Commentary Magazine


Topic: Associated Press

Obama Undercuts Immigration Reform

As I’ve commented before, Obama has been, at best, a lukewarm supporter of immigration reform. Given the choice between solving a knotty, divisive issue, the resolution of which would incur the wrath of the Democratic Party’s main source of financial support (Big Labor), or simply fanning a political issue that ensnares conservatives, Obama has tended to favor the latter. Dana Milbank catches him at it again:

Air Force One was about seven miles over Appalachia this week when President Obama dropped a bomb on his party. Senate Democrats had that very day circulated an immigration reform proposal, and the Associated Press, receiving a leaked copy, reported on the “draft legislation.” But as Obama returned to Washington from Illinois Wednesday night, he walked back to the press cabin on the presidential aircraft and, in an impromptu Q&A, essentially declared immigration reform dead. He said “there may not be an appetite” for it. Obama’s retreat — after encouraging senators only weeks ago to take up immigration reform — clotheslined Senate Democrats. Since their proposal had already leaked, they had no choice but to go ahead with the rollout of the plan Obama had just doomed. “I don’t know in what context the statement was made last night,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters at Thursday night’s rollout.

Milbank observes that this has left a vacuum of leadership, thereby dooming any Democratic plan. Well, it’s not that clear any of the Democrats were all that serious or enthusiastic about pushing forward. Nevertheless, the president’s cynicism in 2010 is reminiscent of his cynicism in 2007, when he helped submarine the McCain-Kennedy bill. He is, it seems, willing to excoriate conservative opponents of immigration reform and tut-tut about the nasty tone of the immigration debate but unwilling to risk any political capital to try to pass comprehensive reform. Hispanic activists — like pro-Israel supporters — should figure out when they are being played as patsies  and learn to focus on what Obama does, rather than what he says.

As I’ve commented before, Obama has been, at best, a lukewarm supporter of immigration reform. Given the choice between solving a knotty, divisive issue, the resolution of which would incur the wrath of the Democratic Party’s main source of financial support (Big Labor), or simply fanning a political issue that ensnares conservatives, Obama has tended to favor the latter. Dana Milbank catches him at it again:

Air Force One was about seven miles over Appalachia this week when President Obama dropped a bomb on his party. Senate Democrats had that very day circulated an immigration reform proposal, and the Associated Press, receiving a leaked copy, reported on the “draft legislation.” But as Obama returned to Washington from Illinois Wednesday night, he walked back to the press cabin on the presidential aircraft and, in an impromptu Q&A, essentially declared immigration reform dead. He said “there may not be an appetite” for it. Obama’s retreat — after encouraging senators only weeks ago to take up immigration reform — clotheslined Senate Democrats. Since their proposal had already leaked, they had no choice but to go ahead with the rollout of the plan Obama had just doomed. “I don’t know in what context the statement was made last night,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters at Thursday night’s rollout.

Milbank observes that this has left a vacuum of leadership, thereby dooming any Democratic plan. Well, it’s not that clear any of the Democrats were all that serious or enthusiastic about pushing forward. Nevertheless, the president’s cynicism in 2010 is reminiscent of his cynicism in 2007, when he helped submarine the McCain-Kennedy bill. He is, it seems, willing to excoriate conservative opponents of immigration reform and tut-tut about the nasty tone of the immigration debate but unwilling to risk any political capital to try to pass comprehensive reform. Hispanic activists — like pro-Israel supporters — should figure out when they are being played as patsies  and learn to focus on what Obama does, rather than what he says.

Read Less

RE: Obama and Israel: Not Smart

The Obama administration’s dramatic escalation of tensions with Israel, in the aftermath of Israel’s decision to begin new housing in East Jerusalem, is both puzzling and disturbing. John provides excellent background and analysis of the unfolding events here.

I would add to what he wrote by saying that this may be the latest manifestation of something we have seen before: the president’s tendency to treat our allies (such as Israel, Honduras, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Colombia) in a manner that strains relations while treating our adversaries (such as Iran, Venezuela, Russia, and China) in a way that that radiates irresolution.

Compare the Obama administration’s heated response to Israel, our best ally in the Middle East and one of our best friends in the world, with how Obama has treated Iran, a repressive regime that has a burning hatred for America (and Israel), actively supports terrorism, is trying to destabilize Iraq, is in breach of international laws, and is accelerating it nuclear enrichment program in order to build a nuclear weapon.

One would think it would be obvious where our loyalties should lie. Yet the Obama administration uses its most provocative and incendiary language against Israel. The U.S. “condemned” the announcement of the construction of new housing that is still years away. As Elliott Abrams put it, “The verb  ‘condemn’ is customarily reserved by U.S. officials for acts of murder and terrorism — not acts of housing.” Things have now traversed from rhetorical blasts to symbolic acts against the Jewish state, with the administration postponing Middle East envoy George Mitchell’s trip to the region. This step, in the words of the Associated Press, “appeared… to deepen one of the worst U.S.-Israeli feuds in memory.”

Toward Iran, on the other hand, Obama and his administration seem deferential, cautious, and hesitant, parsing every word in order not to offend — so much so that Obama was reluctant to speak out against the brutal crackdown we saw there in the aftermath of the fraudulent June 12 elections. He clearly wanted to maintain a dialogue with Iran’s theocratic dictatorship even at the expense of expressing solidarity with the freedom movement there.

It is as if Obama viewed Israel as a punching bag and Iran as a delicate porcelain doll.

What motivates such conduct is hard to determine. It is probably of a piece with Obama’s worldwide American apology tour, where he engaged in serial apologies for America for wrongs past and present, large and small, real and fictional. President Obama has repeatedly gone out of his way to disparage the nation he was elected to lead in the hopes of improving America’s image abroad. His effort has been an utter failure. Increasingly we are seen as a superpower that can be pushed around.

We saw in the Carter administration this pattern of undermining our allies and placating our adversaries. It didn’t work then; and it won’t work now.

The Obama administration’s dramatic escalation of tensions with Israel, in the aftermath of Israel’s decision to begin new housing in East Jerusalem, is both puzzling and disturbing. John provides excellent background and analysis of the unfolding events here.

I would add to what he wrote by saying that this may be the latest manifestation of something we have seen before: the president’s tendency to treat our allies (such as Israel, Honduras, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Colombia) in a manner that strains relations while treating our adversaries (such as Iran, Venezuela, Russia, and China) in a way that that radiates irresolution.

Compare the Obama administration’s heated response to Israel, our best ally in the Middle East and one of our best friends in the world, with how Obama has treated Iran, a repressive regime that has a burning hatred for America (and Israel), actively supports terrorism, is trying to destabilize Iraq, is in breach of international laws, and is accelerating it nuclear enrichment program in order to build a nuclear weapon.

One would think it would be obvious where our loyalties should lie. Yet the Obama administration uses its most provocative and incendiary language against Israel. The U.S. “condemned” the announcement of the construction of new housing that is still years away. As Elliott Abrams put it, “The verb  ‘condemn’ is customarily reserved by U.S. officials for acts of murder and terrorism — not acts of housing.” Things have now traversed from rhetorical blasts to symbolic acts against the Jewish state, with the administration postponing Middle East envoy George Mitchell’s trip to the region. This step, in the words of the Associated Press, “appeared… to deepen one of the worst U.S.-Israeli feuds in memory.”

Toward Iran, on the other hand, Obama and his administration seem deferential, cautious, and hesitant, parsing every word in order not to offend — so much so that Obama was reluctant to speak out against the brutal crackdown we saw there in the aftermath of the fraudulent June 12 elections. He clearly wanted to maintain a dialogue with Iran’s theocratic dictatorship even at the expense of expressing solidarity with the freedom movement there.

It is as if Obama viewed Israel as a punching bag and Iran as a delicate porcelain doll.

What motivates such conduct is hard to determine. It is probably of a piece with Obama’s worldwide American apology tour, where he engaged in serial apologies for America for wrongs past and present, large and small, real and fictional. President Obama has repeatedly gone out of his way to disparage the nation he was elected to lead in the hopes of improving America’s image abroad. His effort has been an utter failure. Increasingly we are seen as a superpower that can be pushed around.

We saw in the Carter administration this pattern of undermining our allies and placating our adversaries. It didn’t work then; and it won’t work now.

Read Less

California Senate Candidates Debate Campbell’s Record

California senate Republican contenders Tom Campbell, Chuck DeVore, and Carly Fiorina debated on the radio on Friday. Much of the discussion centered on Campbell’s voting record on Israel, his ties to Muslim extremists, and the charges and counter-charges that have been flying among the candidates. As the Associated Press noted:

Campbell requested the debate after his opponents began questioning his support for Israel. Their attacks were based on his voting record when he served in the House of Representatives and on campaign money given by a donor who later was revealed to have ties to a U.S.-listed terrorist organization.

