Commentary Magazine


Posts For: September 19, 2011

WH Policies Injurious to Black Constituency

According to The Hill, unhappy members of the Congressional Black Caucus “probably would be marching on the White House” if Obama were not president, said CBC Chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. “If [former President] Bill Clinton had been in the White House and had failed to address this problem [unemployment among blacks], we probably would be marching on the White House,” Cleaver told The Miami Herald in comments published Sunday. “There is a less volatile reaction in the CBC because nobody wants to do anything that would empower the people who hate the president.”

This is a fairly devastating rebuke to the president. It’s essentially saying if he were judged by the content of his programs rather than by the color of his skin, he would be facing a revolt within his ranks. And the truth is, he should. The economy, which the president has mismanaged so badly, is hurting just about everyone in America; but probably no group is being hurt as much as minorities. (The black youth unemployment rate is nearing a staggeringly high 50 percent.)

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According to The Hill, unhappy members of the Congressional Black Caucus “probably would be marching on the White House” if Obama were not president, said CBC Chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver. “If [former President] Bill Clinton had been in the White House and had failed to address this problem [unemployment among blacks], we probably would be marching on the White House,” Cleaver told The Miami Herald in comments published Sunday. “There is a less volatile reaction in the CBC because nobody wants to do anything that would empower the people who hate the president.”

This is a fairly devastating rebuke to the president. It’s essentially saying if he were judged by the content of his programs rather than by the color of his skin, he would be facing a revolt within his ranks. And the truth is, he should. The economy, which the president has mismanaged so badly, is hurting just about everyone in America; but probably no group is being hurt as much as minorities. (The black youth unemployment rate is nearing a staggeringly high 50 percent.)

Representative Maxine Waters said something similar last month: “We’re supportive of the president, but we’re getting tired, y’all. We want to give [Obama] every opportunity, but our people are hurting. The unemployment is unconscionable. We don’t know what the strategy is.”

Earth to Waters: There is no strategy. There is, at this point, simply and only an appeal to class envy. That was reaffirmed by the president’s comments this morning. This approach won’t create jobs; it will only create resentment. And at some point one might hope it would dawn on the CBC Obama’s policies are doing terrible injury to the constituency they are supposed to represent.

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Not Ready on Any Grounds

I agree with Evelyn Gordon and Michael Rubin that the Palestinian effort to have the UN recognize a Palestinian state violates (a) prior agreements (which expressly preclude such unilateral action) and (b) the philosophical basis of the peace process (land for peace, not the assignment of land prior to a peace agreement). It also represents the final installment of the Palestinian abandonment of the “Performance-Based Roadmap.”

Phase I of the Roadmap required that the Palestinian Authority engage in sustained and effective operations against “all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.” Not only has that Phase not been completed, but a terrorist group controls half the putative state. Phase II was to focus on a Palestinian state with provisional borders as a way station to a permanent status settlement. The PA rejected Phase II out of hand and demanded Phase III final status negotiations without compliance with Phases I and II. Then it rejected the 2008 Israeli offer of a contiguous state on 100 percent of the West Bank and Gaza (after land swaps) with a capital in Jerusalem.

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I agree with Evelyn Gordon and Michael Rubin that the Palestinian effort to have the UN recognize a Palestinian state violates (a) prior agreements (which expressly preclude such unilateral action) and (b) the philosophical basis of the peace process (land for peace, not the assignment of land prior to a peace agreement). It also represents the final installment of the Palestinian abandonment of the “Performance-Based Roadmap.”

Phase I of the Roadmap required that the Palestinian Authority engage in sustained and effective operations against “all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure.” Not only has that Phase not been completed, but a terrorist group controls half the putative state. Phase II was to focus on a Palestinian state with provisional borders as a way station to a permanent status settlement. The PA rejected Phase II out of hand and demanded Phase III final status negotiations without compliance with Phases I and II. Then it rejected the 2008 Israeli offer of a contiguous state on 100 percent of the West Bank and Gaza (after land swaps) with a capital in Jerusalem.

That was followed by the Palestinian refusal to engage in any further negotiations at all, unless Israel complied with new preconditions — including a pre-negotiation agreement to the 1949 armistice lines as the borders of a Palestinian state.

Now the PA is asking the UN to admit it as a state without any negotiations, much less agreement on borders or any other final status issue, or compliance with either of the preceding Phases of the Roadmap. The person going to the UN to make the request is the unelected “president,” now in the seventh year of his four-year term, unable to set foot in half his quasi-state, unwilling to hold local elections even in his own half, party to a reconciliation agreement with the terrorist group he pledged to dismantle in Phase I of the Roadmap, seeking a Palestinian state but unwilling to recognize a Jewish one.

It is difficult to think of an entity less ready or entitled to become a state — on legal, philosophical, political or diplomatic grounds.

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How Low Can Obama Go?

Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard, citing President Obama leading captive audiences in chants of “Pass this bill,” has written, “The Obama presidency has entered the pathetic phase.” I concur, and I’d offer another (small) example that buttresses Barnes’ assessment. At a Rose Garden speech last week, the president said this:

I have to repeat something I said in my speech on Thursday. There are some in Washington who’d rather settle our differences through politics and the elections than try to resolve them now. In fact, Joe [Biden] and I, as we were walking out here, we were looking at one of the Washington newspapers and it was quoting a Republican aide saying, “I don’t know why we’d want to cooperate with Obama right now. It’s not good for our politics.” That was very explicit.

