Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 2, 2011

Officials Aware of Gunrunner Investigation

The L.A. Times reports White House officials may have known more about the botched Fast and Furious federal gunrunning operation than previously reported. Emails obtained by the Times show senior White House national security official Kevin O’Reilly discussing details of the gun-tracking investigation with the operation’s supervisor William Newell, before the program became public:

The supervisor of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation in Phoenix specifically mentioned Fast and Furious in at least one email to a White House national security official, and two other White House colleagues were briefed on reports from the supervisor, according to White House emails and a senior administration official. …

The emails were sent between July 2010 and February of this year before it was disclosed that agents had lost track of hundreds of guns. Many are thought to have fallen into criminal hands, and some have turned up at crime scenes in Mexico and the United States, including at the fatal shooting of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

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The L.A. Times reports White House officials may have known more about the botched Fast and Furious federal gunrunning operation than previously reported. Emails obtained by the Times show senior White House national security official Kevin O’Reilly discussing details of the gun-tracking investigation with the operation’s supervisor William Newell, before the program became public:

The supervisor of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives operation in Phoenix specifically mentioned Fast and Furious in at least one email to a White House national security official, and two other White House colleagues were briefed on reports from the supervisor, according to White House emails and a senior administration official. …

The emails were sent between July 2010 and February of this year before it was disclosed that agents had lost track of hundreds of guns. Many are thought to have fallen into criminal hands, and some have turned up at crime scenes in Mexico and the United States, including at the fatal shooting of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.

It’s not news Newell discussed the operation with O’Reilly over email. The ATF supervisor testified to that point earlier in the summer. But at the time, the White House had claimed (via an anonymous “spokesperson”) Newell and O’Reilly were actually discussing a totally different gun trafficking investigation – suggesting Newell may have misconstrued the conversation:

Today, a White House spokesman said the email was not about Fast and Furious, but about other gun trafficking efforts. The spokesman also said he didn’t know what Newell was referring to when he said he’d spoken to O’Reilly about Fast and Furious.

Based on these emails, it’s clear O’Reilly and Newell were discussing Fast and Furious. Newell even mentions the program by name. And the White House is now claiming (anonymously again…) the emails “validate” what it has been saying all along:

“The emails validate what has been said previously, which is no one at the White House knew about the investigative tactics being used in the operation, let alone any decision to let guns walk,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak about it publicly. “To the extent that some [national security staff members] were briefed on the top lines of ongoing federal efforts, so were members of Congress.”

It’s hard to buy this. The premise of Operation Fast and Furious is pretty cut-and-dry. If White House officials knew enough to be able to discuss the operation, they must have known enough to understand the basic tactics.

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The Ivy League Stimulus Scam

According to Yale University’s 2010 endowment report, Yale has upwards of $16 billion in its investment portfolio. While that’s not $16 billion the university can spend—Yale lives off the interest of its investments and its donations—it’s still a sizeable chunk of chump change which gives the university a lot of flexibility to determine what it wants to spend, where and how.

With so much money in the bank, it is somewhat outrageous that the university appears to have been receiving federal stimulus spending (in addition to other federal aid). According to the Yale Daily News:

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According to Yale University’s 2010 endowment report, Yale has upwards of $16 billion in its investment portfolio. While that’s not $16 billion the university can spend—Yale lives off the interest of its investments and its donations—it’s still a sizeable chunk of chump change which gives the university a lot of flexibility to determine what it wants to spend, where and how.

With so much money in the bank, it is somewhat outrageous that the university appears to have been receiving federal stimulus spending (in addition to other federal aid). According to the Yale Daily News:

In the wake of 2008, Yale was among universities that received funding from the federal stimulus bill — the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — and accrued some $121 million in research awards between February 2009 and January 2010. “We had the ARRA funding that came as part of the stimulus program which ramped everything up tremendously,” said Michael Glasgow, Yale’s executive director of the Office of Grant and Contract Administration. “We’re on the dovetail end of that, and we’re hearing cuts. … It’s potentially scary because we’ve gone from an increase to what could be a decrease in terms of federal funding.”