(Actually, there is more than one donor, but more on that below.) Campbell accused Fiorina’s campaign manager of calling him anti-Semitic, a charge she denied. But the nub of the matter remains Campbell’s record. DeVore got into the act, as well:

He refused to back away from calling Campbell a “friend to our enemies” for his association with a University of South Florida professor who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a Palestinian terrorist group.

Campbell received a $1,300 campaign contribution from Sami Al-Arian in 2000 and later wrote a letter on his behalf asking the university not to fire him.

Campbell said the contribution came as the Republican Party was reaching out to Muslims and years before the criminal charges were filed.

“I certainly wish I had done a better job of finding out who he was at the time,” Campbell said.

The claim that Campbell does not view Israel as a friend is an important one in a primary in which evangelical Christians will help determine who will advance to the general election as the GOP nominee. The winner will face Democrat Barbara Boxer, who is seeking a fourth term.

Many believe strongly in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Campbell said he has never flinched from showing strong military support for Israel.

But alas, Campbell did repeatedly introduce measures to cut aid for Israel, and his association with Al-Arian is not his only troublesome relationship. And contrary to his assertion in the debate, he has supported the concept of a divided Jerusalem as the capital of both Jewish and Palestinian states. He did vote in 1990, one of only 34 lawmakers, against a resolution expressing support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. As for his donors, this post notes:

Another $1,000 donor to Campbell’s 2000 U.S. Senate campaign was American Muslim Council member Abdurahman Alamoudi. After Alamoudi spoke out in support of terrorist organizations, Campbell refused to return the money, saying that he felt comfortable with Alamoudi’s position. In contrast, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton returned contributions they had received from Alamoudi and related parties.

In 2003, Alamoudi was caught carrying $340,000 in cash through an airport. When searched, authorities found that his electronic organizer held the names of six people who had been linked to al-Qaida financing. Alamoudi was brought to trial and pled guilty to immigration fraud and illegal business dealings with Libya. He also confessed to playing a part in an unsuccessful assassination plot on Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah. The plotters had hoped to destabilize Saudi Arabia with the prince’s death. And in 2005, authorities discovered that Alamoudi had also helped raise money for al-Qaida in the United States.

The list goes on. On February 13, 2000, Muthanna Al-Hanooti of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) contributed $2,000 to Campbell’s Senate campaign. Eight years later, Al-Hanooti was arrested for spying on the U.S. Congress for Saddam Hussein. Hanooti had even attempted to broker a secret deal with members of Congress to stop the war in Iraq from happening.

Nehad Awad, the current executive director of CAIR, contributed $2,000 dollars to Campbell’s Senate campaign in 2000. Awad and his group have been criticized for supporting both Hamas and other radical violence by Muslim extremists.

And then there is Israel-hater and organ-harvest conspirator  Alison Weir, whom Campbell has praised.  She’s now taken up defending Campbell. First, of course, she unleashes her best Stephen Walt imitation by, among other things, denouncing the “Israel Lobby.” (Just so we know where she’s coming from.) Then she explains her association with Campbell. This, she says, occurred at a speech in 2001:

When it was my turn to speak, I described what I had seen in the Palestinian Territories, showed my photographs, and read a sort of letter I had written to the American people. To my surprise, I received a standing ovation from, it appeared to me, everyone in the room. One of the first on his feet was Tom Campbell. Afterwards, a friend asked him if he would write an endorsement of my presentation, which he graciously did. Later, when I founded If Americans Knew and we created a website, we placed his comment in the “About Us” section.

She also lets on that Campbell told her, in describing of one of his proposals to cut aid to Israel, that “many of his fellow Representatives privately told him they thought this was a wonderful plan, complimented him on his courage in proposing it, and said they didn’t’ dare vote for it. In the end, just 12 others cast affirmative votes.” Delighted he was, I suppose, to be so bold and so outside the mainstream on Israel aid.

Given her bile-spitting rendition of the Middle East conflict and desire to end American financial support for Israel, one wonders what in her speech Campbell found so praiseworthy. A Californian active in the Jewish community recounts to me the sort of presentation Weir was making those days. He attended one of her offerings at the Belvedere-Tiburon Library in Marin County:

What I remember most vividly was during her entire talk there was a slide displayed directly over her head of some stone steps with an extensive amount of recent blood visibly staining the steps. As you watched her anti-Israel diatribe being delivered, she said that blood was of martry’s slain by Israelis. The image reflected her barely supressed hatred of Israel.

The issue is not whether Campbell is anti-Semitic but whether his record and his associations of rather recent vintage are consistent with the pro-Israel rhetoric he now adopts. California Republican voters will need to decide what, if any, liability this will pose should he reach the general election. It seems, then, that the debate on Campbell’s record has just begun.

California senate Republican contenders Tom Campbell, Chuck DeVore, and Carly Fiorina debated on the radio on Friday. Much of the discussion centered on Campbell’s voting record on Israel, his ties to Muslim extremists, and the charges and counter-charges that have been flying among the candidates. As the Associated Press noted:

Campbell requested the debate after his opponents began questioning his support for Israel. Their attacks were based on his voting record when he served in the House of Representatives and on campaign money given by a donor who later was revealed to have ties to a U.S.-listed terrorist organization.

(Actually, there is more than one donor, but more on that below.) Campbell accused Fiorina’s campaign manager of calling him anti-Semitic, a charge she denied. But the nub of the matter remains Campbell’s record. DeVore got into the act, as well:

He refused to back away from calling Campbell a “friend to our enemies” for his association with a University of South Florida professor who later pleaded guilty to conspiring to aid a Palestinian terrorist group.

Campbell received a $1,300 campaign contribution from Sami Al-Arian in 2000 and later wrote a letter on his behalf asking the university not to fire him.

Campbell said the contribution came as the Republican Party was reaching out to Muslims and years before the criminal charges were filed.

“I certainly wish I had done a better job of finding out who he was at the time,” Campbell said.

The claim that Campbell does not view Israel as a friend is an important one in a primary in which evangelical Christians will help determine who will advance to the general election as the GOP nominee. The winner will face Democrat Barbara Boxer, who is seeking a fourth term.

Many believe strongly in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Campbell said he has never flinched from showing strong military support for Israel.

But alas, Campbell did repeatedly introduce measures to cut aid for Israel, and his association with Al-Arian is not his only troublesome relationship. And contrary to his assertion in the debate, he has supported the concept of a divided Jerusalem as the capital of both Jewish and Palestinian states. He did vote in 1990, one of only 34 lawmakers, against a resolution expressing support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. As for his donors, this post notes:

Another $1,000 donor to Campbell’s 2000 U.S. Senate campaign was American Muslim Council member Abdurahman Alamoudi. After Alamoudi spoke out in support of terrorist organizations, Campbell refused to return the money, saying that he felt comfortable with Alamoudi’s position. In contrast, George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton returned contributions they had received from Alamoudi and related parties.

In 2003, Alamoudi was caught carrying $340,000 in cash through an airport. When searched, authorities found that his electronic organizer held the names of six people who had been linked to al-Qaida financing. Alamoudi was brought to trial and pled guilty to immigration fraud and illegal business dealings with Libya. He also confessed to playing a part in an unsuccessful assassination plot on Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Abdullah. The plotters had hoped to destabilize Saudi Arabia with the prince’s death. And in 2005, authorities discovered that Alamoudi had also helped raise money for al-Qaida in the United States.

The list goes on. On February 13, 2000, Muthanna Al-Hanooti of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) contributed $2,000 to Campbell’s Senate campaign. Eight years later, Al-Hanooti was arrested for spying on the U.S. Congress for Saddam Hussein. Hanooti had even attempted to broker a secret deal with members of Congress to stop the war in Iraq from happening.

Nehad Awad, the current executive director of CAIR, contributed $2,000 dollars to Campbell’s Senate campaign in 2000. Awad and his group have been criticized for supporting both Hamas and other radical violence by Muslim extremists.

