Commentary Magazine


Topic: adviser

Flotsam and Jetsam

Eric Holder’s blunder fest is serious stuff: “We’ve shaken our heads in disgust often in the last year over the Obamic decision to permit a bunch of Chicago political hacks and the U.S. attorney general–the CPH Plus One–to run much of foreign policy out of the White House. It’s had real-world consequences, not least that the tension between the Axelrod-Emanuel-Jarrett axis (appease despots whenever possible) and the Clinton state department (appease them, but accuse them while you’re doing it) has given time and breathing room to the bomb-building wing of the Iranian dictatorship.”

This, from a Republican strategist, is what passes for wisdom among the chattering classes: “Sarah Palin will have to choose to be either the leader of a movement or the leader of a nation. She can’t be both.” (He cites Goldwater and McGovern for this proposition.) Whether or not you like Palin, this is just nonsense. Ronald Reagan was both. Obama was, too (before he proved himself utterly incompetent). It’s the sort of stuff strategists say when they’re trying to oblige the media with a particular angle or shill for another, unnamed candidate.

Only in the Obama administration could Janet Napolitano not be in the top three on the “deserves to be fired” list. John Brennan seems to have zoomed into the lead, past Eric Holder and James Jones: “Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, is calling for the resignation — or immediate firing — of Obama adviser John Brennan. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also called for Brennan’s head, telling FOX News Sunday that the adviser ‘has lost my confidence.’”

The California Senate race looks competitive, with Barbara Boxer leading potential GOP challengers by four or five points: “Most troubling for Boxer in the latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state is her continuing inability to cross the 50% threshold against any of the GOP hopefuls. Incumbents who capture less than 50% of the vote at this stage of the campaign are considered vulnerable.”

If you appreciate understatement, this headline will appeal to you: “Indiana GOP: ‘We really like our chances.’” Yeah, I bet.

E.J. Dionne manages to get something right: “There is no way for Democrats to sugarcoat the news of Sen. Evan Bayh’s retirement: This is mighty good news for Republicans. Bayh would have been very difficult to defeat, and he has $13 million in the bank. Now, Indiana can be added to the list of seats that could shift to the Republicans, and that list is growing large enough that the GOP is within striking distance of taking over the Senate, an unthinkable idea even a month or so ago.”

Democrat Martin Frost sums up his party’s reaction to the Bayh retirement announcement: “The sky is officially falling.”

Jeffrey Goldberg reminds us that the tag team of mullah boosters, Hillary Mann and Flynt Leverett, has a history of making stuff up. The proper thing to do would be to slink away, but the limelight and the chance to shill for the Iranian butchers must be too much to resist.

Eric Holder’s blunder fest is serious stuff: “We’ve shaken our heads in disgust often in the last year over the Obamic decision to permit a bunch of Chicago political hacks and the U.S. attorney general–the CPH Plus One–to run much of foreign policy out of the White House. It’s had real-world consequences, not least that the tension between the Axelrod-Emanuel-Jarrett axis (appease despots whenever possible) and the Clinton state department (appease them, but accuse them while you’re doing it) has given time and breathing room to the bomb-building wing of the Iranian dictatorship.”

This, from a Republican strategist, is what passes for wisdom among the chattering classes: “Sarah Palin will have to choose to be either the leader of a movement or the leader of a nation. She can’t be both.” (He cites Goldwater and McGovern for this proposition.) Whether or not you like Palin, this is just nonsense. Ronald Reagan was both. Obama was, too (before he proved himself utterly incompetent). It’s the sort of stuff strategists say when they’re trying to oblige the media with a particular angle or shill for another, unnamed candidate.

Only in the Obama administration could Janet Napolitano not be in the top three on the “deserves to be fired” list. John Brennan seems to have zoomed into the lead, past Eric Holder and James Jones: “Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, is calling for the resignation — or immediate firing — of Obama adviser John Brennan. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) also called for Brennan’s head, telling FOX News Sunday that the adviser ‘has lost my confidence.’”

The California Senate race looks competitive, with Barbara Boxer leading potential GOP challengers by four or five points: “Most troubling for Boxer in the latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state is her continuing inability to cross the 50% threshold against any of the GOP hopefuls. Incumbents who capture less than 50% of the vote at this stage of the campaign are considered vulnerable.”

If you appreciate understatement, this headline will appeal to you: “Indiana GOP: ‘We really like our chances.’” Yeah, I bet.

E.J. Dionne manages to get something right: “There is no way for Democrats to sugarcoat the news of Sen. Evan Bayh’s retirement: This is mighty good news for Republicans. Bayh would have been very difficult to defeat, and he has $13 million in the bank. Now, Indiana can be added to the list of seats that could shift to the Republicans, and that list is growing large enough that the GOP is within striking distance of taking over the Senate, an unthinkable idea even a month or so ago.”

Democrat Martin Frost sums up his party’s reaction to the Bayh retirement announcement: “The sky is officially falling.”

Jeffrey Goldberg reminds us that the tag team of mullah boosters, Hillary Mann and Flynt Leverett, has a history of making stuff up. The proper thing to do would be to slink away, but the limelight and the chance to shill for the Iranian butchers must be too much to resist.

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Re: If the Czar Only Knew

Former Virginia Governor Doug Wilder vividly writes:

Indeed, even before Bob McDonnell’s resounding victory, the canary had been dead on the floor for months. In Virginia’s most Democratic-friendly regions, the Democrats had been narrowly winning — or outright losing — special elections that should have been taken easily.

He reminds us of the Democratic losses in New Jersey and Virginia, continuing:

After both these debacles, people at the DNC and the White House insisted these were local results with no deeper meaning. Then came Massachusetts. When Scott Brown promised voters he would be the 41st vote in the U.S. Senate to halt the Obama agenda, generally, and the health care plan, in particular, his rise in the polls was meteoric. It’s not rocket science where the American public wants the president to concentrate his energies. In all the above elections I cited, voters were practically screaming one word with four simple letters: Jobs.

His solution: fire DNC Chairman Tim Kaine and a bunch of Obama’s West Wing advisers. He warns: “Unless changes are made at the top, by the top, when the time comes for voters to show how they really feel about Obama, his policies and the messages he sends directly or through the people around him, the president will discover that Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts were not just temporary aberrations but, rather, timely expressions of voters who always show that they are ahead of the politicians.”

But so far, there is little indication Obama has learned anything from the string of losses. Yes, he’s holding a health-care summit with Republicans, but only to resell for the umpteenth time the same noxious, publically rejected ObamaCare plan. He’s telling everyone he isn’t “starting over” on health-care reform. His national-security team is berating Republicans for daring to criticize the Obama anti-terrorism approach. The Obama budget is an embarrassment to fiscally sober Democrats and Republicans alike. And not a single key adviser has gotten the axe.

You see, so long as the president remains perfectly content with his harmonious team of advisers, nothing much will change. It is all just as Obama would like it. Well, except for his crater poll numbers, the absence of a single legislative achievement, broad-based opposition to his ultra-liberal domestic agenda, a string of foreign-policy debacles, and the risk he will lose one or both houses of Congress.

Former Virginia Governor Doug Wilder vividly writes:

Indeed, even before Bob McDonnell’s resounding victory, the canary had been dead on the floor for months. In Virginia’s most Democratic-friendly regions, the Democrats had been narrowly winning — or outright losing — special elections that should have been taken easily.

He reminds us of the Democratic losses in New Jersey and Virginia, continuing:

After both these debacles, people at the DNC and the White House insisted these were local results with no deeper meaning. Then came Massachusetts. When Scott Brown promised voters he would be the 41st vote in the U.S. Senate to halt the Obama agenda, generally, and the health care plan, in particular, his rise in the polls was meteoric. It’s not rocket science where the American public wants the president to concentrate his energies. In all the above elections I cited, voters were practically screaming one word with four simple letters: Jobs.

His solution: fire DNC Chairman Tim Kaine and a bunch of Obama’s West Wing advisers. He warns: “Unless changes are made at the top, by the top, when the time comes for voters to show how they really feel about Obama, his policies and the messages he sends directly or through the people around him, the president will discover that Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts were not just temporary aberrations but, rather, timely expressions of voters who always show that they are ahead of the politicians.”

But so far, there is little indication Obama has learned anything from the string of losses. Yes, he’s holding a health-care summit with Republicans, but only to resell for the umpteenth time the same noxious, publically rejected ObamaCare plan. He’s telling everyone he isn’t “starting over” on health-care reform. His national-security team is berating Republicans for daring to criticize the Obama anti-terrorism approach. The Obama budget is an embarrassment to fiscally sober Democrats and Republicans alike. And not a single key adviser has gotten the axe.

You see, so long as the president remains perfectly content with his harmonious team of advisers, nothing much will change. It is all just as Obama would like it. Well, except for his crater poll numbers, the absence of a single legislative achievement, broad-based opposition to his ultra-liberal domestic agenda, a string of foreign-policy debacles, and the risk he will lose one or both houses of Congress.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

What does French President Nicolas Sarakozy really think of Obama? “Obama has been in power for a year, and he has already lost three special elections. Me, I have won two legislative elections and the EU election. What can one say I’ve lost?” And as relayed by an adviser, Sarko seems to think Obama is “a charmer, a conciliator, but I am not sure that he’s a strong leader.”

Jamie Fly reports that his Israeli cabbie similarly told him: “‘With him, everything is opposite’ of what it should be and scoffed about his Nobel Peace Prize (given that he had done nothing actually to achieve peace).”

On the jobs number: “The U.S. unemployment rate unexpectedly declined in January, but the economy continued to shed jobs and revisions painted a bleaker picture for 2009, casting doubt over the labor market’s strength.The unemployment rate, calculated using a household survey, fell to 9.7% last month from an unrevised 10% in December, the Labor Department said Friday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast the jobless rate would edge higher to 10.1%. Meantime, non-farm payrolls fell by 20,000 compared with a revised 150,000 decline in December.”

Here’s one way of looking at it: “‘Things are getting bad less rapidly,’ said Dean Baker, co-director of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. ‘We’re sort of hitting bottom, but there is no evidence of a robust turnaround.’”

And when the 1.1 million of “discouraged job seekers” return to the workforce? “Many economists expect the jobless rate to creep higher in the months ahead as workers who had given up looking for a job out of frustration return to the labor force.” Bottom line: 15 million Americans are unemployed.

What’s the matter with Harry? “Harry Reid may soon have one more Republican opponent in Nevada’s race for the U.S. Senate, and his numbers remain in troublesome territory for an incumbent. Reid, like a number of Democratic Senate incumbents, appears to be suffering from voter unhappiness over the national health care plan and the continuing bad state of the economy.”

