Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 21, 2013

Adelson’s Internet Gambling Crusade

At first glance, there’s little doubt that most of the people who love to hate Sheldon Adelson are going to assume that he’s in it strictly for the money or to pursue some conservative agenda. But the more you look at it, the casino mogul’s new cause is not one that seems to directly advance either his financial interests or the political or Jewish causes that are close to his heart. Thus, the news reported first last week by the Washington Post that Adelson is going all in on an effort to ban Internet gambling is puzzling his chorus of detractors as well as some of his usual allies. Indeed, most in the gaming industry oppose his efforts, as do many Republicans like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who might otherwise look to him for support. But Adelson, who is launching the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling and prepared to back it with his $20-plus billion personal fortune, is convinced that he can change the nation’s mind about the topic. As Forbes notes, Adelson’s initiative comes at a time when:

For the first time most of the U.S gambling interests—from the casinos to the horse track owners, state lotteries and Native American tribes, appear to be starting to coalesce around a pro-online gambling position. Adelson’s effort will likely rip apart the American Gaming Association, the casino industry’s lobbying group in Washington.

With online gambling now legal in Nevada, Delaware, and in New Jersey (as of today) and with 12 states set to consider it in the near future, the odds against Adelson’s initiative are long. But whether he is able to stop or even slow down the race of state governments to cash in on what they believe will be a windfall, the billionaire happens to be in the right. The spread of gambling on personal computers and smart phones will not only harm his industry but cause untold societal damage, especially to the poor.

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At first glance, there’s little doubt that most of the people who love to hate Sheldon Adelson are going to assume that he’s in it strictly for the money or to pursue some conservative agenda. But the more you look at it, the casino mogul’s new cause is not one that seems to directly advance either his financial interests or the political or Jewish causes that are close to his heart. Thus, the news reported first last week by the Washington Post that Adelson is going all in on an effort to ban Internet gambling is puzzling his chorus of detractors as well as some of his usual allies. Indeed, most in the gaming industry oppose his efforts, as do many Republicans like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who might otherwise look to him for support. But Adelson, who is launching the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling and prepared to back it with his $20-plus billion personal fortune, is convinced that he can change the nation’s mind about the topic. As Forbes notes, Adelson’s initiative comes at a time when:

For the first time most of the U.S gambling interests—from the casinos to the horse track owners, state lotteries and Native American tribes, appear to be starting to coalesce around a pro-online gambling position. Adelson’s effort will likely rip apart the American Gaming Association, the casino industry’s lobbying group in Washington.

With online gambling now legal in Nevada, Delaware, and in New Jersey (as of today) and with 12 states set to consider it in the near future, the odds against Adelson’s initiative are long. But whether he is able to stop or even slow down the race of state governments to cash in on what they believe will be a windfall, the billionaire happens to be in the right. The spread of gambling on personal computers and smart phones will not only harm his industry but cause untold societal damage, especially to the poor.

Internet gambling was deemed illegal by the federal government up until an opinion handed down in 2011 by the Justice Department made it possible. That led both most casinos and other potential gambling venues to get behind efforts to get the states to legalize such businesses. Politicians like Christie, eager for more revenue to balance their budgets without having to cut more services or to raise taxes, also look at it as a way to obtain free money. They also think it will help bolster gambling havens like Atlantic City that are suffering from the proliferation of legal casinos around the country. They point out that Internet gambling already exists via offshore sites that attempt to skirt the laws and that there is no reason for states not to cash in and take their share. Adelson’s numerous opponents also point to his own record as a casino owner and his onetime interest in Internet gambling as proof that his moral concerns are hypocritical.

But whether he is tilting against windmills or not, Adelson is right to try and facilitate a debate about the social costs of this trend before it is too late.

Gambling, whether at destination resorts like the ones Adelson owns in Las Vegas and Macao, or via state lotteries, is generally depicted in the media—and in the flood of advertisements perpetually seeking to entice people to gamble—as entertainment with no down sides for society. It is that for many Americans, but we don’t hear enough about how this supposedly harmless vice destroys countless families and lives. Wherever legal gambling flourishes, it generates a lot of work for bankruptcy lawyers and sets off waves of crime as debt-ridden gamblers resort to thievery and embezzlement. Every conceivable social pathology comes in its wake and though governments profit at one end with their large take of the cut, they pay for it in many other ways that have to do with the damage done to those destroyed by gambling.

The odds of winning in state lotteries are so astronomical that they are in effect a tax on stupidity. They would be considered scams were anyone but the government operating them. But the low cost of tickets makes it harder for gambling addicts to ruin themselves with it. Similarly, however great the toll of suffering due to legal casinos may be, its impact is limited by the fact that going to such a place is not an impulse decision but rather a planned excursion.

But once high-stakes gambling becomes something you can play on your phone, the stakes for society will increase exponentially. Scoff at sermons about the evils of gambling preached by a casino owner all you like. But Adelson’s right that once this spreads across the country, it will sink the nation in a new wave of addiction whose costs will be incalculable.

So far, Adelson’s group, which is being fronted by a bipartisan trio of retired politicians—Republican former New York Governor George Pataki, former Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, and former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb—has been met with skepticism as was evident when the three were grilled this morning by Chuck Todd on his MSNBC program. Trying to convince Americans that more legal gambling is wrong—a proposition that might have appealed to previous generations—may be like trying to put the genie back in the bottle. But unlike casinos and state lotteries which are off limits for kids, Internet gambling will also likely victimize children who have access to smart phones with little assurance that regulations will make this impossible. As such, Adelson’s group may be right to say that this could be like the “Joe Camel” moment when the nation turned on cigarette advertising because of the way it exploited children and created lifetime addictions.

Liberals who care about the way gambling singles out the poor ought to be on his side. So, too, should conservatives who claim to care about communal values as well as those who understand that the answer to the question of how to finance big government should be found in lower expenditures, not soaking middle-class and poor gambling addicts.

With many Republicans and most of the gaming industry against him, it’s not clear that all the money in Adelson’s deep pockets will be enough to prevent more states from following New Jersey’s example. Nor are the odds in favor of his attempt to get federal legislation to close the legal Internet gambling sites down. But even if all he’s able to do is to raise awareness of the grievous social costs of this scourge, it will have been worth it. I doubt that this will improve his image in a mainstream media that despises Adelson for his support for conservatives and deprecates his backing for Israel’s Likud government. But whatever you may think of his politics, Adelson’s stand deserves respect and support.