And then there is Israel-hater and organ-harvest conspirator  Alison Weir, whom Campbell has praised.  She’s now taken up defending Campbell. First, of course, she unleashes her best Stephen Walt imitation by, among other things, denouncing the “Israel Lobby.” (Just so we know where she’s coming from.) Then she explains her association with Campbell. This, she says, occurred at a speech in 2001:

When it was my turn to speak, I described what I had seen in the Palestinian Territories, showed my photographs, and read a sort of letter I had written to the American people. To my surprise, I received a standing ovation from, it appeared to me, everyone in the room. One of the first on his feet was Tom Campbell. Afterwards, a friend asked him if he would write an endorsement of my presentation, which he graciously did. Later, when I founded If Americans Knew and we created a website, we placed his comment in the “About Us” section.

She also lets on that Campbell told her, in describing of one of his proposals to cut aid to Israel, that “many of his fellow Representatives privately told him they thought this was a wonderful plan, complimented him on his courage in proposing it, and said they didn’t’ dare vote for it. In the end, just 12 others cast affirmative votes.” Delighted he was, I suppose, to be so bold and so outside the mainstream on Israel aid.

Given her bile-spitting rendition of the Middle East conflict and desire to end American financial support for Israel, one wonders what in her speech Campbell found so praiseworthy. A Californian active in the Jewish community recounts to me the sort of presentation Weir was making those days. He attended one of her offerings at the Belvedere-Tiburon Library in Marin County:

What I remember most vividly was during her entire talk there was a slide displayed directly over her head of some stone steps with an extensive amount of recent blood visibly staining the steps. As you watched her anti-Israel diatribe being delivered, she said that blood was of martry’s slain by Israelis. The image reflected her barely supressed hatred of Israel.

The issue is not whether Campbell is anti-Semitic but whether his record and his associations of rather recent vintage are consistent with the pro-Israel rhetoric he now adopts. California Republican voters will need to decide what, if any, liability this will pose should he reach the general election. It seems, then, that the debate on Campbell’s record has just begun.

Read Less

Targeting Israel, Hitting Palestinians

A ruling by the European Union’s highest court yesterday is a perfect example of the law of unintended consequences. The court ruled that the EU’s free trade agreement with Israel does not apply to the West Bank, and therefore, goods made by Israeli firms in the West Bank are subject to EU import taxes.

Legally speaking, it’s hard to quarrel with the ruling: even Israeli law doesn’t view the West Bank as Israeli, as it does East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. But for years, European countries ignored this detail and exempted Israeli firms in the territories from import duties. What has changed is not the law but the politics: seeking to persuade Israelis that “the occupation” doesn’t pay, EU countries recently began taxing such imports. A German importer then sued his country’s tax authorities, prompting yesterday’s verdict.

But as the Associated Press noted, the biggest victims may well be not Israelis but Palestinians. Many Israeli firms moved to the West Bank because they could export to the EU duty-free while also benefiting from cheaper Palestinian labor. Thus, if the new import taxes lower these firms’ profits, hundreds of Palestinians could lose their jobs. And because “Palestinians are largely barred from working in Israel and have few job opportunities in the Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank, jobs in settlement factories are sought after.”

Moreover, European efforts to tax these companies have already persuaded some to move back to Israel, and yesterday’s ruling is likely to accelerate the trend. That would throw thousands of Palestinians out of work — while benefiting the unemployed Israelis such firms would have to hire instead.

Europeans are obviously entitled to put principle above the consequences for Palestinian employment; countries make such decisions all the time. But the fact remains that once again, the biggest victims of efforts to advance the “peace process” will be ordinary Palestinians.

Thousands of Gazans, for instance, used to work for Israeli firms in the Erez industrial zone on the Israel-Gaza border. Today, Erez is a ghost town with no prospect of ever reopening: having withdrawn from Gaza, Israel could no longer protect these firms, and the Palestinians would not.

Moreover, tens of thousands of Palestinians used to work inside Israel; today, almost none do. The second intifada made a massive flow of Palestinians into Israel too risky, and Israelis felt no obligation to employ residents of a state-in-the-making that was waging nonstop physical and diplomatic warfare against them. The Palestinians, after all, cannot simultaneously demand independence from Israel and jobs inside Israel. The result is unemployment that now totals 18 percent in the West Bank and 39 percent in Gaza.

Israel is the region’s strongest economy; it will be years before the Palestinian Authority can match its employment capacity. So unless those who favor Palestinian statehood think that massive unemployment somehow contributes to this goal, they ought to be encouraging Israeli firms to hire Palestinians. Instead, Palestinian terror and international pressure have steadily combined to do the opposite.

If that sounds counterproductive, it is. Unfortunately, the EU clearly doesn’t get it.

A ruling by the European Union’s highest court yesterday is a perfect example of the law of unintended consequences. The court ruled that the EU’s free trade agreement with Israel does not apply to the West Bank, and therefore, goods made by Israeli firms in the West Bank are subject to EU import taxes.

Legally speaking, it’s hard to quarrel with the ruling: even Israeli law doesn’t view the West Bank as Israeli, as it does East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. But for years, European countries ignored this detail and exempted Israeli firms in the territories from import duties. What has changed is not the law but the politics: seeking to persuade Israelis that “the occupation” doesn’t pay, EU countries recently began taxing such imports. A German importer then sued his country’s tax authorities, prompting yesterday’s verdict.

But as the Associated Press noted, the biggest victims may well be not Israelis but Palestinians. Many Israeli firms moved to the West Bank because they could export to the EU duty-free while also benefiting from cheaper Palestinian labor. Thus, if the new import taxes lower these firms’ profits, hundreds of Palestinians could lose their jobs. And because “Palestinians are largely barred from working in Israel and have few job opportunities in the Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank, jobs in settlement factories are sought after.”

Moreover, European efforts to tax these companies have already persuaded some to move back to Israel, and yesterday’s ruling is likely to accelerate the trend. That would throw thousands of Palestinians out of work — while benefiting the unemployed Israelis such firms would have to hire instead.

Europeans are obviously entitled to put principle above the consequences for Palestinian employment; countries make such decisions all the time. But the fact remains that once again, the biggest victims of efforts to advance the “peace process” will be ordinary Palestinians.

Thousands of Gazans, for instance, used to work for Israeli firms in the Erez industrial zone on the Israel-Gaza border. Today, Erez is a ghost town with no prospect of ever reopening: having withdrawn from Gaza, Israel could no longer protect these firms, and the Palestinians would not.

Moreover, tens of thousands of Palestinians used to work inside Israel; today, almost none do. The second intifada made a massive flow of Palestinians into Israel too risky, and Israelis felt no obligation to employ residents of a state-in-the-making that was waging nonstop physical and diplomatic warfare against them. The Palestinians, after all, cannot simultaneously demand independence from Israel and jobs inside Israel. The result is unemployment that now totals 18 percent in the West Bank and 39 percent in Gaza.

Israel is the region’s strongest economy; it will be years before the Palestinian Authority can match its employment capacity. So unless those who favor Palestinian statehood think that massive unemployment somehow contributes to this goal, they ought to be encouraging Israeli firms to hire Palestinians. Instead, Palestinian terror and international pressure have steadily combined to do the opposite.

If that sounds counterproductive, it is. Unfortunately, the EU clearly doesn’t get it.

Read Less

How’s That Diplomacy Working, Mr. President?

Today wasn’t a good day for the Obama administration’s plan to isolate Iran by appeasing that rogue regime’s two main protectors: Russia and China.

China once again demonstrated that it was not even entertaining the notion of supporting sanctions against Iran when its Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said he opposed any talk of pressure on Tehran since it would block chances of a diplomatic settlement of the impasse over Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. The Iranians have made it clear over and over again that there is no possibility of such a settlement. Which means that the Chinese are merely backing Iran’s strategy of stalling Western diplomats until their nuclear capability is a fait accompli.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that Iran has received more assurances from Russia that it still intends to deliver long-range air-defense missiles to Tehran. Both the United States and Israel — the likely first target of any Iranian nuclear device — have expended considerable energy on trying to stop the Russians from augmenting Iran’s air-defense system. This is a particularly irresponsible move on Russia’s part. The more secure Iran feels about its ability to defend itself against potential U.S. or Israeli attacks aimed at either forestalling or destroying its nuclear project, the more dangerous it becomes.

Taken together, these two developments illustrate the fact that Obama has wasted a full year pursuing a diplomatic-engagement scheme that never had a chance of success. The idea that you could win Moscow’s heart by betraying the Czech Republic and Poland (over missile defense) or woo China by demonstrating weakness on human rights and trade issues only convinced those countries that Obama’s main characteristic as a leader was neither charisma nor eloquence but rather weakness. The notion that Obama, whose stock is falling not only in the United States but also abroad, can rally either the United Nations (where China and Russia can veto sanctions) or Europe to take serious action on Iran is a White House fantasy.