While it’s certainly unpleasant for any administrator to face spending reductions, taxpayers might find it a bit more unpleasant the Obama administration sent their money to an institution worth billions to enable that institution to keep more of its money in the bank. Nor would the stimulus stimulate at Yale: the jobs it helped fund were jobs which already existed. Feeding out of the federal trough, it is no wonder so many Yale employees and professors are overwhelmingly pro-Obama. At least university President Richard Levin, however, earned his $1 million plus salary.

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Paul Ryan Takes Swipe at Romney?

Nobody would ever mistake Paul Ryan as a Mitt Romney fan, but since last March, he’s avoided pointed criticism of the candidate. That will probably be changing soon, and Ryan seems to take a shot at the Massachusetts governor in his latest CNN interview:

“We have had a history in this party of kind of giving it to the next person in line. That is not the kind of nomination we need to have. This needs to be an election as great as the problems that we have which is it needs to be a referendum election on the American idea.”

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Nobody would ever mistake Paul Ryan as a Mitt Romney fan, but since last March, he’s avoided pointed criticism of the candidate. That will probably be changing soon, and Ryan seems to take a shot at the Massachusetts governor in his latest CNN interview:

“We have had a history in this party of kind of giving it to the next person in line. That is not the kind of nomination we need to have. This needs to be an election as great as the problems that we have which is it needs to be a referendum election on the American idea.”

Romney’s the only top-tier candidate that could be a reference to – it definitely doesn’t describe Bachmann or Perry. But for once, Ryan actually sounded optimistic about the GOP field, saying it’s starting to look like someone will be able to address the debt issue effectively:

“People are worried that this election is not going to be cast in the way it ought to be and that is why people have asked me to get in, but I think it will be. I do. I really do,” he said. “It is getting there I think.”

While he has passed on a presidential run, he’ll likely be on the short list of vice presidential candidates for any nominee. When asked whether he would accept a VP position, Ryan said that was “something that is out of my control. It is somebody else’s decision” – which seems to at least imply he wouldn’t turn it down.

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President’s Address Shows More White House Incompetence

Having just returned from the back of the moon (otherwise known as Hurricane Irene), with no power or phone for five days and still no Internet (I’m writing this at the local ambulance corps on my laptop), I’m a little behind.

The kerfuffle over the president’s request to speak before a Joint Session of Congress is quite a remarkable display of political incompetence. Even the New York Times calls the administration “maladroit politically, to put it mildly.”

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Having just returned from the back of the moon (otherwise known as Hurricane Irene), with no power or phone for five days and still no Internet (I’m writing this at the local ambulance corps on my laptop), I’m a little behind.

The kerfuffle over the president’s request to speak before a Joint Session of Congress is quite a remarkable display of political incompetence. Even the New York Times calls the administration “maladroit politically, to put it mildly.”

First, the White House doesn’t bother to clear the date and time before making a formal request. Then it says it’s a “coincidence” there’s a Republican debate scheduled for that exact moment, a statement absolutely no one believes. If it were true, why wouldn’t the speech have been set for 9 p.m. instead of 8 p.m? The later hour is the usual one for events like this, as it allows people in the Pacific Time Zone to get home.

Then, having learned to their astonishment that Congress is a co-equal branch of the federal government when the Speaker (for the first time in history) turned the request down, the White House backed down and accepted the next night. Then it learns (talk about being on the back of the moon) the NFL season starts that night.

So, the time has now been set for 7:30 p.m. That means people will be in the middle of dinner in the Central Time Zone, in the middle of rush hour in the Mountain Time Zone, and still at work in the Pacific Time Zone, severely cutting into the potential audience.

In any case, why does Obama want a venue previously always reserved for matters of the highest state? Is this speech going to be the equal, historically, of FDR’s request for a declaration of war against Japan, or George Bush’s speech following 9/11?

That’s hard to believe. Of course, this White House seems to believe this president’s mere idle thought is sacred text. But they are going to have a lot of people not listening at all and a lot of others thinking to themselves as the president walks down the aisle of the House chamber, “This had better be good.”

Will it be good enough to stem the steady draining of public support and even respect for this administration? I wouldn’t count on it.

 

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Obama Abandons EPA Smog Regulations

For the second time this week, the Obama administration backed down from a terrible idea, after receiving a written request from John Boehner. Maybe the Speaker should send the president letters more often:

The White House announced Friday that it is shelving a major planned EPA regulation that would have tightened smog standards, dealing a huge blow to environmentalists that had pushed the Obama administration to resist industry pressure to abandon the regulation.