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Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard, citing President Obama leading captive audiences in chants of “Pass this bill,” has written, “The Obama presidency has entered the pathetic phase.” I concur, and I’d offer another (small) example that buttresses Barnes’ assessment. At a Rose Garden speech last week, the president said this:

I have to repeat something I said in my speech on Thursday. There are some in Washington who’d rather settle our differences through politics and the elections than try to resolve them now. In fact, Joe [Biden] and I, as we were walking out here, we were looking at one of the Washington newspapers and it was quoting a Republican aide saying, “I don’t know why we’d want to cooperate with Obama right now. It’s not good for our politics.” That was very explicit.

I mean, that’s the attitude in this town — “yeah, we’ve been through these things before, but I don’t know why we’d be for them right now.” The fact of the matter is the next election is 14 months away. And the American people don’t have the luxury of waiting 14 months for Congress to take action. Folks are living week to week, paycheck to paycheck. They need action. And the notion that there are folks who would say, we’re not going to try to do what’s right for the American people because we don’t think it’s convenient for our politics — we’ve been seeing that too much around here. And that’s exactly what folks are tired of.

A friend of mine, in pointing this out, said he’s astonished the president has now made a press comment by an anonymous Republican congressional aide part of his speeches. There are certainly worse ways to lower to prestige of the presidency – but to have reached the point where the president of the United States is now fighting with unnamed congressional staff shows you how far Obama has fallen.

Perhaps anonymous quotes from state legislative interns is next.

Is this really the moment we were all waiting for?

 

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Obama’s Telling Comment About Likud

John Heilemann’s New York magazine piece on why President Obama is actually a great friend of Israel who has been misunderstood works very hard to clear Obama’s name among American Jews. But Heilemann unwittingly gets to one root of the animus between the president and Benjamin Netanyahu: Obama’s acceptance before his presidency of the left’s dispiriting and intellectually lazy tactic of trying to turn “Likud” into a dirty word.

“There is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you’re anti-Israel,” Obama said during his campaign for the presidency, and which Heilemann reproduces early on in the piece. Aside from the obvious implication of dual loyalty, this use of the term is also meaningless–which is much more troubling, because it reveals a staggering lack of knowledge for a president to have, much less brag about as openly as Obama did.

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John Heilemann’s New York magazine piece on why President Obama is actually a great friend of Israel who has been misunderstood works very hard to clear Obama’s name among American Jews. But Heilemann unwittingly gets to one root of the animus between the president and Benjamin Netanyahu: Obama’s acceptance before his presidency of the left’s dispiriting and intellectually lazy tactic of trying to turn “Likud” into a dirty word.

“There is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you’re anti-Israel,” Obama said during his campaign for the presidency, and which Heilemann reproduces early on in the piece. Aside from the obvious implication of dual loyalty, this use of the term is also meaningless–which is much more troubling, because it reveals a staggering lack of knowledge for a president to have, much less brag about as openly as Obama did.

It’s worth asking the president the following question: What does it mean to be pro-Likud? If it means pro-settlement, then it doesn’t make any sense, since vigorous settlement expansion took place under Labor governments, and more settlements have been dissolved and disbanded under right-wing leaders than others. (It was Netanyahu, remember, who agreed to withdraw Jews and troops from Hebron–over Labor’s objections–in his first stint as prime minister. Anyone who doesn’t understand the significance of that doesn’t know the first thing about the Middle East, its history, or its people.)

Does pro-Likud, in the president’s opinion, mean unwilling to sign peace deals? Because Netanyahu signed peace deals last time around, after which the Clinton administration sent its campaign strategists to Israel to get Netanyahu voted out of office. (This proved, by the way, that it wasn’t that the Clinton administration doubted Bibi could make peace, it was simply that they didn’t like him. So they had to get rid of him.) Additionally, Netanyahu was willing to negotiate without preconditions; the Obama administration wouldn’t let negotiations take place without preconditions.

Does pro-Likud mean hawkish on national security and Iran? It couldn’t, because longtime Labor leader Ehud Barak has been the architect of many successful targeted assassination missions, and his eagerness to attack Iran far exceeds Netanyahu’s. (While meeting with George W. Bush during Bush’s 2008 trip to Israel, Ehud Barak reportedly pressed the case for bombing Iran to the point where Bush later privately remarked, “That fellow really frightens me.”)

If President Obama understands anything about diplomacy, he will stop advertising his deep dislike for a prime minister and a political party about which he knows close to nothing.

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Time to Affect Political Change in Bahrain

Michael Rubin makes a good point about the attractiveness of the Moroccan model–meaning gradual liberal reform in the direction of democracy. That is certainly preferable to the kind of upheavals that have rocked the Arab world this year. Even successful revolutions (as in Egypt) can go off in uncertain directions. In the case of Egypt, civil liberties remain restricted, anti-Israel sentiment is running rampant, and the Muslim Brotherhood appears poised to gain a disproportionate share of power because it is better organized than liberal groups. Some of this was no doubt unavoidable in any post-Mubarak regime (any Egyptian government that reflects popular sentiment will be anti-Israel to some degree) but the chaotic conditions which have prevailed since Mubarak’s abrupt removal from power have exacerbated the situation.