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Why the Deal Is Bad: Iran Nuke Breakout

The noises emanating from diplomatic sources in Geneva this week continue to assure the world that they are close to a breakthrough that will resolve the standoff between the West and Iran. How close they actually are remains a mystery as Secretary of State John Kerry and his colleagues are discovering the same truth about negotiating with Iran that their predecessors discovered long ago: those who make concessions to the ayatollahs are rewarded with more prevarications and delay, not signed agreements. Nevertheless, the Obama administration is still playing the optimist card in their attempts to beat back critics of their effort to craft a new era of détente with Iran. That was evident in their response to Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who spiced up a week of negotiations by giving a televised speech that abused both the U.S. and France but reserved, as usual, his main vitriol for Israel, which he described as “an illegitimate regime,” led by “untouchable rabid dogs.” While the French responded angrily to this provocation, the U.S. was unruffled and answered with the mildest of reproofs:

A senior Obama administration official was more circumspect Wednesday night in responding to the ayatollah’s speech, which also assailed the United States and France. “I don’t ever like it when people use rhetoric that in any way talks about the U.S. in ways that I find very uncomfortable and not warranted whatsoever,” said the senior administration official, who cannot be identified under the diplomatic protocol for briefing reporters.

“There are decades of mistrust between the United States and Iran, and we certainly have had many people in our society say difficult things about Iran and Iranians,” the official added. “So I would hope that neither in the U.S. nor in Iran would leaders use rhetoric that may work well in a domestic constituency, but add to the decades of mistrust on both sides.”

To term such a response to hate speech by a world leader seeking nuclear weapons as spineless would be an understatement, especially when the same administration is so fearful that actions by Congress could spook the Iranians away from the talks. But the main problem here isn’t so much the obsequious manner with which President Obama and Kerry are breathlessly pursuing a deal with Iran. It is that the deal they are seeking to entice the Iranians into signing would ensure that Tehran would have the chance to get the weapons the U.S. is seeking to deny them.

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The noises emanating from diplomatic sources in Geneva this week continue to assure the world that they are close to a breakthrough that will resolve the standoff between the West and Iran. How close they actually are remains a mystery as Secretary of State John Kerry and his colleagues are discovering the same truth about negotiating with Iran that their predecessors discovered long ago: those who make concessions to the ayatollahs are rewarded with more prevarications and delay, not signed agreements. Nevertheless, the Obama administration is still playing the optimist card in their attempts to beat back critics of their effort to craft a new era of détente with Iran. That was evident in their response to Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who spiced up a week of negotiations by giving a televised speech that abused both the U.S. and France but reserved, as usual, his main vitriol for Israel, which he described as “an illegitimate regime,” led by “untouchable rabid dogs.” While the French responded angrily to this provocation, the U.S. was unruffled and answered with the mildest of reproofs:

A senior Obama administration official was more circumspect Wednesday night in responding to the ayatollah’s speech, which also assailed the United States and France. “I don’t ever like it when people use rhetoric that in any way talks about the U.S. in ways that I find very uncomfortable and not warranted whatsoever,” said the senior administration official, who cannot be identified under the diplomatic protocol for briefing reporters.

“There are decades of mistrust between the United States and Iran, and we certainly have had many people in our society say difficult things about Iran and Iranians,” the official added. “So I would hope that neither in the U.S. nor in Iran would leaders use rhetoric that may work well in a domestic constituency, but add to the decades of mistrust on both sides.”

To term such a response to hate speech by a world leader seeking nuclear weapons as spineless would be an understatement, especially when the same administration is so fearful that actions by Congress could spook the Iranians away from the talks. But the main problem here isn’t so much the obsequious manner with which President Obama and Kerry are breathlessly pursuing a deal with Iran. It is that the deal they are seeking to entice the Iranians into signing would ensure that Tehran would have the chance to get the weapons the U.S. is seeking to deny them.

That conclusion flies in the face of the spin emanating from the administration and its defenders who continue to claim that their proposed deal with Iran will make this scenario less likely. But as Reuters pointed out in an analysis of the current situation, the best Kerry and company can claim is that they will “reduce” the threat of an Iranian nuclear breakout, not eliminate it.

What this means is that the deal Kerry is advocating as saving the world from Iranian nukes will preserve Iran’s “right” to enrich uranium and allows them to hold onto all of their centrifuges and the rest of the nuclear infrastructure they have created during a decade of stalling futile talks with the West. That means that they will still possess enough nuclear fuel to build bombs and the capacity to “break out” and, within a relatively short period of time, take their non-weapons grade uranium and bring it up to the level needed for military use.

Supporters of the deal are unfazed by this possibility because they assume the West will always have time to react to an Iranian breakout. But this is a convenient fallacy for those whose main object appears to be to end the dispute with Iran rather than actually ending the threat of an Iranian bomb. Once an accord is signed and the U.S. can transition away from focusing on Iran and sanctions are lifted, the chances are that any shift to cheat by Iran will be dismissed by Western leaders who will not wish to be drawn back into a confrontation. Nor will there be any appetite to re-impose sanctions that neither President Obama nor Europeans desperate for Iranian oil and business wanted to enforce in the first place. Like the North Koreans who laughed at the West as they violated signed agreements to create their own nuclear breakout, Iran will have little trouble deceiving the West and will not worry much about a response from an administration that is more concerned about the Israelis than the ayatollahs.

Any nuclear deal with Iran that stopped short of a complete dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program, as President Obama promised during his foreign-policy debate with Mitt Romney last year, is a guarantee of future trouble. But an interim accord that started loosening sanctions even before Iran gave up any of their nuclear toys will make it all but certain that the peril will have not been averted.

While Washington is hoping to celebrate their détente with Khamenei, it’s hard to blame Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for railing at this seeming betrayal. Responding to Khamenei’s speech, he had this to say:

“This reminds us of the dark regimes of the past that plotted against us first, and then against all of humanity,” Mr. Netanyahu said at a meeting with Russian Jewish leaders during a visit to Moscow. “The public responded to him with calls of ‘Death to America! Death to Israel!’  ” Mr. Netanyahu noted. “Doesn’t this sound familiar to you? This is the real Iran! We are not confused. They must not have nuclear weapons.”