President Obama announced that the rule is being shelved in a statement that says the White House is wary of imposing regulatory burdens during the economic recovery.

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For the second time this week, the Obama administration backed down from a terrible idea, after receiving a written request from John Boehner. Maybe the Speaker should send the president letters more often:

The White House announced Friday that it is shelving a major planned EPA regulation that would have tightened smog standards, dealing a huge blow to environmentalists that had pushed the Obama administration to resist industry pressure to abandon the regulation.

President Obama announced that the rule is being shelved in a statement that says the White House is wary of imposing regulatory burdens during the economic recovery.

Boehner’s office has already praised the president’s decision, which it says is a step in the right direction for the economy.

“This is certainly a good first step, and we’re glad that the White House responded to the Speaker’s letter and recognized the job-killing impact of this particular regulation,” said Boehner’s spokesperson Michael Steel in an emailed statement. “But it is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to stopping Washington Democrats’ agenda of tax hikes, more government ‘stimulus’ spending, and increased regulations — which are all making it harder to create more American jobs.”

Of course environmental activists will scream about it, but you have to appreciate the president’s timing. Green groups have already been mounting daily protests outside the White House against the Keystone XL pipeline. What are they going to do now? Louder protests? Bigger signs?

And just to highlight how vitally important the smog regulations were to green groups, here’s a recent blog post by the president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, rejecting Boehner’s opposition to the EPA plan as an “extremist view of environmental regulations”:

Both [Rep. Eric] Cantor’s analysis and his remedy ring false. Worse, if adopted his plan would do real harm to real Americans. It could kill.

By blocking the Environmental Protection Agency from updating national smog standards, more than 4,000 Americans could die annually and more than 2,000 could suffer heart attacks each year. In the absence of mercury standards the plan would eliminate, 17,000 Americans would die prematurely, 11,000 people would have heart attacks, and 120,000 children would experience asthma attacks every year.

It remains to be seen if environmental groups will attack Obama with the same intensity that they went after Republicans. The Natural Resources Defense Council tweeted earlier today that the “@WhiteHouse is siding with corporate polluters over our health. The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set protective standards against smog,” which isn’t nearly as harsh as the criticism of Boehner. But this is still a major defeat, and green activists usually aren’t the types to accept losses like this with grace and dignity.

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A Racism Charge Without Evidence

On “The Last Word,” MSNBC contributor Richard Wolffe, in the context of Speaker John Boehner asking President Obama to give his address to a Joint Session on a night other than the one during which a GOP presidential debate will be held, said this:

The interesting question is: What is it about this president that has stripped away the veneer of respect that normally accompanies the office of the president? Why do Republicans think this president is unpresidential and should dare to request this kind of thing? It strikes me that it could be the economic times, it could be that he won so big in 2008 or it could be, let’s face it, the color of his skin. This is an extraordinary reaction to a normal sequence of events.

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On “The Last Word,” MSNBC contributor Richard Wolffe, in the context of Speaker John Boehner asking President Obama to give his address to a Joint Session on a night other than the one during which a GOP presidential debate will be held, said this:

The interesting question is: What is it about this president that has stripped away the veneer of respect that normally accompanies the office of the president? Why do Republicans think this president is unpresidential and should dare to request this kind of thing? It strikes me that it could be the economic times, it could be that he won so big in 2008 or it could be, let’s face it, the color of his skin. This is an extraordinary reaction to a normal sequence of events.

Funny, but I don’t recall the “veneer of respect that normally accompanies the office of the president” when the chief executive was a man named George W. Bush. During the Bush presidency, for example, George W. Bush was referred to by leading members of the Democratic Party as a “moral coward” (Vice President Al Gore ), as a “loser” and a “liar” who had “betrayed his country” (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid), and who “week after week after week after week … told lie after lie after lie after lie” (Senator Edward Kennedy). But in a remarkable feat of self-control, Wolffe was able to keep his moral outrage in check.

