Commentary Magazine


Posts For: March 18, 2012

Mitt’s Island Landslide Sets Up Big Week

Rick Santorum invested a fair amount of precious, time and resources into campaigning for Sunday’s Puerto Rico Republican presidential primary. But it turned out to be a poor use of scarce resources for the GOP challenger at a time when he could least afford it. Mitt Romney cruised to a landslide victory in the Commonwealth. Romney won all 20 delegates up for grabs as residents of the island turned out in relatively strong numbers. Despite promoting himself as the senator from Puerto Rico, whatever hopes the Pennsylvanian might have had in Puerto Rico were probably sunk when he asserted that the island must adopt English as its official language if it wants statehood. Santorum got only 8 percent of the more than 100,000 votes cast, the sort of dismal result he might have gotten even without bothering to show up there last week as he did.

Romney can now brag that he has the ability to generate support for Hispanic voters even though none of this who turned out on Sunday will have the ability to vote for him in November. But no matter how you spin the result, the delegates he won gets him a bit closer to the nomination. Just as important, the win gives him an extra touch of momentum heading into the pivotal Illinois primary on Tuesday.

Read More

Rick Santorum invested a fair amount of precious, time and resources into campaigning for Sunday’s Puerto Rico Republican presidential primary. But it turned out to be a poor use of scarce resources for the GOP challenger at a time when he could least afford it. Mitt Romney cruised to a landslide victory in the Commonwealth. Romney won all 20 delegates up for grabs as residents of the island turned out in relatively strong numbers. Despite promoting himself as the senator from Puerto Rico, whatever hopes the Pennsylvanian might have had in Puerto Rico were probably sunk when he asserted that the island must adopt English as its official language if it wants statehood. Santorum got only 8 percent of the more than 100,000 votes cast, the sort of dismal result he might have gotten even without bothering to show up there last week as he did.

Romney can now brag that he has the ability to generate support for Hispanic voters even though none of this who turned out on Sunday will have the ability to vote for him in November. But no matter how you spin the result, the delegates he won gets him a bit closer to the nomination. Just as important, the win gives him an extra touch of momentum heading into the pivotal Illinois primary on Tuesday.

While nothing that happens on Tuesday will knock Santorum out of the race, Illinois looms large in his hopes to topple the frontrunner. It represents one of the last chances he has to beat Romney in a large state. If he falls short as he did in Michigan and Ohio, then it will be difficult, if not impossible for him to claim that he is anything but a factional spoiler with no chance of winning the nomination.

Were Santorum to win in Illinois, and right now all the polls taken so far show him trailing, then it will be a huge boost for his presidential hopes. More importantly, it would be the sort of blow to his credibility that would make the Mr. Inevitable reputation that his campaign is trying so hard to promote look silly. At the same time, consecutive victories by Santorum in Illinois and then in Louisiana next weekend would be the sort of momentum shift that would have Republicans wondering if Santorum could win the nomination outright.

But Romney appears on track right now to put an end to that happy scenario for Santorum. A big win in Illinois would be the sort of thing that might lead many Republicans to tell Santorum that it was time for him to bring the contest to an end. Though his backers may be looking forward to a brokered convention, as a man who hopes he has future in the GOP, Santorum must know that there will be negative long range consequences for him if his actions sabotage Republican hopes in 2012 by hanging on long after he lost any chance to win. A big Romney win on Tuesday could lead to exactly this sort of a discussion in the GOP.

That’s why Romney is working hard in Illinois even though he has a lead. In a race that has been filled with ups and downs and upsets of every variety, if Romney outperforms expectations there as he did in Illinois, it could be the beginning of the end for Santorum.

Read Less

U.S. Intelligence Flying Blind on Iran

Today’s front page New York Times feature detailing the consensus of the U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran isn’t working to build a nuclear weapon ought to provide encouragement for those opposed to tough American action on the issue. Bookended with parallel arguments being put forward by many in the Washington foreign policy establishment that a nuclear Iran would be easily contained, this presents the country with a pair of calming notions: Iran isn’t going nuclear but even if it is, it’s no big deal.