There is a cottage industry of apologists both for Iran and for the Obama administration’s engagement policy with Tehran, whose main line of argument is that Iranian nukes are no big deal and that both the West and Israel will have to learn to live with them. That fits in nicely with a White House mindset that prefers to obsess over the administration’s faltering domestic agenda rather than deal with a perilous threat to international peace. But the longer Obama waits before attempting to do something about Iran, the more serious the consequences will be. The clock is ticking toward the day when a triumphant Iran will be able to announce that its nuclear dreams have become a reality. As much as this administration’s fate seems to be riding on the economy and failed projects like its hopes for a government takeover of health care, Iran, the issue they prefer would go away, may turn out to be the greatest danger to Obama’s legacy.

Today wasn’t a good day for the Obama administration’s plan to isolate Iran by appeasing that rogue regime’s two main protectors: Russia and China.

China once again demonstrated that it was not even entertaining the notion of supporting sanctions against Iran when its Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said he opposed any talk of pressure on Tehran since it would block chances of a diplomatic settlement of the impasse over Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. The Iranians have made it clear over and over again that there is no possibility of such a settlement. Which means that the Chinese are merely backing Iran’s strategy of stalling Western diplomats until their nuclear capability is a fait accompli.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that Iran has received more assurances from Russia that it still intends to deliver long-range air-defense missiles to Tehran. Both the United States and Israel — the likely first target of any Iranian nuclear device — have expended considerable energy on trying to stop the Russians from augmenting Iran’s air-defense system. This is a particularly irresponsible move on Russia’s part. The more secure Iran feels about its ability to defend itself against potential U.S. or Israeli attacks aimed at either forestalling or destroying its nuclear project, the more dangerous it becomes.

Taken together, these two developments illustrate the fact that Obama has wasted a full year pursuing a diplomatic-engagement scheme that never had a chance of success. The idea that you could win Moscow’s heart by betraying the Czech Republic and Poland (over missile defense) or woo China by demonstrating weakness on human rights and trade issues only convinced those countries that Obama’s main characteristic as a leader was neither charisma nor eloquence but rather weakness. The notion that Obama, whose stock is falling not only in the United States but also abroad, can rally either the United Nations (where China and Russia can veto sanctions) or Europe to take serious action on Iran is a White House fantasy.

There is a cottage industry of apologists both for Iran and for the Obama administration’s engagement policy with Tehran, whose main line of argument is that Iranian nukes are no big deal and that both the West and Israel will have to learn to live with them. That fits in nicely with a White House mindset that prefers to obsess over the administration’s faltering domestic agenda rather than deal with a perilous threat to international peace. But the longer Obama waits before attempting to do something about Iran, the more serious the consequences will be. The clock is ticking toward the day when a triumphant Iran will be able to announce that its nuclear dreams have become a reality. As much as this administration’s fate seems to be riding on the economy and failed projects like its hopes for a government takeover of health care, Iran, the issue they prefer would go away, may turn out to be the greatest danger to Obama’s legacy.

Read Less

Democrats Seek Distance from Obama

The Associated Press is the latest to discover the potential for a Republican takeover of Congress:

Almost by the day, Republicans are sensing fresh opportunities to pick up ground. Just Wednesday, former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats announced he would try to reclaim his old seat from Democrat Evan Bayh, who barely a year ago had been a finalist to be Barack Obama’s running mate. And Republicans nationwide are still celebrating Scott Brown’s January upset to take Edward Kennedy’s former seat in Massachusetts.

A Republican takeover on Capitol Hill is still a long shot. But strategists in both parties now see at least narrow paths by which the GOP could win the House and, if the troubled environment for Democrats deteriorates further, possibly even the Senate.

The AP is a little less candid about the reasons, however. You see, it’s “the persistent 10 percent unemployment rate, the country’s bitterness over Wall Street bailouts and voters’ anti-Washington fervor. Obama’s party, controlling both the White House and Congress, is likely to feel that fury the most. And it’s defending far more seats than the Republicans.” But why, then, is the generic congressional polling number tilting in the Republicans’ favor, a historic anomaly? Could it have something to do with what the Democrats have done in the last year? Read More

The Associated Press is the latest to discover the potential for a Republican takeover of Congress:

Almost by the day, Republicans are sensing fresh opportunities to pick up ground. Just Wednesday, former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats announced he would try to reclaim his old seat from Democrat Evan Bayh, who barely a year ago had been a finalist to be Barack Obama’s running mate. And Republicans nationwide are still celebrating Scott Brown’s January upset to take Edward Kennedy’s former seat in Massachusetts.

A Republican takeover on Capitol Hill is still a long shot. But strategists in both parties now see at least narrow paths by which the GOP could win the House and, if the troubled environment for Democrats deteriorates further, possibly even the Senate.

The AP is a little less candid about the reasons, however. You see, it’s “the persistent 10 percent unemployment rate, the country’s bitterness over Wall Street bailouts and voters’ anti-Washington fervor. Obama’s party, controlling both the White House and Congress, is likely to feel that fury the most. And it’s defending far more seats than the Republicans.” But why, then, is the generic congressional polling number tilting in the Republicans’ favor, a historic anomaly? Could it have something to do with what the Democrats have done in the last year?

Well those incumbent Democrats struggling for their political lives don’t seem to be so confused. We’ve seen a steady drumbeat of criticism from Democrats on Obama’s anti-terrorism policies. We see that Democratic lawmakers are flexing their muscles, trying to put some daylight between themselves and the Obama-Reid-Pelosi ultra-liberal domestic agenda as well. As this report notes:

A Democratic Senate candidate in Missouri denounced the budget’s sky-high deficit. A Florida Democrat whose congressional district includes the Kennedy Space Center hit the roof over NASA budget cuts. And a headline on the 2010 campaign website of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) blares her opposition to Obama’s farm budget: “Blanche stands up for Arkansas farm families.”

And at least in the days following Scott Brown’s win, we heard a raft of Democrats suggest that maybe now it was time to move on from health-care reform to something voters actually like, maybe some pro-job measures.

The tension between the Reid-Pelosi-Obama trio, fueled by ideological determination and the fear of offending their base, and those Democrats who think that a good deal of the problem they face stems from the very agenda set out by Reid-Pelosi-Obama will, I suspect, increase throughout the year. Obama wants to “punch through” on health care; Red State Democrats want to run for their lives. Obama is touting a massive budget; Sen. Kent Conrad is already throwing cold water on it. And so it will go. The more the leadership pushes to the Left, the greater the risk for those members nervously watching the polls. And the result may well be legislative gridlock. But if the alternative is more big-government power grabs, that might not be a bad thing for at-risk Democrats.

Moreover, there is a growing realization among Democrats that the White House is vamping it — that it lacks a plan to achieve much of anything. The Hill reports that after the TV cameras left, the Democratic senators pounced on the White House aides:

Democrats expressed their frustration with the lack of a clear plan for passing healthcare reform, according to one person in the room. One Democratic senator even grew heated in his remarks, according to the source. “It wasn’t a discussion about how to get from Point A to Point B; it was a discussion about the lack of a plan to get from Point A to Point B,” said a person who attended the meeting. “Many of the members were frustrated, but one person really expressed his frustration.” Senators did not want to press Obama on healthcare reform in front of television cameras for fear of putting him in an awkward spot. “There was a vigorous discussion about that afterward with some of his top advisers and others,” Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) said regarding the healthcare discussion.

Not unlike the debacle in Copenhagen (the first one mostly, but really both), the Democrats are coming to see that the White House lacks a game plan. It is not merely ideologically out of step with the country; it is also incapable of governing, and of leading the party. And that will make already skittish incumbents more likely to make their own political judgments, quite apart from whatever suggestions Obama doles out.

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Re: Can the Chinese Bluff Obama Out of Meeting the Dalai Lama?

Jonathan, in your post you write, “America’s record on Chinese human rights has been spotty at best in the last generation. Bill Clinton met the Dalai Lama, but only informally. Similarly, George W. Bush only met privately with him.”

Actually, that’s not right, as this October 17, 2007 story (and accompanying picture) demonstrate. In the words of the Associated Press:

President Bush, raising Beijing’s ire, presented the Dalai Lama on Wednesday with the U.S. Congress’ highest civilian honor and urged Chinese leaders to welcome the monk to Beijing.

The exiled spiritual head of Tibet’s Buddhists by his side, Bush praised a man he called a “universal symbol of peace and tolerance, a shepherd of the faithful and a keeper of the flame for his people.”

“Americans cannot look to the plight of the religiously oppressed and close our eyes or turn away,” Bush said at the U.S. Capitol building, where he personally handed the Dalai Lama the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal.