It was precisely to ward off such an explosion that some of us had been arguing for years the U.S. needed to do more to pressure Hosni Mubarak to open up the political system—for instance, by conditioning U.S aid on reform. Instead, one administration after another gave this strongman a blank check even though it was perfectly clear he could not last forever.

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Michael Rubin makes a good point about the attractiveness of the Moroccan model–meaning gradual liberal reform in the direction of democracy. That is certainly preferable to the kind of upheavals that have rocked the Arab world this year. Even successful revolutions (as in Egypt) can go off in uncertain directions. In the case of Egypt, civil liberties remain restricted, anti-Israel sentiment is running rampant, and the Muslim Brotherhood appears poised to gain a disproportionate share of power because it is better organized than liberal groups. Some of this was no doubt unavoidable in any post-Mubarak regime (any Egyptian government that reflects popular sentiment will be anti-Israel to some degree) but the chaotic conditions which have prevailed since Mubarak’s abrupt removal from power have exacerbated the situation.

It was precisely to ward off such an explosion that some of us had been arguing for years the U.S. needed to do more to pressure Hosni Mubarak to open up the political system—for instance, by conditioning U.S aid on reform. Instead, one administration after another gave this strongman a blank check even though it was perfectly clear he could not last forever.

Unfortunately, the U.S. appears to be repeating that mistake in Bahrain. This tiny Gulf kingdom, where a Sunni royal family rules over a predominantly Shiite population, managed to repress calls for change by using force earlier this year; it even got assistance from the Saudi security forces. The royals also promised all sorts of political changes which have not materialized. The National Dialogue which they convened to assuage calls for change has turned out to be a joke. Repression remains the order of the day. But as in Syria, even the willingness of the security forces to shed blood has not kept protesters off the streets. As the New York Times notes, clashes between demonstrators and head-cracking riot police still occur almost every night.

Where, one wonders, is the U.S? We have a large say in Bahrain, which is the headquarters of our Fifth Fleet and is heavily dependent on American protection.

“But,” as the Washington Post editorialists note, “the Obama administration has been timid here as elsewhere during the Arab Spring. In May, President Obama made a strong statement about Bahrain during a speech on the Middle East in which he promised to support the cause of democratic change across the region. But there has been no follow-up; no senior U.S. officials have visited Bahrain in months, and the administration has had nothing to say about the deteriorating situation. This is shortsighted: If Bahrain blows up, vital U.S. interests will be at risk. The administration should use its influence now —before the crisis resumes.”

The Post is exactly right: Now—before the next revolution–is the time to affect positive political change in Bahrain, and also in other American allies such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. The U.S. needs to use what leverage it has to push for liberal change a la Morocco. Failure to do so is not
only a moral failing, but more important, a strategic failing that risks another explosion toppling another American ally.

 

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67% of Voters Say Obama isn’t Pro-Israel

Our “First Jewish President’s” Israel policy isn’t just a concern to Jewish voters. Obama’s Israel problems extend beyond religious lines, according to a poll released by The Hill today:

More than half of likely voters say the Obama administration’s policy on Israel is either somewhat or very important to the way they vote, according to this week’s The Hill Poll.

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Our “First Jewish President’s” Israel policy isn’t just a concern to Jewish voters. Obama’s Israel problems extend beyond religious lines, according to a poll released by The Hill today:

More than half of likely voters say the Obama administration’s policy on Israel is either somewhat or very important to the way they vote, according to this week’s The Hill Poll.

The survey comes just as Republicans managed to win the Brooklyn- and Queens-based congressional seat of former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), in what many called a referendum on President Obama’s approach to Israel.

The internal numbers are actually even worse for the president. According to the poll, 67 percent of likely voters believe President Obama is not pro-Israel, with 29 percent saying he’s “anti-Israel” and 38 percent saying he’s neither pro nor anti. Less than a quarter say he’s pro-Israel. It’s supremely troubling such a large majority believes Obama has a negative or neutral view of a country that is one of our closest allies.

The numbers largely break down along party lines, with Republicans more likely to characterize him as anti-Israel than Democrats. But independent voters are more likely to say Obama is anti-Israel (37 percent) than pro-Israel (21 percent). An additional 35 percent say he’s neither.

Half of independent voters also say Obama isn’t supportive enough of Israel, while just 26 percent say he’s supportive enough and 13 percent say he’s too supportive.

The poll suggests Obama’s Israel policy has the potential to become a general election issue. Sixty-two percent of voters say the administration’s stance on Israel is either very or somewhat important to their vote. Many Democrats have dismissed the NY-9 race as a unique situation, but this indicates the importance of the Israel issue extends beyond the Jewish community.

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Bill Keller’s First Column

Bill Keller stepped down recently as executive editor of the New York Times and made his debut today as an op-ed columnist.

Well, you certainly can’t fault him for failing to come up with a refreshing new look at the country’s problems. According to Keller, Barack Obama’s political woes are George Bush’s fault.

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Bill Keller stepped down recently as executive editor of the New York Times and made his debut today as an op-ed columnist.

Well, you certainly can’t fault him for failing to come up with a refreshing new look at the country’s problems. According to Keller, Barack Obama’s political woes are George Bush’s fault.