Beyond that, though, is something more pernicious: the suggestion, which we hear more and more of these days, that opposition to President Obama is based on racist views. At the outset of his administration, some of us predicted this would happen once Obama encountered rough political waters. Still, this needs to be said: to hurl the charge of racism without any evidence is slanderous. The GOP’s opposition to Obama is rooted in profound political and philosophical disagreements; Republicans believe he is championing policies injurious to our nation. They may be wrong, but that does not make them malevolent. And to accuse people of racism in such a casual, promiscuous and reckless manner ultimately has the effect of draining the charge of its potency. Genuine racism is a terrible thing, which is why it should be reserved for the real deal rather than used as a clumsy and transparently ideological club.

As for the controversy over the timing of the speech: even Democratic strategist James Carville said the White House was “out of bounds” in trying to schedule Obama’s speech on the night of the GOP debate. Perhaps Wolffe believes Carville’s statement is grounded in racism, but I doubt it.

There is something of an irony in all this. James Carville, a deeply committed Democrat and a paid political strategist, is able to show more intellectual independence and less reflexive partisanship than Richard Wolffe, who is a journalist. But perhaps that is because Wolffe is a particular kind of journalist, one who also happens to be an Obama courtier. And with every passing day, it appears as if he views his role less as a journalist and more as hagiographer for the president and an attack dog against the GOP. All of which means Wolffe is earning his pay from MSNBC.

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No Jobs, and No Confidence

Chalk up another historic feat for the Obama presidency: the U.S. gained zero jobs in August, the first time this has happened since February 1945:

The U.S. jobless rate was unchanged at 9.1 percent in August, marking the first time in more than 50 years that the net job gain/loss was unchanged for a month, the U.S. Labor Department reported Friday morning.

The Labor Department says total payrolls were unchanged in August, the weakest report in almost a year. It’s the first time since February 1945 that the government has reported a net job change of zero.

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Chalk up another historic feat for the Obama presidency: the U.S. gained zero jobs in August, the first time this has happened since February 1945:

The U.S. jobless rate was unchanged at 9.1 percent in August, marking the first time in more than 50 years that the net job gain/loss was unchanged for a month, the U.S. Labor Department reported Friday morning.

The Labor Department says total payrolls were unchanged in August, the weakest report in almost a year. It’s the first time since February 1945 that the government has reported a net job change of zero.

The unemployment rate remained steady at a 9.1 percent. And while the White House points out the dismal Labor Department report was compounded by the 45,000 Verizon workers who went on strike last month, the news was still dismal even if you overlook those figures. The number of part-time workers increased, and hourly wages dropped. The meager job gains from June and July were both revised down as well:

The Labor Department now says that in July 85,000 jobs were created, down from 117,000 in the earlier estimate, while the number of jobs added in June was revised down from 46,000 to 20,000. …

Average hourly earnings fell by 3 cents to $23.09, while the average working week dropped to 34.2 hours from 34.3 hours in July.

The gloomy forecast adds additional pressure to Obama’s upcoming jobs speech, but it’s hard to imagine his speech will include any new groundbreaking proposals. His ideas so far have included more job training, a focus on “green job” creation, and financial incentives for companies hiring veterans – nothing substantial enough to jumpstart the recovery. Even his recent rural jobs plan was criticized by economists for merely shifting jobs, instead of creating new ones. Now is the time he should be reaching out to Republicans to try to craft major bipartisan solutions, but based on the cynical political ploy with his speech scheduling, it’s doubtful he’s doing anything of the sort.

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Obama: I’m Done Working with Congress

Pundits decrying the level of rancor between the Obama White House and Congress should hold onto their hats–it’s about to get worse, if the New York Times is right about the president’s planned jobs speech to a Joint Session of Congress.

Most of the story is filled with the standard tsk-tsking of those obstructionist Republicans, and in fact is more blatant in this regard than usual. But buried late in the article is a window into the two-part strategy the president will deploy at the speech: blame his captive audience, then announce he will be enacting policies that don’t require congressional approval. On the first, he will propose legislation the White House admits Congress won’t pass:

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Pundits decrying the level of rancor between the Obama White House and Congress should hold onto their hats–it’s about to get worse, if the New York Times is right about the president’s planned jobs speech to a Joint Session of Congress.

Most of the story is filled with the standard tsk-tsking of those obstructionist Republicans, and in fact is more blatant in this regard than usual. But buried late in the article is a window into the two-part strategy the president will deploy at the speech: blame his captive audience, then announce he will be enacting policies that don’t require congressional approval. On the first, he will propose legislation the White House admits Congress won’t pass:

That sets up an opportunity, as Democrats see it, to saddle Republicans with the blame for a weak economy.