The story continues:

China reviles the 72-year-old monk as a Tibetan separatist and vehemently protested the elaborate public ceremony. But at a news conference earlier in the day, Bush said he did not think his attendance at the ceremony would damage U.S. relations with China.

“I support religious freedom; he supports religious freedom. … I want to honor this man,” Bush told reporters at the White House. “I have consistently told the Chinese that religious freedom is in their nation’s interest.”

Whatever complaints one may have about George W. Bush, not standing up for human rights ought not to be one of them.

Jonathan, in your post you write, “America’s record on Chinese human rights has been spotty at best in the last generation. Bill Clinton met the Dalai Lama, but only informally. Similarly, George W. Bush only met privately with him.”

Actually, that’s not right, as this October 17, 2007 story (and accompanying picture) demonstrate. In the words of the Associated Press:

President Bush, raising Beijing’s ire, presented the Dalai Lama on Wednesday with the U.S. Congress’ highest civilian honor and urged Chinese leaders to welcome the monk to Beijing.

The exiled spiritual head of Tibet’s Buddhists by his side, Bush praised a man he called a “universal symbol of peace and tolerance, a shepherd of the faithful and a keeper of the flame for his people.”

“Americans cannot look to the plight of the religiously oppressed and close our eyes or turn away,” Bush said at the U.S. Capitol building, where he personally handed the Dalai Lama the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal.

The story continues:

China reviles the 72-year-old monk as a Tibetan separatist and vehemently protested the elaborate public ceremony. But at a news conference earlier in the day, Bush said he did not think his attendance at the ceremony would damage U.S. relations with China.

“I support religious freedom; he supports religious freedom. … I want to honor this man,” Bush told reporters at the White House. “I have consistently told the Chinese that religious freedom is in their nation’s interest.”

Whatever complaints one may have about George W. Bush, not standing up for human rights ought not to be one of them.

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Democrats: Run Away!

It’s not just conservatives who found Obama’s speech confounding and can’t quite figure out the political logic in doubling down on a losing agenda. The Associated Press finds lots of grumbling on the Democratic side of the aisle:

Based on roughly two dozen interviews with lawmakers, party leaders and political operatives nationwide, it’s clear that many Democrats feel Obama hasn’t fully embraced his role as party chief. It has them questioning the strength of his political muscle and faulting his advisers for paying too little attention to the fast-approaching 2010 midterm contests. Some of these Democrats complained on the record. Others asked for anonymity to avoid angering Obama and his team. Altogether, they described an ineffective political operation. They suggested Obama’s team is overly focused on his likely 2012 re-election bid. And they blamed the White House for a muddled message about what he’s trying and accomplishing as president.

It’s hard to quibble with that, isn’t it? Obama doesn’t want to be seen “walking away” from health-care reform. It might make him look weak, inept, and unaccomplished. But he has no real game plan for rescuing himself or his fellow Democrats from the morass in which they find themselves. Instead, he throws down the gauntlet, tells them to work some more, and leaves them to the mercy of angry voters, two-thirds of whom hate the bill. You can understand why Democrats are upset.

Mary Landrieu is one of the Democrats who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the president these days:

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said health care reform “is on life support, unfortunately,” and the president should have been more specific with how Democrats should move forward. “He should have been more clear, and I am hoping that in the next week or two he will because that is what it is going to take if it is at all possible to get it done,” Landrieu told reporters. “Mailing in general suggestions, sending them over the transom, is not necessarily going to work.” The president’s criticism of the Senate in the speech was ‘a little strange, a little odd,” Landrieu said.

Odd, but not entirely inexplicable. Obama is willing to throw members of Congress overboard. They’ve now figured that out and are putting up a fight. The next few months will become increasingly tense, I suspect, as Democrats race to protect themselves and attempt to put distance between themselves and a president whose popularity is fading and whose agenda is toxic.

It’s not just conservatives who found Obama’s speech confounding and can’t quite figure out the political logic in doubling down on a losing agenda. The Associated Press finds lots of grumbling on the Democratic side of the aisle:

Based on roughly two dozen interviews with lawmakers, party leaders and political operatives nationwide, it’s clear that many Democrats feel Obama hasn’t fully embraced his role as party chief. It has them questioning the strength of his political muscle and faulting his advisers for paying too little attention to the fast-approaching 2010 midterm contests. Some of these Democrats complained on the record. Others asked for anonymity to avoid angering Obama and his team. Altogether, they described an ineffective political operation. They suggested Obama’s team is overly focused on his likely 2012 re-election bid. And they blamed the White House for a muddled message about what he’s trying and accomplishing as president.

It’s hard to quibble with that, isn’t it? Obama doesn’t want to be seen “walking away” from health-care reform. It might make him look weak, inept, and unaccomplished. But he has no real game plan for rescuing himself or his fellow Democrats from the morass in which they find themselves. Instead, he throws down the gauntlet, tells them to work some more, and leaves them to the mercy of angry voters, two-thirds of whom hate the bill. You can understand why Democrats are upset.

Mary Landrieu is one of the Democrats who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the president these days:

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said health care reform “is on life support, unfortunately,” and the president should have been more specific with how Democrats should move forward. “He should have been more clear, and I am hoping that in the next week or two he will because that is what it is going to take if it is at all possible to get it done,” Landrieu told reporters. “Mailing in general suggestions, sending them over the transom, is not necessarily going to work.” The president’s criticism of the Senate in the speech was ‘a little strange, a little odd,” Landrieu said.

Odd, but not entirely inexplicable. Obama is willing to throw members of Congress overboard. They’ve now figured that out and are putting up a fight. The next few months will become increasingly tense, I suspect, as Democrats race to protect themselves and attempt to put distance between themselves and a president whose popularity is fading and whose agenda is toxic.

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AP: Stimulus Is a Bust

The stimulus money to be spent on infrastructure really did nothing to save or create jobs. That’s not a conservative talking point; that’s the AP:

Ten months into President Barack Obama’s first economic stimulus plan, a surge in spending on roads and bridges has had no effect on local unemployment and only barely helped the beleaguered construction industry, an Associated Press analysis has found.

Spend a lot or spend nothing at all, it didn’t matter, the AP analysis showed: Local unemployment rates rose and fell regardless of how much stimulus money Washington poured out for transportation, raising questions about Obama’s argument that more road money would address an “urgent need to accelerate job growth.”

Obama wants a second stimulus, but what would be the point? (“AP’s analysis, which was reviewed by independent economists at five universities, showed that strategy hasn’t affected unemployment rates so far. And there’s concern it won’t work the second time.”) The reaction of economists is instructive:

“My bottom line is, I’d be skeptical about putting too much more money into a second stimulus until we’ve seen broader effects from the first stimulus,” said Aaron Jackson, a Bentley University economist who reviewed AP’s analysis.

Even within the construction industry, which stood to benefit most from transportation money, the AP’s analysis found there was nearly no connection between stimulus money and the number of construction workers hired or fired since Congress passed the recovery program. The effect was so small, one economist compared it to trying to move the Empire State Building by pushing against it.

Nor are business people impressed. (“‘The stimulus has not benefited the working-class people of Marshall County at all,’ said Isaac Zimmerle, a local contractor who has seen his construction business slowly dry up since 2008. That year, he built 30 homes. But prospects this year look grim.”) But politicians love this stuff. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, they continue to parrot the same rhetoric. Economic adviser Jared Bernstein insists, “When you invest in this kind of infrastructure, you’re creating good jobs for people who need them.” But not really.

What did we get for all this? Maybe some temporary jobs, especially in the public sector. But that’s a far cry from “creating” jobs. And we know by the unemployment figures that the Obami have been spectacularly unsuccessful in keeping unemployment to 8 percent, which they promised would be the result if Congress passed the stimulus plan. Maybe it’s time to stop repeating the same failed Keynesian policies and try something different. Lower taxes and fewer mandates on employers might be good for starters. But I think that’s not in the cards anytime soon. Well, not until the Democrats get really, really scared about the 2010 elections.

The stimulus money to be spent on infrastructure really did nothing to save or create jobs. That’s not a conservative talking point; that’s the AP:

Ten months into President Barack Obama’s first economic stimulus plan, a surge in spending on roads and bridges has had no effect on local unemployment and only barely helped the beleaguered construction industry, an Associated Press analysis has found.

Spend a lot or spend nothing at all, it didn’t matter, the AP analysis showed: Local unemployment rates rose and fell regardless of how much stimulus money Washington poured out for transportation, raising questions about Obama’s argument that more road money would address an “urgent need to accelerate job growth.”