You can’t say Illinois politics isn’t colorful: “The Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias is trailing Republican Mark Kirk in opinion polls ahead of November’s election in which Republicans are aiming to erase Democratic majorities in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. . . . Republicans are spotlighting the soured real estate portfolio at the Giannoulias family’s Broadway Bank, including loans to Michael ‘Jaws’ Giorango, a convicted prostitution ring operator. Broadway Bank was recently ordered by government regulators to raise additional capital — after Giannoulias received his share of $70 million in proceeds following his father’s death.”

What a difference a year makes: “There were seven states that Barack Obama won where his approval has slipped below 56%. Three of them are pretty darn predictable — North Carolina, Indiana, and Ohio — all of which saw extremely close races in 2008. Another three of them though are Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada which Obama won by commanding margins of anywhere from 9-15 points. . . . The seventh state Obama won where he’s under 56% is New Hampshire, which may help to explain why Paul Hodes is having so much trouble.”

Speculation is starting already as to whether Obama will dump Joe Biden in 2012.

It seems as though “activists and liberal Mideast policy groups” don’t like the idea of Rep. Mark Kirk getting to the U.S. Senate, given his pro-Israel voting record.” You can understand that these groups wouldn’t want someone who was the “driving force behind a host of legislative efforts to sanction Iran (he’s the founder of of the Iran Working Group),” a vocal critic of the UN, and an opponent of Chas Freeman.

What does French President Nicolas Sarakozy really think of Obama? “Obama has been in power for a year, and he has already lost three special elections. Me, I have won two legislative elections and the EU election. What can one say I’ve lost?” And as relayed by an adviser, Sarko seems to think Obama is “a charmer, a conciliator, but I am not sure that he’s a strong leader.”

Jamie Fly reports that his Israeli cabbie similarly told him: “‘With him, everything is opposite’ of what it should be and scoffed about his Nobel Peace Prize (given that he had done nothing actually to achieve peace).”

On the jobs number: “The U.S. unemployment rate unexpectedly declined in January, but the economy continued to shed jobs and revisions painted a bleaker picture for 2009, casting doubt over the labor market’s strength.The unemployment rate, calculated using a household survey, fell to 9.7% last month from an unrevised 10% in December, the Labor Department said Friday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast the jobless rate would edge higher to 10.1%. Meantime, non-farm payrolls fell by 20,000 compared with a revised 150,000 decline in December.”

Here’s one way of looking at it: “‘Things are getting bad less rapidly,’ said Dean Baker, co-director of the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. ‘We’re sort of hitting bottom, but there is no evidence of a robust turnaround.’”

And when the 1.1 million of “discouraged job seekers” return to the workforce? “Many economists expect the jobless rate to creep higher in the months ahead as workers who had given up looking for a job out of frustration return to the labor force.” Bottom line: 15 million Americans are unemployed.

What’s the matter with Harry? “Harry Reid may soon have one more Republican opponent in Nevada’s race for the U.S. Senate, and his numbers remain in troublesome territory for an incumbent. Reid, like a number of Democratic Senate incumbents, appears to be suffering from voter unhappiness over the national health care plan and the continuing bad state of the economy.”

You can’t say Illinois politics isn’t colorful: “The Democratic candidate Alexi Giannoulias is trailing Republican Mark Kirk in opinion polls ahead of November’s election in which Republicans are aiming to erase Democratic majorities in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. . . . Republicans are spotlighting the soured real estate portfolio at the Giannoulias family’s Broadway Bank, including loans to Michael ‘Jaws’ Giorango, a convicted prostitution ring operator. Broadway Bank was recently ordered by government regulators to raise additional capital — after Giannoulias received his share of $70 million in proceeds following his father’s death.”

What a difference a year makes: “There were seven states that Barack Obama won where his approval has slipped below 56%. Three of them are pretty darn predictable — North Carolina, Indiana, and Ohio — all of which saw extremely close races in 2008. Another three of them though are Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada which Obama won by commanding margins of anywhere from 9-15 points. . . . The seventh state Obama won where he’s under 56% is New Hampshire, which may help to explain why Paul Hodes is having so much trouble.”

Speculation is starting already as to whether Obama will dump Joe Biden in 2012.

It seems as though “activists and liberal Mideast policy groups” don’t like the idea of Rep. Mark Kirk getting to the U.S. Senate, given his pro-Israel voting record.” You can understand that these groups wouldn’t want someone who was the “driving force behind a host of legislative efforts to sanction Iran (he’s the founder of of the Iran Working Group),” a vocal critic of the UN, and an opponent of Chas Freeman.

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Not Getting It

So far, Obama isn’t learning anything from Massachusetts. And he’s certainly not going to do anything differently. At least that’s what they seem to be saying at the White House. The Washington Post reports:

Publicly and privately, aides to the president repeatedly stressed that the White House has heard the message from angry voters. But they insisted that they are not backing away from key items on the president’s agenda, including health-care reform, energy and bank regulation. …

One top adviser insisted that “the White House gets it. We’re not oblivious. We’re not proceeding ahead as if it didn’t happen.”

But the early consensus inside the White House, they said, was to pursue a renewed effort to explain the difficult choices Obama has made. They said that the election results will not force a radical rethinking of his agenda and that the White House will attempt to convince Americans that his policies on the economy and jobs will eventually turn things around.

Okay, that’s gibberish. He doesn’t get it. Like an American tourist overseas, he’s just going to say it slower and louder so the local rubes will finally understand. Massachusetts voters elected the guy who ran as the 41st vote against ObamaCare. Obama is going to push for ObamaCare. In what political universe does that constitute “getting it”?

You can imagine how Democrats must feel. Their party just lost the “safest” Senate seat in the country, independents are fleeing, and the other side has a grassroots movement dedicated to opposing ObamaCare. And the president refuses to budge. What to do? For now, they must resort to background quotes to the Post to try to influence the Obami:

One senior Democratic strategist said that in conversations he had with party leaders, there seemed to be an unwillingness on the part of the White House to acknowledge the party’s new problem with independent voters, who were key to Obama’s victory. “Democrats on the Hill and in the White House don’t seem to get that independent voters are upset with them,” said the source, who spoke candidly about the president and his team on the condition of anonymity.

Perhaps by the State of the Union, Obama will get through the first step in his recovery program: admitting he has a problem. If not, he’ll go before the country and sound like he’s in a hermetically sealed bubble of political spin, oblivious even to voters in a state more sympathetic than most to his political philosophy. If he pulls the “What me worried?” routine and pushes full steam ahead with a repudiated health-care plan, the public will most likely regard him as irrelevant. Many in his party will conclude he’s a menace to their re-election prospects. But maybe he’ll wise up. He’s got a few days to think this through.

So far, Obama isn’t learning anything from Massachusetts. And he’s certainly not going to do anything differently. At least that’s what they seem to be saying at the White House. The Washington Post reports:

Publicly and privately, aides to the president repeatedly stressed that the White House has heard the message from angry voters. But they insisted that they are not backing away from key items on the president’s agenda, including health-care reform, energy and bank regulation. …

One top adviser insisted that “the White House gets it. We’re not oblivious. We’re not proceeding ahead as if it didn’t happen.”

But the early consensus inside the White House, they said, was to pursue a renewed effort to explain the difficult choices Obama has made. They said that the election results will not force a radical rethinking of his agenda and that the White House will attempt to convince Americans that his policies on the economy and jobs will eventually turn things around.

Okay, that’s gibberish. He doesn’t get it. Like an American tourist overseas, he’s just going to say it slower and louder so the local rubes will finally understand. Massachusetts voters elected the guy who ran as the 41st vote against ObamaCare. Obama is going to push for ObamaCare. In what political universe does that constitute “getting it”?

You can imagine how Democrats must feel. Their party just lost the “safest” Senate seat in the country, independents are fleeing, and the other side has a grassroots movement dedicated to opposing ObamaCare. And the president refuses to budge. What to do? For now, they must resort to background quotes to the Post to try to influence the Obami:

One senior Democratic strategist said that in conversations he had with party leaders, there seemed to be an unwillingness on the part of the White House to acknowledge the party’s new problem with independent voters, who were key to Obama’s victory. “Democrats on the Hill and in the White House don’t seem to get that independent voters are upset with them,” said the source, who spoke candidly about the president and his team on the condition of anonymity.

Perhaps by the State of the Union, Obama will get through the first step in his recovery program: admitting he has a problem. If not, he’ll go before the country and sound like he’s in a hermetically sealed bubble of political spin, oblivious even to voters in a state more sympathetic than most to his political philosophy. If he pulls the “What me worried?” routine and pushes full steam ahead with a repudiated health-care plan, the public will most likely regard him as irrelevant. Many in his party will conclude he’s a menace to their re-election prospects. But maybe he’ll wise up. He’s got a few days to think this through.

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No End to It

Word comes that Sen. John Kerry may visit Tehran, in the Obami’s never-ending quest to engage the thugocracy that wishes not to be engaged. This report tells us:

Sen. John Kerry has suggested becoming the first high-level U.S. emissary to make a public visit to Tehran since the 1979 Islamic revolution, a move White House officials say they won’t oppose. . . “The wrong message would be sent to the Iranian people by such a high-level visit: The U.S. loves dictatorial regimes,” said Hossein Askari, a professor at George Washington University and former adviser to Iranian governments.

And what of those democracy protesters in the streets of Tehran, who’d prefer not to help solidify the mullahs’ reign of terror? Well, they’d rather Obama once again not cut their legs out from under them:

Many opponents of Tehran’s regime oppose such a visit, fearing it would lend legitimacy to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a time when his government is under continuing pressure from protests and opposition figures. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets again this week to voice their opposition to the government following the death of a reformist cleric.

Those perpetually in search of a savvier, tougher and more resolute Obama, will again have their hopes dashed, it seems. No, this is a president who is “bearing witness” but sparing no opportunity to convey that democracy is not at the top of our agenda—nor is, apparently, moving ahead toward those “crippling sanctions.” We are perpetually in search of the unattainable deal, all the while providing the mullahs with time to proceed with their nuclear-weapons program and cementing the impression that this president is not determined to stand in their way.

Word comes that Sen. John Kerry may visit Tehran, in the Obami’s never-ending quest to engage the thugocracy that wishes not to be engaged. This report tells us:

Sen. John Kerry has suggested becoming the first high-level U.S. emissary to make a public visit to Tehran since the 1979 Islamic revolution, a move White House officials say they won’t oppose. . . “The wrong message would be sent to the Iranian people by such a high-level visit: The U.S. loves dictatorial regimes,” said Hossein Askari, a professor at George Washington University and former adviser to Iranian governments.