Unfortunately, President Obama and Secretary Kerry are confused. Whether Iran signs this week or makes them wait some more while continuing the drive to achieve their nuclear ambition, they are the big winners in a diplomatic process that is now set up to fail to achieve its supposed goal.

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Rubio on American Foreign Policy: Strategy, Not Slogans

Yesterday, Marco Rubio gave a wide-ranging speech about American foreign policy that aimed to move past the simplistic labels he feels dominate too much public discussion of the subject. The reaction to his speech illustrated the need to deliver those remarks in the first place. Over at the Daily Beast, Josh Rogin interviewed Rubio to ask some follow-up questions about his new foreign-policy vision, and the resulting article is a good example of the mindset Rubio is trying to get the press out of.

Rogin writes:

The Rubio approach, a balanced foreign policy based on various tools, matches closely with what Hillary Clinton set forth as secretary of state in her vision of “smart power,” which was based on the idea that defense, diplomacy, and development should be equal pillars of U.S foreign policy. Rubio acknowledged the similarities but said he would be able to succeed where Clinton and the rest of the Obama team failed to follow through.

Yet as Rubio pointed out to Rogin, that’s not at all what animated Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy. Clinton had a policy based on photo-ops and frequent-flyer miles. The State Department under her direction was a mess, diplomacy faltered, and America’s standing in the world receded. In one case, in Libya, Clinton’s mismanagement and issue-superficiality proved to be a sign of dangerous incompetence.

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Yesterday, Marco Rubio gave a wide-ranging speech about American foreign policy that aimed to move past the simplistic labels he feels dominate too much public discussion of the subject. The reaction to his speech illustrated the need to deliver those remarks in the first place. Over at the Daily Beast, Josh Rogin interviewed Rubio to ask some follow-up questions about his new foreign-policy vision, and the resulting article is a good example of the mindset Rubio is trying to get the press out of.

Rogin writes:

The Rubio approach, a balanced foreign policy based on various tools, matches closely with what Hillary Clinton set forth as secretary of state in her vision of “smart power,” which was based on the idea that defense, diplomacy, and development should be equal pillars of U.S foreign policy. Rubio acknowledged the similarities but said he would be able to succeed where Clinton and the rest of the Obama team failed to follow through.

Yet as Rubio pointed out to Rogin, that’s not at all what animated Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy. Clinton had a policy based on photo-ops and frequent-flyer miles. The State Department under her direction was a mess, diplomacy faltered, and America’s standing in the world receded. In one case, in Libya, Clinton’s mismanagement and issue-superficiality proved to be a sign of dangerous incompetence.

Aware that she might want to run for president and thus didn’t want to take any chances, she was the perfect secretary of state for an administration yearning to be a bystander on the world stage. Any credible application of “smart power” would be, almost by definition, a departure from Clinton’s policy. (The line of questioning hints at the confusion Clinton was able to sow simply by spouting slogans that sounded good.) Rubio sought to correct this characterization:

“Maybe tactically Hillary gave lip service to that. In terms of how she executed foreign policy, that’s certainly not the case,” Rubio told The Daily Beast. “Tactically speaking, we’re talking about smart power engagement. But what is our strategy at the end of the day? Our strategic aims are the security and well-being of the American people and beyond that the spread of liberty, prosperity, and human rights around the world.”

This may seem like a bit of a diversion, but only if seen through the lens of a senator challenging the policies of a former secretary of state. In reality, it’s one prospective 2016 presidential candidate contrasting himself with the other party’s likely nominee. And that’s one reason Rubio is being watched so carefully: in a speech like this, he is expected to separate himself from the pack–of both parties.

Rand Paul has emerged as a the candidate to espouse caution on intervention. Chris Christie has boisterously declared himself standing athwart Paul’s more libertarian approach, and Scott Walker has done so more quietly but remains closer to Christie. If Paul Ryan runs, he appears to be on the Christie side of the divide as well.

So as the two sides call each other hawks and doves, isolationists and warmongers, Rubio seeks to do two things simultaneously: find a middle ground that will differentiate himself from the candidates who have already jumped headlong into the foreign-policy-in-2016 debate, and also bring the party together into some coherent blend that will emphasize the common aims and purposes, not the distinctions.

The latter is important because if Clinton is the nominee, the GOP will have to decide where the contrast is–a task made more difficult by the fact that, as the Daily Beast interview shows, reporters just spit back clichéd slogans spouted by Clinton as if merely by declaring something she has done it.

Rubio has an advantage, however. During his time on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has been widely praised by his peers on both sides of the aisle for his diligence, patience, hard work, and refusal to grandstand. It paradoxically works against him when reporters on deadline show the need for headline-friendly slogans instead of nuanced analysis. But in the long term, Rubio’s fluency on the issues is likely to serve him well with a public that elected a president who had nothing but slogans, after which voters might be looking for someone with a bit more interest in world affairs than the current occupant of the White House.

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C.S. Lewis and the Power of Imagination

Fifty years ago tomorrow–on November 22, 1963–C.S. Lewis passed away. His death then, like the anniversary of his death now, was overshadowed by the assassination of President Kennedy. But Lewis–a medieval and renaissance scholar, professor, poet, novelist, a writer of children’s fantasy stories, and the most important Christian apologetics writer of the 20th century–was quite an extraordinary figure. And he, too, is worthy of remembrance.

There’s no disputing that Lewis was blessed with a brilliant mind. At a young age he studied under William T. Kirkpatrick, “a hard, satirical atheist who taught me to think,” according to Lewis. He learned, supremely well, the art of argumentation from Kirkpatrick. And Lewis, a gifted and elegant writer, authored such books as The Abolition of Man, Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, and A Preface to Paradise Lost. He was president of the Oxford Socratic Club and a long-time participant in The Inklings, an informal literary group whose members included Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams. 

The English literary critic and poet William Empson said Lewis was the best-read man of his generation, one who read everything and remembered everything he read. “He seemed constitutionally incapable of allowing an assumption, or premise, to pass undissected,” is how one writer, James Como, put it.

But what made Lewis so unusual and significant is that he understood the power and importance of imagination, and not simply reason, in people’s lives. In a letter to a friend, Lewis wrote, “No one is more convinced than I that reason is utterly inadequate to the richness and spirituality of real things: indeed this is itself a deliverance of reason.”