Obama wants a second stimulus, but what would be the point? (“AP’s analysis, which was reviewed by independent economists at five universities, showed that strategy hasn’t affected unemployment rates so far. And there’s concern it won’t work the second time.”) The reaction of economists is instructive:

“My bottom line is, I’d be skeptical about putting too much more money into a second stimulus until we’ve seen broader effects from the first stimulus,” said Aaron Jackson, a Bentley University economist who reviewed AP’s analysis.

Even within the construction industry, which stood to benefit most from transportation money, the AP’s analysis found there was nearly no connection between stimulus money and the number of construction workers hired or fired since Congress passed the recovery program. The effect was so small, one economist compared it to trying to move the Empire State Building by pushing against it.

Nor are business people impressed. (“‘The stimulus has not benefited the working-class people of Marshall County at all,’ said Isaac Zimmerle, a local contractor who has seen his construction business slowly dry up since 2008. That year, he built 30 homes. But prospects this year look grim.”) But politicians love this stuff. Despite ample evidence to the contrary, they continue to parrot the same rhetoric. Economic adviser Jared Bernstein insists, “When you invest in this kind of infrastructure, you’re creating good jobs for people who need them.” But not really.

What did we get for all this? Maybe some temporary jobs, especially in the public sector. But that’s a far cry from “creating” jobs. And we know by the unemployment figures that the Obami have been spectacularly unsuccessful in keeping unemployment to 8 percent, which they promised would be the result if Congress passed the stimulus plan. Maybe it’s time to stop repeating the same failed Keynesian policies and try something different. Lower taxes and fewer mandates on employers might be good for starters. But I think that’s not in the cards anytime soon. Well, not until the Democrats get really, really scared about the 2010 elections.

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China Debunks Obama’s Spin on Iran Diplomacy

Last week the decision of both Russia and China to endorse a condemnation of Iran’s nuclear program by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency was touted by the New York Times and others as a victory for the Obama administration’s diplomacy. The Times quoted White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel boasting that China’s support of Iran was proof that Obama’s trip to Beijing earlier this month wasn’t the disaster that virtually everyone thought it was. “This is the product of engagement,” Mr. Emanuel said, adding that it was “a direct result” of the trip.

But it appears as though Emanuel’s bloviating was yet another instance of the administration’s believing what it wanted to believe and ignoring the realities of the foreign-policy muddle that it has created. Far from demonstrating that China is ready to join America in a regime of “crippling sanctions” in 2010 against Iran, as Obama hoped, Beijing is doing what it has done for years on this issue: saying just enough to maintain its standing as an opponent of nuclear proliferation but remaining a steadfast opponent of any concrete action to stop Tehran.

That’s the only possible conclusion to be drawn from the reaction of China’s Foreign Ministry to Iran’s latest provocation: its statement over the past weekend, according to which Iran plans to build 10 more uranium-enrichment facilities. While Europe and the United States deplored Iran’s raising of the stakes in this standoff and the Islamist regime’s lack of interest in stepping away from the nuclear ledge, the Chinese are back to their old tricks of opposing any measures that might actually compel Tehran to stand down. The Associated Press reports that the Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday that sanctions “are not the goal” of new UN pressure on Iran. “We should properly resolve this issue through dialogue,” he said. “All parties should step up diplomatic efforts.”

In other words, the United States is no closer to achieving Chinese support for sanctions today than a month ago. Obama’s engagement policy and his attempts to appease the Russians and the Chinese in an effort to gain support to stop Iran have been colossal failures. Obama has nothing to show for betraying the Czech Republic and Poland on missile defense to please Russia or for refusing to meet with the Dalai Lama to mollify the Chinese. His amateurish foreign policy, exemplified by his justly criticized trip to China, can only have convinced the Iranians that they have nothing to fear from the West as they get closer to reaching nuclear capability.

Last week the decision of both Russia and China to endorse a condemnation of Iran’s nuclear program by the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency was touted by the New York Times and others as a victory for the Obama administration’s diplomacy. The Times quoted White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel boasting that China’s support of Iran was proof that Obama’s trip to Beijing earlier this month wasn’t the disaster that virtually everyone thought it was. “This is the product of engagement,” Mr. Emanuel said, adding that it was “a direct result” of the trip.

But it appears as though Emanuel’s bloviating was yet another instance of the administration’s believing what it wanted to believe and ignoring the realities of the foreign-policy muddle that it has created. Far from demonstrating that China is ready to join America in a regime of “crippling sanctions” in 2010 against Iran, as Obama hoped, Beijing is doing what it has done for years on this issue: saying just enough to maintain its standing as an opponent of nuclear proliferation but remaining a steadfast opponent of any concrete action to stop Tehran.

That’s the only possible conclusion to be drawn from the reaction of China’s Foreign Ministry to Iran’s latest provocation: its statement over the past weekend, according to which Iran plans to build 10 more uranium-enrichment facilities. While Europe and the United States deplored Iran’s raising of the stakes in this standoff and the Islamist regime’s lack of interest in stepping away from the nuclear ledge, the Chinese are back to their old tricks of opposing any measures that might actually compel Tehran to stand down. The Associated Press reports that the Foreign Ministry spokesman said Tuesday that sanctions “are not the goal” of new UN pressure on Iran. “We should properly resolve this issue through dialogue,” he said. “All parties should step up diplomatic efforts.”

In other words, the United States is no closer to achieving Chinese support for sanctions today than a month ago. Obama’s engagement policy and his attempts to appease the Russians and the Chinese in an effort to gain support to stop Iran have been colossal failures. Obama has nothing to show for betraying the Czech Republic and Poland on missile defense to please Russia or for refusing to meet with the Dalai Lama to mollify the Chinese. His amateurish foreign policy, exemplified by his justly criticized trip to China, can only have convinced the Iranians that they have nothing to fear from the West as they get closer to reaching nuclear capability.

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The Killer Bow?

Jimmy Carter’s presidency was not going well by the spring of 1979, but when on a fishing trip near his home Carter was forced to fend off what later became known as the “killer rabbit,” the fateful rodent rendezvous became a metaphor for his presidency. This report reminds us:

The Associated Press told it this way: “A ‘killer rabbit’ attacked President Carter on a recent trip to Plains, Ga., penetrating Secret Service security and forcing the chief executive to beat back the beast with a canoe paddle. The rabbit, which the president later guessed was fleeing in panic from some predator, actually swam toward a canoe from which Carter was fishing in a pond. It was hissing menacingly, its teeth flashing and nostrils flared, and making straight for the president.”

Mr. Carter escaped uninjured, but the same could not be said for his reputation. Two months after surviving the killer rabbit, the president made what came to be known as his “malaise speech,” in which he spoke about Americans’ “crisis of confidence.” A connection between those two events was never proved.

But the killer rabbit had taken its toll. Here was Carter under siege, inept and just plain ridiculous — and trying to smash a rabbit with a canoe paddle. Soon this incident was a punch line in many a late-night comic’s routine.

So, is “the bow” Obama’s “killer rabbit” moment — a silly and seemingly small event that comes to encapsulate growing unease with a president who hasn’t quite figured out that the world is a dangerous place and that it is his job to perceive dangers and act decisively to protect American interests? Time will tell. But “the bow” has all the makings of the sort of iconic event that can ensnare a president and come to crystallize his shortcomings. The dig on Obama, which is now gaining increasing credence beyond conservative pundits, is that he is insufficiently resolute, too deferential and naive about the ways in which adversaries perceive us.

You would be hard pressed to come up with a better encapsulation of this sense than “the bow.” And unlike Carter’s case, Obama’s faux pas happened in a real-world diplomatic context. In that regard, the bow may have topped the rabbit (and even the last most embarrassing encounter between a Japanese official and a U.S. president, which, to be fair, was involuntary) in the annals of presidential embarrassments.

Jimmy Carter’s presidency was not going well by the spring of 1979, but when on a fishing trip near his home Carter was forced to fend off what later became known as the “killer rabbit,” the fateful rodent rendezvous became a metaphor for his presidency. This report reminds us:

The Associated Press told it this way: “A ‘killer rabbit’ attacked President Carter on a recent trip to Plains, Ga., penetrating Secret Service security and forcing the chief executive to beat back the beast with a canoe paddle. The rabbit, which the president later guessed was fleeing in panic from some predator, actually swam toward a canoe from which Carter was fishing in a pond. It was hissing menacingly, its teeth flashing and nostrils flared, and making straight for the president.”