The decline in Obama’’s political fortunes, the Great Disappointment, can be attributed to four main factors: the intractable legacy bequeathed by George W. Bush; Republican resistance amounting to sabotage; the unrealistic expectations and inevitable disenchantment of some of the president’’s supporters; and, to be sure, the man himself.

Obama inherited a country in such distress that his Inaugural Address alluded to George Washington at Valley Forge, marking “this the winter of our hardship.” Unfunded wars, supply-side deficits, twin housing and banking crises enabled by an orgy of regulatory permissiveness– that was the legacy Obama assumed.

Boy, talk about the liberal bubble. The Republicans, it seems, have a constitutional duty to roll over and play dead if a liberal is in the White House. They have
no principles worth having, after all, so if they don’t surrender them, it’s “sabotage.” The unfunded wars were also unfunded by the Democrats who were firmly in control of Congress for the last two years of Bush’s term. The orgy of regulatory permissiveness that brought about the housing and banking crises included the distinctly liberal demand everyone own a home regardless of their ability to pay for it (if they don’t, it is racism). It also featured the furious (and successful) opposition of the likes of Senator Chris Dodd and Representative Barney Frank, both liberal Democrats, to strengthening regulation on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which lay at the heart of the housing and financial crises, and which George Bush had called for. The supply-side deficits, caused by the Bushtaxcutsfortherich (that’s one word in Liberal Land), saw federal revenues climb 44 percent between 2003 and 2007 and the deficit decline from $412 billion in 2004 to $162 billion in 2007.

Another toxic legacy of the Bush years is an angry conservative populism, in which government is viewed as tyranny and compromise as apostasy. The Tea Party faction has captured not only the Republican primary process, but to a large extent the national conversation and the legislative machinery.

It captured the legislative machinery because the American people voted overwhelmingly for it. Translation: The people are stupid and easily misled. But, of course, if that is true, why can’t those oh-so-smart liberal intellectuals like the New York Times editorial board and its op-ed columnists lead them to the light? What is the matter with Kansas?

This is the sort of stuff liberals say to each other as they sit on the porches of their Nantucket summer houses, drink Chablis, nibble brie, and worry about the poor.

Is there the slightest reason to even glance at Bill Keller’s next op-ed column? Judging from the first one, the answer is no. I already know what it’s going to say.

 

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The End of Land for Peace

While I agree with Evelyn Gordon’s analysis, it’s also important to recognize the Palestinian actions and those who would affirm them violate not only previous agreements on legal grounds, but also the philosophical basis of the peace process.

Since the Camp David Accords, the basis of negotiations has been one of land for peace. What the Palestinians are asking the United Nations now is to assign land ahead of time, and worry about peace later. The vote not only violates previous diplomatic agreements, but it replaces a formula for peace with a recipe for war.

While I agree with Evelyn Gordon’s analysis, it’s also important to recognize the Palestinian actions and those who would affirm them violate not only previous agreements on legal grounds, but also the philosophical basis of the peace process.

Since the Camp David Accords, the basis of negotiations has been one of land for peace. What the Palestinians are asking the United Nations now is to assign land ahead of time, and worry about peace later. The vote not only violates previous diplomatic agreements, but it replaces a formula for peace with a recipe for war.

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Obama Ratchets Up Class Warfare

President Obama was in full-on campaign mode during his deficit speech today in the Rose Garden, slamming Congress for “dragging its feet” and calling on Republicans to “defend” the “unfairness” of their tax proposals.

“They should be called out. They should have to defend that unfairness,” he said. “Explain why somebody who’s making $50 million a year in the financial markets should be paying 15 percent on their taxes when a teacher…is paying more than that.”

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President Obama was in full-on campaign mode during his deficit speech today in the Rose Garden, slamming Congress for “dragging its feet” and calling on Republicans to “defend” the “unfairness” of their tax proposals.

“They should be called out. They should have to defend that unfairness,” he said. “Explain why somebody who’s making $50 million a year in the financial markets should be paying 15 percent on their taxes when a teacher…is paying more than that.”

Obama announced he would veto any deficit-cutting legislation that doesn’t include tax hikes on the wealthy and corporations. This leaves the GOP in a tight spot, because many of them have signed Grover Norquist’s pledge to oppose any plan that includes tax hikes.

Obama also seemed to take a shot at this “no new tax” pledge, referring to a “pledge to keep that unfairness in place.”

“The only pledge that really matters is our pledge to uphold the Constitution,” he said.

The speech had the same aggressive tone Obama has been taking out on the campaign trail recently, and it was heavier on politics than policy.

“I reject the idea that asking a hedge fund manager to pay the same in taxes as a plumber or teacher is class warfare,” he said. “This is not class warfare. It’s math. The money’s going to have to come from someplace.”

His rhetoric will score him points with his progressive base, but doesn’t seem to be as attractive with independent voters. Obama’s speech announcing his stimulus plan was also antagonistic, and it didn’t end up boosting his record low approval ratings.

The president’s deficit-reduction plan, which he’ll submit to the super committee, includes proposals like raising taxes on millionaires and $1 trillion in savings from the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan. The drawdown savings are widely viewed as an accounting gimmick, as they’re not new cuts and were already expected to take place. Read the full plan here.

