Commentary Magazine


Topic: advisors

Obama from the Oval Office

First, a visual observation: he looked scrawny and ill-at-ease at the large, empty desk. There were no funny hand gestures this time, as there was for the Oil Spill address. This speech did have some good moments, which I will start with.

First, he clearly debunked the notion that we are bugging out of Iraq:

Going forward, a transitional force of U.S. troops will remain in Iraq with a different mission: advising and assisting Iraq’s Security Forces; supporting Iraqi troops in targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our civilians. Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year. As our military draws down, our dedicated civilians — diplomats, aid workers, and advisors — are moving into the lead to support Iraq as it strengthens its government, resolves political disputes, resettles those displaced by war, and builds ties with the region and the world. And that is a message that Vice President Biden is delivering to the Iraqi people through his visit there today.

This new approach reflects our long-term partnership with Iraq — one based upon mutual interests, and mutual respect. Of course, violence will not end with our combat mission. Extremists will continue to set off bombs, attack Iraqi civilians and try to spark sectarian strife. But ultimately, these terrorists will fail to achieve their goals. Iraqis are a proud people. They have rejected sectarian war, and they have no interest in endless destruction. They understand that, in the end, only Iraqis can resolve their differences and police their streets. Only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders. What America can do, and will do, is provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner.

And he put forth a positive statement on the Afghanistan war:

As we speak, al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We will disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists. And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense. In fact, over the last 19 months, nearly a dozen al Qaeda leaders –and hundreds of Al Qaeda’s extremist allies–have been killed or captured around the world.

Within Afghanistan, I have ordered the deployment of additional troops who — under the command of General David Petraeus — are fighting to break the Taliban’s momentum. As with the surge in Iraq, these forces will be in place for a limited time to provide space for the Afghans to build their capacity and secure their own future.

But those comments were, regrettably, far outweighed by a number of unhelpful, ungracious, and downright inaccurate moments.

First, in his recap and praise of George W. Bush’s administration, he never explained how it was that we succeeded in Iraq. It was of course that same surge that we are now using in Afghanistan. He said this about Bush:

This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hope for Iraq’s future.

But Mr. President, Bush was not just a great guy — he was right. It was one more instance of the lack of introspection and grace that has characterized Obama’s entire presidency.

Next, he reiterated the Afghanistan deadline, trying to fuzz it up rather than revoke it:

[A]s was the case in Iraq, we cannot do for Afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves. That’s why we are training Afghan Security Forces and supporting a political resolution to Afghanistan’s problems. And, next July, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure. But make no mistake: this transition will begin — because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.

You see, Obama’s not into open-ended commitment. This is the same counterproductive claptrap that has been roundly criticized and that reveals him to be fundamentally disinterested in foreign policy. It is also why both friends and enemies doubt our staying power.

But most of all, the bulk of the speech had nothing to do with either Iraq or Afghanistan — it was a pep talk for his domestic agenda. This cements the sense that he simply wants out of messy foreign commitments. He also repeated a number of domestic policy canards. This was among the worst, blaming our debt on wars rather than on domestic fiscal gluttony: “We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform.”

He is arguing for more spending.

Obama is still candidate Obama, never tiring of reminding us that he kept his campaign pledge and ever eager to push aside foreign policy challenges so he can get on with the business of remaking America. All in all, it was what we were promised it would not be — self-serving, disingenuous, ungracious, and unreassuring.

UPDATE: COMMENTARY contributor Jonah Goldberg’s smart take is here.

UPDATE II: Charles Krauthammer’s reaction is here.

First, a visual observation: he looked scrawny and ill-at-ease at the large, empty desk. There were no funny hand gestures this time, as there was for the Oil Spill address. This speech did have some good moments, which I will start with.

First, he clearly debunked the notion that we are bugging out of Iraq:

Going forward, a transitional force of U.S. troops will remain in Iraq with a different mission: advising and assisting Iraq’s Security Forces; supporting Iraqi troops in targeted counter-terrorism missions; and protecting our civilians. Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year. As our military draws down, our dedicated civilians — diplomats, aid workers, and advisors — are moving into the lead to support Iraq as it strengthens its government, resolves political disputes, resettles those displaced by war, and builds ties with the region and the world. And that is a message that Vice President Biden is delivering to the Iraqi people through his visit there today.

This new approach reflects our long-term partnership with Iraq — one based upon mutual interests, and mutual respect. Of course, violence will not end with our combat mission. Extremists will continue to set off bombs, attack Iraqi civilians and try to spark sectarian strife. But ultimately, these terrorists will fail to achieve their goals. Iraqis are a proud people. They have rejected sectarian war, and they have no interest in endless destruction. They understand that, in the end, only Iraqis can resolve their differences and police their streets. Only Iraqis can build a democracy within their borders. What America can do, and will do, is provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner.

And he put forth a positive statement on the Afghanistan war:

As we speak, al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We will disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists. And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense. In fact, over the last 19 months, nearly a dozen al Qaeda leaders –and hundreds of Al Qaeda’s extremist allies–have been killed or captured around the world.

Within Afghanistan, I have ordered the deployment of additional troops who — under the command of General David Petraeus — are fighting to break the Taliban’s momentum. As with the surge in Iraq, these forces will be in place for a limited time to provide space for the Afghans to build their capacity and secure their own future.

But those comments were, regrettably, far outweighed by a number of unhelpful, ungracious, and downright inaccurate moments.

First, in his recap and praise of George W. Bush’s administration, he never explained how it was that we succeeded in Iraq. It was of course that same surge that we are now using in Afghanistan. He said this about Bush:

This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one could doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I have said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hope for Iraq’s future.

But Mr. President, Bush was not just a great guy — he was right. It was one more instance of the lack of introspection and grace that has characterized Obama’s entire presidency.

Next, he reiterated the Afghanistan deadline, trying to fuzz it up rather than revoke it:

[A]s was the case in Iraq, we cannot do for Afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves. That’s why we are training Afghan Security Forces and supporting a political resolution to Afghanistan’s problems. And, next July, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure. But make no mistake: this transition will begin — because open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people’s.

You see, Obama’s not into open-ended commitment. This is the same counterproductive claptrap that has been roundly criticized and that reveals him to be fundamentally disinterested in foreign policy. It is also why both friends and enemies doubt our staying power.

But most of all, the bulk of the speech had nothing to do with either Iraq or Afghanistan — it was a pep talk for his domestic agenda. This cements the sense that he simply wants out of messy foreign commitments. He also repeated a number of domestic policy canards. This was among the worst, blaming our debt on wars rather than on domestic fiscal gluttony: “We have spent over a trillion dollars at war, often financed by borrowing from overseas. This, in turn, has short-changed investments in our own people, and contributed to record deficits. For too long, we have put off tough decisions on everything from our manufacturing base to our energy policy to education reform.”

He is arguing for more spending.

Obama is still candidate Obama, never tiring of reminding us that he kept his campaign pledge and ever eager to push aside foreign policy challenges so he can get on with the business of remaking America. All in all, it was what we were promised it would not be — self-serving, disingenuous, ungracious, and unreassuring.

UPDATE: COMMENTARY contributor Jonah Goldberg’s smart take is here.

UPDATE II: Charles Krauthammer’s reaction is here.

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Articulate No More

During the campaign, many conservatives, including me, were mystified by the media’s assertion that Obama was the most eloquent man of his era. He was charismatic and inspiring, we were lectured. But conservatives could barely figure out what he was saying (“We are the change we have been waiting for”) or contain their guffaws when he spouted hackneyed phrases (“This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet”) and college-freshmen (apologies to the many bright students) rhetoric (“America, this is our moment.” And, let’s not forget, “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”) It seemed gibberish to many of us. But at least it was all of the same piece, all recycled leftist sloganeering.

Now, after 18 months, it seems as though even former advisors and much of the liberal media (OK, there is some overlap there) have given up on Obama and are pronouncing him “incoherent.” CNN (yeah, CNN) reports in the wake of the Ground Zero mosque debacle:

“The danger here is an incoherent presidency,” said David Morey, vice chairman of the Core Strategy Group, who provided communications advice to Obama’s 2008 campaign. “Simpler is better, and rising above these issues and leading by controlling the dialogue is what the presidency is all about. So I think that’s the job they have to do more effectively as they have in the past [in the campaign].” … New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote in a recent column that Obama’s clarity and successful messaging during the campaign are gone. In place is a “incoherent president,” who’s “with the banks, he’s against the banks. He’s leaving Afghanistan, he’s staying in Afghanistan. He strains at being a populist, but his head is in the clouds.”

And just to twist the knife, CNN acknowledges that George W. Bush was a more effective communicator:

While many poked fun at former President George W. Bush for mispronouncing words and stumbling through sentences, observers note that he rarely had to backtrack on his answers because he employed a simple and direct messaging approach.

Yowser!

So Obama has gone from inspirational to exasperating for his followers and cheerleaders. Maybe he just ran out of left-wing bumper-sticker phrases. Perhaps, you know, there’s not a brilliant mind at work but a panicked liberal pol who can’t seem to slide through sticky situations with gauzy phrases. It is a revelation to the left and a vindication to the right. Unfortunately, we have over two more years of him, and it’s generally not a good idea to have a president who has become the object of widespread derision. It tends to embolden our foes and demoralize our friends, in this case even more than they already are.

During the campaign, many conservatives, including me, were mystified by the media’s assertion that Obama was the most eloquent man of his era. He was charismatic and inspiring, we were lectured. But conservatives could barely figure out what he was saying (“We are the change we have been waiting for”) or contain their guffaws when he spouted hackneyed phrases (“This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet”) and college-freshmen (apologies to the many bright students) rhetoric (“America, this is our moment.” And, let’s not forget, “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”) It seemed gibberish to many of us. But at least it was all of the same piece, all recycled leftist sloganeering.