“The president wants to work with Republicans and Democrats to create jobs and grow the economy,” said Dan Pfeiffer, the White House communications director. “If nothing happens, it will be because Republicans in Congress made a conscious decision to do nothing. And that is a choice that will have tremendous consequences for the country.”

Mr. Obama also will propose added spending that Republicans are even more certain to oppose.

So Obama has scheduled a Joint Session of Congress to propose two kinds of plans: spending the Republicans oppose, and spending the Republicans really, really oppose. But wait, there’s a third:

To hold down overall federal costs, and to avoid having to go to Congress, Mr. Obama and his advisers have been looking for ways to divert existing government money to purposes that will create jobs, especially in the hard-hit construction industry. School repairs and retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency will be a focus. And Mr. Obama is expected to argue that to the extent that states and local governments are relieved of school construction costs, they must avoid further layoffs of teachers.

So he’s not going to go through Congress anyway. He has no plans to get anything passed in the legislature, he just wants to slam Republicans while the public is watching. And notice the barely-veiled conditionality of that municipal spending: it’s not actually to offset costs, just to boost the teachers’ unions by having districts that agree to take the funds stop firing teachers.

Where is that first-class temperament when we need it?

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CIA Must Reshape the Middle East

Greg Miller and Julie Tate have a must-read article in the Washington Post today detailing the CIA’s  post-9/11 transformation from an agency focused on simply gathering intelligence to one that is playing a large role in actually killing and capturing terrorists.

The article contains numerous revelations about this top-secret world, including the fact the CIA operates about 30 Predator and Reaper drones which have “killed more than 2,000 militants and civilians since 2001″; that the Counter-Terrorism Center, which operates the drones, has ballooned from 300 to  2,000 employees or about 10 percent of the agency’s workforce (a number which is supposed to be classified!); that 20 percent of CIA analysts are working as “targeters”;  that last year there were 118 drone strikes, or roughly one every three days; and that Special Operations units working with the CIA had ventured into Pakistan least five times before the Osama bin Laden attack, while Counterterror Pursuit  Teams–comprised of Afghan militias recruited by the CIA–have made many more penetrations of Pakistani territory. Moreover, these activities are set to intensify: major drone campaigns are already expanding in Yemen and Somalia.

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Greg Miller and Julie Tate have a must-read article in the Washington Post today detailing the CIA’s  post-9/11 transformation from an agency focused on simply gathering intelligence to one that is playing a large role in actually killing and capturing terrorists.

The article contains numerous revelations about this top-secret world, including the fact the CIA operates about 30 Predator and Reaper drones which have “killed more than 2,000 militants and civilians since 2001″; that the Counter-Terrorism Center, which operates the drones, has ballooned from 300 to  2,000 employees or about 10 percent of the agency’s workforce (a number which is supposed to be classified!); that 20 percent of CIA analysts are working as “targeters”;  that last year there were 118 drone strikes, or roughly one every three days; and that Special Operations units working with the CIA had ventured into Pakistan least five times before the Osama bin Laden attack, while Counterterror Pursuit  Teams–comprised of Afghan militias recruited by the CIA–have made many more penetrations of Pakistani territory. Moreover, these activities are set to intensify: major drone campaigns are already expanding in Yemen and Somalia.

Although the inevitable civil liberties activists are quoted raising concerns about the agency’s activities, all of this sounds to me like a very welcome development–and a better use of agency resources than producing endless briefing papers that are often little more than a rehash of articles policymakers can read in the New York Times or the Economist. What concerns me is the agency may be overly focused on one piece of the counter-terrorism fight–killing or capturing terrorists–while ignoring the larger political framework that creates more terrorists. Indeed, in some instances, the CIA’s quest for  “actionable” intelligence has led it to cooperate with the intelligence services of Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and other states of a decidedly illiberal bent. (At least that’s the way Egypt was before Mubarak’s overthrow.) This risks putting the CIA at odds with, or simply making itself irrelevant to, the most important change sweeping the Middle East–the Arab Spring.

