support, why would he—or anyone else—decide not to run?”

But of course Trump needs more publicity. It’s part of who he is. Not to mention that the Celebrity Apprentice season premiere in February was down 5 percent in the ratings compared to the 2010 debut. The show’s ratings have been climbing steadily since he began toying with the idea of a presidential run.

Also, the problem isn’t that he’s deciding to run—it’s the fact that he plans to announce it on his reality show, which he directly profits from. The stunt doesn’t exactly dispel the widespread impression that he’s not a serious candidate. And it certainly doesn’t lend gravitas to his presidential bid.

And people said his presidential ambitions were just a publicity stunt:

If you wonder whether Donald Trump is serious about running for president, tune in to the finale of “The Celebrity Apprentice” on May 15. Trump plans to say on the NBC show that he will be holding a press conference a few days after the May 15th show. At that press conference in the Trump Tower in New York, Trump will be announcing his candidacy for the presidency.

Newsmax’s Ronald Kessler, who broke the story, doesn’t see this as a ratings ploy. “Of all the people on the planet, Donald Trump is the last person who needs more publicity,” wrote Kessler. “And if he is riding a groundswell of support, why would he—or anyone else—decide not to run?”

But of course Trump needs more publicity. It’s part of who he is. Not to mention that the Celebrity Apprentice season premiere in February was down 5 percent in the ratings compared to the 2010 debut. The show’s ratings have been climbing steadily since he began toying with the idea of a presidential run.

Also, the problem isn’t that he’s deciding to run—it’s the fact that he plans to announce it on his reality show, which he directly profits from. The stunt doesn’t exactly dispel the widespread impression that he’s not a serious candidate. And it certainly doesn’t lend gravitas to his presidential bid.

Read Less

Not in Love with Following Through

During his speech yesterday, President Obama was ostensibly serious about solving the deficit crisis. According to the president, Washington needs to “act boldly now” and stop “kicking our problems further down the road.”

“Our debt has grown so large,” he said, “that we could do real damage to the economy if we don’t begin a process now to get our fiscal house in order.”

Unfortunately, it’s getting hard to take the president’s urgency seriously anymore. Now he’s allegedly committed to solving the deficit problem. But he also said pretty much the same thing back in 2009, when he outlined his “belt-tightening” plan to slash the deficit in half by 2012:

Read More

During his speech yesterday, President Obama was ostensibly serious about solving the deficit crisis. According to the president, Washington needs to “act boldly now” and stop “kicking our problems further down the road.”

“Our debt has grown so large,” he said, “that we could do real damage to the economy if we don’t begin a process now to get our fiscal house in order.”

Unfortunately, it’s getting hard to take the president’s urgency seriously anymore. Now he’s allegedly committed to solving the deficit problem. But he also said pretty much the same thing back in 2009, when he outlined his “belt-tightening” plan to slash the deficit in half by 2012:

But I want to be very clear, if the message was not effectively delivered by the three previous speakers: We cannot, and will not, sustain deficits like these without end. Contrary to the prevailing wisdom in Washington these past few years, we cannot simply spend as we please and defer the consequences to the next budget, the next administration, or the next generation. . . . And that’s why today I’m pledging to cut the deficit we inherited by half by the end of my first term in office. Now, this will not be easy. It will require us to make difficult decisions and face challenges we’ve long neglected. But I refuse to leave our children with a debt that they cannot repay, and that means taking responsibility right now, in this administration, for getting our spending under control.

Since then, the deficit has only increased, and this inability to follow-through on promises has become something of a theme with the administration. The trajectory is predictable: Obama will hone in on issues when they become relevant, profess his unwavering commitment to solving them immediately, and inevitably let them fall to the wayside once the public’s interest wanes.

Remember his vow to solve the immigration problems? “This administration will not just kick the can down the road,” Obama said—and then went on to do just that. Or his speech on the pressing crisis in Libya? His focus on that predicament lasted about a week. Guantanamo Bay is still (fortunately) open, despite Obama’s 2009 contention that “if we refuse to deal with these issues today, then I guarantee you that they will be an albatross around our efforts to combat terrorism in the future.” Meanwhile, our troops remain in Iraq, despite the president’s claim that the operation needed to come to an immediate end.