And what of those democracy protesters in the streets of Tehran, who’d prefer not to help solidify the mullahs’ reign of terror? Well, they’d rather Obama once again not cut their legs out from under them:

Many opponents of Tehran’s regime oppose such a visit, fearing it would lend legitimacy to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a time when his government is under continuing pressure from protests and opposition figures. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets again this week to voice their opposition to the government following the death of a reformist cleric.

Those perpetually in search of a savvier, tougher and more resolute Obama, will again have their hopes dashed, it seems. No, this is a president who is “bearing witness” but sparing no opportunity to convey that democracy is not at the top of our agenda—nor is, apparently, moving ahead toward those “crippling sanctions.” We are perpetually in search of the unattainable deal, all the while providing the mullahs with time to proceed with their nuclear-weapons program and cementing the impression that this president is not determined to stand in their way.

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Constitution? This Is Health Care!

In his final floor speech before the middle-of-the-night cloture vote, Sen. Mitch McConnell declared, “It’s now clear the majority is willing to do anything to jam through a 2000-page bill before the American people or any of us has had a chance to read it — including changing the rules in the middle of the game.” And as we now comb through those 2,000 pages, it appears that “anything” is not limited to “anything the Constitution allows” or “anything that Congress has ever tried before.”

A case in point is the apparent effort by Senate Democrats to prevent future Congresses from pulling the plug on the noxious death panels … er … the Medicare Advisory Board, without a super-duper majority vote. Sen. Jim DeMint has pointed out that through a mere rule change, the Senate Democrats are trying to impose a 67-vote requirement, which will be nearly impossible to achieve, of course, to knock out the panels in a future Congress. So if for example the controversial mammogram guideline is enacted by the Medicare Advisory Board along with other “effectiveness” measures, there will be little a future Congress can do about it.

A Republican Senate adviser says: “The bill changes some Senate rules to say we can’t vote in a future Congress to repeal the IMAB (death panels). A Senate rules change would require 67 votes for cloture on the bill, but [Senate] parliamentarian decided its a “procedural change” not a “rules change” so they only need 60. … [It makes] no sense.” He says it is still possible to “find a way to kill the death panels even though the bill changes the rules to say we can’t (maybe deny them funding would work, we could change the Senate rule it creates in a later Congress with a 67 senator vote), but it’s clear the health bill changes Senate rules and needs 67 votes for cloture.” We are apparently in a Brave New World of making up Senate rules. The adviser remarks that Senate parliamentarian Alan S. Frumin “seems to be in Reid’s back pocket and is making stuff up to save the bill.”

In a brief survey of other Senate offices and some legal gurus, the initial reaction was the same: “One Congress can’t bind another.” It is at the very least dubious constitutionally and unseemly in the extreme. This is legislative bullying at its worst — rushed, nontransparent, with an anything-will-fly attitude. Once the public gets a whiff of this and the other shenanigans, one can imagine that their already negative reaction to the bill (the latest poll shows that the public disapproves by a 56 to 36 percent margin, and 72 percent don’t want any public money going to subsidize abortions) may turn to rage.

 
 

In his final floor speech before the middle-of-the-night cloture vote, Sen. Mitch McConnell declared, “It’s now clear the majority is willing to do anything to jam through a 2000-page bill before the American people or any of us has had a chance to read it — including changing the rules in the middle of the game.” And as we now comb through those 2,000 pages, it appears that “anything” is not limited to “anything the Constitution allows” or “anything that Congress has ever tried before.”

A case in point is the apparent effort by Senate Democrats to prevent future Congresses from pulling the plug on the noxious death panels … er … the Medicare Advisory Board, without a super-duper majority vote. Sen. Jim DeMint has pointed out that through a mere rule change, the Senate Democrats are trying to impose a 67-vote requirement, which will be nearly impossible to achieve, of course, to knock out the panels in a future Congress. So if for example the controversial mammogram guideline is enacted by the Medicare Advisory Board along with other “effectiveness” measures, there will be little a future Congress can do about it.

A Republican Senate adviser says: “The bill changes some Senate rules to say we can’t vote in a future Congress to repeal the IMAB (death panels). A Senate rules change would require 67 votes for cloture on the bill, but [Senate] parliamentarian decided its a “procedural change” not a “rules change” so they only need 60. … [It makes] no sense.” He says it is still possible to “find a way to kill the death panels even though the bill changes the rules to say we can’t (maybe deny them funding would work, we could change the Senate rule it creates in a later Congress with a 67 senator vote), but it’s clear the health bill changes Senate rules and needs 67 votes for cloture.” We are apparently in a Brave New World of making up Senate rules. The adviser remarks that Senate parliamentarian Alan S. Frumin “seems to be in Reid’s back pocket and is making stuff up to save the bill.”

In a brief survey of other Senate offices and some legal gurus, the initial reaction was the same: “One Congress can’t bind another.” It is at the very least dubious constitutionally and unseemly in the extreme. This is legislative bullying at its worst — rushed, nontransparent, with an anything-will-fly attitude. Once the public gets a whiff of this and the other shenanigans, one can imagine that their already negative reaction to the bill (the latest poll shows that the public disapproves by a 56 to 36 percent margin, and 72 percent don’t want any public money going to subsidize abortions) may turn to rage.

 
 

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The Black Panther Case’s January Deadlines

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, I am informed, will be moving forward on two fronts with its investigation of the dismissal by the Obama Justice Department of the New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case. Responses to the commission’s document requests and interrogatories are due on January 11. On January 15, the commission will meet and is expected to vote to schedule a February hearing in which it can begin to gather evidence and attempt to unearth what occurred behind the shuttered doors of the Obama Justice Department. At a hearing, one can expect witness testimony about the underlying incident, which took place on Election Day 2008 in Philadelphia; there will also be evidence presented concerning the intervention of Obama political appointees — at least to the extent that the Obama DOJ has complied with the written discovery requests.

As for the depositions of DOJ employees, sources tell me that unless an accommodation can quickly be reached with the Justice Department, the depositions will be reset in January. And those subpoenaed employees may then have ample opportunity to, if they desire, go to court seeking clarification as to whether a DOJ regulation invoked by the Obama administration to block their appearance (but which appears to apply to court proceedings, not to those of an independent body like the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights) bars their compliance with a subpoena issued pursuant to the commission’s statutory authority.

Meanwhile, Congress may also have something to say in January. The resolution of inquiry introduced by Rep. Frank Wolf has a clock ticking. The House Judiciary Committee must consider the resolution that calls for the Justice Department to provide information to Congress concerning the dismissal of the case. A Wolf adviser informed me: “We suspect that it will either be the last week of January or first week of February — they have 14 legislative days to consider, so it depends on the House schedule for January.” If the requisite number of committee members demand it, there will be a roll-call vote. Wolf’s adviser observed, “I suspect that the committee Republicans will call for and receive a roll-call vote.” We can expect that Democrats will vote it down on a straight party-line vote, but the debate is likely to be informative and provide the first chance for Congress to exercise any oversight responsibility in a serious matter of voter intimidation.

The mystery, however, continues for now: why did the Justice Department yank the case, and what is it now trying to hide? We may finally get some preliminary answers in January.

The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, I am informed, will be moving forward on two fronts with its investigation of the dismissal by the Obama Justice Department of the New Black Panther Party voter-intimidation case. Responses to the commission’s document requests and interrogatories are due on January 11. On January 15, the commission will meet and is expected to vote to schedule a February hearing in which it can begin to gather evidence and attempt to unearth what occurred behind the shuttered doors of the Obama Justice Department. At a hearing, one can expect witness testimony about the underlying incident, which took place on Election Day 2008 in Philadelphia; there will also be evidence presented concerning the intervention of Obama political appointees — at least to the extent that the Obama DOJ has complied with the written discovery requests.

As for the depositions of DOJ employees, sources tell me that unless an accommodation can quickly be reached with the Justice Department, the depositions will be reset in January. And those subpoenaed employees may then have ample opportunity to, if they desire, go to court seeking clarification as to whether a DOJ regulation invoked by the Obama administration to block their appearance (but which appears to apply to court proceedings, not to those of an independent body like the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights) bars their compliance with a subpoena issued pursuant to the commission’s statutory authority.

Meanwhile, Congress may also have something to say in January. The resolution of inquiry introduced by Rep. Frank Wolf has a clock ticking. The House Judiciary Committee must consider the resolution that calls for the Justice Department to provide information to Congress concerning the dismissal of the case. A Wolf adviser informed me: “We suspect that it will either be the last week of January or first week of February — they have 14 legislative days to consider, so it depends on the House schedule for January.” If the requisite number of committee members demand it, there will be a roll-call vote. Wolf’s adviser observed, “I suspect that the committee Republicans will call for and receive a roll-call vote.” We can expect that Democrats will vote it down on a straight party-line vote, but the debate is likely to be informative and provide the first chance for Congress to exercise any oversight responsibility in a serious matter of voter intimidation.

The mystery, however, continues for now: why did the Justice Department yank the case, and what is it now trying to hide? We may finally get some preliminary answers in January.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

ReidCare doesn’t have 60 votes: “Two key senators criticized the most recent healthcare compromise Sunday, saying the policies replacing the public option are still unacceptable. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) both said a Medicare ‘buy-in’ option for those aged 55-64 was a deal breaker.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill signals she’s a “no” vote if ReidCare is going to increase costs or the deficit.

A smart take on and helpful survey of the Obami’s human-rights record from Joshua Kurlantzick: “The irony of Obama’s Nobel Prize is not that he accepted it while waging two wars. After all, as Obama said in Oslo: “One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek.” The stranger thing is that, from China to Sudan, from Burma to Iran, a president lauded for his commitment to peace has dialed down a U.S. commitment to human rights, one that persisted through both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back at least to Jimmy Carter. And so far, Obama has little to show for it.

A reminder of the Obama team’s awkward start last December — which was ignored by an utterly smitten press corps: “Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers want the FBI to give up details of interviews conducted last year of President Obama, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and others as part of the investigation into the former governor.”

Oh, that Nancy Pelosi: “Rasmussen Reports recently asked voters their opinion of ‘Nancy Pelosi’ and the responses were mixed. Forty-six percent (46%) offered a favorable opinion and 50% an unfavorable view. Just half the nation’s voters voiced a strong opinion about Pelosi—14% Very Favorable and 36% Very Unfavorable. However, in a separate survey conducted the same night, Rasmussen Reports asked voters their opinion of ‘House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’ … just 38% voiced a positive opinion while 58% had a negative view.”