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Fifty years ago tomorrow–on November 22, 1963–C.S. Lewis passed away. His death then, like the anniversary of his death now, was overshadowed by the assassination of President Kennedy. But Lewis–a medieval and renaissance scholar, professor, poet, novelist, a writer of children’s fantasy stories, and the most important Christian apologetics writer of the 20th century–was quite an extraordinary figure. And he, too, is worthy of remembrance.

There’s no disputing that Lewis was blessed with a brilliant mind. At a young age he studied under William T. Kirkpatrick, “a hard, satirical atheist who taught me to think,” according to Lewis. He learned, supremely well, the art of argumentation from Kirkpatrick. And Lewis, a gifted and elegant writer, authored such books as The Abolition of Man, Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, and A Preface to Paradise Lost. He was president of the Oxford Socratic Club and a long-time participant in The Inklings, an informal literary group whose members included Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams. 

The English literary critic and poet William Empson said Lewis was the best-read man of his generation, one who read everything and remembered everything he read. “He seemed constitutionally incapable of allowing an assumption, or premise, to pass undissected,” is how one writer, James Como, put it.

But what made Lewis so unusual and significant is that he understood the power and importance of imagination, and not simply reason, in people’s lives. In a letter to a friend, Lewis wrote, “No one is more convinced than I that reason is utterly inadequate to the richness and spirituality of real things: indeed this is itself a deliverance of reason.”

All of this is covered with great skill by Michael Ward, who contributed an essay in the book Imaginative Apologetics. Lewis described reason as “the natural organ of truth” but imagination as “the organ of meaning. Imagination … is not the cause of truth, but its condition.” This helps explains why Lewis was able to use imagination so effectively in his apologetics, why he advanced his faith through fiction, and why for him doctrine was subordinate to the primary language, the “lived language,” of Christianity (for Lewis this meant the incarnation, the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus). 

“In Lewis’s view,” according to Ward, “reason could only operate if it was first supplied with materials to reason about, and it was imagination’s task to supply those materials. Therefore apologetics was necessarily and foundationally imaginative.” It was through imagination, according to Ward, that Lewis’s reason and, ultimately, his will were transformed. Reason and imagination were twinned. Both were essential to his faith.

What Lewis offered his readers, then, were not just arguments but a vision of what is good and beautiful and true–and he did so through the use of analogy, simile and metaphor. “All our truth,” he said, “or all but a few fragments, is won by metaphor.”

Lewis touched people’s minds by engaging their imaginations; and in the end, he won over not just minds but hearts as well. Mine included.

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The Ongoing Case for Public Morality

Back in September, I celebrated the defeats of Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer in Democratic primary elections in New York City and put forward the notion that perhaps the belated end of the political careers of these scandal-mired characters should cause us to not shy away from putting forward a case for public morality in the future. That’s a proposition most of our chattering classes reject since they tend to believe that when liberals mired in scandals are considered useful or popular (paging Bill Clinton), they tell us not to confuse private conduct with public duties. But it is all the more necessary to return to the topic today now that a Republican has become one of this week’s prime subjects for late-night comedy humor.

Rep. Trey Radel’s arrest in a drug sting for cocaine possession may seem like something straight out of House of Cards. Yet his apparent intention to stay in office requires both liberals and conservatives to come to grips with the question of whether Congress ought to tolerate having lawbreakers in their midst even when they are preemptively seeking to invoke a redemption storyline to gain sympathy. By claiming a leave of absence from Congress to go to rehab during which he will forgo pay, Radel is seeking to silence calls for his resignation. He’s not contesting the facts of the case against him and seemed to be thanking the police for giving him a “wake-up call” to get his life back together as a result of the arrest. “I’m struggling with this disease, but I can overcome it,” he vowed.

I hope he wins that fight. Drug addiction is a disease and those who suffer from it are faced with a lifelong battle for which they deserve our sympathy and encouragement. But that doesn’t entitle them to a seat in Congress. Rep. Radel needs to go home and members of the Republican caucus shouldn’t refrain from pointing this out to him.

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Back in September, I celebrated the defeats of Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer in Democratic primary elections in New York City and put forward the notion that perhaps the belated end of the political careers of these scandal-mired characters should cause us to not shy away from putting forward a case for public morality in the future. That’s a proposition most of our chattering classes reject since they tend to believe that when liberals mired in scandals are considered useful or popular (paging Bill Clinton), they tell us not to confuse private conduct with public duties. But it is all the more necessary to return to the topic today now that a Republican has become one of this week’s prime subjects for late-night comedy humor.

Rep. Trey Radel’s arrest in a drug sting for cocaine possession may seem like something straight out of House of Cards. Yet his apparent intention to stay in office requires both liberals and conservatives to come to grips with the question of whether Congress ought to tolerate having lawbreakers in their midst even when they are preemptively seeking to invoke a redemption storyline to gain sympathy. By claiming a leave of absence from Congress to go to rehab during which he will forgo pay, Radel is seeking to silence calls for his resignation. He’s not contesting the facts of the case against him and seemed to be thanking the police for giving him a “wake-up call” to get his life back together as a result of the arrest. “I’m struggling with this disease, but I can overcome it,” he vowed.

I hope he wins that fight. Drug addiction is a disease and those who suffer from it are faced with a lifelong battle for which they deserve our sympathy and encouragement. But that doesn’t entitle them to a seat in Congress. Rep. Radel needs to go home and members of the Republican caucus shouldn’t refrain from pointing this out to him.

Let us concede that all of us are fallible and no one should expect moral perfection or the façade of it from public officials. But all too often politicians seem to forget that public office is a public trust, not an entitlement. In their egotism, they seem to think their power gives them the impunity to misbehave. And when they get in trouble, they slip into redemption mode and ask us to love them because they are reformed sinners. Sometimes this ploy works better than others (Mark Sanford as opposed to Anthony Weiner) but the main point of these pieces of cheap theater is to perpetuate their grip on power and position.

In the past, House Speaker John Boehner has taken a dim view of scandal-plagued Republicans and quickly shown them the door. It should be recalled that a few months before Anthony Weiner imploded on Twitter in 2011, Rep. Chris Lee, a New York Republican, got in trouble when the married congressman was found to be soliciting women on the Internet. With a firm push from his leadership, he quickly resigned. The question today is why was Lee’s transgression considered political poison but Radel’s lawbreaking is worthy of possible forgiveness? That’s the implication of Boehner’s decision to hold off on pressure on Radel to leave office.

Let’s remember that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has rightly called for “zero tolerance” of ethical issues. What’s changed?