Mr. Carter escaped uninjured, but the same could not be said for his reputation. Two months after surviving the killer rabbit, the president made what came to be known as his “malaise speech,” in which he spoke about Americans’ “crisis of confidence.” A connection between those two events was never proved.

But the killer rabbit had taken its toll. Here was Carter under siege, inept and just plain ridiculous — and trying to smash a rabbit with a canoe paddle. Soon this incident was a punch line in many a late-night comic’s routine.

So, is “the bow” Obama’s “killer rabbit” moment — a silly and seemingly small event that comes to encapsulate growing unease with a president who hasn’t quite figured out that the world is a dangerous place and that it is his job to perceive dangers and act decisively to protect American interests? Time will tell. But “the bow” has all the makings of the sort of iconic event that can ensnare a president and come to crystallize his shortcomings. The dig on Obama, which is now gaining increasing credence beyond conservative pundits, is that he is insufficiently resolute, too deferential and naive about the ways in which adversaries perceive us.

You would be hard pressed to come up with a better encapsulation of this sense than “the bow.” And unlike Carter’s case, Obama’s faux pas happened in a real-world diplomatic context. In that regard, the bow may have topped the rabbit (and even the last most embarrassing encounter between a Japanese official and a U.S. president, which, to be fair, was involuntary) in the annals of presidential embarrassments.

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The Devil Is in the Details

The AP reports:

Americans are worried about hidden costs in the fine print of health care overhaul legislation, an Associated Press poll says. That’s creating new challenges for President Barack Obama as he tries to close the deal with a handful of Democratic doubters in the Senate.

For months the president held dog-and-pony shows at the White House, refused to talk about specifics, and declined (still has) to put forth his own health-care bill. We know why. When it gets down to the details, the public hates what he is selling:

For example, asked if everyone should be required to have at least some health insurance, 67 percent agreed and 27 percent said no. The responses flipped when people were asked about requiring everybody to carry insurance or face a federal penalty: 64 percent said they would be opposed, while 28 percent favored that. … “I think it’s crazy. I think it infringes on our rights as a citizen, forcing us to do these things,” said Eli Fuchs, 26, of Marietta, Ga.

Likewise, support for a ban on denial of insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions drops dramatically when people find out that their own insurance costs will go up, and support for mandates on employer coverage plunges when voters hear there are fines for employers who don’t comply.

No wonder the president wanted to avoid getting into the nitty-gritty specifics for so long. Who wants to be the bearer of bad news? But it’s not easy to pass legislation that is exceptionally controversial without getting into the weeds and confronting criticism head on. If Obama is such a great orator and so persuasive, why didn’t he tell the public about the “trade-offs” that are now proving to be a stumbling block?

Obama kept telling us during the campaign that politicians — those old-fashioned pols he was going to replace — didn’t treat voters like adults and deliver them tough medicine. But he’s done precious little of that since being elected. And by avoiding a full and thoughtful conversation on what he really wants — much higher taxes, a raft of new regulations with stiff penalties, and more government control of health care — he has left the heavy lifting to Harry Reid (never a good idea), and left the American people feeling like he’s tried to pull a fast one (also never a good idea).

The AP reports:

Americans are worried about hidden costs in the fine print of health care overhaul legislation, an Associated Press poll says. That’s creating new challenges for President Barack Obama as he tries to close the deal with a handful of Democratic doubters in the Senate.

For months the president held dog-and-pony shows at the White House, refused to talk about specifics, and declined (still has) to put forth his own health-care bill. We know why. When it gets down to the details, the public hates what he is selling:

For example, asked if everyone should be required to have at least some health insurance, 67 percent agreed and 27 percent said no. The responses flipped when people were asked about requiring everybody to carry insurance or face a federal penalty: 64 percent said they would be opposed, while 28 percent favored that. … “I think it’s crazy. I think it infringes on our rights as a citizen, forcing us to do these things,” said Eli Fuchs, 26, of Marietta, Ga.

Likewise, support for a ban on denial of insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions drops dramatically when people find out that their own insurance costs will go up, and support for mandates on employer coverage plunges when voters hear there are fines for employers who don’t comply.

No wonder the president wanted to avoid getting into the nitty-gritty specifics for so long. Who wants to be the bearer of bad news? But it’s not easy to pass legislation that is exceptionally controversial without getting into the weeds and confronting criticism head on. If Obama is such a great orator and so persuasive, why didn’t he tell the public about the “trade-offs” that are now proving to be a stumbling block?

Obama kept telling us during the campaign that politicians — those old-fashioned pols he was going to replace — didn’t treat voters like adults and deliver them tough medicine. But he’s done precious little of that since being elected. And by avoiding a full and thoughtful conversation on what he really wants — much higher taxes, a raft of new regulations with stiff penalties, and more government control of health care — he has left the heavy lifting to Harry Reid (never a good idea), and left the American people feeling like he’s tried to pull a fast one (also never a good idea).

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Iraq Casualties

This is the last day of May, and, although it is still the early afternoon on the East Coast as I write, in Iraq the day is nearly over. Barring some catastrophe it appears that this month will go down as either the lowest- or second-lowest casualty month for U.S. troops in Iraq. According to icasualties.org, 19 U.S. soldiers died this month. (It is possible that a few more deaths may still be recorded as, tragically, some wounded soldiers may not make it.) The record had previously been set in February 2004 when 20 soldiers died. Of course all the usual caveats apply: even 19 deaths is far too many, and there is no guarantee that there will not be greater bloodshed next month.

Still, this is another sign of progress and a further rebuke to the naysayers who were suggesting that recent fighting in Basra and Sadr City was a serious setback. Actually, those offensives have resulted in defeats for the Sadrists and victories for the democratically elected government. Now that the fighting is over, greater stability is returning-at least as much stability as you are likely to get in a country that remains at war. A coalition spokesman announced that the number of security incidents is at the lowest level since March 2004, and by the Associated Press’s count the number of Iraqi civilians killed this month was the lowest since December 2005. Notwithstanding the temporary increase in violence recently, overall the number of attacks has declined 70 percent since the troop “surge” was completed in June 2007.

A month ago the news media had a field day publicizing the increase in casualties in April, when 52 U.S. personnel died. Since the figure in May is less than half that, by all rights the press should treat that as big news, right? Don’t bet on it. Too often the press has operated under the motto: good news is no news. But I am ready to be pleasantly surprised.

This is the last day of May, and, although it is still the early afternoon on the East Coast as I write, in Iraq the day is nearly over. Barring some catastrophe it appears that this month will go down as either the lowest- or second-lowest casualty month for U.S. troops in Iraq. According to icasualties.org, 19 U.S. soldiers died this month. (It is possible that a few more deaths may still be recorded as, tragically, some wounded soldiers may not make it.) The record had previously been set in February 2004 when 20 soldiers died. Of course all the usual caveats apply: even 19 deaths is far too many, and there is no guarantee that there will not be greater bloodshed next month.

Still, this is another sign of progress and a further rebuke to the naysayers who were suggesting that recent fighting in Basra and Sadr City was a serious setback. Actually, those offensives have resulted in defeats for the Sadrists and victories for the democratically elected government. Now that the fighting is over, greater stability is returning-at least as much stability as you are likely to get in a country that remains at war. A coalition spokesman announced that the number of security incidents is at the lowest level since March 2004, and by the Associated Press’s count the number of Iraqi civilians killed this month was the lowest since December 2005. Notwithstanding the temporary increase in violence recently, overall the number of attacks has declined 70 percent since the troop “surge” was completed in June 2007.

A month ago the news media had a field day publicizing the increase in casualties in April, when 52 U.S. personnel died. Since the figure in May is less than half that, by all rights the press should treat that as big news, right? Don’t bet on it. Too often the press has operated under the motto: good news is no news. But I am ready to be pleasantly surprised.

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Al Qaeda Weakening . . .

In a story from the Associated Press we read this:

The Al Qaeda terror group in Iraq appears to be at its weakest state since it gained an initial foothold in the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion five years ago, the acting commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said Wednesday in an Associated Press interview. Army Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who assumed interim command of U.S. Central Command on March 28, acknowledged that Al Qaeda remains a relentless foe and has not disappeared as a serious threat to stability. But he said an accelerated U.S. and Iraq campaign to pressure Al Qaeda has paid big dividends. “Our forces and the Iraqi forces have certainly disrupted Al Qaeda, probably to a level that we haven’t seen at any time in my experience,” said Dempsey, who served in Iraq in the initial stages as a division commander and later as head of the military organization in charge of training Iraqi security forces.