However, the most distressing aspect of the piece, which is the product of highly placed anonymous sources within the intelligence establishment, is not so much the lack of alarm on the part of those who are supposed to be the nation’s eyes and ears so much as the fact that they are also willing to admit that they haven’t a clue as to what is actually happening in Iran. The article contains startling admissions that the Islamist tyranny is a mystery to American officials. One went so far as to say that U.S. intelligence agencies view it as even more of a closed book to them than the hermit-like regime in North Korea. Considering their disgraceful failure to prepare the government for the possibility that the North Koreans were on the brink of nuclear capability, this confession should undermine the credibility of the same officials’ boast that they are certain no Iranian nuke is in the works.

Read More

Today’s front page New York Times feature detailing the consensus of the U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran isn’t working to build a nuclear weapon ought to provide encouragement for those opposed to tough American action on the issue. Bookended with parallel arguments being put forward by many in the Washington foreign policy establishment that a nuclear Iran would be easily contained, this presents the country with a pair of calming notions: Iran isn’t going nuclear but even if it is, it’s no big deal.

However, the most distressing aspect of the piece, which is the product of highly placed anonymous sources within the intelligence establishment, is not so much the lack of alarm on the part of those who are supposed to be the nation’s eyes and ears so much as the fact that they are also willing to admit that they haven’t a clue as to what is actually happening in Iran. The article contains startling admissions that the Islamist tyranny is a mystery to American officials. One went so far as to say that U.S. intelligence agencies view it as even more of a closed book to them than the hermit-like regime in North Korea. Considering their disgraceful failure to prepare the government for the possibility that the North Koreans were on the brink of nuclear capability, this confession should undermine the credibility of the same officials’ boast that they are certain no Iranian nuke is in the works.

Many writing about the intelligence about Iran continually speak of the days before the invasion of Iraq when we were assured by the government that Saddam Hussein was building weapons of mass destruction. Since it was already proven that he had used chemical weapons on his own people and had a nuclear program before Israel destroyed the Osirak reactor in 1981, these were not unreasonable conclusions even if they turned out to be wrong. However that failure, which led to charges that the intelligence community’s convictions about Iraq were wrongly influenced by political considerations, has led to a passionate determination on the part of those in charge that they will never sign off on any conclusion about this sort of an issue again if it will be used as an excuse to go to war. Like generals who always prepare for the surprises they faced in the previous war, America’s spies will never raise the alarms about WMDs again.

Fear of repeating mistakes is understandable. But history rarely repeats itself in this manner. That makes beliefs grounded in that fear often as wrongheaded as the original errors. If the intelligence community’s beliefs about Iraq were incorrectly influenced by a desire to agree with the Bush administration’s predilections then it is just as easy to argue that its current views about Iran might be just as mistaken.

But no matter what is influencing their opinions, it is difficult to work up much confidence in the conclusions of agencies that are so open about the fact that they are flying blind in Iran. Though the anonymous officials have confidence in their non-human assets, they are quick to dismiss any evidence, such as the recent satellite images that have led the International Atomic Energy Agency to suspect that work on weaponization of nuclear material is being carried on in Iran simply because it does not fit into their preconceptions about the regime. But it’s clear that the lack of input about Iranian intentions that can only come from real human intelligence has crippled American agencies to the point where it has become an article of faith on their part that they must be right, even if they can’t back up those conclusions with any evidence.

What we are witnessing here is the sort of cyclical group-think that will be reversed once again if the Iranians confound our spooks the way the supposedly easier to read North Koreans did. Another U.S. intelligence failure will simply make their analysts lean more on the side of action the next time around. But the problem for Israel, the Middle East and the world is that if they are wrong about Iran, the consequences of that mistake will be far worse than even those generated by the Iraq disaster.