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The Chris Christie Fantasy League

It didn’t take much to get some conservative talking heads and policy types to start talking again about a new Republican savior. After frontrunner Rick Perry took some hits in last week’s debate and showed he had a few flaws, almost like clockwork the rumbling began again about recruiting a GOP messiah who would rescue the party from the current field of candidates. But with Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan having conclusively removed their names from consideration, all the Washington wonks have left is the least likely of the long-discussed trio of possible candidates: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Both Bill Kristol and Paul Gigot promoted the idea of a Christie candidacy yesterday on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace. Those are good people to have behind you, but as with the last gasp boomlet for Ryan that we heard so much about in August and early September, the Christie scenario is based more on wishful thinking than an objective analysis of Christie’s intentions or his strengths as a candidate.

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It didn’t take much to get some conservative talking heads and policy types to start talking again about a new Republican savior. After frontrunner Rick Perry took some hits in last week’s debate and showed he had a few flaws, almost like clockwork the rumbling began again about recruiting a GOP messiah who would rescue the party from the current field of candidates. But with Mitch Daniels and Paul Ryan having conclusively removed their names from consideration, all the Washington wonks have left is the least likely of the long-discussed trio of possible candidates: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Both Bill Kristol and Paul Gigot promoted the idea of a Christie candidacy yesterday on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace. Those are good people to have behind you, but as with the last gasp boomlet for Ryan that we heard so much about in August and early September, the Christie scenario is based more on wishful thinking than an objective analysis of Christie’s intentions or his strengths as a candidate.

It is true not everyone is happy with the choices Republicans are faced with in 2012. Rick Perry may not be nearly as formidable a candidate in a general election as he is in Republican primaries where his tough-talking Texan Tea Partier routine plays fairly well. Mitt Romney may appeal to independents but his technocratic flip-flopper persona is such that he may not be nominated no matter how good he looks on TV. And, as the Fox panel pointed out, there is still a lot of Republican money out there to be snatched up by a mystery candidate.

But midway through September, it is difficult to imagine how anyone who has done no spadework to prepare for running could manage to parachute into the race. Anyone who does so will start with an enormous disadvantage that the backing of Washington wonks can’t make up for.

More to the point, the longing for Christie seems based on the desires of those unhappy with Perry, Romney or Michele Bachmann than on those of Christie. He has already said repeatedly he’s done everything but threaten suicide to take his name out of the running for president. His reluctance to run is understandable. He has less than two years in office under his belt in New Jersey as well as having a young family and health problems (his weight and asthma attacks) that make him unlikely to deal well with the rigors of the campaign trail.

The talk about a Christie candidacy also doesn’t take into account Christie’s own tough guy act won’t necessarily play as well on the national stage as it has in the more limited theater of Trenton politics or YouTube, where his sarcastic and blunt attacks on critics have made him an Internet star. As we’ve seen with Perry, a popular governor can seem a bit less bulletproof when placed on a podium with other Republicans with their knives out.

The fact is, the public knows little about Christie other than his stands on trimming entitlements, public worker unions and spending. The hoopla over Christie ignores the fact many of his stands on social issues may not work in Republican primaries and that, unlike someone like Ryan, he has never articulated a vision about foreign policy or defense.

Christie’s arrogance can be charming, but it has also caused problems, and he has much to learn about both public office and governance. He is unready for national office and, to his credit, he has, at least to this point, shown enough self-awareness to know he ought to wait until he has served at least one full term in Trenton before he seeks another challenge.

Being human, I suppose Christie likes the flattery and will milk the speculation for a while before putting an end to it. But however long it takes for him to do so, it’s time for Republicans to put aside their fantasies and think about which of the actual candidates they will support.

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The Price of Partnership with Turkey

President George W. Bush sought to make Poland and the Czech Republic central to the NATO anti-ballistic missile shield, but President Obama chose to go with Turkey instead. Today, Turkey is showing the diplomatic cost of that decision. While the United States envisioned that missile shield and radar system to provide security not only for NATO, but for our other regional allies, Turkey has now vetoed sharing any early warning to Israel regarding potential Iranian missile launches. According to a report in the Turkish press:

Davutoğlu insisted that information gathered by a U.S.-led radar system, to be stationed in Turkey’s Malatya province as part of a NATO missile-shield project, would be available for use only by alliance members, denying suggestions that intelligence would be shared with Israel. “We will provide support only for systems that belong to NATO and are used solely by members of NATO,” he said. The minister dismissed as “manipulation” a newspaper report that quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying that data collected by the radar would be used to help defend Israel, stressing that Washington had assured Ankara that no such official existed. According to a Wall Street Journal report Friday, U.S. officials said they planned to fuse data from radars in Turkey, Israel and other sites to create a comprehensive picture of the missile threat to the region. Turkey, for its part, could also benefit from real-time data from radar the United States already operates in Israel, the report said.

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President George W. Bush sought to make Poland and the Czech Republic central to the NATO anti-ballistic missile shield, but President Obama chose to go with Turkey instead. Today, Turkey is showing the diplomatic cost of that decision. While the United States envisioned that missile shield and radar system to provide security not only for NATO, but for our other regional allies, Turkey has now vetoed sharing any early warning to Israel regarding potential Iranian missile launches. According to a report in the Turkish press:

Davutoğlu insisted that information gathered by a U.S.-led radar system, to be stationed in Turkey’s Malatya province as part of a NATO missile-shield project, would be available for use only by alliance members, denying suggestions that intelligence would be shared with Israel. “We will provide support only for systems that belong to NATO and are used solely by members of NATO,” he said. The minister dismissed as “manipulation” a newspaper report that quoted an unnamed U.S. official as saying that data collected by the radar would be used to help defend Israel, stressing that Washington had assured Ankara that no such official existed. According to a Wall Street Journal report Friday, U.S. officials said they planned to fuse data from radars in Turkey, Israel and other sites to create a comprehensive picture of the missile threat to the region. Turkey, for its part, could also benefit from real-time data from radar the United States already operates in Israel, the report said.