Anyone who gets into hot water in Washington can always point to the pass President John F. Kennedy got from the press for his scandalous doings behind the scenes in the White House even as the public was fed a fairy story about the first family of Camelot. They can also cite the pass President Bill Clinton received from Democrats and the way he has become a political elder statesman whose past disgrace is never thrown in his face. That’s regrettable, but perhaps as a nation we have “evolved” to the point when we no longer consider the spectacle of a powerful middle-aged public official sexually exploiting an intern a big deal. But have we also gotten to the point where we are prepared to tolerate junkies in Congress?

Whatever your position about the utility of the war on drugs or legalization, their use is a plague on society and does enormous damage. Congress’s image may be so bad these days that no one considers them role models, but are we really prepared to normalize lawbreaking associated with their use to the point that we are prepared to “move on” (as Clinton’s defenders said) and welcome them back to Capitol Hill after they return from rehab or the courthouse? Not to mention the hypocrisy of his getting arrested for drugs days after voting for drug tests for people who get food stamps.

The wake-up call here is not just for Radel. It’s for a political class that has too often tolerated wrongdoers in their midst. The American people have a right to expect that those entrusted with high office behave as if it is a public trust. That involves, at a minimum, avoiding public misbehavior. Lawbreaking and drug use ought to be beyond the pale.

Radel holds a safe Republican seat in Florida and, as Sanford proved, Southern voters seem to love a reformed sinner. But Boehner and Cantor ought not even consider allowing Radel to hold on until November 2014. He needs to resign. Now.

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The Commitment to Afghanistan

The success of American military commitments is usually in direct proportion to their longevity. Post-war Germany, Japan, and South Korea turned out to be big success stories in no small part because U.S. troops are still based there. Kosovo continues to progress for the same reason. Somalia, Haiti, Lebanon, and Iraq, among others, are still troubled because U.S. troops have departed. The same thing happened with Reconstruction–it failed largely because Washington pulled federal troops out of the South prematurely.

For this reason it is good news to see the U.S. and Afghanistan bridging their differences to reach agreement on an accord to keep U.S. forces there past 2014–if that is in fact what has happened. That is certainly what was hailed by the Obama administration yesterday, but today the erratic Hamid Karzai threw a predictable spanner into the works by saying at the opening of a Loya Jirga in Kabul that the agreement should not be signed until sometime next year, possibly by his successor.

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The success of American military commitments is usually in direct proportion to their longevity. Post-war Germany, Japan, and South Korea turned out to be big success stories in no small part because U.S. troops are still based there. Kosovo continues to progress for the same reason. Somalia, Haiti, Lebanon, and Iraq, among others, are still troubled because U.S. troops have departed. The same thing happened with Reconstruction–it failed largely because Washington pulled federal troops out of the South prematurely.

For this reason it is good news to see the U.S. and Afghanistan bridging their differences to reach agreement on an accord to keep U.S. forces there past 2014–if that is in fact what has happened. That is certainly what was hailed by the Obama administration yesterday, but today the erratic Hamid Karzai threw a predictable spanner into the works by saying at the opening of a Loya Jirga in Kabul that the agreement should not be signed until sometime next year, possibly by his successor.

Assuming the accord is actually signed and implemented, it will bolster Afghanistan’s prospects for the future and hurt the Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies who are scheming to return to power. The Obama administration deserves credit for prolonging what is already an unpopular military commitment even if there is cause for concern about the size of the force the president is prepared to send. No decisions have been reached, but news accounts suggest that Obama is contemplating sending only 4,000 to 8,000 personnel to perform counter-terrorism and advisory work, and that none of the advisors will be deployed in the field where they could be most effective.

It is a mystery where this figure comes from since military commanders have recommended a bare minimum of 13,000 or so troops. For some reason Obama seems to think that a much smaller force can get the job done-just as he though a smaller force would suffice when he granted only 30,000 or so of the 40,000 troops that General Stanley McChrystal requested in 2009. (Obama also added a timeline for their deployment, which the military resisted and which hurt the chances of mission accomplishment even more.) Such minor differences in force size will in no way temper domestic political opposition to the mission, but they can have an impact on the prospects of mission success on the ground.

It’s hard to know why Obama is willing to take a courageous stand for a prolonged U.S. presence in Afghanistan yet refuses to send the right size force. But whatever the president’s reasoning, at least he has not adopted the “zero option” favored by his advisers. The decision to commit the U.S. to Afghanistan post 2014–assuming it holds up–at least gives that war-ravaged country a fighting chance to hold off the Taliban, Haqqanis, and other malignant actors.

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Hypocritical Dems Think They’ll Always Rule

Today, Majority Leader Harry Reid took the first steps toward altering the nature of the Senate. Reid and his Democratic caucus intend to alter the rules so as to prevent filibusters of cabinet appointees and nominees to the federal bench save for the U.S. Supreme Court. Having come this far it is assumed that Reid finally has amassed enough votes to ram through changes in the upper body’s time-honored rules and allow President Obama to pack the Court of Appeals with as many liberals as he likes. He claims they are acting in the name of civility and the need to keep the government working, but there should be no doubt that what is going on here is a hypocritical grab for power that should be stopped.

That was, after all, the opinion of the New York Times editorial page on March 6, 2005 when Senate Republicans first mooted what we now call the “nuclear option” in order to stop Democrats from filibustering President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees. Going back to that piece would make for instructive reading for self-righteous liberals today who claim that what Republicans have done in blocking liberal judicial nominees is unprecedented. This is what the Times had to say in response to Republican frustrations about the Democratic minority in the Senate using the rules to obstruct the appointment of conservatives to the bench:

The Republicans are claiming that 51 votes should be enough to win confirmation of the White House’s judicial nominees. This flies in the face of Senate history. Republicans and Democrats should tone down their rhetoric, then sit down and negotiate.

To block the nominees, the Democrats’ weapon of choice has been the filibuster, a time-honored Senate procedure that prevents a bare majority of senators from running roughshod. Republican leaders now claim that judicial nominees are entitled to an up-or-down vote. This is rank hypocrisy. When the tables were turned, Republicans filibustered President Bill Clinton’s choice for surgeon general, forcing him to choose another. And Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, who now finds judicial filibusters so offensive, himself joined one against Richard Paez, a Clinton appeals court nominee.