Read Less

Puerto Rico: Rotten Borough or Real Test?

Today’s Puerto Rico primary may provide an interesting test for the Republican Party as much as for its rival presidential candidates. In a race that has turned out to be far closer than anyone might have thought, Puerto Rico’s 23 delegates are well worth the fight and both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have shown up and competed for them. Though there has been no polling done, it’s assumed that Romney has the edge because of the endorsement of Governor Luis Fortuno whose pro-statehood New Progressive Party is affiliated with the GOP. That assumption was reinforced by the controversy engendered by Santorum’s comment this week that Puerto Rico would have to adopt English if it wanted statehood. However, given Romney’s decision to take a very harsh stance on immigration, the possibility that Santorum will outperform those low expectations can’t be ignored.

But as much as political observers will be looking to see if Romney can exceed the 50 percent mark and thus win all of the 20 delegates up for grabs in Puerto Rico (the other three are at-large super delegates, two of whom have already endorsed Romney), the turnout numbers will also be interesting to watch. Four years ago turnout for a Puerto Rican GOP caucus was virtually nonexistent but some are holding out the possibility that today’s ballot will result in a large turnout of hundreds of thousands. If so, that may constitute a surprising riposte to all the talk about the low turnout for the Republican contests. It will also be a boost, albeit a minor one, for the statehood movement.

Read More

Today’s Puerto Rico primary may provide an interesting test for the Republican Party as much as for its rival presidential candidates. In a race that has turned out to be far closer than anyone might have thought, Puerto Rico’s 23 delegates are well worth the fight and both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have shown up and competed for them. Though there has been no polling done, it’s assumed that Romney has the edge because of the endorsement of Governor Luis Fortuno whose pro-statehood New Progressive Party is affiliated with the GOP. That assumption was reinforced by the controversy engendered by Santorum’s comment this week that Puerto Rico would have to adopt English if it wanted statehood. However, given Romney’s decision to take a very harsh stance on immigration, the possibility that Santorum will outperform those low expectations can’t be ignored.

But as much as political observers will be looking to see if Romney can exceed the 50 percent mark and thus win all of the 20 delegates up for grabs in Puerto Rico (the other three are at-large super delegates, two of whom have already endorsed Romney), the turnout numbers will also be interesting to watch. Four years ago turnout for a Puerto Rican GOP caucus was virtually nonexistent but some are holding out the possibility that today’s ballot will result in a large turnout of hundreds of thousands. If so, that may constitute a surprising riposte to all the talk about the low turnout for the Republican contests. It will also be a boost, albeit a minor one, for the statehood movement.

Many pundits have taken it for granted that Puerto Rico will be the same sort of contest as Guam, the Northern Marianas, the Virgin Islands and Samoa, each of whom will send nine delegates to the Republican National Convention via non-binding caucuses. Romney will take almost all of these but not as a result of any massive turnout. Turnout for those caucuses was minimal which makes their representation at the convention disproportionate as well as something of a rotten borough in the fashion of 19th century English parliamentary constituencies.

However, if the Romney-Santorum race generates enough heat to create a decent turnout, it will not only make the results more meaningful but also might represent a symbolic boost for the GOP’s hopes for Hispanic votes. Heretofore, it has been assumed that only the presence of a Hispanic such as Florida’s Senator Marco Rubio on the national ticket would avert an Obama sweep of Hispanics much in the same manner that Democrats expect to carry the African-American vote. But the spectacle of a large outpouring of Puerto Ricans trooping to the polls to choose a GOP nominee may paint a somewhat different picture that is a bit more encouraging for Republicans.