There you have it: While many realists argue countries always act in their own best interests and ideology matters little, Turkey, like many Arab rejectionist states, shows the ideology of animosity toward Israel now supplants recognition of the benefits of cooperation. There is a cost here to the United States, however: While Washington maintains good relations not only with Israel, but also with many Arab and majority Muslim states, Turkey’s Islamist government is now trying to drag the United States—and American security—into its own ideological battles. It’s natural that Turkey feels itself all-powerful, but it has become the Charlie Sheen of nations, not understanding how ridiculous and self-destructive its behavior has become.

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Taiwan Losing Ability to Deter China

The Osama bin Laden raid notwithstanding, the Obama administration continues to project an air of weakness and irresolution on national security that will come back to haunt us. The latest example is its refusal to sell F-16s to our democratic ally Taiwan.

Taiwan is facing a growing imbalance of cross-Straits power as China continues to increase its defense budget by double-digit figures every year. This buildup is tilting the odds against the U.S. Navy in the western Pacific and making it increasingly likely Taiwan would be on its own in any crisis. That makes it all the more imperative Taiwan have the ability to defend itself.

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The Osama bin Laden raid notwithstanding, the Obama administration continues to project an air of weakness and irresolution on national security that will come back to haunt us. The latest example is its refusal to sell F-16s to our democratic ally Taiwan.

Taiwan is facing a growing imbalance of cross-Straits power as China continues to increase its defense budget by double-digit figures every year. This buildup is tilting the odds against the U.S. Navy in the western Pacific and making it increasingly likely Taiwan would be on its own in any crisis. That makes it all the more imperative Taiwan have the ability to defend itself.

But while the People’s Republic of China is fielding fifth-generation J-20 stealth fighters, Taiwan must rely for air defense on antiquated F-5s from the 1960s and F-16s from the early 1990s. The former are no longer airworthy; indeed two of the F-5s crashed just last week. The F-16s are in better shape but still far from state-of-the-art. But instead of selling Taiwan 66 new F-16s, as requested, the administration has decided instead to help upgrade the existing F-16s.

That’s better than nothing, I suppose, but only just. It certainly does nothing to correct the growing imbalance of power. It also delivers another hit to the U.S. economy since Lockheed Martin’s F-16 production will most likely have to close without the Taiwan sale. resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs. Why is it  this administration, so eager to ladle out billions to create make-work public sector jobs, is so cavalier about destroying skilled and valuable employment in the defense sector?

Presumably, the administration refused to make the sale because it is so afraid of a backlash from Beijing. No doubt there would be a backlash, but as history proves, it’s temporary; certainly George H.W. Bush’s decision to sell 150 F-16s to Taiwan in 1992 did no long-term damage to U.S.-China relations. Indeed, such a show of resolution, were it to be repeated, could well improve our relations with the mainland because it would signal we will not be pushed around, thus earning us begrudging respect from China’s rulers. It would certainly lessen the chances of conflict in the Taiwan Strait by enhancing Taiwan’s ability to deter China. By kowtowing to the mainland on this issue, the Obama administration increases the chance of conflict and emboldens China to act even more aggressively with its neighbors.

 

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If the World Won’t Enforce Previous Deals, Why Should Israel Sign Another?

The run-up to the Palestinians’ UN bid has produced many surreal moments, but it would be hard to top this one: The U.S. and Europe are pressuring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to penalize the Palestinian Authority following the UN vote. In other words, the “international community” is urging the PA be allowed to violate its previous signed agreements with total impunity. And then, in the same breath, it’s urging Israel to sign a final-status agreement entailing much greater concessions in exchange for “international guarantees” it’s just proven it won’t enforce.

A brief reminder: The UN gambit blatantly violates the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, which states that “Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.” Clearly, recognizing these territories as a state would change their status drastically. The U.S. and EU both signed this agreement as witnesses, as did Russia, Egypt, Jordan and Norway.

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The run-up to the Palestinians’ UN bid has produced many surreal moments, but it would be hard to top this one: The U.S. and Europe are pressuring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not to penalize the Palestinian Authority following the UN vote. In other words, the “international community” is urging the PA be allowed to violate its previous signed agreements with total impunity. And then, in the same breath, it’s urging Israel to sign a final-status agreement entailing much greater concessions in exchange for “international guarantees” it’s just proven it won’t enforce.

A brief reminder: The UN gambit blatantly violates the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, which states that “Neither side shall initiate or take any step that will change the status of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip pending the outcome of the permanent status negotiations.” Clearly, recognizing these territories as a state would change their status drastically. The U.S. and EU both signed this agreement as witnesses, as did Russia, Egypt, Jordan and Norway.

