Commentary Magazine


Topic: administration spokesman

A Breakthrough on Iran Sanctions?

The Obami are hailing a “breakhrough” with China. Hold on to your hats: the Chinese “are prepared to work with us” on sanctions against Iran. In other words, we will begin the process of discussing what it is the Chinese will agree to. The administration spokesman hastened to add that the countries ”had not agreed to any details of what the sanctions might entail.” And indeed, according to this report, there seems to be considerably less agreement than the Obami’s spin would suggest:

Just weeks before the Obama administration hopes to advance sanctions against Iran at the United Nations, the U.S. said the two presidents had instructed their governments to work together on potential sanctions designed to punish Tehran for its nuclear program. China described the outcome differently, emphasizing diplomacy as usual and avoiding any reference to sanctions.

First, it’s remarkable that we wasted 15 months on fruitless engagement and only now will begin the process of talking about what the Chinese might do. Did the Obami really imagine last year that Iran might say yes and spare us the need to pursue sanctions? Second, we already know that the agreed-upon sanctions will be no stronger than what the Russians have already indicated would be acceptable to them. We are bargaining downward from Medvedev, who has ruled out refined petroleum or other serious sanctions. And finally, the time line for all this — the negotiation, the implementation, the evaluation (is it working?) – threatens once again to run on for months and months. Recall how many deadlines we blew through last year on the journey through engagement. Meanwhile, the Iranians’ program moves ahead and the options for military action narrow, raising the question as to whether this protracted time line isn’t precisely what the mullahs need in order to realize their ambitions.

The Obami are hailing a “breakhrough” with China. Hold on to your hats: the Chinese “are prepared to work with us” on sanctions against Iran. In other words, we will begin the process of discussing what it is the Chinese will agree to. The administration spokesman hastened to add that the countries ”had not agreed to any details of what the sanctions might entail.” And indeed, according to this report, there seems to be considerably less agreement than the Obami’s spin would suggest:

Just weeks before the Obama administration hopes to advance sanctions against Iran at the United Nations, the U.S. said the two presidents had instructed their governments to work together on potential sanctions designed to punish Tehran for its nuclear program. China described the outcome differently, emphasizing diplomacy as usual and avoiding any reference to sanctions.

First, it’s remarkable that we wasted 15 months on fruitless engagement and only now will begin the process of talking about what the Chinese might do. Did the Obami really imagine last year that Iran might say yes and spare us the need to pursue sanctions? Second, we already know that the agreed-upon sanctions will be no stronger than what the Russians have already indicated would be acceptable to them. We are bargaining downward from Medvedev, who has ruled out refined petroleum or other serious sanctions. And finally, the time line for all this — the negotiation, the implementation, the evaluation (is it working?) – threatens once again to run on for months and months. Recall how many deadlines we blew through last year on the journey through engagement. Meanwhile, the Iranians’ program moves ahead and the options for military action narrow, raising the question as to whether this protracted time line isn’t precisely what the mullahs need in order to realize their ambitions.

Read Less

Holder’s Just a Political Dunce, You See

As the Obama anti-terrorism approach unwinds and the handiwork of Eric Holder has proved to be politically untenable and substantively unworkable, there is certainly reason to think Eric Holder’s days are numbered. His decisions are the subject of bipartisan criticism, and White House aides are scrambling to separate themselves from the KSM and other ill-fated decisions, making clear they had nothing to do with these calls.

Along comes a report from the New York Times that confirms the degree to which Holder has become a liability. (“Mr. Emanuel and others also worried that political fights over national security issues could hamper progress on the administration’s fundamental goals, like overhauling health care, and seemed to lack confidence in Mr. Holder as an administration spokesman on the volatile issue of terrorism detainees.”) It is so bad, and his performance so tone-deaf, that the White House now insists that they “proposed installing a minder alongside Mr. Holder to prevent further gaffes — someone with better ‘political antennae,’ as one administration official put it.” The report explains:

Now Mr. Holder has switched from resisting what he had considered encroachment by White House political officials to seeking their guidance. Two weeks ago, he met with advisers there to discuss how to unite against common foes. They agreed to allow Mr. Holder, who has not appeared on a Sunday talk show since entering office, to speak out more; he agreed to let them help hone his message.