Read Less

Obama’s Triumphal Statist Presidency

In the March/April issue of the Washington Monthly, Paul Glastris offers a long essay in defense of Barack Obama. Titled, “The Incomplete Greatness of Barack Obama,” it is, in its own way, the clearest and most helpful analysis of the Obama presidency that’s been written so far. Glastris’s main contention is that Obama has “gotten more done in three years than any president in decades.” Yet, “the American public still thinks he hasn’t accomplished anything.” He’s right:

Measured in sheer legislative tonnage, what Obama got done in his first two years is stunning. Health care reform. The takeover and turnaround of the auto industry. The biggest economic stimulus in history. Sweeping new regulations of Wall Street. A tough new set of consumer protections on the credit card industry. A vast expansion of national service. Net neutrality. The greatest increase in wilderness protection in fifteen years. A revolutionary reform to student aid. Signing the New START treaty with Russia. The ending of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Glastris has unwittingly created a glossary of radical statism as a defense of Obama. His own words: “legislative tonnage,” “reform,” “takeover,” “biggest stimulus in history,” “sweeping regulations,” “protection,” “vast expansion,” “Net neutrality,” “greatest increase” in still more “protection,” and “revolutionary reform.” To liberals, this is the poetry of paternalism but to the rest of America it’s a nightmare lexicon.

Read More

In the March/April issue of the Washington Monthly, Paul Glastris offers a long essay in defense of Barack Obama. Titled, “The Incomplete Greatness of Barack Obama,” it is, in its own way, the clearest and most helpful analysis of the Obama presidency that’s been written so far. Glastris’s main contention is that Obama has “gotten more done in three years than any president in decades.” Yet, “the American public still thinks he hasn’t accomplished anything.” He’s right:

Measured in sheer legislative tonnage, what Obama got done in his first two years is stunning. Health care reform. The takeover and turnaround of the auto industry. The biggest economic stimulus in history. Sweeping new regulations of Wall Street. A tough new set of consumer protections on the credit card industry. A vast expansion of national service. Net neutrality. The greatest increase in wilderness protection in fifteen years. A revolutionary reform to student aid. Signing the New START treaty with Russia. The ending of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Glastris has unwittingly created a glossary of radical statism as a defense of Obama. His own words: “legislative tonnage,” “reform,” “takeover,” “biggest stimulus in history,” “sweeping regulations,” “protection,” “vast expansion,” “Net neutrality,” “greatest increase” in still more “protection,” and “revolutionary reform.” To liberals, this is the poetry of paternalism but to the rest of America it’s a nightmare lexicon.

Glastris is equally candid about the long-term impact of these policies. “Some are structured to have modest effects now but major ones later,” he writes. “Others emerged in a crimped and compromised form that, if history is a guide, may well be filled out and strengthened down the road.” In other words, Obama initiatives that look measured or restrained today will only expand and calcify in time. He makes the comparison to FDR’s creation of Social Security. “Only in subsequent decades, as benefits were raised and expanded, did Social Security become the country’s most beloved government program.” Right, and only in decades subsequent to that did it become an unsustainable addiction that we can neither stop nor afford in its present form.

So, the case for Obama’s greatness goes as follows: He came to office with an array of statist notions. He forced “the sheer tonnage” of them upon the country. And he will leave the rest of the leftist dream’s fleshing out to that inexorable statist force-multiplier: time.

You start to see why Obama is okay being thought of as merely ineffective.

As for the foreign policy mentions, it’s a different matter altogether and one that Glastris never really unpacks after that paragraph. But even the administration now understands that its Russia policy is a disaster. And even if you approve the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” you must acknowledge that it’s been replaced with the catastrophic Obama-instituted military doctrine of “don’t win, don’t lose.”

Read Less

Obama’s Private Assurances on Falklands Not Good Enough

There’s been a lot of comment around the Internet about the Obama Administration’s refusal to back Britain in the growing tensions with Argentina over the Falkland Islands. Now comes word that, supposedly, the President has thought better of this folly: according to David Cameron, he and Obama “briefly” discussed the issue, and, as Cameron says, “the U.S. position is that they support the status quo, they don’t argue against the status quo and that is very welcome . . .. They are content with the status quo; they are not challenging the status quo.”