Now, most of these witnesses plan to vote in favor when the PA asks the UN to effectively tear up this agreement later this month, and even those who plan to
vote against are demanding the PA suffer no penalties for its bad faith. Yet if the Palestinians can tear up this agreement with impunity, why should Israel believe they won’t be allowed to tear up a final-status agreement with equal impunity? And in that case, why should it risk the drastic concessions a final-status agreement would entail?

Another brief reminder: UN Security Council Resolution 242, which has been the foundational document of the peace process since 1967 and is referenced in
every Israeli-Palestinian agreement, was explicitly worded to ensure Israel would not have to return to the 1967 lines (as I explained  here). That was the international guarantee every Israeli government relied on in negotiations with the Palestinians. Even Gilead Sher, a dove who served as one of Israel’s chief negotiators in final-status talks with the Palestinians in 2000-2001, stressed recently this assurance remains critical to Israel: While the final border may well end up being the “1967 lines plus land swaps,” he wrote, using this as the starting point “puts the onus on Israel and constrains the range of negotiation” over this issue, making it harder for Israel to secure border adjustments it deems vital.

But most of the same countries that approved this resolution in 1967 now plan to recognize a Palestinian state in the 1967 lines later this month, effectively
tearing up the guarantee they gave Israel 44 years ago. So why should Israel trust the international community to uphold whatever guarantees it might give as part of a final-status agreement?

If the world seriously wants Israel to have the confidence to make far-reaching concessions for a final-status agreement, it ought to be strictly honoring its own commitments to Israel while severely punishing the Palestinians for violating theirs. Instead, it’s doing the exact opposite. And then it wonders why most Israelis are reluctant to keep making such concessions.

 

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Obama’s Millionaire Tax Strategy

President Obama will finally present his deficit-reduction recommendations to the super committee this morning, and one of the proposals will reportedly be a “Buffett tax,” which will raise taxes on millionaires whose earnings come from capital gains:

The White House will propose a new tax rate for people earning more than $1 million a year to ensure they pay at least the same percentage of their earnings in taxes as middle-income Americans, a senior administration official told CNN on Sunday.

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President Obama will finally present his deficit-reduction recommendations to the super committee this morning, and one of the proposals will reportedly be a “Buffett tax,” which will raise taxes on millionaires whose earnings come from capital gains:

The White House will propose a new tax rate for people earning more than $1 million a year to ensure they pay at least the same percentage of their earnings in taxes as middle-income Americans, a senior administration official told CNN on Sunday.

Called the Buffett Rule, the proposal will be part of a comprehensive deficit reduction plan President Barack Obama will unveil on Monday, according to the official, who spoke on condition of not being identified.

Rep. Paul Ryan has already slammed the proposal as “class warfare,” pointing out “when you tax something more, you get less of it.” At HotAir, Ed Morrisey expands on this argument:

What happens when the cost of risk equals the cost of relatively risk-free income?  People stop taking risks and shelter their capital.  When capital stops being risked in new ventures, economic growth slows and stops, jobs either never get created or start disappearing, and we get stagnation or recession. That capital doesn’t sit on the sidelines forever, either; eventually capital moves to other markets, which means that even when conditions improve, we won’t see that capital return to our markets.

Republicans have already vowed they’ll oppose tax hikes in the super committee, so Obama knows this isn’t a viable proposal. His goal on this is purely political. When the GOP opposes Obama’s plan, he’ll say they’re unwilling to trade “middle-class tax cuts” (a.k.a the ineffective payroll tax cuts) for higher taxes on the wealthy (which would suppress job creation). Ryan is right to slam this as class warfare, because that’s exactly what it is.

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Time for a Moroccan Model?

This past weekend, Morocco’s Foreign Ministry sponsored a conference on the Arab Spring and constitutional reforms. While I was part of a small and bipartisan delegation of Americans who could accept their last-minute invitation to the two-day affair, there were a number of current and former ministers and other officials from Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania, Libya and the European Union.

Morocco is a pretty tolerant place, and while its government was as surprised by the Arab Spring as its fellow Arab countries, its government did quickly conclude the time for significant constitutional reform was sooner rather than later. Admittedly, the fact the King appointed the constitutional reform panel in a top-down approach says a lot about Morocco’s point of departure, though his efforts appear sincere. The speakers addressed a number of issues, ranging from broad discussions of principle about what makes an Arab constitution work, as well specific discussions of various proposals.

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This past weekend, Morocco’s Foreign Ministry sponsored a conference on the Arab Spring and constitutional reforms. While I was part of a small and bipartisan delegation of Americans who could accept their last-minute invitation to the two-day affair, there were a number of current and former ministers and other officials from Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania, Libya and the European Union.

Morocco is a pretty tolerant place, and while its government was as surprised by the Arab Spring as its fellow Arab countries, its government did quickly conclude the time for significant constitutional reform was sooner rather than later. Admittedly, the fact the King appointed the constitutional reform panel in a top-down approach says a lot about Morocco’s point of departure, though his efforts appear sincere. The speakers addressed a number of issues, ranging from broad discussions of principle about what makes an Arab constitution work, as well specific discussions of various proposals.