The Senate does much of its work by unanimous consent, which keeps things moving along and prevents ordinary day-to-day business from drowning in procedural votes. But if Republicans change the filibuster rules, Democrats could respond by ignoring the tradition of unanimous consent and making it difficult if not impossible to get anything done. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has warned that “the Senate will be in turmoil and the Judiciary Committee will be hell.”

There is one way to avert a showdown. The White House should meet with Senate leaders of both parties and come up with a list of nominees who will not be filibustered. This means that Mr. Bush – like Presidents Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush before him – would agree to submit nominees from the broad mainstream of legal thought, with a commitment to judging cases, not promoting a political agenda.

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Today, Majority Leader Harry Reid took the first steps toward altering the nature of the Senate. Reid and his Democratic caucus intend to alter the rules so as to prevent filibusters of cabinet appointees and nominees to the federal bench save for the U.S. Supreme Court. Having come this far it is assumed that Reid finally has amassed enough votes to ram through changes in the upper body’s time-honored rules and allow President Obama to pack the Court of Appeals with as many liberals as he likes. He claims they are acting in the name of civility and the need to keep the government working, but there should be no doubt that what is going on here is a hypocritical grab for power that should be stopped.

That was, after all, the opinion of the New York Times editorial page on March 6, 2005 when Senate Republicans first mooted what we now call the “nuclear option” in order to stop Democrats from filibustering President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees. Going back to that piece would make for instructive reading for self-righteous liberals today who claim that what Republicans have done in blocking liberal judicial nominees is unprecedented. This is what the Times had to say in response to Republican frustrations about the Democratic minority in the Senate using the rules to obstruct the appointment of conservatives to the bench:

The Republicans are claiming that 51 votes should be enough to win confirmation of the White House’s judicial nominees. This flies in the face of Senate history. Republicans and Democrats should tone down their rhetoric, then sit down and negotiate.

To block the nominees, the Democrats’ weapon of choice has been the filibuster, a time-honored Senate procedure that prevents a bare majority of senators from running roughshod. Republican leaders now claim that judicial nominees are entitled to an up-or-down vote. This is rank hypocrisy. When the tables were turned, Republicans filibustered President Bill Clinton’s choice for surgeon general, forcing him to choose another. And Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, who now finds judicial filibusters so offensive, himself joined one against Richard Paez, a Clinton appeals court nominee.

The Senate does much of its work by unanimous consent, which keeps things moving along and prevents ordinary day-to-day business from drowning in procedural votes. But if Republicans change the filibuster rules, Democrats could respond by ignoring the tradition of unanimous consent and making it difficult if not impossible to get anything done. Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has warned that “the Senate will be in turmoil and the Judiciary Committee will be hell.”

There is one way to avert a showdown. The White House should meet with Senate leaders of both parties and come up with a list of nominees who will not be filibustered. This means that Mr. Bush – like Presidents Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush before him – would agree to submit nominees from the broad mainstream of legal thought, with a commitment to judging cases, not promoting a political agenda.

Of course, once Democrats won back the Senate in 2006, the Times changed its tune and hypocritically denounced filibusters as a threat to democracy. But that’s whole problem with Reid’s decision. As I wrote back in July, Reid’s plan was to stage a series of votes on liberal nominees that he knew could not inspire bipartisan support. That has given him the ability to rally his caucus behind the move to end filibusters on all but Supreme Court appointments. But, as the Times pointed out in 2005, what the Republicans are doing now is no different from what both parties have done in the past.

It is true that the use of the filibuster has expanded in recent decades and that has not always been for the good of the country. But the filibuster rules exist to prevent narrow Senate majorities from ramming through any legislation or appointment they like without listening to the opinions of the minority. Having to do that can be infuriating for presidents and Senate majorities but such consensus is, as perhaps President Obama should have learned from his health-care debacle, useful and even necessary for making government work effectively. The Founders didn’t create the Senate to rubber stamp the desires of presidents and majorities but to act as a check on their impulses. If President Obama and Reid want to get more judges confirmed, they can do as their predecessors have done and try to work with the other party rather than just maneuver to impose their ideological agenda on the country. Despite the apocalyptic rhetoric of Democrats, Republicans have allowed more than 200 of the president’s judicial nominees to be confirmed. That’s why the fight Reid has staged on the filibuster is a ruse designed to justify a naked putsch for total power.

Democrats should pull back from the brink for the same reason both parties have refrained from going nuclear: no majority lasts forever. A few years ago the GOP was inveighing against filibusters and Democrats spoke up for the rights of the minority. Today, the tables are turned. But though the president and Reid are acting as if their party will rule forever, it won’t. As Chris Cilizza points out in the Washington Post today, a lot of the current members of the Senate weren’t there in 2006, the last time Democrats were in the minority. But whether it is in 2015 or 2017 or another year, Republicans will win back the Senate some day. At that point, Democrats will once again discover the virtues of the filibuster. But, if Reid’s rule changes go through, they will rue the day they blew up the Senate.

Rather than making the government work better, as the Times predicted back in 2005, the nuclear option will only make political battles in Washington nastier and more divisive. Power grabs may work in the short run but those who try such gambits usually learn that the American political system encourages moderation and checks and balances. As such, Reid may get a taste of his own medicine sooner rather than later.

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Turkey with a Side of Propaganda

In 2007, with the fall holidays approaching, the Star-Ledger published a guide on how to handle uninvited guests. Do you tell the guest to get lost? How do you moderate their inappropriate behavior without making a scene? How do you adjust seating arrangements? Fortunately, you aren’t always obligated to confront the uninvited guest directly if someone else is responsible for bringing them to the party. According to one “conflict” expert quoted by the paper: “You find a way of saying, ‘The person who showed up is a jerk, how did you meet this person?’ You deal with it indirectly.”

The question the article didn’t address, but which many Americans may soon be wondering, is: what if it’s the president of the United States? Or the mayor of New York City? Though you may not have invited Barack Obama or Michael Bloomberg to your family holiday gatherings, they would like to be a presence at your table nonetheless. The president’s intrusion into your private family gatherings is due to, of course, ObamaCare. The health-care reform law is not only still broadly unpopular, but due to its disastrous rollout it’s also not getting much help from the media.

I wrote earlier this week about the limits of the administration’s ObamaCare propaganda efforts, but its supporters are poised to get more creative–and obnoxious. A portion of the website BarackObama.com has been set aside for what it is calling “Health Care for the Holidays.” It begins with a typically unfunny (the administration’s famous lack of a sense of humor really hamstrings such efforts) video depicting parents having “the talk” with their wayward son.