Now, after 18 months, it seems as though even former advisors and much of the liberal media (OK, there is some overlap there) have given up on Obama and are pronouncing him “incoherent.” CNN (yeah, CNN) reports in the wake of the Ground Zero mosque debacle:

“The danger here is an incoherent presidency,” said David Morey, vice chairman of the Core Strategy Group, who provided communications advice to Obama’s 2008 campaign. “Simpler is better, and rising above these issues and leading by controlling the dialogue is what the presidency is all about. So I think that’s the job they have to do more effectively as they have in the past [in the campaign].” … New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd wrote in a recent column that Obama’s clarity and successful messaging during the campaign are gone. In place is a “incoherent president,” who’s “with the banks, he’s against the banks. He’s leaving Afghanistan, he’s staying in Afghanistan. He strains at being a populist, but his head is in the clouds.”

And just to twist the knife, CNN acknowledges that George W. Bush was a more effective communicator:

While many poked fun at former President George W. Bush for mispronouncing words and stumbling through sentences, observers note that he rarely had to backtrack on his answers because he employed a simple and direct messaging approach.

Yowser!

So Obama has gone from inspirational to exasperating for his followers and cheerleaders. Maybe he just ran out of left-wing bumper-sticker phrases. Perhaps, you know, there’s not a brilliant mind at work but a panicked liberal pol who can’t seem to slide through sticky situations with gauzy phrases. It is a revelation to the left and a vindication to the right. Unfortunately, we have over two more years of him, and it’s generally not a good idea to have a president who has become the object of widespread derision. It tends to embolden our foes and demoralize our friends, in this case even more than they already are.

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RE: Why Israel Can’t Rely on American Jewish “Leaders”

Rabbi Jack Moline in an online bulletin board has this to say about my post from yesterday:

My argument with the piece is not disagreement but its gratuitous nastiness. That is especially true because the author elected not to go to the source (my contact info is part of what was distributed), a distressing choice being made by ideologues on both sides of many issues.

Most amusing has been the responses of some contrary colleagues (not only Conservative). It boils down to: the meetings should never have taken place and I should have been invited.

First, Moline offers no substantive response to my post, no indication that it misrepresented his original report, and no reason to believe he can engage successfully in a battle of ideas. He has “no disagreement with it,” and he has no real bone to pick with Obama’s Iran policy. Huh? Well, this only serves to confirm the take of one of my readers, who concluded that the rabbis “were out of their league.” Second, he’s “amused” by his colleagues who think the meeting should never have taken place. Such contempt for colleagues — from a rabbi no less! And bravo for the savvy contrary colleagues, who were just the type Moline no doubt screened out from the meeting. Those who questioned the value of the meeting were right that the attendees were enabling the president and his policies, which are inimical to the interests of Israel.

In reply to the outpouring of condescension from Moline, one rabbi responded with this:

I did not want my comments to be amusing but rather challenging and thought provoking. … I served as advisor to the Governor of New Jersey and as legislative assistant to the ranking Senator in New York, as well as a commissioner in New Jersey for six years. I mention this to let you know  I know a little about the game of politics. When Rabbis meet as a group with the president, Governor, Senator,  Congressman, etc. it is because the presidents’ advisors feel comfortable with those who were invited. I know I will be criticized by saying this, but it is the way I see it. I arranged enough meetings for clergy of all faiths to know how the game is played. I had and have no wish to meet with Pres. Obama unless I know I can make a difference. I am not jealous but I am curious if the President left feeling informed or if he felt he used the guests in attendance — and won them over. I did meet a number of times with Presidents Bush, father and son. Not bragging. They were happy to use me. This is the game of politics.

Well that rabbi at least understands what Moline does not — that Moline was being used. More than that, Moline is using his position not to represent his community and confront the president but rather to give comfort and aid to the only president to condemn Israel and to attempt to reorient American policy away from its democratic ally and toward the Muslim despots who threaten the Jewish state. Did Moline try to extract a promise from Obama to use military force to remove an existential threat to Israel if other options failed? Did he take the opportunity to demand that Obama vow to resupply Israel if need be in a military confrontation with Iran? Did he quiz the president on why he has snubbed and undermined the Green Movement (by defunding Iranian human rights groups and engaging their oppressors)? Did he ask Obama why we have tolerated the transfer of missiles to Hezbollah? No.

Moline is quite concerned about his own critics and those of the administration, whom he dismisses as “nasty.” These critics are not nearly as harsh as history will be to those who failed to stand up for Israel in its moment of need.

Rabbi Jack Moline in an online bulletin board has this to say about my post from yesterday:

My argument with the piece is not disagreement but its gratuitous nastiness. That is especially true because the author elected not to go to the source (my contact info is part of what was distributed), a distressing choice being made by ideologues on both sides of many issues.

Most amusing has been the responses of some contrary colleagues (not only Conservative). It boils down to: the meetings should never have taken place and I should have been invited.

First, Moline offers no substantive response to my post, no indication that it misrepresented his original report, and no reason to believe he can engage successfully in a battle of ideas. He has “no disagreement with it,” and he has no real bone to pick with Obama’s Iran policy. Huh? Well, this only serves to confirm the take of one of my readers, who concluded that the rabbis “were out of their league.” Second, he’s “amused” by his colleagues who think the meeting should never have taken place. Such contempt for colleagues — from a rabbi no less! And bravo for the savvy contrary colleagues, who were just the type Moline no doubt screened out from the meeting. Those who questioned the value of the meeting were right that the attendees were enabling the president and his policies, which are inimical to the interests of Israel.

In reply to the outpouring of condescension from Moline, one rabbi responded with this:

I did not want my comments to be amusing but rather challenging and thought provoking. … I served as advisor to the Governor of New Jersey and as legislative assistant to the ranking Senator in New York, as well as a commissioner in New Jersey for six years. I mention this to let you know  I know a little about the game of politics. When Rabbis meet as a group with the president, Governor, Senator,  Congressman, etc. it is because the presidents’ advisors feel comfortable with those who were invited. I know I will be criticized by saying this, but it is the way I see it. I arranged enough meetings for clergy of all faiths to know how the game is played. I had and have no wish to meet with Pres. Obama unless I know I can make a difference. I am not jealous but I am curious if the President left feeling informed or if he felt he used the guests in attendance — and won them over. I did meet a number of times with Presidents Bush, father and son. Not bragging. They were happy to use me. This is the game of politics.

Well that rabbi at least understands what Moline does not — that Moline was being used. More than that, Moline is using his position not to represent his community and confront the president but rather to give comfort and aid to the only president to condemn Israel and to attempt to reorient American policy away from its democratic ally and toward the Muslim despots who threaten the Jewish state. Did Moline try to extract a promise from Obama to use military force to remove an existential threat to Israel if other options failed? Did he take the opportunity to demand that Obama vow to resupply Israel if need be in a military confrontation with Iran? Did he quiz the president on why he has snubbed and undermined the Green Movement (by defunding Iranian human rights groups and engaging their oppressors)? Did he ask Obama why we have tolerated the transfer of missiles to Hezbollah? No.

Moline is quite concerned about his own critics and those of the administration, whom he dismisses as “nasty.” These critics are not nearly as harsh as history will be to those who failed to stand up for Israel in its moment of need.

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Are Jews That Gullible?

Ben Smith says that he was dubious about the Obama team’s charm offensive with American Jews. After all, how could they be so foolish as to take puffery seriously and be wowed by a lunch with Elie Wiesel? Aren’t Jews, you know, supposed to be smarter than that? After all, the underlying policy hasn’t changed one iota. And in fact the administration is flaunting its anti-Israel connections.

Smith also picks up this tidbit:

Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber drew the camera flashes at the White House Correspondents dinner, but foreign policy geeks took closer note of the TPM table, where National Security Council Chief of Staff Denis McDonough — probably the most powerful foreign policy staffer in the administration — was seated with the two grand old men of “realist politics,” former National Security Advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Also at the table, New America’s Steve Clemons, who qualified that he and the others are “progressive realists” and added that the table also included “Sex and the City” creator Darren Starr and TPM founder Josh Marshall, the host.

Scowcroft and Brzezinski have been vying for influence in the Obama White House since Obama introduced the latter in Iowa, then distanced himself from him over Israel. They’re currently central to the efforts to persuade Obama to advance his own Mideast peace plan.

McDonough, who came up on the process-oriented Hill, tends to keep his own broader views on foreign policy close to the vest.

To translate: one of the administration’s key foreign-policy hands goes to the most highly publicized event in town to hob-nob with the advisor who Obama had sworn during the campaign not to be an advisor, who has suggested that we shoot down Israeli planes if they cross Iraqi air space on the way to Iran, and who wants to impose a peace deal on Israel. And, for good measure, he sits with the purveyors of a website infamous for puff pieces on terrorists and committed to a hard-left anti-Israel line. It was an act of defiance — see who our friends are? Well, I guess we do.

So the question remains whether the Jewish community is as easily lulled into passivity as the Obama administration believes. Can a few carefully worded speeches get American Jews off their backs? After all, they’ve been so mute about the effort by Obama to undermine sanctions. And really, they were able to “condemn” Israel without being condemned in turn by the Jewish groups, which have clung so dearly to the Democratic Party. Smith shouldn’t be skeptical: American Jewish officialdom is falling over themselves to make up with the administration. Whether rank-and-file members and the larger Jewish community are as easily swayed, remains to be seen.

Ben Smith says that he was dubious about the Obama team’s charm offensive with American Jews. After all, how could they be so foolish as to take puffery seriously and be wowed by a lunch with Elie Wiesel? Aren’t Jews, you know, supposed to be smarter than that? After all, the underlying policy hasn’t changed one iota. And in fact the administration is flaunting its anti-Israel connections.

Smith also picks up this tidbit:

Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber drew the camera flashes at the White House Correspondents dinner, but foreign policy geeks took closer note of the TPM table, where National Security Council Chief of Staff Denis McDonough — probably the most powerful foreign policy staffer in the administration — was seated with the two grand old men of “realist politics,” former National Security Advisors Brent Scowcroft and Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Also at the table, New America’s Steve Clemons, who qualified that he and the others are “progressive realists” and added that the table also included “Sex and the City” creator Darren Starr and TPM founder Josh Marshall, the host.