Byron York reminds us that “‘Conservatives and Republicans report fewer experiences than liberals or Democrats communicating with the dead, seeing ghosts and consulting fortunetellers or psychics,’ the Pew study says.” Or belief in the hysterical global-warming hype. Maybe they favor science or traditional religion, or both.

Sunday was another new low for Obama: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. Today is the second straight day that Obama’s Approval Index rating has fallen to a new low.” He’s apparently bleeding support from his base: “Just 41% of Democrats Strongly Approve while 69% of Republicans Strongly Disapprove.”

More media outlets pick up on the New Black Panther Party scandal. From the Pittsburg Tribune-Review: “Every American who treasures the right to vote should thank the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — and scorn the Democrat-controlled Congress and an Obama Justice Department unworthy of its own name. The commission has subpoenaed records related to Justice dismissing, despite compelling video evidence, a Philadelphia voter-intimidation case against three New Black Panther Party members. In doing so, it admirably is pursuing the proper course — which seemingly is the only course likely to get to the bottom of that outrageous decision.”

And the Washington Times is on the case as well: “The dispute between the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Justice Department is starting to look like the legal equivalent of World War II’s Anzio campaign, which represented a major escalation late in the war. The battleground is the controversy about the department’s decision to drop voter-intimidation cases against members of the New Black Panther Party. The commission is mounting a massive legal assault; Justice is refusing to be budged; and the casualties could be high.”

ReidCare doesn’t have 60 votes: “Two key senators criticized the most recent healthcare compromise Sunday, saying the policies replacing the public option are still unacceptable. Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) both said a Medicare ‘buy-in’ option for those aged 55-64 was a deal breaker.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill signals she’s a “no” vote if ReidCare is going to increase costs or the deficit.

A smart take on and helpful survey of the Obami’s human-rights record from Joshua Kurlantzick: “The irony of Obama’s Nobel Prize is not that he accepted it while waging two wars. After all, as Obama said in Oslo: “One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek.” The stranger thing is that, from China to Sudan, from Burma to Iran, a president lauded for his commitment to peace has dialed down a U.S. commitment to human rights, one that persisted through both Republican and Democratic administrations dating back at least to Jimmy Carter. And so far, Obama has little to show for it.

A reminder of the Obama team’s awkward start last December — which was ignored by an utterly smitten press corps: “Rod Blagojevich’s lawyers want the FBI to give up details of interviews conducted last year of President Obama, his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett and others as part of the investigation into the former governor.”

Oh, that Nancy Pelosi: “Rasmussen Reports recently asked voters their opinion of ‘Nancy Pelosi’ and the responses were mixed. Forty-six percent (46%) offered a favorable opinion and 50% an unfavorable view. Just half the nation’s voters voiced a strong opinion about Pelosi—14% Very Favorable and 36% Very Unfavorable. However, in a separate survey conducted the same night, Rasmussen Reports asked voters their opinion of ‘House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’ … just 38% voiced a positive opinion while 58% had a negative view.”

Byron York reminds us that “‘Conservatives and Republicans report fewer experiences than liberals or Democrats communicating with the dead, seeing ghosts and consulting fortunetellers or psychics,’ the Pew study says.” Or belief in the hysterical global-warming hype. Maybe they favor science or traditional religion, or both.

Sunday was another new low for Obama: “The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Sunday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-two percent (42%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -19. Today is the second straight day that Obama’s Approval Index rating has fallen to a new low.” He’s apparently bleeding support from his base: “Just 41% of Democrats Strongly Approve while 69% of Republicans Strongly Disapprove.”

More media outlets pick up on the New Black Panther Party scandal. From the Pittsburg Tribune-Review: “Every American who treasures the right to vote should thank the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights — and scorn the Democrat-controlled Congress and an Obama Justice Department unworthy of its own name. The commission has subpoenaed records related to Justice dismissing, despite compelling video evidence, a Philadelphia voter-intimidation case against three New Black Panther Party members. In doing so, it admirably is pursuing the proper course — which seemingly is the only course likely to get to the bottom of that outrageous decision.”

And the Washington Times is on the case as well: “The dispute between the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and the Justice Department is starting to look like the legal equivalent of World War II’s Anzio campaign, which represented a major escalation late in the war. The battleground is the controversy about the department’s decision to drop voter-intimidation cases against members of the New Black Panther Party. The commission is mounting a massive legal assault; Justice is refusing to be budged; and the casualties could be high.”

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RIP William Odom

I was saddened to read of the death of William E. Odom, one of America’s leading soldier-scholars. In recent years he has become known as an outspoken critic of Bush foreign policy and advocate of withdrawal from Iraq. I disagreed with him, and we even debated at least once on the radio. But I never lost my respect or affection for him, formulated initially when, as a graduate student at Yale in 1991-92, I took a class with him on the Russian military. He was a refreshing outpost of pro-military, anti-communist thinking on a campus where neither viewpoint was much encouraged.

Bill Odom spent much of his career as a military intelligence officer specializing in the Soviet Union including serving as a military attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. He went to Columbia to receive an MA and Ph.D. in political science. While there he worked closely with a professor named Zbigniew Brzezinski. When Brzezinski became Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, Odom became his military assistant. He then went on to become a three-star general and director of the National Security Agency in the Reagan administration. He finally retired in 1988 to pursue a career in the twin worlds of academia and think-tankery, which is how I came to know him.

During the Cold War, Odom had a reputation as a hawk and hardliner. (So, for that matter, did Brzezinski.) In the years since then, both seemed to drift to the left, though, in fairness to Odom, I am sure he would have denied it. He often said that he had opposed the Vietnam War from the start because he thought that containing North Vietnam was in the interests of China, not the United States. He opposed the Iraq War because he thought it was equally ill-advised. Unlike so many leading analysts and politicians, he did not turn into a dove only when it became clear the war was not going well: he was against the war from the beginning, which took some guts considering that he was employed by a conservative think tank, the Hudson Institute.

Where I truly disagreed with him was not in his opposition to the war in the first place-the decision to invade Iraq was a close call and there were good arguments on both sides. I thought he went too far when he said, during the course of the war, that victory was not an option and therefore we should pull out all of our troops, notwithstanding the dire likely consequences. He even puckishly authored an article in 2005 entitled “What’s Wrong with Cutting and Running?”

Notwithstanding his dovish views on Iraq (and related subjects, such as Iran), he remained committed to a fairly expansive view of the American role in the world, as he made clear in his book, co-authored with Robert Dujarric, America’s Inadvertent Empire. He approved of the “empire” in question, even if he never had much patience with those on either the Left or the Right who would place our ideals at the center of our foreign policy.

Agree with him or not, Odom deserves to be remembered for a long and illustrious career of service-a legacy carried on by his son, Mark, an army lieutenant-colonel who was wounded in Iraq. He was particularly notable for managing to combine scholarly achievement with a successful military career-a combination that both academia and the military too often frown upon.

I was saddened to read of the death of William E. Odom, one of America’s leading soldier-scholars. In recent years he has become known as an outspoken critic of Bush foreign policy and advocate of withdrawal from Iraq. I disagreed with him, and we even debated at least once on the radio. But I never lost my respect or affection for him, formulated initially when, as a graduate student at Yale in 1991-92, I took a class with him on the Russian military. He was a refreshing outpost of pro-military, anti-communist thinking on a campus where neither viewpoint was much encouraged.

Bill Odom spent much of his career as a military intelligence officer specializing in the Soviet Union including serving as a military attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. He went to Columbia to receive an MA and Ph.D. in political science. While there he worked closely with a professor named Zbigniew Brzezinski. When Brzezinski became Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser, Odom became his military assistant. He then went on to become a three-star general and director of the National Security Agency in the Reagan administration. He finally retired in 1988 to pursue a career in the twin worlds of academia and think-tankery, which is how I came to know him.

During the Cold War, Odom had a reputation as a hawk and hardliner. (So, for that matter, did Brzezinski.) In the years since then, both seemed to drift to the left, though, in fairness to Odom, I am sure he would have denied it. He often said that he had opposed the Vietnam War from the start because he thought that containing North Vietnam was in the interests of China, not the United States. He opposed the Iraq War because he thought it was equally ill-advised. Unlike so many leading analysts and politicians, he did not turn into a dove only when it became clear the war was not going well: he was against the war from the beginning, which took some guts considering that he was employed by a conservative think tank, the Hudson Institute.

Where I truly disagreed with him was not in his opposition to the war in the first place-the decision to invade Iraq was a close call and there were good arguments on both sides. I thought he went too far when he said, during the course of the war, that victory was not an option and therefore we should pull out all of our troops, notwithstanding the dire likely consequences. He even puckishly authored an article in 2005 entitled “What’s Wrong with Cutting and Running?”

Notwithstanding his dovish views on Iraq (and related subjects, such as Iran), he remained committed to a fairly expansive view of the American role in the world, as he made clear in his book, co-authored with Robert Dujarric, America’s Inadvertent Empire. He approved of the “empire” in question, even if he never had much patience with those on either the Left or the Right who would place our ideals at the center of our foreign policy.

Agree with him or not, Odom deserves to be remembered for a long and illustrious career of service-a legacy carried on by his son, Mark, an army lieutenant-colonel who was wounded in Iraq. He was particularly notable for managing to combine scholarly achievement with a successful military career-a combination that both academia and the military too often frown upon.

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Who Talks To Obama?

A story on Zbigniew Brzezinski from the Telegraph:

Mr Brzezinski said “it’s not unique to the Jewish community – but there is a McCarthyite tendency among some people in the Jewish community”, referring to the Republican senator who led the anti-Communist witch hunt in the 1950s. “They operate not by arguing but by slandering, vilifying, demonising. They very promptly wheel out anti-Semitism. There is an element of paranoia in this inclination to view any serious attempt at a compromised peace as somehow directed against Israel.” Although Mr Brzezinski is not a formal day-to-day adviser and stressed he doesn’t speak for the campaign, he said that he “talks to” Mr Obama. He endorsed the Illinois senator, lauding him as “head and shoulders” above his opponents. He said that he was the only candidate who understood “what is new and distinctive about our age”. In turn, Mr Obama has praised Mr Brzezinski as “someone I have learned an immense amount from” and “one of our most outstanding scholars and thinkers”.