“I think this is a pattern with this White House. They’re very reactive to what’s being said in general,” a senior Republican aide told me. “Based on their previous track-record, there’s been little to no follow-through whenever they do these big speeches. His energy speech from two weeks ago—what happened to that? Nothing.”

The aide was referring to Obama’s March 30th speech on energy, in which the president insisted that “we cannot keep going from shock to trance on the issue of energy security, rushing to propose action when gas prices rise, then hitting the snooze button when they fall again.”

This is not to be confused with the January, 2009, speech when he declared that “Rhetoric has not led to the hard work needed to achieve results and our leaders raise their voices each time there’s a spike on gas prices, only to grow quiet when the price falls at the pump.” Or his address after the BP oil crisis, when he intoned that “The tragedy unfolding on our coast is the most painful and powerful reminder yet that the time to embrace a clean energy future is now.”

Obama’s lack of dedication has become as depressing as it is reliable. “We’ll probably be talking in another in six months before another ‘great speech’ from the president who is in love with the sound of his own voice,” Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus said yesterday afternoon on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports. “He’s in love with giving speeches . . . but he’s not really in love with following through with his promises and his rhetoric.”

Read Less

On the Civilian-Military Bargain

It is the anniversary that no one remembers, but sixty years ago this week President Harry Truman fired General Douglas MacArthur for his grossly insubordinate conduct as the U.S. and UN commander in South Korea. Thus was triggered one of the biggest crises in civil-military relations to rock the republic. It was hardly the last crisis of its kind. There have been no shortage of other tensions in recent years, ranging from General Colin Powell’s outspoken espousal of foreign policy views when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the 1990s to the firing last summer of General Stanley McChrystal as the commander in Afghanistan after his aides were quoted bad-mouthing senior administration officials to a Rolling Stone reporter. More recently tensions flared over the lifting of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, whose revocation was openly opposed by the Marine Corps.

Ever since its publication in 1957, Samuel Huntington’s The Soldier and the State has been the standard work on the important topic of how our armed forces relate to the civilians they serve. But there have been many important developments in the decades since, and they are ably sketched in by a new book, US Civil-Military Relations After 9/11: Renegotiating the Civil-Military Bargain, just out from Continuum Press.

Its author is Mackubin Thomas Owens, a professor at the Naval War College and a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War. “Mac” has long been a level-headed voice of reason in national security debates and this book shows why as he skilfully navigates through such contentious issues as “To what extent should the military influence foreign policy?” and “What kind of wars should the military prepare to fight?” Mac gives all sides in this debate a fair hearing and then draws some eminently reasonable conclusions in his pellucid prose.

US Civil-Military Relations is a short book (210 pages) but it is packed with wisdom and will reward any reader interested in this important topic.

It is the anniversary that no one remembers, but sixty years ago this week President Harry Truman fired General Douglas MacArthur for his grossly insubordinate conduct as the U.S. and UN commander in South Korea. Thus was triggered one of the biggest crises in civil-military relations to rock the republic. It was hardly the last crisis of its kind. There have been no shortage of other tensions in recent years, ranging from General Colin Powell’s outspoken espousal of foreign policy views when he was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the 1990s to the firing last summer of General Stanley McChrystal as the commander in Afghanistan after his aides were quoted bad-mouthing senior administration officials to a Rolling Stone reporter. More recently tensions flared over the lifting of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, whose revocation was openly opposed by the Marine Corps.

Ever since its publication in 1957, Samuel Huntington’s The Soldier and the State has been the standard work on the important topic of how our armed forces relate to the civilians they serve. But there have been many important developments in the decades since, and they are ably sketched in by a new book, US Civil-Military Relations After 9/11: Renegotiating the Civil-Military Bargain, just out from Continuum Press.

Its author is Mackubin Thomas Owens, a professor at the Naval War College and a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War. “Mac” has long been a level-headed voice of reason in national security debates and this book shows why as he skilfully navigates through such contentious issues as “To what extent should the military influence foreign policy?” and “What kind of wars should the military prepare to fight?” Mac gives all sides in this debate a fair hearing and then draws some eminently reasonable conclusions in his pellucid prose.

US Civil-Military Relations is a short book (210 pages) but it is packed with wisdom and will reward any reader interested in this important topic.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.