Scowcroft and Brzezinski have been vying for influence in the Obama White House since Obama introduced the latter in Iowa, then distanced himself from him over Israel. They’re currently central to the efforts to persuade Obama to advance his own Mideast peace plan.

McDonough, who came up on the process-oriented Hill, tends to keep his own broader views on foreign policy close to the vest.

To translate: one of the administration’s key foreign-policy hands goes to the most highly publicized event in town to hob-nob with the advisor who Obama had sworn during the campaign not to be an advisor, who has suggested that we shoot down Israeli planes if they cross Iraqi air space on the way to Iran, and who wants to impose a peace deal on Israel. And, for good measure, he sits with the purveyors of a website infamous for puff pieces on terrorists and committed to a hard-left anti-Israel line. It was an act of defiance — see who our friends are? Well, I guess we do.

So the question remains whether the Jewish community is as easily lulled into passivity as the Obama administration believes. Can a few carefully worded speeches get American Jews off their backs? After all, they’ve been so mute about the effort by Obama to undermine sanctions. And really, they were able to “condemn” Israel without being condemned in turn by the Jewish groups, which have clung so dearly to the Democratic Party. Smith shouldn’t be skeptical: American Jewish officialdom is falling over themselves to make up with the administration. Whether rank-and-file members and the larger Jewish community are as easily swayed, remains to be seen.

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Jewish Voters Deceived

Those disturbed by President Obama’s habit of saying one thing in the campaign and doing another while in office have another example, this one on foreign policy. And those disturbed by the talk of the president issuing his own Arab-Israeli peace plan have another, related question to ponder: what is Carter-administration official Zbigniew Brzezinski doing in the room? During the presidential campaign, candidate Obama addressed the issue of Brzezinski’s role directly at least twice when asked about it by concerned Jewish voters. Relations between Brzezinski and the Obama campaign were already an issue, with Alan Dershowitz having publicly called on Obama to repudiate Brzezinski when he met with about 100 members of the Cleveland Jewish Community on February 24, 2008. Here’s what he said:

I know Brzezinski. He’s not one of my key advisors. I’ve had lunch with him once, I’ve exchanged e-mails with him maybe 3 times. … I do not share his views with respect to Israel. I have said so clearly and unequivocally….

Then, on April 16, 2008, candidate Obama met with Jewish leaders from the Philadelphia area. This is how the New York Sun reported the April 16 meeting:

Rabbi Neil Cooper of Beth Hillel-Beth El Synagogue came away skeptical. He said he buttonholed the candidate as he was leaving the event and asked him about the connection between Mr. Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and the Obama campaign. “From my perspective, the devil here is going to be in the details,” Rabbi Cooper said. “The questions I have have to do with his very pronouncements on Israel on the one hand, which are positive, and then he seems to attract all kinds of other people who have a different agenda on Israel, like Brzezinski. I said, ‘Why don’t you get rid of Brzezinski?’ He says he listens to Brzezinski on certain things but not when it comes to Israel. (Emphasis added.)

Now comes a report in the New York Times according to which, at a White House meeting, President Obama asked Mr. Brzezinski for his advice on whether to put forward an American plan for Arab-Israeli peace. Worse, present at this same meeting was Brent Scowcroft, whom, back during the campaign, Obama proxies were criticizing Senator McCain for listening to. President Obama says consumers need a new regulatory agency to protect them from being conned by greedy bankers. But as far as fraudulent sales jobs go, the one that the Democrat pulled on Jewish voters in 2008 is one for the ages.

Those disturbed by President Obama’s habit of saying one thing in the campaign and doing another while in office have another example, this one on foreign policy. And those disturbed by the talk of the president issuing his own Arab-Israeli peace plan have another, related question to ponder: what is Carter-administration official Zbigniew Brzezinski doing in the room? During the presidential campaign, candidate Obama addressed the issue of Brzezinski’s role directly at least twice when asked about it by concerned Jewish voters. Relations between Brzezinski and the Obama campaign were already an issue, with Alan Dershowitz having publicly called on Obama to repudiate Brzezinski when he met with about 100 members of the Cleveland Jewish Community on February 24, 2008. Here’s what he said:

I know Brzezinski. He’s not one of my key advisors. I’ve had lunch with him once, I’ve exchanged e-mails with him maybe 3 times. … I do not share his views with respect to Israel. I have said so clearly and unequivocally….

Then, on April 16, 2008, candidate Obama met with Jewish leaders from the Philadelphia area. This is how the New York Sun reported the April 16 meeting:

Rabbi Neil Cooper of Beth Hillel-Beth El Synagogue came away skeptical. He said he buttonholed the candidate as he was leaving the event and asked him about the connection between Mr. Carter’s national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and the Obama campaign. “From my perspective, the devil here is going to be in the details,” Rabbi Cooper said. “The questions I have have to do with his very pronouncements on Israel on the one hand, which are positive, and then he seems to attract all kinds of other people who have a different agenda on Israel, like Brzezinski. I said, ‘Why don’t you get rid of Brzezinski?’ He says he listens to Brzezinski on certain things but not when it comes to Israel. (Emphasis added.)

Now comes a report in the New York Times according to which, at a White House meeting, President Obama asked Mr. Brzezinski for his advice on whether to put forward an American plan for Arab-Israeli peace. Worse, present at this same meeting was Brent Scowcroft, whom, back during the campaign, Obama proxies were criticizing Senator McCain for listening to. President Obama says consumers need a new regulatory agency to protect them from being conned by greedy bankers. But as far as fraudulent sales jobs go, the one that the Democrat pulled on Jewish voters in 2008 is one for the ages.

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What Did You Do?

As Jonathan has noted, we don’t know exactly how shabby the Obami’s behavior toward Bibi Netanyahu was. It is cause for alarm if it was remotely like this:

After failing to extract a written promise of concessions on Jewish settlements, Mr Obama walked out of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but invited him to stay at the White House, consult with advisors and “let me know if there is anything new”, a US congressman who spoke to the Prime Minister said today.

“It was awful,” the congressman said. One Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages”, poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House phone line. Another said that the Prime Minister had received “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea”.

But even if lacking the abject rudeness, both the projected air of chilliness and the ensuing deadlines that we have learned have been imposed on the Israeli government are enough to confirm that the relationship between the two countries is anything but “rock solid,” as Hillary Clinton claimed during her AIPAC speech. This report suggests, at the very least, that the Obami are sticking with their modus operandi — preconditions and ultimatums for the Israelis, and water-carrying for the Palestinians:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will convene his senior ministers on Friday to discuss the demands made by US President Barack Obama and his overall trip to Washington – a trip that, because of negative atmospherics and amid a paucity of hard information, has been widely characterized as among the most difficult in recent memory.

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office continued to throw a blackout on the Netanyahu-Obama meeting, as well as give only very sketchy information about the commitments that the US is demanding of Israel as a precursor to starting the proximity talks with the Palestinians. The US, according to officials, wants these commitments by Saturday so it can take them to the Arab League meeting in Libya and receive that organization’s backing for starting proximity talks. …

According to various Israeli sources, the Obama administration is asking for Israel to commit to some type of limitation on building in east Jerusalem; to show a willingness to deal with the so-called core issues of borders, refugee and Jerusalem already in the indirect talks; and to agree to a number of confidence building measures, including the release of hundreds of Fatah prisoners.

There were also reports, not confirmed, that the administration had asked for a commitment to extend the moratorium on housing starts in the West Bank settlements beyond the 10-months originally declared.

Netanyahu reportedly wanted to know where the “reciprocity” was and why he was the one making all the concessions. (“Netanyahu, according to senior officials, said that while the US held him responsible for the timing of the announcement to build 1,600 units in Ramat Shlomo, rather than holding Interior Minister Eli Yishai responsible, Abbas was not held responsible when it came to the PA — which recently presided over the naming of a square in Ramallah for the terrorist responsible for the Coastal Road massacre.”) Well, had the Obami been honest, they would have said that they can’t get the Palestinians to agree to anything, so they’ve decided to squeeze the Israelis — even though this seems only to increase the Palestinians’ demands for even more concessions. But, no, I don’t suppose the White House bullies were that candid.

All this makes clear just how disingenuous was Clinton’s entire appeal to AIPAC this week. She protested that it was Israel creating the daylight by announcing a routine housing permit. She pleaded that the fuss was needed to restore the administration’s credibility as an honest broker in the peace process. (Or was it to enhance its credibility to Iran? It’s hard to keep the excuses straight.) She assured the crowd that Israel’s security was paramount to the U.S. Then she declared that of course, of course an Iranian nuclear-weapons program was “unacceptable.” It all seems patently absurd as events continue to unfold.

It is not that the Obami fear daylight between the U.S. and Israel; it is that they flaunt it. It is not credibility as an honest broker that the Obami are establishing but rather fidelity to the Palestinian negotiating stance. And after all this, and the revelation that the proposed sanctions will be pinpricks at best, would any reasonable Israeli leader believe this administration will do everything (or even anything too strenuous) to remove the existential threat to the Jewish state?

The low point in the history of U.S.-Israel relations has come about not because of a housing permit but because we have a president fundamentally uninterested in retaining the robust, close relationship between the two countries that other administrations of both parties have cultivated. The Obami set out to separate the U.S. from Israel, to pressure and cajole the Jewish state, and to remake the U.S. into an eager suitor to the Muslim World. In the process, anti-Israel delegitimizing efforts have been unleashed as Israel’s enemies (and our own allies) sense that we have downgraded the relationship with the Jewish state, the Israeli public has come to distrust the administration, the American Jewish electorate is somewhere between stunned and horrified, and Israel is less secure and more isolated than ever before.

If mainstream Jewish organizations are serious about their stated mission, it is incumbent upon them to protest this state of affairs clearly and loudly and make their support for this president and his congressional enablers conditional, based on a change of policy in regard to Israel. Otherwise, they are enabling a potentially fatal assault on the security of the Jewish state. Silence is acquiescence; meekness is shameful. A generation from now, Jews will be asking those who led key American Jewish organizations, what did you do to protect Israel? What did you do to protest the creep toward a “containment” policy for a nuclear-armed Iran? They better have a good answer.