So, summing up, Obama = status quo. Though that’s not quite the way the New York Times puts it, which, without giving a direct quote, asserts that Obama said the U.S. “would stop prodding Britain and Argentina to talk to each other, but stick to its historic position of neutrality.”  If so, that is actually a change of the Administration’s previous policy of backing negotiations over the status of the islands. But without a direct statement, it is impossible to be sure, and, frankly, a policy of neutrality is just not good enough.

Read More

There’s been a lot of comment around the Internet about the Obama Administration’s refusal to back Britain in the growing tensions with Argentina over the Falkland Islands. Now comes word that, supposedly, the President has thought better of this folly: according to David Cameron, he and Obama “briefly” discussed the issue, and, as Cameron says, “the U.S. position is that they support the status quo, they don’t argue against the status quo and that is very welcome . . .. They are content with the status quo; they are not challenging the status quo.”

So, summing up, Obama = status quo. Though that’s not quite the way the New York Times puts it, which, without giving a direct quote, asserts that Obama said the U.S. “would stop prodding Britain and Argentina to talk to each other, but stick to its historic position of neutrality.”  If so, that is actually a change of the Administration’s previous policy of backing negotiations over the status of the islands. But without a direct statement, it is impossible to be sure, and, frankly, a policy of neutrality is just not good enough.

Having won the 1982 war with Argentina, and with the islands settled almost exclusively by Britons, Britain should demand nothing less than a recognition by the United States of its sovereignty, on the basis of both its historic claim and the expressed will of the people of the Falklands. The fact that this current crisis was ginned up exclusively by Argentina for domestic political reasons, and that they are still escalating it – even as Cameron spoke, Argentina announced that it would pursue legal action against oil and shipping firms that operate in Falklands waters – gives Britain, if possible, an even stronger case.

The entire Obama policy toward the Falklands makes no sense on the surface, but when governments do something that seems to make no sense, there’s usually a reason for it. The most charitable explanation would be to invoke Occam’s Razor, and to suggest that the problem is one common to all administrations: career State Department officials – perhaps on the Argentina desk — writing briefs and driving policy in ways that make their life easier, but that don’t actually reflect the policies the higher-ups want to adopt, if they took a moment to think about it. I would like to believe that, partly because every administration faces the problem of trying to get State to stop making policy on its own, and partly because – if Cameron really did make a break-through – it would give him credit for raising the issue, and Obama credit for recognizing that his subordinates were making a mess of things.

But I’m afraid I can’t accept that explanation. The parade of senior officials who spoke on the record urging negotiations between Britain and Argentina has been too long for it to be a case of unguided subordinates.  It was back in March 2010, two years ago, when the Secretary of State herself kicked off the parade by stating, in a press conference in Argentina with Argentine President Kristina Kirchner that: “We would like to see Argentina and the United Kingdom sit down and resolve the issues between them across the table in a peaceful, productive way.”

And as recently as last month, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland repeated that message: “We are encouraging Argentina and the UK to work this out peacefully, to work it out through negotiations.”

So my explanation is more along the lines of Peter’s comment about Obama and gas prices: the Administration’s policy is purely cynical. It figured it could get credit in Argentina by sounding sympathetic to it, but that the actual risk of an Argentine invasion was limited, so nothing much would happen that would actually hurt British interests.  The only flaws in this approach are that Argentina can cause a lot of headaches for Britain and the islands without invading, that egging on Argentina’s domestic populism is rampantly irresponsible and runs the risk of encouraging a war, that it imposes on Britain a further cost for defending the islands, and that it gets the British very annoyed and encourages an unhelpful British suspicion of the U.S.

So until I hear President Obama state, on the record and publicly, that the U.S. sees no reason for negotiations over the Islands because it recognizes British sovereignty over them, I am going to take this brief, private interchange reported at second hand for what it is worth: not very much at all.

Read Less




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

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

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

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

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