I have no doubt that Obama’s staff will rush forward to declare, as they have before, that Brzezinski is only a informal adviser. But the question remains why Obama has had a retinue of advisors (both formal and not) like Brzezinski, McPeak, and Malley who hold views so antithetical to Obama’s supposedly unassailable record and views on Israel. You can understand how rational voters, Jewish or not, would conclude that something is amiss and wonder why Obama does not disassociate himself entirely from these people. But no, those Jews are just hung up on Obama’s name and the phony emails about Obama’s Muslim upbringing. That must be it.

A story on Zbigniew Brzezinski from the Telegraph:

Mr Brzezinski said “it’s not unique to the Jewish community – but there is a McCarthyite tendency among some people in the Jewish community”, referring to the Republican senator who led the anti-Communist witch hunt in the 1950s. “They operate not by arguing but by slandering, vilifying, demonising. They very promptly wheel out anti-Semitism. There is an element of paranoia in this inclination to view any serious attempt at a compromised peace as somehow directed against Israel.” Although Mr Brzezinski is not a formal day-to-day adviser and stressed he doesn’t speak for the campaign, he said that he “talks to” Mr Obama. He endorsed the Illinois senator, lauding him as “head and shoulders” above his opponents. He said that he was the only candidate who understood “what is new and distinctive about our age”. In turn, Mr Obama has praised Mr Brzezinski as “someone I have learned an immense amount from” and “one of our most outstanding scholars and thinkers”.

I have no doubt that Obama’s staff will rush forward to declare, as they have before, that Brzezinski is only a informal adviser. But the question remains why Obama has had a retinue of advisors (both formal and not) like Brzezinski, McPeak, and Malley who hold views so antithetical to Obama’s supposedly unassailable record and views on Israel. You can understand how rational voters, Jewish or not, would conclude that something is amiss and wonder why Obama does not disassociate himself entirely from these people. But no, those Jews are just hung up on Obama’s name and the phony emails about Obama’s Muslim upbringing. That must be it.

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The Scandal Lobby

It’s nice to have friends in high places. It’s not so nice to see those friends unfairly pilloried by journalists intent on collecting another scalp.

First it was Obama adviser Samantha Power, who was accused by some on the right of being anti-Israel on the basis of evidence that was, to put it charitably, ambiguous. Now it’s John McCain’s chief foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, who is being labeled as-gasp-a lobbyist. This heinous charge has been hauled out in the New York Times, USA Today, and now the Wall Street Journal.

There is a difference, of course: While Power is not really anti-Israel, Scheunemann really has been a lobbyist. The question is: What’s wrong with that?

All of the reporters who have written about the issue try to insinuate that something nefarious is going on without actually coming out and saying what it is. Today’s Wall Street Journal article by Mary Jacoby is a classic in the genre known in Washington as “appearance of a conflict of interest”-i.e., not an actual conflict but something that can be made to look that way through selective juxtaposition of acts.

Thus Jacoby notes that Randy has lobbied on behalf of Romania, Latvia, Georgia, and Macedonia while those countries were seeking admission to NATO. She then notes that McCain has been in favor of admitting all those countries to NATO. The inference readers are supposed to draw is that there is something untoward going on here. Only in the final line of the article do we get the evidence that dispels these insinuations:

“Sen. McCain’s been for NATO enlargement since the mid-1990s,” said Mr. Rogers, the McCain spokesman. “His record speaks for itself.”

In other words, McCain (whose campaign I advise on foreign policy issues) was in favor of NATO expansion long before Randy was lobbying on those issues. Anyone who knows either McCain or Scheunemann would laugh at the notion that their support for the embattled democracies of Eastern and Southern Europe is the result of payoffs from those countries.

Randy represents those emerging democracies because he believes in expanding freedom-something that he has pushed for in other contexts without earning any money for it. He was, for instance, one of the founders of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Randy has been pushing for NATO expansion since the mid-1990s when he was not a lobbyist at all but Senator Bob Dole’s chief foreign policy adviser.

Unlike some other lobbyists, he doesn’t represent dictatorial or anti-American regimes. And he is so dedicated to McCain that he spent the period between June of 2007 and March of 2008 working as his chief foreign policy adviser for free. Now he has given up his lobbying income to work on the campaign for a fraction of what he was earning.

Again: What is it exactly that he has done wrong? USA Today writes:

While not illegal or a breach of Senate ethics rules, Scheunemann’s lobbying of McCain’s staff as he was advising the campaign comes to light a week after McCain announced a new policy to avoid such conflicts. The new conflict-of-interest policy prohibits campaign workers from being registered lobbyists or foreign agents and bans part-time volunteers from policy discussions on issues involving their clients. Campaign spokesman Jill Hazelbaker said the ethics policy is not retroactive.

So what Randy has done is not illegal. It’s also not unethical under Senate ethics rules or the more stringent ethics rules of the McCain campaign. Now that the candidate has banned lobbyists from the campaign, Scheunemann has stopped lobbying. Which suggests that there is no story here.

Or perhaps that the real story is that reporters are so desperate to bring McCain down a notch that they will try to concoct nonexistent scandals about his aides. The fact that, outside of Mickey Kaus’s blog, there is a notable lack of outrage over Senator Obama picking a major lobbyist to lead his vice presidential search effort only makes the artificiality of this non-scandal all the more apparent.

It’s nice to have friends in high places. It’s not so nice to see those friends unfairly pilloried by journalists intent on collecting another scalp.

First it was Obama adviser Samantha Power, who was accused by some on the right of being anti-Israel on the basis of evidence that was, to put it charitably, ambiguous. Now it’s John McCain’s chief foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, who is being labeled as-gasp-a lobbyist. This heinous charge has been hauled out in the New York Times, USA Today, and now the Wall Street Journal.

There is a difference, of course: While Power is not really anti-Israel, Scheunemann really has been a lobbyist. The question is: What’s wrong with that?

All of the reporters who have written about the issue try to insinuate that something nefarious is going on without actually coming out and saying what it is. Today’s Wall Street Journal article by Mary Jacoby is a classic in the genre known in Washington as “appearance of a conflict of interest”-i.e., not an actual conflict but something that can be made to look that way through selective juxtaposition of acts.

Thus Jacoby notes that Randy has lobbied on behalf of Romania, Latvia, Georgia, and Macedonia while those countries were seeking admission to NATO. She then notes that McCain has been in favor of admitting all those countries to NATO. The inference readers are supposed to draw is that there is something untoward going on here. Only in the final line of the article do we get the evidence that dispels these insinuations:

“Sen. McCain’s been for NATO enlargement since the mid-1990s,” said Mr. Rogers, the McCain spokesman. “His record speaks for itself.”

In other words, McCain (whose campaign I advise on foreign policy issues) was in favor of NATO expansion long before Randy was lobbying on those issues. Anyone who knows either McCain or Scheunemann would laugh at the notion that their support for the embattled democracies of Eastern and Southern Europe is the result of payoffs from those countries.

Randy represents those emerging democracies because he believes in expanding freedom-something that he has pushed for in other contexts without earning any money for it. He was, for instance, one of the founders of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. Randy has been pushing for NATO expansion since the mid-1990s when he was not a lobbyist at all but Senator Bob Dole’s chief foreign policy adviser.

Unlike some other lobbyists, he doesn’t represent dictatorial or anti-American regimes. And he is so dedicated to McCain that he spent the period between June of 2007 and March of 2008 working as his chief foreign policy adviser for free. Now he has given up his lobbying income to work on the campaign for a fraction of what he was earning.

Again: What is it exactly that he has done wrong? USA Today writes:

While not illegal or a breach of Senate ethics rules, Scheunemann’s lobbying of McCain’s staff as he was advising the campaign comes to light a week after McCain announced a new policy to avoid such conflicts. The new conflict-of-interest policy prohibits campaign workers from being registered lobbyists or foreign agents and bans part-time volunteers from policy discussions on issues involving their clients. Campaign spokesman Jill Hazelbaker said the ethics policy is not retroactive.

So what Randy has done is not illegal. It’s also not unethical under Senate ethics rules or the more stringent ethics rules of the McCain campaign. Now that the candidate has banned lobbyists from the campaign, Scheunemann has stopped lobbying. Which suggests that there is no story here.

Or perhaps that the real story is that reporters are so desperate to bring McCain down a notch that they will try to concoct nonexistent scandals about his aides. The fact that, outside of Mickey Kaus’s blog, there is a notable lack of outrage over Senator Obama picking a major lobbyist to lead his vice presidential search effort only makes the artificiality of this non-scandal all the more apparent.

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The League of Democracies

In his Washington Post column, Jackson Diehl adds his voice to Robert Kagan’s in explaining why the League of Democracies–an idea that Senator McCain has advocated–is not a nefarious neocon plot. In fact, it has antecedents in the Clinton administration and it has a number of advocates on the left, including Howard Dean’s former foreign policy adviser, Ivo Daalder.

I doubt this will cause the reflexive scoffers to think again (see for instance this article and this one). But I hope that the vast majority of people are who are now agnostic will at least give this innovative idea some serious consideration. Sure, it has flaws. But it’s not as if anyone else has a better idea of what the global “architecture” of the future should look like. In fact, as Diehl suggests, the Obama campaign would be well advised to embrace this bipartisan initiative. (Full disclosure: I’m a foreign policy adviser to the McCain campaign.)

In his Washington Post column, Jackson Diehl adds his voice to Robert Kagan’s in explaining why the League of Democracies–an idea that Senator McCain has advocated–is not a nefarious neocon plot. In fact, it has antecedents in the Clinton administration and it has a number of advocates on the left, including Howard Dean’s former foreign policy adviser, Ivo Daalder.

I doubt this will cause the reflexive scoffers to think again (see for instance this article and this one). But I hope that the vast majority of people are who are now agnostic will at least give this innovative idea some serious consideration. Sure, it has flaws. But it’s not as if anyone else has a better idea of what the global “architecture” of the future should look like. In fact, as Diehl suggests, the Obama campaign would be well advised to embrace this bipartisan initiative. (Full disclosure: I’m a foreign policy adviser to the McCain campaign.)

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Why So Upset?

Ed Gillespie, adviser to the President, had this to say at a press gaggle today:

We did not anticipate that it would be taken that way, because it’s kind of hard to take it that way if you look at the actual words of the President’s remarks, which are consistent with what he has said in the past relative to dealing with groups like Hezbollah and Hamas and al Qaeda; relative to standing by Israel; relative to concerns about Iran developing the prospect of a nuclear weapon. And so there was really nothing new in the speech that anyone could point to that would indicate that. . . .