As Jonathan has noted, we don’t know exactly how shabby the Obami’s behavior toward Bibi Netanyahu was. It is cause for alarm if it was remotely like this:

After failing to extract a written promise of concessions on Jewish settlements, Mr Obama walked out of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but invited him to stay at the White House, consult with advisors and “let me know if there is anything new”, a US congressman who spoke to the Prime Minister said today.

“It was awful,” the congressman said. One Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages”, poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House phone line. Another said that the Prime Minister had received “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea”.

But even if lacking the abject rudeness, both the projected air of chilliness and the ensuing deadlines that we have learned have been imposed on the Israeli government are enough to confirm that the relationship between the two countries is anything but “rock solid,” as Hillary Clinton claimed during her AIPAC speech. This report suggests, at the very least, that the Obami are sticking with their modus operandi — preconditions and ultimatums for the Israelis, and water-carrying for the Palestinians:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will convene his senior ministers on Friday to discuss the demands made by US President Barack Obama and his overall trip to Washington – a trip that, because of negative atmospherics and amid a paucity of hard information, has been widely characterized as among the most difficult in recent memory.

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office continued to throw a blackout on the Netanyahu-Obama meeting, as well as give only very sketchy information about the commitments that the US is demanding of Israel as a precursor to starting the proximity talks with the Palestinians. The US, according to officials, wants these commitments by Saturday so it can take them to the Arab League meeting in Libya and receive that organization’s backing for starting proximity talks. …

According to various Israeli sources, the Obama administration is asking for Israel to commit to some type of limitation on building in east Jerusalem; to show a willingness to deal with the so-called core issues of borders, refugee and Jerusalem already in the indirect talks; and to agree to a number of confidence building measures, including the release of hundreds of Fatah prisoners.

There were also reports, not confirmed, that the administration had asked for a commitment to extend the moratorium on housing starts in the West Bank settlements beyond the 10-months originally declared.

Netanyahu reportedly wanted to know where the “reciprocity” was and why he was the one making all the concessions. (“Netanyahu, according to senior officials, said that while the US held him responsible for the timing of the announcement to build 1,600 units in Ramat Shlomo, rather than holding Interior Minister Eli Yishai responsible, Abbas was not held responsible when it came to the PA — which recently presided over the naming of a square in Ramallah for the terrorist responsible for the Coastal Road massacre.”) Well, had the Obami been honest, they would have said that they can’t get the Palestinians to agree to anything, so they’ve decided to squeeze the Israelis — even though this seems only to increase the Palestinians’ demands for even more concessions. But, no, I don’t suppose the White House bullies were that candid.

All this makes clear just how disingenuous was Clinton’s entire appeal to AIPAC this week. She protested that it was Israel creating the daylight by announcing a routine housing permit. She pleaded that the fuss was needed to restore the administration’s credibility as an honest broker in the peace process. (Or was it to enhance its credibility to Iran? It’s hard to keep the excuses straight.) She assured the crowd that Israel’s security was paramount to the U.S. Then she declared that of course, of course an Iranian nuclear-weapons program was “unacceptable.” It all seems patently absurd as events continue to unfold.

It is not that the Obami fear daylight between the U.S. and Israel; it is that they flaunt it. It is not credibility as an honest broker that the Obami are establishing but rather fidelity to the Palestinian negotiating stance. And after all this, and the revelation that the proposed sanctions will be pinpricks at best, would any reasonable Israeli leader believe this administration will do everything (or even anything too strenuous) to remove the existential threat to the Jewish state?

The low point in the history of U.S.-Israel relations has come about not because of a housing permit but because we have a president fundamentally uninterested in retaining the robust, close relationship between the two countries that other administrations of both parties have cultivated. The Obami set out to separate the U.S. from Israel, to pressure and cajole the Jewish state, and to remake the U.S. into an eager suitor to the Muslim World. In the process, anti-Israel delegitimizing efforts have been unleashed as Israel’s enemies (and our own allies) sense that we have downgraded the relationship with the Jewish state, the Israeli public has come to distrust the administration, the American Jewish electorate is somewhere between stunned and horrified, and Israel is less secure and more isolated than ever before.

If mainstream Jewish organizations are serious about their stated mission, it is incumbent upon them to protest this state of affairs clearly and loudly and make their support for this president and his congressional enablers conditional, based on a change of policy in regard to Israel. Otherwise, they are enabling a potentially fatal assault on the security of the Jewish state. Silence is acquiescence; meekness is shameful. A generation from now, Jews will be asking those who led key American Jewish organizations, what did you do to protect Israel? What did you do to protest the creep toward a “containment” policy for a nuclear-armed Iran? They better have a good answer.

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CPAC: Past, Present, and Future

One former VP, a former (and current) presidential aspirant, and a future rock star came to the CPAC gathering today. Two of them aren’t running for president in 2012, and you can bet the other is.

Dick Cheney made a surprise appearance and, in essence, passed the baton to the generation of his daughter Liz. (She might be running for something before too long.) As for Marco Rubio:

The star of CPAC continued his rise in the Republican Party on Thursday with a story about his American Dream. Marco Rubio, who has surged to near-even with Gov. Charlie Crist in the Florida GOP Senate primary, used his speech in front of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to bash President Barack Obama, Republican defector Sen. Arlen Specter and, by connection, the centrist Crist.

Rubio suggested that Crist would be another senator in the mold of Specter (D-Pa.), who in the face of a tough reelection last year fled the GOP to become a Democrat.

“We already have one Arlen Specter,” Rubio said, adding: “We already have one Democratic Party.”

Ouch. But it’s clear that his invocation of the American dream, his staunch position on the war against Islamic fascists, and his full-throated conservative economic message are a hit with the base, and will likely transfer comfortably to a general-election race.

Cheney and Rubio made clear that they will not be running in 2012. But Mitt Romney surely will. Ben Smith summed it up:

Mitt Romney has gone from being an overeager suitor to being a favored son of the Conservative Political Action Conference since he ended his presidential campaign here in 2008, and his speech today was well-calibrated to an audience basking in a conservative resurgence and eager for attacks on Obama.

Sen. Scott Brown introduced Romney, sharing a bit of his new star power with the former governor, whose aides ran Brown’s campaign, and calling him perfectly qualified “to fix a broken economy.”

Romney’s prepared remarks lace into Obama on an array of issues, all hinged on a single theme: Obama has departed from American values.

Several things were noteworthy in his speech. First, unlike his potential competitor Tim Pawlenty, who’s taken to slamming the GOP and, indirectly, George. W. Bush, Romney wasn’t going there:

When it comes to shifting responsibility for failure, however, no one is a more frequent object of President Obama’s reproach than President Bush. It’s wearing so thin that even the late night shows make fun of it. I am convinced that history will judge President Bush far more kindly — he pulled us from a deepening recession following the attack of 9/11, he overcame teachers unions to test school children and evaluate schools, he took down the Taliban, waged a war against the jihadists and was not afraid to call it what it is — a war, and he kept us safe.

Classy, and, after a year of not-Bush in the Oval Office, I suspect the message will resonate with conservatives.

Second, Romney, who struggled to find footing with social conservatives and to establish his bona fides on abortion and other such issues,  focused almost exclusively on foreign policy and the economy. When he did talk about “strengthening families,” it was education and health care, not abortion and gay rights, that were his focus. If 2012 will be about “letting Romney be Romney,” then you’re going to hear less of the hot-button issues that rang as not quite authentic last time around and, rather, more of this: “Conservatism has had from its inception a vigorously positive, intellectually rigorous agenda.”

Third, he has clearly found his focus, which is a conservative economic message that goes after the Democrats’ statist agenda and touts his own business background. He is laying the case that Obama simply doesn’t understand how the economy works and isn’t prepared, even now, to be president:

As he frequently reminds us, he assumed the presidency at a difficult time. That’s the reason we argued during the campaign that these were not the times for on the job training. Had he or his advisors spent even a few years in the real economy, they would have learned that the number one cause of failure in the private sector is lack of focus, and that the first rule of turning around any troubled enterprise is focus, focus, focus. And so, when he assumed the presidency, his energy should have been focused on fixing the economy and creating jobs, and to succeeding in our fight against radical violent jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, he applied his time and political capital to his ill-conceived healthcare takeover and to building his personal popularity in foreign countries. He failed to focus, and so he failed.

And finally, there is a reason Romney is saying nice things about both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney — he’s running against the not-Bush (and Cheney) national-security policy:

We will strengthen our security by building missile defense, restoring our military might, and standing-by and strengthening our intelligence officers. And conservatives believe in providing constitutional rights to our citizens, not to enemy combatants like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed! On our watch, the conversation with a would-be suicide bomber will not begin with the words, “You have the right to remain silent!”

Romney never quite clicked with the conservative base last time. But Republicans are notoriously forgiving types and have a habit of going back to the runner-up. If he’s going to run as Romney the businessman, experienced executive, free-market advocate, and tough-as-nails commander in chief, it will be quite a contrast with Obama. But first he’s got to wow the conservative base and get by some formidable competition. Bringing along Scott Brown to introduce him was one small sign that he understands the need to connect with not just mainstreet Republicans but also with the grassroots tea party movement, which carried Brown into office. No easy task, but then again, we should all get a grip — it is still 2010.

One former VP, a former (and current) presidential aspirant, and a future rock star came to the CPAC gathering today. Two of them aren’t running for president in 2012, and you can bet the other is.

Dick Cheney made a surprise appearance and, in essence, passed the baton to the generation of his daughter Liz. (She might be running for something before too long.) As for Marco Rubio:

The star of CPAC continued his rise in the Republican Party on Thursday with a story about his American Dream. Marco Rubio, who has surged to near-even with Gov. Charlie Crist in the Florida GOP Senate primary, used his speech in front of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to bash President Barack Obama, Republican defector Sen. Arlen Specter and, by connection, the centrist Crist.

Rubio suggested that Crist would be another senator in the mold of Specter (D-Pa.), who in the face of a tough reelection last year fled the GOP to become a Democrat.

“We already have one Arlen Specter,” Rubio said, adding: “We already have one Democratic Party.”