With autocracies having been toppled in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, tottering in Syria and Yemen, and challenged everywhere else across the region, it is vitally important the U.S. engage in the political battle to shape the future of the Arab world. The Islamists are active with support from Iran and Saudi Arabia, among others. What, if anything, is the U.S. doing to fight back–to support embattled modernizers and liberals? Certainly the U.S. is providing some support via the National Endowment for Democracy and the State Department, but in the immediate post-World War II era a big part of the political response to the threat of Communism came from the CIA, which bankrolled and otherwise supported politicians and intellectuals across the world who would resist Communist designs.

Since the 1960s, however, the CIA has increasingly abandoned the field of political warfare. It still undertakes robust covert actions but these tend to be of the military variety–whether supporting the mujahideen in the 1980s or targeting terrorists today (some of them the very same muj we backed in the 1980s). What the CIA needs now is to develop a greater capacity for covert political action. That is a fitting challenge for its new director, David Petraeus, who made his name in Iraq by changing the military’s overly kinetic focus to undertake a broader set of counterinsurgency tasks which included prominent political, legal, and other non-kinetic “lines of operation.” He must now shape the CIA to fight a broader counterinsurgency–not just pursue the narrow counterterrorist mission at which it has become so proficient in the past decade. Rather than simply killing terrorists–a process akin to mowing the lawn–the CIA must work to reshape the Middle East to provide a better future where the use of armed drones won’t be necessary–at least not on the present scale.

 

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Keep Military Service Exceptional

In recent weeks, Senators Daniel Akaka and Joseph Lieberman have pushed forward the “Civilian Service Recognition Act” to treat civilian civil servants killed in government service in the same manner as soldiers killed in the line duty in terms of the formal presentation of the American flag at their funeral.

On the one hand, the sentiment is honorable: Civilians killed in the Pentagon on 9/11 or in Oklahoma City served their country honorably and were killed because they were Americans working for the U.S. government.  On the other hand, Akaka and Lieberman’s bill, as written, covers not only law enforcement but potentially every civilian employee killed on the job.

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In recent weeks, Senators Daniel Akaka and Joseph Lieberman have pushed forward the “Civilian Service Recognition Act” to treat civilian civil servants killed in government service in the same manner as soldiers killed in the line duty in terms of the formal presentation of the American flag at their funeral.

On the one hand, the sentiment is honorable: Civilians killed in the Pentagon on 9/11 or in Oklahoma City served their country honorably and were killed because they were Americans working for the U.S. government.  On the other hand, Akaka and Lieberman’s bill, as written, covers not only law enforcement but potentially every civilian employee killed on the job.

Soldiers and civilian bureaucrats are not the same. Soldiers, for example, knowingly go into harm’s way and cannot refuse an order.  Bureaucrats, on the other hand, often shield themselves from harm and often refuse orders from above with impunity. Soldiers waive their First Amendment privilege. Civilian bureaucrats do not.

When I was in Baghdad during the early part of Iraq’s post-war reconstruction, many civilians liked to equate their GS rank with the supposed military equivalent.  They might have imagined themselves equivalent to colonels or brigadier generals, but they had no idea of the sacrifices their military counterparts made or even the physical demands their military counterparts undertook. Simply put, the service of the Navy Seals who were lost last month in Afghanistan should not be equated, in this regard, with that of some think tank graduate or the administrative assistant to the deputy office director for the deputy assistant secretary of transportation.

Akaka and Lieberman are correct we should honor those who died in service whether they are civilian or military. In Oklahoma and at the Pentagon, we certainly did, and we can continue to do so on a case-by-case basis. But we should not blur the difference between military and civilian service by treating everyone the same, and giving all the same privileges and ceremonies. The Senate should keep military service distinct and not dilute our soldiers’ exceptionalism.

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Is Criticizing Colin Powell Racist?

Apparently, USA Today founder Al Neuharth thinks so. In his latest column, Neuharth writes:

Cheney was frequently at odds with Powell and Rice, so it’s no surprise that he’s scapegoating them now. But the fact that both are African Americans raises other questions. Cheney was a kid in Nebraska and grew up as a teenager in Wyoming. Both of those states had overwhelmingly white populations. Some individuals never outgrow the suspicions about people of color that develop in that environment, and Cheney may be one of them.

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Apparently, USA Today founder Al Neuharth thinks so. In his latest column, Neuharth writes:

Cheney was frequently at odds with Powell and Rice, so it’s no surprise that he’s scapegoating them now. But the fact that both are African Americans raises other questions. Cheney was a kid in Nebraska and grew up as a teenager in Wyoming. Both of those states had overwhelmingly white populations. Some individuals never outgrow the suspicions about people of color that develop in that environment, and Cheney may be one of them.