I would again encourage the media, whatever you want to do, it’s your editors — to ask them if maybe you might ask the Speaker of the House, or the leader of the Senate, or the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, what sentence that the President uttered, what words do you disagree with in those comments in the Knesset?

I agree: what precisely was wrong with what Bush said? Bush has been saying these “unprecedented” things about the perils of appeasement for years. So why did Obama get so upset? The Republican Jewish Coalition has an idea:

Why, when Barack Obama hears the word “appeasement,” does he think it applies to him? Why when it comes to standing with Israel is Barack Obama so defensive? It is Barack Obama’s promise to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that causes great nervousness in the Jewish community.

What’s hard for me to understand here is why Obama would meet with Ahmejinedad, but not Hamas. After all, if you’ll sit down with the don, why not break bread with his hitmen?

Ed Gillespie, adviser to the President, had this to say at a press gaggle today:

We did not anticipate that it would be taken that way, because it’s kind of hard to take it that way if you look at the actual words of the President’s remarks, which are consistent with what he has said in the past relative to dealing with groups like Hezbollah and Hamas and al Qaeda; relative to standing by Israel; relative to concerns about Iran developing the prospect of a nuclear weapon. And so there was really nothing new in the speech that anyone could point to that would indicate that. . . .

I would again encourage the media, whatever you want to do, it’s your editors — to ask them if maybe you might ask the Speaker of the House, or the leader of the Senate, or the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, what sentence that the President uttered, what words do you disagree with in those comments in the Knesset?

I agree: what precisely was wrong with what Bush said? Bush has been saying these “unprecedented” things about the perils of appeasement for years. So why did Obama get so upset? The Republican Jewish Coalition has an idea:

Why, when Barack Obama hears the word “appeasement,” does he think it applies to him? Why when it comes to standing with Israel is Barack Obama so defensive? It is Barack Obama’s promise to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that causes great nervousness in the Jewish community.

What’s hard for me to understand here is why Obama would meet with Ahmejinedad, but not Hamas. After all, if you’ll sit down with the don, why not break bread with his hitmen?

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Here’s Another Difference

Part of Barack Obama’s expressed amazement over his difficulty in attracting Jewish support is his claim to adhere to positions identical to John McCain’s on Israel and Hamas. His willingness to hold direct talks with Hamas’s sponsor Iran without preconditions–and without insisting it renounce its policy of obliterating Israel–is one big difference. But it is not the only one.

Others have noted that Daniel Kurtzer, former ambassador to Israel and advisor to Obama, has stated that it “will be impossible to make progress on serious peace talks without putting the future of Jerusalem on the table.” In response to my asking whether this approach is “identical” to McCain’s, I received this response from McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann:

It is revealing that Senator Obama’s Middle East adviser is talking about the need for Israeli concessions on Jerusalem to be ‘on the table’ while making no reference to the need for Palestinians to meet basic roadmap obligations on countering terror and providing security. Senator McCain is not going to pressure Israel into making concessions that undermine its security.

It seems there are indeed major differences between the two. Might that have something to do with the level of support Obama is receiving from American Jews?

Part of Barack Obama’s expressed amazement over his difficulty in attracting Jewish support is his claim to adhere to positions identical to John McCain’s on Israel and Hamas. His willingness to hold direct talks with Hamas’s sponsor Iran without preconditions–and without insisting it renounce its policy of obliterating Israel–is one big difference. But it is not the only one.

Others have noted that Daniel Kurtzer, former ambassador to Israel and advisor to Obama, has stated that it “will be impossible to make progress on serious peace talks without putting the future of Jerusalem on the table.” In response to my asking whether this approach is “identical” to McCain’s, I received this response from McCain foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann:

It is revealing that Senator Obama’s Middle East adviser is talking about the need for Israeli concessions on Jerusalem to be ‘on the table’ while making no reference to the need for Palestinians to meet basic roadmap obligations on countering terror and providing security. Senator McCain is not going to pressure Israel into making concessions that undermine its security.

It seems there are indeed major differences between the two. Might that have something to do with the level of support Obama is receiving from American Jews?

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Newsweek Gushes

Senator McCain’s long-time adviser Mark Salter has penned an outstanding letter to Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek, responding to that magazine’s paean to Senator Obama.

Few people are fortunate enough to receive the kind of love and tenderness we find in the Newsweek story. It is especially notable for two things. The first is that Obama is portrayed as a near-mythic figure. He possesses “almost preternatural equanimity.” He has “a light touch in the office, and he can laugh off adversity.” He makes jokes at his own expense. He’s not a screamer but he is an encourager. He wants “steady, calm, focused leadership;” his desire is to “keep out grandstanders and make sure the quiet dissenters” speak up at meetings. Obama even allows his aides to take naps after pulling a series of all-nighters–including putting his hand on their shoulder when asking them to nap. We read from his aides that he “does not get rattled” and he possesses “grace under fire.” He’s the “alpha male” who “doesn’t micromanage.” No word yet on whether he walks on water or if he can feed the hungry multitudes. But it’s still early in the campaign.

The second thing we learn is that St. Barack must prepare himself for “the coming mud war” led by those oh-so-mean Republicans. McCain’s aides, we learn, include some veterans of “past Republican attack campaigns.” Bringing up Obama’s past associations with Reverend Wright, Tony Rezko and William Ayers is “aiming low.” And of course Floyd Brown and David Bossie, “two of the most experienced attack artists,” warrant two full paragraphs in the story. There is no word on whether Democrats or their 527 groups have, in any campaign, at any time, said or done anything in the least bit problematic. They are, apparently, as pure as the new-driven snow.

The deeper purpose of the article is obvious enough: to tether Republicans to the most toxic elements in their party and de-legitimize in advance criticisms of Obama. Newsweek is attempting to make sure every criticism is viewed through the prism of the GOP’s allegedly ugly motives. So if people make an issue of Obama’s long and intimate relationship with Reverend Wright, it’s taken as evidence of race-baiting.

Newsweek’s cover story is more than evidence that the magazine has cast its lot with Obama. In fact, the deep emotional investment some reporters have in him is beyond anything we have seen since, perhaps, Bobby Kennedy’s 1968 campaign. It’s worth recalling, then, that the Washington Post reporter covering the Kennedy campaign, Richard Harwood, asked to be taken off the beat just before the California primary because he found himself unable to write objectively about Bobby Kennedy. What an admirable and rare thing to find these days.

It’s fine to be impressed with Barack Obama and find him an appealing figure. It’s even fine to decide that electing him is important, even essential, for our republic to survive and flourish. But when reporters reach that point, it’s time to follow the Harwood example. Beyond that, Newsweek’s effort to use its pages as palm branches for Obama while simultaneously discrediting Republicans is an example of why the MSM finds itself in such a bad way these days. The good news is that the claim of objectivity has been cast aside. Newsweek is now operating as a de facto wing of the Obama campaign. It should be, and it will be, seen as such.

Senator McCain’s long-time adviser Mark Salter has penned an outstanding letter to Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek, responding to that magazine’s paean to Senator Obama.

Few people are fortunate enough to receive the kind of love and tenderness we find in the Newsweek story. It is especially notable for two things. The first is that Obama is portrayed as a near-mythic figure. He possesses “almost preternatural equanimity.” He has “a light touch in the office, and he can laugh off adversity.” He makes jokes at his own expense. He’s not a screamer but he is an encourager. He wants “steady, calm, focused leadership;” his desire is to “keep out grandstanders and make sure the quiet dissenters” speak up at meetings. Obama even allows his aides to take naps after pulling a series of all-nighters–including putting his hand on their shoulder when asking them to nap. We read from his aides that he “does not get rattled” and he possesses “grace under fire.” He’s the “alpha male” who “doesn’t micromanage.” No word yet on whether he walks on water or if he can feed the hungry multitudes. But it’s still early in the campaign.

The second thing we learn is that St. Barack must prepare himself for “the coming mud war” led by those oh-so-mean Republicans. McCain’s aides, we learn, include some veterans of “past Republican attack campaigns.” Bringing up Obama’s past associations with Reverend Wright, Tony Rezko and William Ayers is “aiming low.” And of course Floyd Brown and David Bossie, “two of the most experienced attack artists,” warrant two full paragraphs in the story. There is no word on whether Democrats or their 527 groups have, in any campaign, at any time, said or done anything in the least bit problematic. They are, apparently, as pure as the new-driven snow.

The deeper purpose of the article is obvious enough: to tether Republicans to the most toxic elements in their party and de-legitimize in advance criticisms of Obama. Newsweek is attempting to make sure every criticism is viewed through the prism of the GOP’s allegedly ugly motives. So if people make an issue of Obama’s long and intimate relationship with Reverend Wright, it’s taken as evidence of race-baiting.

Newsweek’s cover story is more than evidence that the magazine has cast its lot with Obama. In fact, the deep emotional investment some reporters have in him is beyond anything we have seen since, perhaps, Bobby Kennedy’s 1968 campaign. It’s worth recalling, then, that the Washington Post reporter covering the Kennedy campaign, Richard Harwood, asked to be taken off the beat just before the California primary because he found himself unable to write objectively about Bobby Kennedy. What an admirable and rare thing to find these days.

It’s fine to be impressed with Barack Obama and find him an appealing figure. It’s even fine to decide that electing him is important, even essential, for our republic to survive and flourish. But when reporters reach that point, it’s time to follow the Harwood example. Beyond that, Newsweek’s effort to use its pages as palm branches for Obama while simultaneously discrediting Republicans is an example of why the MSM finds itself in such a bad way these days. The good news is that the claim of objectivity has been cast aside. Newsweek is now operating as a de facto wing of the Obama campaign. It should be, and it will be, seen as such.

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Obama’s Missile Gap

Is Joseph Cirincione Barack Obama’s “top advisor” on nuclear affairs, as I stated here last week? He has denied it adamantly (scroll down to the comments section of my post), and even though I could not identify any other nuclear experts closer to the candidate, I am happy to take him at his word. It would be better to call him an Obama nuclear advisor rather than his top nuclear advisor.

Whatever his precise status in the campaign, there is no question about his views. Cirincione has backed away from his assertion that the Syrian facility destroyed by Israel last September was not a nuclear reactor. But does he stand by his views on missile defense?

Writing in the Globalist back in October, Cirincione compared the Bush administration’s effort to defend against Iranian nuclear-tipped missiles to “the Israeli settler movement,” saying that both “want to create facts on the ground that will make it difficult for successors to reverse course.”

On the one hand, he argues, spending billions to build radar stations and interceptor sites in Poland and the Czech republic is pouring money down the drain: “All evidence indicates that this U.S. anti-missile system is incapable of intercepting any long-range missiles.”