Ouch. But it’s clear that his invocation of the American dream, his staunch position on the war against Islamic fascists, and his full-throated conservative economic message are a hit with the base, and will likely transfer comfortably to a general-election race.

Cheney and Rubio made clear that they will not be running in 2012. But Mitt Romney surely will. Ben Smith summed it up:

Mitt Romney has gone from being an overeager suitor to being a favored son of the Conservative Political Action Conference since he ended his presidential campaign here in 2008, and his speech today was well-calibrated to an audience basking in a conservative resurgence and eager for attacks on Obama.

Sen. Scott Brown introduced Romney, sharing a bit of his new star power with the former governor, whose aides ran Brown’s campaign, and calling him perfectly qualified “to fix a broken economy.”

Romney’s prepared remarks lace into Obama on an array of issues, all hinged on a single theme: Obama has departed from American values.

Several things were noteworthy in his speech. First, unlike his potential competitor Tim Pawlenty, who’s taken to slamming the GOP and, indirectly, George. W. Bush, Romney wasn’t going there:

When it comes to shifting responsibility for failure, however, no one is a more frequent object of President Obama’s reproach than President Bush. It’s wearing so thin that even the late night shows make fun of it. I am convinced that history will judge President Bush far more kindly — he pulled us from a deepening recession following the attack of 9/11, he overcame teachers unions to test school children and evaluate schools, he took down the Taliban, waged a war against the jihadists and was not afraid to call it what it is — a war, and he kept us safe.

Classy, and, after a year of not-Bush in the Oval Office, I suspect the message will resonate with conservatives.

Second, Romney, who struggled to find footing with social conservatives and to establish his bona fides on abortion and other such issues,  focused almost exclusively on foreign policy and the economy. When he did talk about “strengthening families,” it was education and health care, not abortion and gay rights, that were his focus. If 2012 will be about “letting Romney be Romney,” then you’re going to hear less of the hot-button issues that rang as not quite authentic last time around and, rather, more of this: “Conservatism has had from its inception a vigorously positive, intellectually rigorous agenda.”

Third, he has clearly found his focus, which is a conservative economic message that goes after the Democrats’ statist agenda and touts his own business background. He is laying the case that Obama simply doesn’t understand how the economy works and isn’t prepared, even now, to be president:

As he frequently reminds us, he assumed the presidency at a difficult time. That’s the reason we argued during the campaign that these were not the times for on the job training. Had he or his advisors spent even a few years in the real economy, they would have learned that the number one cause of failure in the private sector is lack of focus, and that the first rule of turning around any troubled enterprise is focus, focus, focus. And so, when he assumed the presidency, his energy should have been focused on fixing the economy and creating jobs, and to succeeding in our fight against radical violent jihad in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead, he applied his time and political capital to his ill-conceived healthcare takeover and to building his personal popularity in foreign countries. He failed to focus, and so he failed.

And finally, there is a reason Romney is saying nice things about both George W. Bush and Dick Cheney — he’s running against the not-Bush (and Cheney) national-security policy:

We will strengthen our security by building missile defense, restoring our military might, and standing-by and strengthening our intelligence officers. And conservatives believe in providing constitutional rights to our citizens, not to enemy combatants like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed! On our watch, the conversation with a would-be suicide bomber will not begin with the words, “You have the right to remain silent!”

Romney never quite clicked with the conservative base last time. But Republicans are notoriously forgiving types and have a habit of going back to the runner-up. If he’s going to run as Romney the businessman, experienced executive, free-market advocate, and tough-as-nails commander in chief, it will be quite a contrast with Obama. But first he’s got to wow the conservative base and get by some formidable competition. Bringing along Scott Brown to introduce him was one small sign that he understands the need to connect with not just mainstreet Republicans but also with the grassroots tea party movement, which carried Brown into office. No easy task, but then again, we should all get a grip — it is still 2010.

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Re: Graham Crumbles for Nothing

When Lindsay Graham decided to support cap-and-trade — a position not even some moderate Democrats can stomach — I observed that this was not only bad policy but also bad politics. And sure enough, moves like that and his support for now Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor have spelled trouble for him. This report explains:

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s public support is collapsing in South Carolina — driven by a wholesale revolt among the GOP electorate and a steady erosion of his support amongst independents.

Already consistently loathed by a solid third of GOP voters, Graham’s recent leftward bent — including his co-authoring of a controversial “Cap & Tax” proposal supported by President Barack Obama and liberal Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) — has him locked in a “terminal free fall,” according one prominent Republican consultant.

“A chunk of the GOP has always detested him, but in the last month a damn has broken,” said the consultant, who was granted anonymity to discuss the impact of two recent polls that were conducted in South Carolina (one allegedly by Graham’s own advisors). “More Republicans now oppose Sen. Graham than support him. Independents are also deserting him in huge numbers.”

This contradicts the favorite narrative of Democrats and their media handmaidens, namely that in order to stay relevant, Republicans must compromise with Obama, move leftward, and adopt policies at odds with conservative principles. It turns out that doing so alienates not only Republican voters but also independents, who themselves are not enamored of Obama’s leftist agenda. Graham won’t face the voters until 2014, so he has time to recover. But his example may serve as a warning to other Republicans: mimicking Obamaism is a losing proposition.

When Lindsay Graham decided to support cap-and-trade — a position not even some moderate Democrats can stomach — I observed that this was not only bad policy but also bad politics. And sure enough, moves like that and his support for now Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor have spelled trouble for him. This report explains:

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s public support is collapsing in South Carolina — driven by a wholesale revolt among the GOP electorate and a steady erosion of his support amongst independents.

Already consistently loathed by a solid third of GOP voters, Graham’s recent leftward bent — including his co-authoring of a controversial “Cap & Tax” proposal supported by President Barack Obama and liberal Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) — has him locked in a “terminal free fall,” according one prominent Republican consultant.

“A chunk of the GOP has always detested him, but in the last month a damn has broken,” said the consultant, who was granted anonymity to discuss the impact of two recent polls that were conducted in South Carolina (one allegedly by Graham’s own advisors). “More Republicans now oppose Sen. Graham than support him. Independents are also deserting him in huge numbers.”

This contradicts the favorite narrative of Democrats and their media handmaidens, namely that in order to stay relevant, Republicans must compromise with Obama, move leftward, and adopt policies at odds with conservative principles. It turns out that doing so alienates not only Republican voters but also independents, who themselves are not enamored of Obama’s leftist agenda. Graham won’t face the voters until 2014, so he has time to recover. But his example may serve as a warning to other Republicans: mimicking Obamaism is a losing proposition.

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McCain Foreign Policy Call

Sen. Jon Kyl and McCain senior foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann held a conference call to talk about Iraq and a comment that John McCain made yesterday that “We have drawn down to pre-surge levels.” (The Obama camp pounced, declaring that the pre-surge troops won’t be fully withdrawn until July.)

Sen. Kyl began by saying that “Al Qaeda has been significantly, significantly degraded in Iraq and other places.” He continued “The point is the surge recommended by Sen. McCain has worked.” Scheunemann was more harsh, declaring that Obama is “so wedded to a narrative of failure” that he refuses to get additional facts and that he simply “refuses to recognize any progress.” He declared that Obama was “demonstrably wrong” on the judgment that the surge would not reduce sectarian violence.

I asked whether McCain considered Obama unfit to be commander-in-chief. Scheunemann excoriated Obama for refusing to take the time to visit Iraq and or even meet with General Petraeus. He said, “Sen. Obama lacks the judgment, experience and knowledge” to be commander-in-chief. Most of the rest of the call was taken up by mainstream reporters wrangling with the advisors, accusing McCain of a gaffe and arguing that this revealed that he was uninformed about a key fact. The advisors reiterated again and again that the essence of McCain’s comment is correct: we are drawing down and we have already decided to reduce below surge levels. The bulk of the reporters seemed positively fixated on what the McCain camp termed a “verb tense” and the prospect of catching McCain in an error.

On an unrelated note, I asked whether McCain had problems with the progress of the Six Party talks and was disappointed in the Bush administration’s decision to abandon verification of North Korea’s nuke program. Without responding directly, the advisors noted that McCain has favored talks with our allies and an agreement that is “complete, irreversible, and verifiable.”

Sen. Jon Kyl and McCain senior foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann held a conference call to talk about Iraq and a comment that John McCain made yesterday that “We have drawn down to pre-surge levels.” (The Obama camp pounced, declaring that the pre-surge troops won’t be fully withdrawn until July.)

Sen. Kyl began by saying that “Al Qaeda has been significantly, significantly degraded in Iraq and other places.” He continued “The point is the surge recommended by Sen. McCain has worked.” Scheunemann was more harsh, declaring that Obama is “so wedded to a narrative of failure” that he refuses to get additional facts and that he simply “refuses to recognize any progress.” He declared that Obama was “demonstrably wrong” on the judgment that the surge would not reduce sectarian violence.

I asked whether McCain considered Obama unfit to be commander-in-chief. Scheunemann excoriated Obama for refusing to take the time to visit Iraq and or even meet with General Petraeus. He said, “Sen. Obama lacks the judgment, experience and knowledge” to be commander-in-chief. Most of the rest of the call was taken up by mainstream reporters wrangling with the advisors, accusing McCain of a gaffe and arguing that this revealed that he was uninformed about a key fact. The advisors reiterated again and again that the essence of McCain’s comment is correct: we are drawing down and we have already decided to reduce below surge levels. The bulk of the reporters seemed positively fixated on what the McCain camp termed a “verb tense” and the prospect of catching McCain in an error.

On an unrelated note, I asked whether McCain had problems with the progress of the Six Party talks and was disappointed in the Bush administration’s decision to abandon verification of North Korea’s nuke program. Without responding directly, the advisors noted that McCain has favored talks with our allies and an agreement that is “complete, irreversible, and verifiable.”

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But Why?

Barack Obama doesn’t really have an answer for why he wouldn’t meet privately with General Petraeus or go to Iraq. It is clear that he doesn’t like the topic and equally clear that saying “Bush” or “Republican” or “same old thing” in answer to every question is now standard operating procedure. A tougher press corps (maybe one that isn’t so “deferential” in the eyes of the MSM’s favorite new guru) would say “But why not go to Iraq?” or “Why haven’t you spoken privately to General Petraeus?”