Both Powell and Rice thrived in Republican administrations because people took them at their merits, and debated them as equals. Sometimes Powell won debates; sometimes he lost. Sometimes he was right, but more often he was not. Rice was extremely articulate, but thrived as a barometer with a finger up to sense the political winds; she was never a woman who had strong opinions and stuck to them. For Neuharth and his fellow travelers to interpret everything through a racial prism reflects an unfortunate soft, condescending racism.

The irony here is if there is one thing Rice, Powell, and Cheney can agree on, it is that snide attacks like Neuharth’s reflect a poisoned attitude which has no place in serious debate.

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O Hillary, Hillary! Wherefore Art Thou Hillary?

We learned from the Labor Department this morning the U.S. economy created no jobs in August. That’s right, zero, which is about the same amount of confidence the president is inspiring in an increasingly anxious and unhappy citizenry. This is more (alarming) evidence America may be heading for another recession.

It’s of course hard to know who and what Obama will blame for this depressing jobs report. But here are some oldies but goodies to choose from: the Arab Spring, the Japanese tsunami, events in Europe, ATMs, the Tea Party, the GOP, S&P, Congress, the separation of powers, and his predecessor. Just to freshen things up a bit, the president might add Hurricane Irene to the list.

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We learned from the Labor Department this morning the U.S. economy created no jobs in August. That’s right, zero, which is about the same amount of confidence the president is inspiring in an increasingly anxious and unhappy citizenry. This is more (alarming) evidence America may be heading for another recession.

It’s of course hard to know who and what Obama will blame for this depressing jobs report. But here are some oldies but goodies to choose from: the Arab Spring, the Japanese tsunami, events in Europe, ATMs, the Tea Party, the GOP, S&P, Congress, the separation of powers, and his predecessor. Just to freshen things up a bit, the president might add Hurricane Irene to the list.

I have thought for some time if things get bad enough soon enough, a primary challenge against Obama is not out of the question. It remains unlikely – but bear in mind Obama is turning into a one man wrecking ball when it comes to the Democratic Party. He is already the architect of the worst mid-term election for a party since right around the mid-point of the last century. So we know what his potential for damage in 2012 is.

As the economy continues to sink, so will the president’s poll ratings and the fortunes of his party. And so in more and more Democratic hearts, and increasingly on more and more Democratic lips, you will hear the soft whisper, “O Hillary, Hillary! Wherefore art thou Hillary?”

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UN Report Largely Exculpates Israel on Mavi Marmara

The New York Times has obtained a leaked copy of the UN’s long-awaited report investigating Israel’s raid on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship seeking to break Israel’s blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza. During the raid, nine Turks were killed, one of whom was a dual U.S. citizen. The UN report, however, has reportedly found Israel’s blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza, as well as Israel’s actions against the Mavi Marmara, to be legal. The report did find that Israel used excessive force, but few officials take such criticism seriously. After all, the basis of the Powell Doctrine is to use overwhelming force against opponents.

Turkey’s Islamist leadership has now responded with another temper tantrum, expelling Israeli diplomats and suspending most economic and military ties. This is no surprise, though: It is the reason why Turkish authorities sponsored the Mavi Marmara in the first place.

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The New York Times has obtained a leaked copy of the UN’s long-awaited report investigating Israel’s raid on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship seeking to break Israel’s blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza. During the raid, nine Turks were killed, one of whom was a dual U.S. citizen. The UN report, however, has reportedly found Israel’s blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza, as well as Israel’s actions against the Mavi Marmara, to be legal. The report did find that Israel used excessive force, but few officials take such criticism seriously. After all, the basis of the Powell Doctrine is to use overwhelming force against opponents.

Turkey’s Islamist leadership has now responded with another temper tantrum, expelling Israeli diplomats and suspending most economic and military ties. This is no surprise, though: It is the reason why Turkish authorities sponsored the Mavi Marmara in the first place.

Israel has done a service to the West by finally standing up to the Turkish government’s ideologically-driven bullying. Secretary of State Clinton should be ashamed for trying to force an Israeli apology to appease Turkey.

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