On the other hand, he argues, we are terrifying the Kremlin through our recklessness. “Russian military planners cannot count” on the fact that the system won’t work.  Indeed “the U.S. bases would have a real, though limited, capability against Russia’s nuclear deterrent force.”

Will it or won’t it work? Or will it only work against Russian missiles and let Iranian ones fly through? I confess to being confused.

Either way, what does Cirincione propose instead? “If the administration had any sense,” he writes, “it would ditch this technologically weak and strategically unnecessary plan — and instead seize the Russian proposal to use the radar at its Azerbaijan base bordering Iran.”

True, “that radar is not as powerful as the American radar” slated for deployment in the Czech republic. But never mind, even if the Russian proposal won’t work, it will work. The Azerbaijan radar would serve to “provide real military capabilities against any future Iranian threat.”

Am I alone thinking that this line of argument is a remarkably brazen attempt to have things both ways?

Memo to Barack Obama: when the time comes this fall to debate John McCain on defense issues, it might be helpful to get a second opinion from another adviser rather than two contradictory ones from Joseph Cirincione.

Is Joseph Cirincione Barack Obama’s “top advisor” on nuclear affairs, as I stated here last week? He has denied it adamantly (scroll down to the comments section of my post), and even though I could not identify any other nuclear experts closer to the candidate, I am happy to take him at his word. It would be better to call him an Obama nuclear advisor rather than his top nuclear advisor.

Whatever his precise status in the campaign, there is no question about his views. Cirincione has backed away from his assertion that the Syrian facility destroyed by Israel last September was not a nuclear reactor. But does he stand by his views on missile defense?

Writing in the Globalist back in October, Cirincione compared the Bush administration’s effort to defend against Iranian nuclear-tipped missiles to “the Israeli settler movement,” saying that both “want to create facts on the ground that will make it difficult for successors to reverse course.”

On the one hand, he argues, spending billions to build radar stations and interceptor sites in Poland and the Czech republic is pouring money down the drain: “All evidence indicates that this U.S. anti-missile system is incapable of intercepting any long-range missiles.”

On the other hand, he argues, we are terrifying the Kremlin through our recklessness. “Russian military planners cannot count” on the fact that the system won’t work.  Indeed “the U.S. bases would have a real, though limited, capability against Russia’s nuclear deterrent force.”

Will it or won’t it work? Or will it only work against Russian missiles and let Iranian ones fly through? I confess to being confused.

Either way, what does Cirincione propose instead? “If the administration had any sense,” he writes, “it would ditch this technologically weak and strategically unnecessary plan — and instead seize the Russian proposal to use the radar at its Azerbaijan base bordering Iran.”

True, “that radar is not as powerful as the American radar” slated for deployment in the Czech republic. But never mind, even if the Russian proposal won’t work, it will work. The Azerbaijan radar would serve to “provide real military capabilities against any future Iranian threat.”

Am I alone thinking that this line of argument is a remarkably brazen attempt to have things both ways?

Memo to Barack Obama: when the time comes this fall to debate John McCain on defense issues, it might be helpful to get a second opinion from another adviser rather than two contradictory ones from Joseph Cirincione.

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Denial of A Denial

Joseph Cirincione, the subject of my post yesterday, Obama’s Radioactive Potato, writes that “I am not a top advisor to Senator Obama. I have never met the Senator. I have written occasional memos to his campaign and publicly endorsed his candidacy, but I am afraid there is no way I could be considered ‘Barack Obama’s top expert on matters nuclear.’”

“No way”?

With all due respect to Joseph Cirincione, I stand by my claim that he serves as Senator Obama’s top adviser on matters nuclear and I am astonished that he would deny it.

In a March 12, 2008 article in the New Republic by Michelle Cottle in which he was extensively quoted, Cottle wrote that Cirincione “agreed last spring to advise the candidate on non-proliferation.”

If that statement is true, and I see no evidence that Cirincione has disputed it, then he is their adviser on nuclear proliferation, and indeed their top adviser unless he can point to a more senior nuclear expert advising the campaign.

Cirincione has been widely identified as an Obama adviser all over the blogsphere by publications spanning the political spectrum, from National Review to the Weekly Standard to the DailyKos, where he was even given the title “Informal National Security Adviser.” I did not find a disavowal from Cirincione in the comments section of that web document.

Stephen Zunes, chairman of  the program in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, writing in Foreign Policy in Focus, described Cirincione as a “key Obama adviser.” Once again, I did not find a disavowal from Cirincione in the comments section of that web document.

Will the real top Obama nuclear advisor please stand up.

Joseph Cirincione, the subject of my post yesterday, Obama’s Radioactive Potato, writes that “I am not a top advisor to Senator Obama. I have never met the Senator. I have written occasional memos to his campaign and publicly endorsed his candidacy, but I am afraid there is no way I could be considered ‘Barack Obama’s top expert on matters nuclear.’”

“No way”?

With all due respect to Joseph Cirincione, I stand by my claim that he serves as Senator Obama’s top adviser on matters nuclear and I am astonished that he would deny it.

In a March 12, 2008 article in the New Republic by Michelle Cottle in which he was extensively quoted, Cottle wrote that Cirincione “agreed last spring to advise the candidate on non-proliferation.”

If that statement is true, and I see no evidence that Cirincione has disputed it, then he is their adviser on nuclear proliferation, and indeed their top adviser unless he can point to a more senior nuclear expert advising the campaign.

Cirincione has been widely identified as an Obama adviser all over the blogsphere by publications spanning the political spectrum, from National Review to the Weekly Standard to the DailyKos, where he was even given the title “Informal National Security Adviser.” I did not find a disavowal from Cirincione in the comments section of that web document.

Stephen Zunes, chairman of  the program in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco, writing in Foreign Policy in Focus, described Cirincione as a “key Obama adviser.” Once again, I did not find a disavowal from Cirincione in the comments section of that web document.

Will the real top Obama nuclear advisor please stand up.

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Nothing to See Here

Not long after Rudy Giuliani announced his foreign policy advisory team last year, liberal bloggers and journalists cried that the group represented “AIPAC’s Dream Team” (Harper’s Ken Silverstein), was ginning to implement “bloody, bloody, bloody foreign policy” (Matthew Yglesias) and that “RUDY GIULIANI WILL KILL US ALL” (The American Prospect). One could simultaneously disagree with such unhinged assessments of what a Giuliani foreign policy might look like and still believe that the essence of liberal criticism was not unfair: to a large degree, we can divine what a candidate thinks based upon the sort of people from whom he seeks counsel.

This non-partisan analytical instrument is useless, apparently, when it comes to the people advising Barack Obama. Over the past few months, several of Barack Obama’s advisers (foreign policy advisers in particular) have entered the spotlight for things they have said or written which are supposedly at odds with the beliefs of the candidate for whom they work. First, there was the incident in which Obama’s top economics advisor, Austan Goolsbee, reassured Canadian consular officials in Chicago that Obama’s anti-NAFTA position wasn’t sincere. Then, there was the now-departed Samantha Power, who told the BBC that Barack Obama’s real position on Iraq withdrawal was not, in actual fact, what he’d been saying on the campaign trail. Like Goolsbee, we were told at the time that Ms. Power was “just” an adviser — a past one, at this point — and that what she said about the Iraq War is ultimately irrelevant.

On a similar note, last week we discovered — thanks to the tireless reporting of the New York Sun’s Eli Lake — that Colin Kahl, head of Obama’s Iraq working group, wrote a paper calling for 80,000 American troops to stay in Iraq until at least 2010. Susan Rice, another Obama foreign policy adviser, told Lake that, “Barack Obama cannot be held accountable for what we all write.” Finally, a 2003 interview with top Obama adviser Tony McPeak recently surfaced in which the former Chief of Staff of the Air Force said of Iraq, “We’ll be there a century, hopefully. If it works right.” This is the exact same sentiment that John McCain expressed in his much-distorted “100 years” remark.

Of course, given the pattern I’ve elucidated, I presume that we cannot hastily jump to the conclusion that McPeak — like Power, Kahl and Goolsbee before him, and who knows how many advisers into the future — necessarily represents the views of Barack Obama. A great journalistic assignment for an enterprising young reporter would be to find out what Obama does believe.

Not long after Rudy Giuliani announced his foreign policy advisory team last year, liberal bloggers and journalists cried that the group represented “AIPAC’s Dream Team” (Harper’s Ken Silverstein), was ginning to implement “bloody, bloody, bloody foreign policy” (Matthew Yglesias) and that “RUDY GIULIANI WILL KILL US ALL” (The American Prospect). One could simultaneously disagree with such unhinged assessments of what a Giuliani foreign policy might look like and still believe that the essence of liberal criticism was not unfair: to a large degree, we can divine what a candidate thinks based upon the sort of people from whom he seeks counsel.

This non-partisan analytical instrument is useless, apparently, when it comes to the people advising Barack Obama. Over the past few months, several of Barack Obama’s advisers (foreign policy advisers in particular) have entered the spotlight for things they have said or written which are supposedly at odds with the beliefs of the candidate for whom they work. First, there was the incident in which Obama’s top economics advisor, Austan Goolsbee, reassured Canadian consular officials in Chicago that Obama’s anti-NAFTA position wasn’t sincere. Then, there was the now-departed Samantha Power, who told the BBC that Barack Obama’s real position on Iraq withdrawal was not, in actual fact, what he’d been saying on the campaign trail. Like Goolsbee, we were told at the time that Ms. Power was “just” an adviser — a past one, at this point — and that what she said about the Iraq War is ultimately irrelevant.

On a similar note, last week we discovered — thanks to the tireless reporting of the New York Sun’s Eli Lake — that Colin Kahl, head of Obama’s Iraq working group, wrote a paper calling for 80,000 American troops to stay in Iraq until at least 2010. Susan Rice, another Obama foreign policy adviser, told Lake that, “Barack Obama cannot be held accountable for what we all write.” Finally, a 2003 interview with top Obama adviser Tony McPeak recently surfaced in which the former Chief of Staff of the Air Force said of Iraq, “We’ll be there a century, hopefully. If it works right.” This is the exact same sentiment that John McCain expressed in his much-distorted “100 years” remark.

Of course, given the pattern I’ve elucidated, I presume that we cannot hastily jump to the conclusion that McPeak — like Power, Kahl and Goolsbee before him, and who knows how many advisers into the future — necessarily represents the views of Barack Obama. A great journalistic assignment for an enterprising young reporter would be to find out what Obama does believe.