There is no good answer to either of these, I suspect. The real answer is that he doesn’t care what he sees in Iraq or what he hears from Petraeus. Moreover, the prospect of him confronting information which contradicts his predetermined position would be politically uncomfortable.

Yet I seem to remember the Democrats pleading over the past years with President Bush to get diverse views, get the facts right, and not rely solely on his close-knit group of advisors. Senator Carl Levin said, in 2006, “He doesn’t want to see the facts. He doesn’t want to acknowledge reality. And if we’re going to change the course and change the dynamic in Iraq we’ve got to end this state of denial.” And in January 2007, it was Dick Durbin who castigated Bush for ignoring the advice of the military. It was 2004 when Senator Biden lectured Presdient Bush, “‘How can you be so sure when you know you don’t know the facts?” Fact gathering, listening to military experts, and confronting evidence are, it seems, passé. This is the New Politics.

Barack Obama doesn’t really have an answer for why he wouldn’t meet privately with General Petraeus or go to Iraq. It is clear that he doesn’t like the topic and equally clear that saying “Bush” or “Republican” or “same old thing” in answer to every question is now standard operating procedure. A tougher press corps (maybe one that isn’t so “deferential” in the eyes of the MSM’s favorite new guru) would say “But why not go to Iraq?” or “Why haven’t you spoken privately to General Petraeus?”

There is no good answer to either of these, I suspect. The real answer is that he doesn’t care what he sees in Iraq or what he hears from Petraeus. Moreover, the prospect of him confronting information which contradicts his predetermined position would be politically uncomfortable.

Yet I seem to remember the Democrats pleading over the past years with President Bush to get diverse views, get the facts right, and not rely solely on his close-knit group of advisors. Senator Carl Levin said, in 2006, “He doesn’t want to see the facts. He doesn’t want to acknowledge reality. And if we’re going to change the course and change the dynamic in Iraq we’ve got to end this state of denial.” And in January 2007, it was Dick Durbin who castigated Bush for ignoring the advice of the military. It was 2004 when Senator Biden lectured Presdient Bush, “‘How can you be so sure when you know you don’t know the facts?” Fact gathering, listening to military experts, and confronting evidence are, it seems, passé. This is the New Politics.

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Mind of the Peanut

I couldn’t decide whether to call this Mind of the Peanut or the Devil is In the Details. Either way, here’s an interesting glimpse of the cranial gears of our worst ex-President: George C. Edwards III, “Exclusive Interview: President Jimmy Carter,” Presidential Studies Quarterly, vol. 38, no. 1.GE:…You are known for your mastery of complex policy, and you are interested in the details of policy as a good policy analyst.  Other presidents have been less interested in details.  So let me ask you into how much detail should a president delve in making a decision?…

PRESIDENT CARTER:  …Regarding the details, I am still an engineer by thought.  You know, when I run my farm or when I run the Carter Center, I want to know what is going on.  When I took on the personal responsibility, say for the Mideast peace process, I really believed that when we went to Camp David I knew more about the details than anybody there.  I had mastered the psychological and historical analysis of Begin and Sadat.  I knew everything they had done since they were born that was recorded, how they had reacted to crisis, how they dealt with pressure, who their allies were, and what their obligations were.  So when we got to Camp David, I knew them, and I knew the map of the West Bank and Gaza.

…I did basically the same thing with the Alaska Lands bill.  I knew the map of Alaska in great detail.

I read a lot.  I would say I read an average of 300 pages a day.  That is just something that I quantified years ago, so I am just not talking casually.  I took a speed-reading course.  I did, and about fifty other people did, from Evelyn Wood in the Cabinet Room within the first two months of my term.  So I could read a lot….

GE:  Another aspect of decision making, and another challenge for a president, is to get his advisors to tell him what he needs to hear as opposed to what they think he wants to hear. …How did you make sure that you heard the full range of options?…

PRESIDENT CARTER:   …we had regular cabinet meetings…. We would go around the entire table, and I would encourage each secretary to tell me the most important things that affected their departments that we needed to discuss. …If the issue was complex and they required more than two or three minutes of exposition, I encouraged them to put it in writing and submit it to me.  Those papers always came to me, and I relished the concise nature of their presentation.  It required them to get their thoughts in order, and I was very much a stickler for not splitting infinitives and so forth.

And all those papers are in the presidential library now.  I think the scholars that have been over to the presidential library to look at my notes have been impressed, I started to say overwhelmed, with the meticulous detail with which I would answer sometimes each paragraph in a complex proposal — I approve this, I do not approve this, see me about this, or explain this, and so forth.

I couldn’t decide whether to call this Mind of the Peanut or the Devil is In the Details. Either way, here’s an interesting glimpse of the cranial gears of our worst ex-President: George C. Edwards III, “Exclusive Interview: President Jimmy Carter,” Presidential Studies Quarterly, vol. 38, no. 1.GE:…You are known for your mastery of complex policy, and you are interested in the details of policy as a good policy analyst.  Other presidents have been less interested in details.  So let me ask you into how much detail should a president delve in making a decision?…

PRESIDENT CARTER:  …Regarding the details, I am still an engineer by thought.  You know, when I run my farm or when I run the Carter Center, I want to know what is going on.  When I took on the personal responsibility, say for the Mideast peace process, I really believed that when we went to Camp David I knew more about the details than anybody there.  I had mastered the psychological and historical analysis of Begin and Sadat.  I knew everything they had done since they were born that was recorded, how they had reacted to crisis, how they dealt with pressure, who their allies were, and what their obligations were.  So when we got to Camp David, I knew them, and I knew the map of the West Bank and Gaza.

…I did basically the same thing with the Alaska Lands bill.  I knew the map of Alaska in great detail.

I read a lot.  I would say I read an average of 300 pages a day.  That is just something that I quantified years ago, so I am just not talking casually.  I took a speed-reading course.  I did, and about fifty other people did, from Evelyn Wood in the Cabinet Room within the first two months of my term.  So I could read a lot….

GE:  Another aspect of decision making, and another challenge for a president, is to get his advisors to tell him what he needs to hear as opposed to what they think he wants to hear. …How did you make sure that you heard the full range of options?…

PRESIDENT CARTER:   …we had regular cabinet meetings…. We would go around the entire table, and I would encourage each secretary to tell me the most important things that affected their departments that we needed to discuss. …If the issue was complex and they required more than two or three minutes of exposition, I encouraged them to put it in writing and submit it to me.  Those papers always came to me, and I relished the concise nature of their presentation.  It required them to get their thoughts in order, and I was very much a stickler for not splitting infinitives and so forth.

And all those papers are in the presidential library now.  I think the scholars that have been over to the presidential library to look at my notes have been impressed, I started to say overwhelmed, with the meticulous detail with which I would answer sometimes each paragraph in a complex proposal — I approve this, I do not approve this, see me about this, or explain this, and so forth.

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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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You Can Hardly Blame Him

It is hard to think that the “You’re nuts to take her” faction of Barack Obama’s advisors didn’t get a boost with Hillary Clinton’s Kennedy assassination gaffe. As one who knows the Clintons’ pathology all too well pointed out:

Obama now has the perfect excuse not to pick Hillary as his running mate. She has been too unseemly in her desire to be on the scene if he trips, or gets hit with a devastating story. She may want to take a cue from the Miss America contest: make a graceful, magnanimous exit and wait in the wings.

Really, it is one thing to live through a year of campaigning while the Clintonian attack machine directed barbs his way (he had no choice in the matter), but to voluntarily sign up for four or eight years of life with the Clintons would take an act of masochism or unparalled naïveté. Would any Democratic establishment figure really begrudge him the luxury of choosing someone who didn’t muse, even indirectly, about the prospect of a presidential assassination?

Yes, it is true Clinton may manage to get more popular votes than he, and she has been the superior campaigner in the second half of the race. Oh, and yes, as compared to her he really does have some demographic disadvantages. But bringing her along for the rest of the campaign seems designed only to highlight his own dependencies and weaknesses. “She can help him with white voters” and “He would have risked the female vote without her” are the type of semi-insulting observations which surely would follow if he tapped her as VP. Moreover, would there be a better way to demonstrate that he will tolerate virtually any insulting, obnoxious behavior?

So I suspect Obama’s graciousness over the assassination gaffe is thinly disguised relief. He can finally get out of a shotgun wedding he must have dreaded.

It is hard to think that the “You’re nuts to take her” faction of Barack Obama’s advisors didn’t get a boost with Hillary Clinton’s Kennedy assassination gaffe. As one who knows the Clintons’ pathology all too well pointed out:

Obama now has the perfect excuse not to pick Hillary as his running mate. She has been too unseemly in her desire to be on the scene if he trips, or gets hit with a devastating story. She may want to take a cue from the Miss America contest: make a graceful, magnanimous exit and wait in the wings.

Really, it is one thing to live through a year of campaigning while the Clintonian attack machine directed barbs his way (he had no choice in the matter), but to voluntarily sign up for four or eight years of life with the Clintons would take an act of masochism or unparalled naïveté. Would any Democratic establishment figure really begrudge him the luxury of choosing someone who didn’t muse, even indirectly, about the prospect of a presidential assassination?

Yes, it is true Clinton may manage to get more popular votes than he, and she has been the superior campaigner in the second half of the race. Oh, and yes, as compared to her he really does have some demographic disadvantages. But bringing her along for the rest of the campaign seems designed only to highlight his own dependencies and weaknesses. “She can help him with white voters” and “He would have risked the female vote without her” are the type of semi-insulting observations which surely would follow if he tapped her as VP. Moreover, would there be a better way to demonstrate that he will tolerate virtually any insulting, obnoxious behavior?

So I suspect Obama’s graciousness over the assassination gaffe is thinly disguised relief. He can finally get out of a shotgun wedding he must have dreaded.

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Can’t Have That!