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In 2007, with the fall holidays approaching, the Star-Ledger published a guide on how to handle uninvited guests. Do you tell the guest to get lost? How do you moderate their inappropriate behavior without making a scene? How do you adjust seating arrangements? Fortunately, you aren’t always obligated to confront the uninvited guest directly if someone else is responsible for bringing them to the party. According to one “conflict” expert quoted by the paper: “You find a way of saying, ‘The person who showed up is a jerk, how did you meet this person?’ You deal with it indirectly.”

The question the article didn’t address, but which many Americans may soon be wondering, is: what if it’s the president of the United States? Or the mayor of New York City? Though you may not have invited Barack Obama or Michael Bloomberg to your family holiday gatherings, they would like to be a presence at your table nonetheless. The president’s intrusion into your private family gatherings is due to, of course, ObamaCare. The health-care reform law is not only still broadly unpopular, but due to its disastrous rollout it’s also not getting much help from the media.

I wrote earlier this week about the limits of the administration’s ObamaCare propaganda efforts, but its supporters are poised to get more creative–and obnoxious. A portion of the website BarackObama.com has been set aside for what it is calling “Health Care for the Holidays.” It begins with a typically unfunny (the administration’s famous lack of a sense of humor really hamstrings such efforts) video depicting parents having “the talk” with their wayward son.

The talk is about health insurance. The son seems to be old enough to be off his parents’ insurance plans but young and healthy enough to be exactly the kind of insurance consumer ObamaCare desperately needs to succeed in order to subsidize others. The video runs above the following tagline:

This holiday season, millions of Americans have a chance to get quality, affordable health insurance—many for the first time. If you have family members who are uninsured, you can play a big part in helping them find coverage that works for them. It might not always seem like it, but your family listens to you. So have the talk.

That is followed by the four steps to having the talk. The first is “Send a packing list”–tell your relatives that if they want to come home for the holidays, they really ought to bring their latest W-2 IRS form. Step two is “Planning Your Health Care Talk,” including the exhortation to “Be persistent.” Don’t take no for an answer, because coming from the government that message is never creepy or coercive.

The third step is “Conversation Tips.” Here is how the website instructs you to badger your family members into submission:

Start by asking: “Have you thought about signing up for health insurance on the new marketplace?”

Offer to walk them through it: “Would you like to take some time with me to sign up right now?”

Ask them to make a plan, and commit to it: “When do you plan on signing up?”

Don’t forget to follow up: “Have you signed up yet?”

No pressure, of course. And the final step is for the state’s dedicated servant: “Pledge to have the talk,” written above a form for you–the distinguished ambassador from the Ministry of the Best Interests of the People–to fill out to promise to use your time with your family to read the government’s talking points to them.

Though he cannot match that mobilization of resources, Michael Bloomberg wants in on the action. If you’re already planning to hector your family about the virtues of the benevolent state’s brave new programs, you might as well go all-in. The Washington Examiner reports:

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the liberal gun control group bankrolled by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, has sent out gun control talking points for supporters as they approach their friends and relatives.

“Everyone has friends and relatives with strong opinions and shaky facts,” the email informs supporters. “You can help set the table straight — all you need is this simple guide to Talking Turkey about guns!”

If you really want to give your family a memorable holiday season, give the gift of government-programmed self-righteousness. They won’t forget it. Because you won’t let them.

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Drug Report Bad News for Afghanistan

I’m a little late to the story because I’ve been on the road, but the most recent United Nations report on drug cultivation in Afghanistan should be cause for concern about what happens in Afghanistan as transition looms. Afghanistan already produces about 90 percent of the world’s opium, and the UN now reports that opium cultivation is up by around 50 percent, while land being used for cultivation is at record levels. The situation is more worrisome because opium prices are already high and because the cultivation is not only in areas from which U.S. and NATO forces have withdrawn, but also in locations theoretically under NATO control.

Because the United States military believes—correctly—that opium cultivation funds insurgency and lawlessness, the fact that the trajectory of Afghan cultivation is upwards bodes poorly for stability as transition looms. Nor should Americans take solace in the fact that some provinces which previously grew tons of opium—Badakshan, for example—no longer do, because many of these supposedly poppy-free northern provinces have simply turned to marijuana, which can be just as profitable. Afghans further say that they believe the opium crop in the coming year—planting is already under way—will be even higher.

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I’m a little late to the story because I’ve been on the road, but the most recent United Nations report on drug cultivation in Afghanistan should be cause for concern about what happens in Afghanistan as transition looms. Afghanistan already produces about 90 percent of the world’s opium, and the UN now reports that opium cultivation is up by around 50 percent, while land being used for cultivation is at record levels. The situation is more worrisome because opium prices are already high and because the cultivation is not only in areas from which U.S. and NATO forces have withdrawn, but also in locations theoretically under NATO control.

Because the United States military believes—correctly—that opium cultivation funds insurgency and lawlessness, the fact that the trajectory of Afghan cultivation is upwards bodes poorly for stability as transition looms. Nor should Americans take solace in the fact that some provinces which previously grew tons of opium—Badakshan, for example—no longer do, because many of these supposedly poppy-free northern provinces have simply turned to marijuana, which can be just as profitable. Afghans further say that they believe the opium crop in the coming year—planting is already under way—will be even higher.

There is a tendency among Afghan policymakers to treat missions individually rather than holistically. I’ve sat through discussions of planning for Afghanistan’s April 2014 elections, and other discussions addressing the logistics of moving equipment out of Afghanistan. Drug cultivation and “green-on-blue” violence are another topic, planning for which often fails to take into account other topics.

One thing is certain: pundits can debate the merits of the surge, and diplomats can praise the transition plans underway, never mind that both the surge and the transition seem to be ripped right out of the Soviet Union’s 1988 and 1989 playbook. The White House and Pentagon can praise the understanding reached with President Karzai, never mind that the miniscule numbers of troops won’t be able to do much beyond secure the capital, if that. The facts on the ground—of which opium cultivation is one of many—give very little reason to be optimistic about Afghanistan’s future and stability once the NATO presence is reduced to the point of ineffectiveness.