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Another Times Fishing Expedition

The New York Times yesterday served notice once again that it will grasp at even the slimmest of straws in its transparent effort to derail John McCain’s bid for the White House.

In an article titled “Two McCain Moments, Rarely Mentioned,” reporter Elisabeth Bumiller floated the notion that McCain’s Republican loyalties leave something to be desired, implying that McCain is well, you know, maybe just a little bit untrustworthy, unpredictable–perhaps even unstable.

Bumiller’s piece revolved around what she called “two extraordinary moments in [McCain's] political past that are at odds with the candidate of the present,” the two being “[h]is discussions in 2001 with Democrats about leaving the Republican Party, and his conversations in 2004 with Senator John Kerry about becoming Mr. Kerry’s running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket.”

But as Bumiller herself acknowledged, “There are wildly divergent versions of both episodes, depending on whether Democrats or Mr. McCain and his advisers are telling the story. The Democrats, including Mr. Kerry, say that not only did Mr. McCain express interest but that it was his camp that initially reached out to them. Mr. McCain and his aides counter that in both cases the Democrats were the suitors and Mr. McCain the unwilling bride.”

Now, when you’ve got “widely divergent” accounts of a story, it would seem tendentious at best -particularly in the news pages of an ostensibly serious media organ — to try to explicate from that story any meaningful insight into the character or politics of the story’s protagonist. But Elisabeth Bumiller had her agenda, and she was off to the races:

Either way, the episodes shed light on a bitter period on Mr. McCain’s life. . . . They also offer a glimpse into his psychological makeup and the difficulties in putting a label on his political ideology over many years in the Senate.

Got that? “Either way.” In other words, she has a case to make, and no matter where the truth lies – “either way” – she’ll make it.

Read More

The New York Times yesterday served notice once again that it will grasp at even the slimmest of straws in its transparent effort to derail John McCain’s bid for the White House.

In an article titled “Two McCain Moments, Rarely Mentioned,” reporter Elisabeth Bumiller floated the notion that McCain’s Republican loyalties leave something to be desired, implying that McCain is well, you know, maybe just a little bit untrustworthy, unpredictable–perhaps even unstable.

Bumiller’s piece revolved around what she called “two extraordinary moments in [McCain's] political past that are at odds with the candidate of the present,” the two being “[h]is discussions in 2001 with Democrats about leaving the Republican Party, and his conversations in 2004 with Senator John Kerry about becoming Mr. Kerry’s running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket.”

But as Bumiller herself acknowledged, “There are wildly divergent versions of both episodes, depending on whether Democrats or Mr. McCain and his advisers are telling the story. The Democrats, including Mr. Kerry, say that not only did Mr. McCain express interest but that it was his camp that initially reached out to them. Mr. McCain and his aides counter that in both cases the Democrats were the suitors and Mr. McCain the unwilling bride.”

Now, when you’ve got “widely divergent” accounts of a story, it would seem tendentious at best -particularly in the news pages of an ostensibly serious media organ — to try to explicate from that story any meaningful insight into the character or politics of the story’s protagonist. But Elisabeth Bumiller had her agenda, and she was off to the races:

Either way, the episodes shed light on a bitter period on Mr. McCain’s life. . . . They also offer a glimpse into his psychological makeup and the difficulties in putting a label on his political ideology over many years in the Senate.

Got that? “Either way.” In other words, she has a case to make, and no matter where the truth lies – “either way” – she’ll make it.

Later in the piece, after recounting former Democratic congressman Thomas J. Downey’s claim that longtime McCain aide John Weaver approached him shortly after George W. Bush took office with the possibility–expressed in rather vague terms even in Downey’s telling – that McCain might be willing to defect to the Democrats, Bumiller acknowledged that Weaver’s recollection was at odds with Downey’s.

According to Weaver, Downey was the one who broached the subject and his–Weaver’s–response was primarily one of bemusement.

So just who did initiate the conversation, and how seriously did Weaver take it? On such details do stories hang, especially a story that promises to plumb the inner recesses of a potential president’s psyche–his “psychological makeup,” as Bumiller herself put it. But our trusty reporter can’t be bothered with such trivia: “Whatever transpired, Mr. Downey raced home and immediately called” former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle.

“Whatever transpired”?! If Bumiller doesn’t know “whatever transpired” between Downey and Weaver, then what was the point of her piece? After all, “whatever transpired” is so much more important to the story than what Downey did or whom he contacted immediately afterward.

Still later in the article, after offering contradictory accounts of who approached whom in the matter of a possible 2004 Kerry-McCain ticket, Bumiller wrote, “But however Mr. McCain reacted, he ultimately decided [according to McCain adviser Mark Salter] . . . that the idea would never work.”

“However Mr. McCain reacted.” Yes, the reader wanted to scream–how, exactly, did he react? Alas, we learned nothing about McCain’s actual reaction to the idea of running on a cross-party ticket–just more of the same He Said, He Said back and forth.

McCain may very well have given thought to–even seriously flirted with–the idea of switching parties in 2001 or running with Kerry in 2004. But readers were no closer to knowing the truth after finishing Bumiller’s fishing expedition of an article than they were before starting it.

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More on “Experts” Power and Malley

This weekend, the New York Times covered the trials and tribulations of Samantha Power and Robert Malleyformer and current Obama advisers, respectively, whose remarks on the Middle East have drawn fire. Unsurprisingly, much of this coverage trivialized their critics: a Daily News headline deriding Power as “Pretty Dumb!” was portrayed as representative, while Malley’s detractors were dismissed as “a handful of Jewish bloggers.” As I wrote last week, one need not be Jewish to observe that Malley has frequently called events in the Palestinian political sphere blatantly wrong, while Noah Pollak and Martin Kramer’s dissections of Power’s statements demonstrate that the attacks on Power have been substantive, rather than ad hominem.

Yet the real story behind Power and Malley’s poor public receptions should have little to do with their critics. After all, we were merely responding to their previous statements. Rather, the scrutiny that Power and Malley have faced should provide a cautionary tale regarding the limits that aspiring experts must obey if they value their credibility.

Let’s start with Power. Prior to achieving “top adviser” status on Barack Obama’s foreign policy staff, Power had established herself as a certifiable expert on genocide: from 1993 to 1995, she covered the Yugoslav wars as a correspondent in Bosnia, and she later traveled to Rwanda. Her first book, which won the Pulitzer Prize, drew on these experiences, exploring American responses to the genocides of the 20th century. Yet as her star kept rising, Power seemed to forget the limits of her true expertise, acting as if her study of genocide had imbued her with expertise in just about anything foreign policy-related. Downright ignorant statements on Iran, Iraq, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict followed, with critics rightfully questioning her depth as a consequence.

Malley’s story is different: although he has limited his statements to his area of expertise-the Israeli-Palestinian conflict-his writings frequently reflect the triumph of ideology over analysis. In this vein, Malley has continually furthered the myth that Palestinian national unity is an attainable prerequisite for Israeli-Palestinian peace, thereby advocating policies that have ultimately strengthened Hamas and undermined U.S. interests. For example, as I noted last month, Malley supported the inclusion of Hamas in the 2006 parliamentary elections, and later predicted that the 2007 Hamas-Fatah Mecca Accord-which ended with Hamas seizing Gaza barely four months after its signing-would likely hold. Indeed, the scrutiny that Malley has faced is not a matter of pro-Israel bloggers vocally disagreeing with a pro-Palestinian expert on key assumptions. Rather, at issue is how Malley’s gushing over Yasser Arafat has motivated bad policy analysis.

In short, two lessons can be drawn from Power and Malley’s poor public receptions. First, aspiring “experts” should stick to their areas of expertise. Second, they should avoid the interference of political sympathies with policy analysis. Sadly, neither Power-who argued that her critics were really just attacking Obama-nor Malley-who thought that revealing his Jewish identity would allay his detractors’ concerns-seems to understand this.

This weekend, the New York Times covered the trials and tribulations of Samantha Power and Robert Malleyformer and current Obama advisers, respectively, whose remarks on the Middle East have drawn fire. Unsurprisingly, much of this coverage trivialized their critics: a Daily News headline deriding Power as “Pretty Dumb!” was portrayed as representative, while Malley’s detractors were dismissed as “a handful of Jewish bloggers.” As I wrote last week, one need not be Jewish to observe that Malley has frequently called events in the Palestinian political sphere blatantly wrong, while Noah Pollak and Martin Kramer’s dissections of Power’s statements demonstrate that the attacks on Power have been substantive, rather than ad hominem.

Yet the real story behind Power and Malley’s poor public receptions should have little to do with their critics. After all, we were merely responding to their previous statements. Rather, the scrutiny that Power and Malley have faced should provide a cautionary tale regarding the limits that aspiring experts must obey if they value their credibility.

Let’s start with Power. Prior to achieving “top adviser” status on Barack Obama’s foreign policy staff, Power had established herself as a certifiable expert on genocide: from 1993 to 1995, she covered the Yugoslav wars as a correspondent in Bosnia, and she later traveled to Rwanda. Her first book, which won the Pulitzer Prize, drew on these experiences, exploring American responses to the genocides of the 20th century. Yet as her star kept rising, Power seemed to forget the limits of her true expertise, acting as if her study of genocide had imbued her with expertise in just about anything foreign policy-related. Downright ignorant statements on Iran, Iraq, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict followed, with critics rightfully questioning her depth as a consequence.

Malley’s story is different: although he has limited his statements to his area of expertise-the Israeli-Palestinian conflict-his writings frequently reflect the triumph of ideology over analysis. In this vein, Malley has continually furthered the myth that Palestinian national unity is an attainable prerequisite for Israeli-Palestinian peace, thereby advocating policies that have ultimately strengthened Hamas and undermined U.S. interests. For example, as I noted last month, Malley supported the inclusion of Hamas in the 2006 parliamentary elections, and later predicted that the 2007 Hamas-Fatah Mecca Accord-which ended with Hamas seizing Gaza barely four months after its signing-would likely hold. Indeed, the scrutiny that Malley has faced is not a matter of pro-Israel bloggers vocally disagreeing with a pro-Palestinian expert on key assumptions. Rather, at issue is how Malley’s gushing over Yasser Arafat has motivated bad policy analysis.

In short, two lessons can be drawn from Power and Malley’s poor public receptions. First, aspiring “experts” should stick to their areas of expertise. Second, they should avoid the interference of political sympathies with policy analysis. Sadly, neither Power-who argued that her critics were really just attacking Obama-nor Malley-who thought that revealing his Jewish identity would allay his detractors’ concerns-seems to understand this.

Read Less




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