The Washington Post has yet another front page “Bad Lobbyist Works For McCain” story. What is missing: any indication that John McCain ever capitulated to any of the pleas from Charlie Black, who is the focus of this tale of supposedly dastardly intrigue. And if you suffer through half of it you get to the kicker: McCain threw Black and one of his clients out of his office for insinuating that McCain’s position on a certain matter was “parochial.” Well, that seals it. Can’t have a candidate who takes campaign guidance from lobbyists but does nothing for their clients.

And this is the Alice in Wonderland world of journalism and holier-than-thou politics in which we now reside. Even one of Barack Obama’s supporters lets on that lobbyists are not in and of themselves evil. And of course there is practically no coverage of the Obama’s lobbying connections.

But the real point here is: what has the candidate done with regard to lobbying interests? Did he vote for a $300 billion farm bill and an equally bloated energy bill? Or did he drive them crazy by investigating their clients and and rejecting their earmarks?

So far McCain has not done a very effective job of making this distinction, and instead has played into the mainstream media’s hands by firing loyal staffers and advisors with lobbying connections. Perhaps he should stop playing their game. It’s one he’ll never win–and one that ultimately does nothing for his efforts to show that he’s the one with the positive record on special interests.

The Washington Post has yet another front page “Bad Lobbyist Works For McCain” story. What is missing: any indication that John McCain ever capitulated to any of the pleas from Charlie Black, who is the focus of this tale of supposedly dastardly intrigue. And if you suffer through half of it you get to the kicker: McCain threw Black and one of his clients out of his office for insinuating that McCain’s position on a certain matter was “parochial.” Well, that seals it. Can’t have a candidate who takes campaign guidance from lobbyists but does nothing for their clients.

And this is the Alice in Wonderland world of journalism and holier-than-thou politics in which we now reside. Even one of Barack Obama’s supporters lets on that lobbyists are not in and of themselves evil. And of course there is practically no coverage of the Obama’s lobbying connections.

But the real point here is: what has the candidate done with regard to lobbying interests? Did he vote for a $300 billion farm bill and an equally bloated energy bill? Or did he drive them crazy by investigating their clients and and rejecting their earmarks?

So far McCain has not done a very effective job of making this distinction, and instead has played into the mainstream media’s hands by firing loyal staffers and advisors with lobbying connections. Perhaps he should stop playing their game. It’s one he’ll never win–and one that ultimately does nothing for his efforts to show that he’s the one with the positive record on special interests.

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The Theme Is There

If you thought conservative columnists were nasty, read the latest from Maureen Dowd. Aside from the very funny lines, she offers some proof that the meme of Barack Obama as elitist appeaser has permeated even the liberal zeitgeist. It is too late for Democrats to rethink. But would they have been better with a plain-wrap, gun-toting middle American figure like Evan Bayh?

And just in case anyone might forget Iran or the war on terror for the day, the Republican Jewish Coalition in a new ad asks three questions of Obama on his visit to a synagogue in Florida:

In an interview, you called for a summit of Muslim nations, including Iran and Syria, but excluding Israel. Why? (Reuters, 1/30/08)

One of your top advisors, Tony McPeak, placed blame on Miami and NY Jews for the failure of the Middle East peace process, yet he remains in this role. Why? (The Oregonian, 3/27/03)

You were a board member of a foundation that funded, during your tenure, the Arab American Action Network, a pro-Palestinian organization. Why? (LA Times, 4/10/08)

So whether from the Right or the Left, the question is the same: what exactly is the New Diplomacy going to look like? And, as Noah Pollak suggests (although I disagree with him about who is winning this argument): what is Obama going to accomplish in all these high-level get-togethers with dictators? The ones we’ve been having at lower levels have been spectacularly unsuccessful.

If you thought conservative columnists were nasty, read the latest from Maureen Dowd. Aside from the very funny lines, she offers some proof that the meme of Barack Obama as elitist appeaser has permeated even the liberal zeitgeist. It is too late for Democrats to rethink. But would they have been better with a plain-wrap, gun-toting middle American figure like Evan Bayh?

And just in case anyone might forget Iran or the war on terror for the day, the Republican Jewish Coalition in a new ad asks three questions of Obama on his visit to a synagogue in Florida:

In an interview, you called for a summit of Muslim nations, including Iran and Syria, but excluding Israel. Why? (Reuters, 1/30/08)

One of your top advisors, Tony McPeak, placed blame on Miami and NY Jews for the failure of the Middle East peace process, yet he remains in this role. Why? (The Oregonian, 3/27/03)

You were a board member of a foundation that funded, during your tenure, the Arab American Action Network, a pro-Palestinian organization. Why? (LA Times, 4/10/08)

So whether from the Right or the Left, the question is the same: what exactly is the New Diplomacy going to look like? And, as Noah Pollak suggests (although I disagree with him about who is winning this argument): what is Obama going to accomplish in all these high-level get-togethers with dictators? The ones we’ve been having at lower levels have been spectacularly unsuccessful.

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Clean Hands, Empty Record

Barack Obama took a swipe at John McCain for his staff’s violation of the campaign’s stated ethics/lobbying policy. The McCain campaign blasted back. The media focused on a McCain spokesman’s eye-catching suggestion that the friend of unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers did not want to get into the game of guilt by association.

We have seen the Obama camp play fast and loose with the identity and role of its advisors. Robert Malley really wasn’t one, we were told. Zbigniew Brzezinski really isn’t that important, we’re assured. Austan Goolsbee really isn’t an official spokesman, you see. All of this sets up a fog of unaccountability and makes it virtually impossible to determine whether conflicts of interest exist, and more importantly who has the ear of the presumptive nominee. So much for a new era of transparency.

In the case of supposedly tainted legislative actions, the McCain camp has scrambled to demonstrate that McCain acted independently of any lobbying influence, in keeping with his own policy viewpoints and/or as part of a bipartisan effort. (Somehow we don’t hear much about Obama’s $1M earmark for his wife’s employer.) But Obama hasn’t done much of anything in Washington and hasn’t sponsored or participated in many legislative battles small or large. So his hands and his associations in Washington can remain relatively pristine. And he’s attempted to transform his paucity of experience into an advantage. McCain is a “creature of Washington,” he says. But what is he? What is his comparable record of accomplishment? What are the means by which we can assess his ability to withstand illicit influence?

Barack Obama took a swipe at John McCain for his staff’s violation of the campaign’s stated ethics/lobbying policy. The McCain campaign blasted back. The media focused on a McCain spokesman’s eye-catching suggestion that the friend of unrepentant terrorist Bill Ayers did not want to get into the game of guilt by association.

We have seen the Obama camp play fast and loose with the identity and role of its advisors. Robert Malley really wasn’t one, we were told. Zbigniew Brzezinski really isn’t that important, we’re assured. Austan Goolsbee really isn’t an official spokesman, you see. All of this sets up a fog of unaccountability and makes it virtually impossible to determine whether conflicts of interest exist, and more importantly who has the ear of the presumptive nominee. So much for a new era of transparency.

In the case of supposedly tainted legislative actions, the McCain camp has scrambled to demonstrate that McCain acted independently of any lobbying influence, in keeping with his own policy viewpoints and/or as part of a bipartisan effort. (Somehow we don’t hear much about Obama’s $1M earmark for his wife’s employer.) But Obama hasn’t done much of anything in Washington and hasn’t sponsored or participated in many legislative battles small or large. So his hands and his associations in Washington can remain relatively pristine. And he’s attempted to transform his paucity of experience into an advantage. McCain is a “creature of Washington,” he says. But what is he? What is his comparable record of accomplishment? What are the means by which we can assess his ability to withstand illicit influence?

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Why Experience Matters

Barack Obama and his advisors are trying their best to scoot away from the increasingly untenable position that Obama would personally meet–without preconditions–with the leaders of rogue states. But the statements are too numerous and  YouTube is too ubiquitious for him to hide the facts. And Hillary Clinton’s a witness to (or a victim of) his public, year-long insistence that this represented a new type of diplomacy.

So why is it significant that he is now attempting to reverse course without admitting it? Imagine if he were already President and he tried this. After stating in public settings and on official websites for a year that he would meet with Ahmedinejad without preconditions, he then announces “I never said that” or “Well, I didn’t mean no preconditions.” Would our relations with Iran be even worse? Would Iranian officials have grounds to claim they were lied to? Would our allies and enemies be baffled? Would our prestige in the world suffer?

Welcome to the new diplomacy.

Barack Obama and his advisors are trying their best to scoot away from the increasingly untenable position that Obama would personally meet–without preconditions–with the leaders of rogue states. But the statements are too numerous and  YouTube is too ubiquitious for him to hide the facts. And Hillary Clinton’s a witness to (or a victim of) his public, year-long insistence that this represented a new type of diplomacy.

So why is it significant that he is now attempting to reverse course without admitting it? Imagine if he were already President and he tried this. After stating in public settings and on official websites for a year that he would meet with Ahmedinejad without preconditions, he then announces “I never said that” or “Well, I didn’t mean no preconditions.” Would our relations with Iran be even worse? Would Iranian officials have grounds to claim they were lied to? Would our allies and enemies be baffled? Would our prestige in the world suffer?

Welcome to the new diplomacy.

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More On Malley

Matt Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition responds:

“Regrettably, Robert Malley is but one of many people with troubling views advising Sen. Obama. We are still waiting for Obama to take principled action and remove Gen. McPeak – who has made disturbing and anti-Semitic comments about the American Jewish community. If Obama really wants to be a uniter, he should examine all the past associations and public comments of his advisors, and act accordingly.”

McPeak remains an advisor to Obama. As for Malley, the mainstream media has now at least restated the basic facts of Obama’s endorsement by Ahemd Yousef. But will anyone in the media pack following Obama today see fit to question him on the Malley connection with Hamas or on why he was receiving advice from Malley in the first place? You don’t even have to read the accounts to know the answer to that one.

Matt Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition responds:

“Regrettably, Robert Malley is but one of many people with troubling views advising Sen. Obama. We are still waiting for Obama to take principled action and remove Gen. McPeak – who has made disturbing and anti-Semitic comments about the American Jewish community. If Obama really wants to be a uniter, he should examine all the past associations and public comments of his advisors, and act accordingly.”