The political attacks over terrorism cases were “starting to constrain my ability to function as attorney general,” he said in an interview last week. “I have to do a better job in explaining the decisions that I have made,” Mr. Holder also said, adding, “I have to be more forceful in advocating for why I believe these are trials that should be held on the civilian side.”

All of this is a bit disingenuous, if not downright silly. Holder is painted as such a by-the-book and “on the merits” lawyer that, by gosh, he just didn’t get the politics right. But in fact, his legal defense of Obama policies has been slipshod and the underlying decisions have been deeply flawed and ill-conceived. But I suppose it sounds better to say he’s just a political neophyte than to say he’s a sloppy lawyer or that his decision-making is in thrall to a far-Left agenda (which neatly coincides with the views of lawyers with whom he’s surrounded himself who used to be on the other side, representing terrorists).

Moreover, it is strange indeed for the White House to be bragging about its political handling of  the attorney general. What happened to the “Look, no hands!” denials of political interference and the pledges that Holder was to depoliticize the Department of Justice? Now they not only concede but take pride in bossing around the attorney general, who after all was carrying out the president’s own wishes to adopt a criminal-justice model for fighting terrorism.

In between the self-serving spin and the modified, limited hangout (i.e., Holder is a political dolt but we’re keeping him anyway) is a telling concession that none of the not-Bush terror policies are working out as planned. Perhaps rather than try to excuse the attorney general’s performance they should can him and start over with policies that have broad support and make sense in fighting Islamic fundamentalists. Now there’s an idea.

As the Obama anti-terrorism approach unwinds and the handiwork of Eric Holder has proved to be politically untenable and substantively unworkable, there is certainly reason to think Eric Holder’s days are numbered. His decisions are the subject of bipartisan criticism, and White House aides are scrambling to separate themselves from the KSM and other ill-fated decisions, making clear they had nothing to do with these calls.

Along comes a report from the New York Times that confirms the degree to which Holder has become a liability. (“Mr. Emanuel and others also worried that political fights over national security issues could hamper progress on the administration’s fundamental goals, like overhauling health care, and seemed to lack confidence in Mr. Holder as an administration spokesman on the volatile issue of terrorism detainees.”) It is so bad, and his performance so tone-deaf, that the White House now insists that they “proposed installing a minder alongside Mr. Holder to prevent further gaffes — someone with better ‘political antennae,’ as one administration official put it.” The report explains:

Now Mr. Holder has switched from resisting what he had considered encroachment by White House political officials to seeking their guidance. Two weeks ago, he met with advisers there to discuss how to unite against common foes. They agreed to allow Mr. Holder, who has not appeared on a Sunday talk show since entering office, to speak out more; he agreed to let them help hone his message.

The political attacks over terrorism cases were “starting to constrain my ability to function as attorney general,” he said in an interview last week. “I have to do a better job in explaining the decisions that I have made,” Mr. Holder also said, adding, “I have to be more forceful in advocating for why I believe these are trials that should be held on the civilian side.”

All of this is a bit disingenuous, if not downright silly. Holder is painted as such a by-the-book and “on the merits” lawyer that, by gosh, he just didn’t get the politics right. But in fact, his legal defense of Obama policies has been slipshod and the underlying decisions have been deeply flawed and ill-conceived. But I suppose it sounds better to say he’s just a political neophyte than to say he’s a sloppy lawyer or that his decision-making is in thrall to a far-Left agenda (which neatly coincides with the views of lawyers with whom he’s surrounded himself who used to be on the other side, representing terrorists).

Moreover, it is strange indeed for the White House to be bragging about its political handling of  the attorney general. What happened to the “Look, no hands!” denials of political interference and the pledges that Holder was to depoliticize the Department of Justice? Now they not only concede but take pride in bossing around the attorney general, who after all was carrying out the president’s own wishes to adopt a criminal-justice model for fighting terrorism.

In between the self-serving spin and the modified, limited hangout (i.e., Holder is a political dolt but we’re keeping him anyway) is a telling concession that none of the not-Bush terror policies are working out as planned. Perhaps rather than try to excuse the attorney general’s performance they should can him and start over with policies that have broad support and make sense in fighting Islamic fundamentalists. Now there’s an idea.

Read Less