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Decoding Khamenei’s “Heroic Flexibility”

Much of the Obama administration’s optimism with regard to its belief that Iran is sincere in its desire to reach a nuclear accord is based on the twin pillars that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei supposedly opposes nuclear weapons and backs President Hassan Rouhani’s diplomatic initiative. Alas, in both cases, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry’s hope appears to be based upon wishful thinking if not outright falsehood.

Khamenei’s nuclear fatwa appears not to exist. While Iranian officials will cite it from time to time, it is not published among Khamenei’s collections of fatwas, and citations of it are inconsistent as to its date of issue, its text, and its message.

The notion that Khamenei’s call for “heroic flexibility” equates with either endorsement of a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear question also misreads Khamenei. As translated over at American Enterprise Institute’s “Iran Tracker,” Khamenei shows that what he meant by that term and the conclusions drawn by Obama and Kerry are two very separate things:

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Much of the Obama administration’s optimism with regard to its belief that Iran is sincere in its desire to reach a nuclear accord is based on the twin pillars that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei supposedly opposes nuclear weapons and backs President Hassan Rouhani’s diplomatic initiative. Alas, in both cases, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry’s hope appears to be based upon wishful thinking if not outright falsehood.

Khamenei’s nuclear fatwa appears not to exist. While Iranian officials will cite it from time to time, it is not published among Khamenei’s collections of fatwas, and citations of it are inconsistent as to its date of issue, its text, and its message.

The notion that Khamenei’s call for “heroic flexibility” equates with either endorsement of a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear question also misreads Khamenei. As translated over at American Enterprise Institute’s “Iran Tracker,” Khamenei shows that what he meant by that term and the conclusions drawn by Obama and Kerry are two very separate things:

“Some interpreted ‘heroic flexibility’ as letting go of the system’s principles and ideals. Some enemies on this basis claimed the retreat of the Islamic system from principles while these claims are contrary to reality and are an incorrect understanding… Heroic flexibility means an artful maneuver and utilizing various methods to achieve the various goals and ideals of the Islamic system.”

Kayhan, a newspaper whose editor Khamenei appoints and which serves as his voice piece, already belittled the confidence-building upon which Kerry and lead negotiator Wendy Sherman base their diplomacy.

Kerry may believe that a preliminary agreement with Iran will provide breathing space to reach a far broader and more permanent nuclear deal. A doctor who ignores most of a patient’s symptoms in order to give him a clean bill of health will eventually find himself sued for malpractice. Likewise, a professor who seeks to prove his thesis by ignoring all evidence which might contradict it should eventually find himself or herself pilloried before a tenure board. Yet, it seems, when diplomats do the equivalent, they believe they and the country whose security for which they fight will be immune from the consequences of their actions.

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How Obama Let Iran Go Nuclear

On the New York Times op-ed page, Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit writes that if an American-Iranian nuclear agreement is signed “it would represent an Iranian victory – and an American defeat.” It would “guarantee that [Iran] would eventually cross the [nuclear] finish line.” It is the product of “a Munich mind-set” creating “the illusion of peace-in-our-time while paving the way to a nuclear-Iran-in-our-time.” It is “a deeply flawed agreement” that “is an illusion”–and the “so-called moderate president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, is an illusion, too.” Obama ignored allies “who warned him that he was being naïve,” and America “missed the opportunity for assertive diplomacy.” Now Obama is pursuing “a dangerous interim agreement.”

So naturally, Shavit blames Bush.

Five years into Obama’s presidency, it is a bit late to blame the predictable results of Obama’s feckless diplomacy on Bush. In 2009, Bush handed Obama a P5+1 structure already in place, having declared the U.S. was addressing Iran through a multilateral framework since a “group of countries can send a clear message to the Iranians” that “we’ll find new sanctions if need be,” beyond the multiple UN Security Council sanction resolutions already then in effect. The Bush administration also announced it was “confident that if given the opportunity to choose their leaders freely and fairly, the Iranian people would elect a government that … would choose dialogue and responsible international behavior,” rather than terrorism and nuclear weapons.

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On the New York Times op-ed page, Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit writes that if an American-Iranian nuclear agreement is signed “it would represent an Iranian victory – and an American defeat.” It would “guarantee that [Iran] would eventually cross the [nuclear] finish line.” It is the product of “a Munich mind-set” creating “the illusion of peace-in-our-time while paving the way to a nuclear-Iran-in-our-time.” It is “a deeply flawed agreement” that “is an illusion”–and the “so-called moderate president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, is an illusion, too.” Obama ignored allies “who warned him that he was being naïve,” and America “missed the opportunity for assertive diplomacy.” Now Obama is pursuing “a dangerous interim agreement.”

So naturally, Shavit blames Bush.

Five years into Obama’s presidency, it is a bit late to blame the predictable results of Obama’s feckless diplomacy on Bush. In 2009, Bush handed Obama a P5+1 structure already in place, having declared the U.S. was addressing Iran through a multilateral framework since a “group of countries can send a clear message to the Iranians” that “we’ll find new sanctions if need be,” beyond the multiple UN Security Council sanction resolutions already then in effect. The Bush administration also announced it was “confident that if given the opportunity to choose their leaders freely and fairly, the Iranian people would elect a government that … would choose dialogue and responsible international behavior,” rather than terrorism and nuclear weapons.

It was not Bush who thereafter: (a) stood mute as the Iranian regime stole an election and brutally repressed a popular revolt; (b) met each failure by Iran to respond to his outstretched hand with an announcement there was still “time and space” for them to respond; (c) consistently opposed stronger sanctions by Congress only to claim credit for them once they were enacted; (d) is currently pushing a bad deal, claiming sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table but that stronger sanctions would cause them to leave it; and (e) is palpably salivating for a deal to “put more time on the clock” now that time is running out and Iran is approaching the goal line.

Last Thursday, in the course of his ObamaCare press conference, Obama was asked about critics who contend only tougher sanctions will make Iran capitulate. He responded that the purpose of sanctions “was to bring the Iranians to the table” and an agreement would “provide time and space” to test whether Iran is “prepared to actually resolve this issue.” “We can buy some additional months,” he said.

But the purpose of sanctions was not to bring Iran to the table, but make Iran comply with binding UN resolutions; and additional months are precisely what Iran needs to complete its nuclear program. Obama is about to pay them $10 billion, and reduce sanctions, giving them more time and space to cross the line. It is a fiasco that can’t be blamed on Bush. 

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