McPeak remains an advisor to Obama. As for Malley, the mainstream media has now at least restated the basic facts of Obama’s endorsement by Ahemd Yousef. But will anyone in the media pack following Obama today see fit to question him on the Malley connection with Hamas or on why he was receiving advice from Malley in the first place? You don’t even have to read the accounts to know the answer to that one.

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Obama Sacks Malley After Meeting With Hamas

One of Barack Obama’s Middle East advisors Robert Malley was sacked after it came to light that he had held meetings with Hamas. The Times reports:

One of Barack Obama’s Middle East policy advisers disclosed today that he had held meetings with the militant Palestinian group Hamas – prompting the likely Democratic nominee to sever all links with him.

Robert Malley told The Times he had regularly been in contact with Hamas, which controls Gaza but is listed by the US State Department as a terrorist organisation. Such talks, he stressed, were related to his work for a conflict resolution think tank and had no connection with his position on Mr Obama’s Middle East advisory council. “I’ve never hidden the fact that in my job with the International Crisis Group I meet all kinds of people,” he added.

But Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for Mr Obama, responded swiftly, saying: “Rob Malley has, like hundreds of other experts, provided informal advice to the campaign in the past. He has no formal role in the campaign and he will not play any role in the future.”

The rapid departure of Mr Malley from the campaign followed 48 hours of heated clashes between John McCain, the Republican nominee-elect, and Mr Obama, on the issue of Middle East policy.

Mr Obama, who has been trying to assuage suspicion towards him among the influential Jewish and pro-Israel lobby, spoke at a Washington reception marking the 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence yesterday when he promised his commitment to the country’s security would be “unshakeable”.

But Mr McCain has highlighted the Democrat’s pledge to negotiate directly with nations such as Iran – whose leaders talk of wiping Israel off the map – and a statement from Hamas saying that it hoped Mr Obama would win the presidency.

This was denounced as an offensive “smear” by Mr Obama, who repeated earlier statements saying that Hamas is “a terrorist organisation [and] we should not negotiate with them unless they recognise Israel, renounce violence”
. . .
Today, asked if Obama campaign was aware of his contact with Hamas, he replied: “They know who I am but I don’t think they vet everyone in a group of informal advisers.”

Randy Scheunemann, Mr McCain’s foreign policy chief, suggested Mr Malley was part of an emerging pattern which has seen other advisers repudiated after throwing confusion over policies on trade and Iraq.

“Perhaps, because of his inexperience, Senator Obama surrounds himself with advisers that contradict his stated policies,” said Mr Scheunemann.

But of course this should have come as no surprise to the Obama camp. Malley has openly advocated engaging Hamas. Malley has been the subject of much discussion here and elsewhere on the blogosphere and yet the Obama campaign never previously sought to separate itself or distinguish Malley’s views from Obama’s.

And although the Obama camp would now like to create the impression that Malley’s association with the campaign was tangential they have in the past acknowledged that he did advise the campaign although not as a “formal advisor”( what makes someone a “formal advisor” is unclear, and I suspect entirely artificial). Moreover, if there were no relationship it would hardly have been necessary for Malley to contact the campaign to inform them that he was ending that relationship. (Who severed the relationship it seems is a matter of dispute.)

The decision to sack Malley raises several issues. First, did the Obama campaign know of Malley’s visits previously? Second, what advice did Malley provide Obama ( and why would his advice be sought) if Obama claims his policy regarding Hamas is identical to McCain’s? Finally, what did Malley communicate to Hamas and did Malley’s contacts with Hamas have anything to do with the endorsement of Obama by Hamas’ Ahmed Yousef?

The notion that McCain had somehow “smeared” Obama for reciting the fact of Hamas’ endorsement can now be seen for what it truly is: the tried and true political tactic of attacking your enemy when faced with a serious controversy of your own. But now that media outlets have reported the latest development in the ongoing saga of Obama and Hamas, it seems that simply attacking McCain for mentioning it will no longer suffice. Unless, of course, the media show no interest in following up and Obama is never forced to answer questions on the topic.

One of Barack Obama’s Middle East advisors Robert Malley was sacked after it came to light that he had held meetings with Hamas. The Times reports:

One of Barack Obama’s Middle East policy advisers disclosed today that he had held meetings with the militant Palestinian group Hamas – prompting the likely Democratic nominee to sever all links with him.

Robert Malley told The Times he had regularly been in contact with Hamas, which controls Gaza but is listed by the US State Department as a terrorist organisation. Such talks, he stressed, were related to his work for a conflict resolution think tank and had no connection with his position on Mr Obama’s Middle East advisory council. “I’ve never hidden the fact that in my job with the International Crisis Group I meet all kinds of people,” he added.

But Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for Mr Obama, responded swiftly, saying: “Rob Malley has, like hundreds of other experts, provided informal advice to the campaign in the past. He has no formal role in the campaign and he will not play any role in the future.”

The rapid departure of Mr Malley from the campaign followed 48 hours of heated clashes between John McCain, the Republican nominee-elect, and Mr Obama, on the issue of Middle East policy.

Mr Obama, who has been trying to assuage suspicion towards him among the influential Jewish and pro-Israel lobby, spoke at a Washington reception marking the 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence yesterday when he promised his commitment to the country’s security would be “unshakeable”.

But Mr McCain has highlighted the Democrat’s pledge to negotiate directly with nations such as Iran – whose leaders talk of wiping Israel off the map – and a statement from Hamas saying that it hoped Mr Obama would win the presidency.

This was denounced as an offensive “smear” by Mr Obama, who repeated earlier statements saying that Hamas is “a terrorist organisation [and] we should not negotiate with them unless they recognise Israel, renounce violence”
. . .
Today, asked if Obama campaign was aware of his contact with Hamas, he replied: “They know who I am but I don’t think they vet everyone in a group of informal advisers.”

Randy Scheunemann, Mr McCain’s foreign policy chief, suggested Mr Malley was part of an emerging pattern which has seen other advisers repudiated after throwing confusion over policies on trade and Iraq.

“Perhaps, because of his inexperience, Senator Obama surrounds himself with advisers that contradict his stated policies,” said Mr Scheunemann.

But of course this should have come as no surprise to the Obama camp. Malley has openly advocated engaging Hamas. Malley has been the subject of much discussion here and elsewhere on the blogosphere and yet the Obama campaign never previously sought to separate itself or distinguish Malley’s views from Obama’s.

And although the Obama camp would now like to create the impression that Malley’s association with the campaign was tangential they have in the past acknowledged that he did advise the campaign although not as a “formal advisor”( what makes someone a “formal advisor” is unclear, and I suspect entirely artificial). Moreover, if there were no relationship it would hardly have been necessary for Malley to contact the campaign to inform them that he was ending that relationship. (Who severed the relationship it seems is a matter of dispute.)

The decision to sack Malley raises several issues. First, did the Obama campaign know of Malley’s visits previously? Second, what advice did Malley provide Obama ( and why would his advice be sought) if Obama claims his policy regarding Hamas is identical to McCain’s? Finally, what did Malley communicate to Hamas and did Malley’s contacts with Hamas have anything to do with the endorsement of Obama by Hamas’ Ahmed Yousef?

The notion that McCain had somehow “smeared” Obama for reciting the fact of Hamas’ endorsement can now be seen for what it truly is: the tried and true political tactic of attacking your enemy when faced with a serious controversy of your own. But now that media outlets have reported the latest development in the ongoing saga of Obama and Hamas, it seems that simply attacking McCain for mentioning it will no longer suffice. Unless, of course, the media show no interest in following up and Obama is never forced to answer questions on the topic.

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Clinton Team Conference Call

In a media call today, Clinton advisors Howard Wolfson and Geoff Garin tried to make the case that it’s full steam ahead for HRC. Wolfson said bluntly: “No discussions about not going forward.” Garin’s spin about last night’s result? Hillary Clinton came from far behind in their internal polls (which had her down eight points in Indiana).

What about North Carolina? Their best argument was that she improved dramatically among white voters, going from a tie to a 24-point margin. What do they have to do going forward? They placed great emphasis on West Virginia, pledged to seat Michigan and Florida (if all are seated they claim they will pick up 58 votes, bringing them within 100 delegates), and promised to make the case to superdelegates that she matches up better against John McCain. Are they concerned about the pundits writing them off? “The punditocracy does not control this process.”

But perhaps the most telling exchange was a moment of hesitation when Garin was asked whether he saw any problem in the Democratic Party selecting someone who led in neither the popular or delegate vote. After a pause he said “Well. . . it will be close.” So for now Hillary is not giving up. Were the questioners skeptical, verging on incredulous? A bit. When asked whether the campaign was concerned about “burning the village [i.e. the Democratic party] to save it” Wolfson, in impassioned tones, explained that Hillary has devoted her entire adult life to the Democratic party, that it’s “what gets her up” in the morning. She’s just not ready to let go.

In a media call today, Clinton advisors Howard Wolfson and Geoff Garin tried to make the case that it’s full steam ahead for HRC. Wolfson said bluntly: “No discussions about not going forward.” Garin’s spin about last night’s result? Hillary Clinton came from far behind in their internal polls (which had her down eight points in Indiana).

What about North Carolina? Their best argument was that she improved dramatically among white voters, going from a tie to a 24-point margin. What do they have to do going forward? They placed great emphasis on West Virginia, pledged to seat Michigan and Florida (if all are seated they claim they will pick up 58 votes, bringing them within 100 delegates), and promised to make the case to superdelegates that she matches up better against John McCain. Are they concerned about the pundits writing them off? “The punditocracy does not control this process.”

But perhaps the most telling exchange was a moment of hesitation when Garin was asked whether he saw any problem in the Democratic Party selecting someone who led in neither the popular or delegate vote. After a pause he said “Well. . . it will be close.” So for now Hillary is not giving up. Were the questioners skeptical, verging on incredulous? A bit. When asked whether the campaign was concerned about “burning the village [i.e. the Democratic party] to save it” Wolfson, in impassioned tones, explained that Hillary has devoted her entire adult life to the Democratic party, that it’s “what gets her up” in the morning. She’s just not ready to let go.

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