There were a few interesting points, however, to the weekend:

  • The only people to bring up Israel, the United States, and the Palestinians were Yahya al-Gamal, Egypt’s former deputy prime minister; and Gilles Pargneaux, a socialist EuroMP from France. Gamal was a self-parody, declaring that Mubarak was simply a puppet of Israel and the United States, and  had the president only listened to him, he might have survived. Pargneaux threw out his Palestinian talking points reflexively, with little realization the audience didn’t care. Pargneaux doesn’t represent all Europeans, of course, but as much as he represents a dominant European intellectual current, he came off poorly.
  • In contrast, the officials who had something truly at hand—Tunisian political leaders, the new Libyan justice minister, Moroccan officials, Jordanians– recognized what is going on in their countries has nothing to do with the Arab-Israeli conflict and weren’t going to be sidelined by the same-old rhetoric.
  • No Turks attended. While Western diplomats still talk about a Turkish model, today that model is replete with anti-Semitism, noxious anti-Western rhetoric, and Islamism. Given Yahya al-Gamal’s commentary, it might seem natural that Turkey and Egypt form a partnership to provide the core of a new rejectionist, anti-Western, and pro-Muslim Brotherhood bloc, but the Moroccans (who will be seeking a seat on the UN Security Council) perhaps provide both an indigenous and, from the perspective of Western national security and Middle Eastern peace, more responsible model. Rather than throw out lame lines about how Turkey is a partner for peace and make Ankara the key partner for talks about the formation and development of new governments, perhaps it’s time for Secretary of State Clinton to call a meeting and debate the merits of the Turkish model versus a Moroccan model. If Washington’s goal is a new order that is liberal and recognizes the region’s myriad problems can’t be solved simply with anti-Israel, anti-Jewish, and anti-American rhetoric, perhaps Turkey isn’t the way to go and Morocco is.

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Obama in Trap of His Own Making

In researching his new book, Ron Suskind interviewed President Obama earlier this year, during which Obama told  Suskind:

The area in my presidency where I think my management and understanding of the presidency evolved most, and where I think we made the most mistakes, was less on the policy front and more on the communications front. I think one of the criticisms that is absolutely legitimate about my first two years was that I was very comfortable with a technocratic approach to government … a series of problems to be solved.… Carter, Clinton and I all have sort of the disease of being policy wonks. … I think that if you get too consumed with that you lose sight of the larger issue. … The reorganization that’s taken place here is one that is much more geared to those [leadership] functions.

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In researching his new book, Ron Suskind interviewed President Obama earlier this year, during which Obama told  Suskind:

The area in my presidency where I think my management and understanding of the presidency evolved most, and where I think we made the most mistakes, was less on the policy front and more on the communications front. I think one of the criticisms that is absolutely legitimate about my first two years was that I was very comfortable with a technocratic approach to government … a series of problems to be solved.… Carter, Clinton and I all have sort of the disease of being policy wonks. … I think that if you get too consumed with that you lose sight of the larger issue. … The reorganization that’s taken place here is one that is much more geared to those [leadership] functions.

Obama is once again falling into a trap of his own making, convincing himself his main problem lies not in his policy failure or his ideology (progressivism/liberalism), but in the realm of communications.

That’s nonsense.

Obama’s presidency is failing because almost everything he has done has made things worse, not better. He combines very bad policies with rare incompetence – and the results are across-the-board failures. For the president to have convinced himself he could talk his way out of this mess demonstrates a notable degree of self-delusion.

There are two other things worth noting in what Obama said. The first is that he’s employing the old (and transparent) trick of criticizing himself by praising himself. The“disease” Obama suffers from, you see, is that he’s a “policy wonk.” The message the president is trying to send is he’s been too intellectual, too serious-minded, and too involved in mastering the depths of complicated policy issues; as a result, he just hasn’t paid enough attention to providing a “narrative” for his presidency. This is akin to the person who says his chief failure is that he hasn’t spent enough hosting Bible studies because he devotes a night a week to serving at the soup kitchen.

Finally, Obama might re-consider comparing himself to Jimmy Carter, who has (rightly) become a symbol of a failed president. Now, I happen to think the comparison to Carter is in many respects apt; but why Obama has decided to tether himself to Carter is an example of just how confused the president is these days. Can comparisons to James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson be far behind?

 

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Cronyism as Usual

For an update on how all that “hope and change” is going, let’s check in with LightSquared financial backer Phil Falcone, who’s currently under scrutiny for his company’s too-close-for-comfort relationship with the White House:

Falcone characterized email communication between LightSquared employees and White House staff — which mentioned political fundraisers while trying to coordinate a meeting — as business as usual. The emails were first reported by the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News.

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For an update on how all that “hope and change” is going, let’s check in with LightSquared financial backer Phil Falcone, who’s currently under scrutiny for his company’s too-close-for-comfort relationship with the White House:

Falcone characterized email communication between LightSquared employees and White House staff — which mentioned political fundraisers while trying to coordinate a meeting — as business as usual. The emails were first reported by the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News.

“How LightSquared operated, and how LightSquared will continue to operate, is no different than what everybody else does,” Falcone said. “It’s completely appropriate and was within the guidelines of how business is conducted.”

So now Obama’s supporters are just settling for the argument that LightSquared’s alleged political pull with the White House is “no different than what everybody else does.” That’s some slide from Obama’s 2008 campaign promise to demolish the influence game in Washington.

It’s not news Obama  has broken yet another campaign vow. But the one thing the president had going for him, even with the economic doldrums, was his administration kept its nose fairly clean. He might be viewed as incompetent, or lacking in leadership, but he isn’t seen as corrupt. Solyndra and LightSquared may soon give the White House completely new image problems to worry about.

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