And this:

Earlier Wednesday, the Army general who oversees U.S. commando operations in the Middle East said that Al Qaeda in Iraq has yet to be vanquished but is increasingly running out of places where local Iraqis will accommodate the group’s extremist ideology. “Is he still a lethal and dangerous threat to us? Absolutely,” Maj. Gen. John Mulholland said in an interview with reporters at the headquarters of U.S. Special Operations Command, the organization with global responsibility for providing Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and other commandos to combat terrorism. . . . Mulholland acknowledged that Al Qaeda, which U.S. intelligence says is led by foreign terrorists but is populated mainly by local Iraqis seeking to establish a radical Islamic state, still poses a major challenge in the Mosul area of northern Iraq and has occasionally slipped back into areas like Anbar province in western Iraq. “Do we think he can at least try to regain a foothold in Anbar province? Yes, we do think he’s trying to do that,” Mulholland said. While U.S. officials do not believe Al Qaeda is succeeding in re-establishing a significant presence in Anbar – which the group was forced to abandon a year ago as local Sunni Arabs turned violently against it – it does appear that small Al Qaeda cells can still slip into isolated areas and make trouble, he said. “I don’t want to paint a picture – or to convey to you in any way – that Al Qaeda in Iraq is being completely destroyed or rendered irrelevant, because that’s not the case,” he said. “They are still potentially a threat capable of death and destruction against the Iraqi people and our own forces there. But it is not something he can do easily any more.”

This news should be seen within the context of Max’s post earlier today in which he points out that the number of daily attacks in Mosul has dropped at least 85 percent since U.S.-Iraqi forces began an offensive against Sunni insurgents in the city earlier this month. And that news, in turn, follows on progress we’ve witnessed in the last few days in both Basra and Sadr City. And earlier today at his confirmation hearing to take over the U.S. Central Command, General David Petraeus said this:

I should note here that the number of security incidents in Iraq last week was the lowest in over four years and it appears that the week that ends tomorrow will see an even lower number of incidents. This has been achieved despite having now withdrawn 3 of the 5 Brigade Combat Teams that will have redeployed without replacement by the end of July. Recent operations in Basra, Mosul, and now Sadr City have contributed significantly to the reduction in violence, and Prime Minister Maliki, his government, the Iraqi Security Forces, and the Iraqi people deserve considerable credit for the positive developments since Ambassador Crocker and I testified a month-and-a-half ago. In the months ahead, Coalition Forces will continue to work closely with the Iraqi Security Forces in pursuing Al Qaeda-Iraq, their extremist partners, and militia elements that threaten security in Iraq. And though, as always, tough fights and hard work lie ahead, I believe that the path that we are on will best help achieve the objective of an Iraq that is at peace with itself and its neighbors, that is an ally in the war on terror, that has a government that serves all Iraqis, and that is an increasingly prosperous and important member of the global economy and community of nations. [emphasis added]

What are we to make of all this? For one thing, there is no question that on almost every front–including the political and economic front–we’re seeing heartening progress in Iraq. It’s virtually impossible to argue that after far too many years of pursuing a flawed strategy, which came at an enormous cost to both the Iraqi people and the United States, we now have in place the right strategy being executed by the right people. Progress that was unimaginable in Iraq fifteen months ago has been made–and a nation that was bleeding and dying is now binding up its wounds.

General Petraeus’s warning that tough fights and hard work lie ahead cannot be repeated often enough. Military victories in Iraq, as difficult as they have been, are still easier to attain than rebuilding a traumatized and broken society. But we really have no other choice. Given the hopeful developments we have seen since the surge began, to leave now, before our job is complete, would be reckless and shameful and probably catastrophic.

In the latter half of 2006 it was legitimate for war critics to argue that Iraq was irredeemable lost and therefore we should cut our losses and leave. But that case can no longer be made. The debate has shifted from what the right strategy is to one of national will. Will our nation, weary of this long and costly war, continue along the path which has brought about indisputable, and in some cases breathtaking, progress? If we do, there will be honor in our efforts–and, it’s now reasonable to say, success as well.

In a story from the Associated Press we read this:

The Al Qaeda terror group in Iraq appears to be at its weakest state since it gained an initial foothold in the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion five years ago, the acting commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said Wednesday in an Associated Press interview. Army Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who assumed interim command of U.S. Central Command on March 28, acknowledged that Al Qaeda remains a relentless foe and has not disappeared as a serious threat to stability. But he said an accelerated U.S. and Iraq campaign to pressure Al Qaeda has paid big dividends. “Our forces and the Iraqi forces have certainly disrupted Al Qaeda, probably to a level that we haven’t seen at any time in my experience,” said Dempsey, who served in Iraq in the initial stages as a division commander and later as head of the military organization in charge of training Iraqi security forces.

And this:

Earlier Wednesday, the Army general who oversees U.S. commando operations in the Middle East said that Al Qaeda in Iraq has yet to be vanquished but is increasingly running out of places where local Iraqis will accommodate the group’s extremist ideology. “Is he still a lethal and dangerous threat to us? Absolutely,” Maj. Gen. John Mulholland said in an interview with reporters at the headquarters of U.S. Special Operations Command, the organization with global responsibility for providing Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs and other commandos to combat terrorism. . . . Mulholland acknowledged that Al Qaeda, which U.S. intelligence says is led by foreign terrorists but is populated mainly by local Iraqis seeking to establish a radical Islamic state, still poses a major challenge in the Mosul area of northern Iraq and has occasionally slipped back into areas like Anbar province in western Iraq. “Do we think he can at least try to regain a foothold in Anbar province? Yes, we do think he’s trying to do that,” Mulholland said. While U.S. officials do not believe Al Qaeda is succeeding in re-establishing a significant presence in Anbar – which the group was forced to abandon a year ago as local Sunni Arabs turned violently against it – it does appear that small Al Qaeda cells can still slip into isolated areas and make trouble, he said. “I don’t want to paint a picture – or to convey to you in any way – that Al Qaeda in Iraq is being completely destroyed or rendered irrelevant, because that’s not the case,” he said. “They are still potentially a threat capable of death and destruction against the Iraqi people and our own forces there. But it is not something he can do easily any more.”

This news should be seen within the context of Max’s post earlier today in which he points out that the number of daily attacks in Mosul has dropped at least 85 percent since U.S.-Iraqi forces began an offensive against Sunni insurgents in the city earlier this month. And that news, in turn, follows on progress we’ve witnessed in the last few days in both Basra and Sadr City. And earlier today at his confirmation hearing to take over the U.S. Central Command, General David Petraeus said this:

I should note here that the number of security incidents in Iraq last week was the lowest in over four years and it appears that the week that ends tomorrow will see an even lower number of incidents. This has been achieved despite having now withdrawn 3 of the 5 Brigade Combat Teams that will have redeployed without replacement by the end of July. Recent operations in Basra, Mosul, and now Sadr City have contributed significantly to the reduction in violence, and Prime Minister Maliki, his government, the Iraqi Security Forces, and the Iraqi people deserve considerable credit for the positive developments since Ambassador Crocker and I testified a month-and-a-half ago. In the months ahead, Coalition Forces will continue to work closely with the Iraqi Security Forces in pursuing Al Qaeda-Iraq, their extremist partners, and militia elements that threaten security in Iraq. And though, as always, tough fights and hard work lie ahead, I believe that the path that we are on will best help achieve the objective of an Iraq that is at peace with itself and its neighbors, that is an ally in the war on terror, that has a government that serves all Iraqis, and that is an increasingly prosperous and important member of the global economy and community of nations. [emphasis added]

What are we to make of all this? For one thing, there is no question that on almost every front–including the political and economic front–we’re seeing heartening progress in Iraq. It’s virtually impossible to argue that after far too many years of pursuing a flawed strategy, which came at an enormous cost to both the Iraqi people and the United States, we now have in place the right strategy being executed by the right people. Progress that was unimaginable in Iraq fifteen months ago has been made–and a nation that was bleeding and dying is now binding up its wounds.

General Petraeus’s warning that tough fights and hard work lie ahead cannot be repeated often enough. Military victories in Iraq, as difficult as they have been, are still easier to attain than rebuilding a traumatized and broken society. But we really have no other choice. Given the hopeful developments we have seen since the surge began, to leave now, before our job is complete, would be reckless and shameful and probably catastrophic.

In the latter half of 2006 it was legitimate for war critics to argue that Iraq was irredeemable lost and therefore we should cut our losses and leave. But that case can no longer be made. The debate has shifted from what the right strategy is to one of national will. Will our nation, weary of this long and costly war, continue along the path which has brought about indisputable, and in some cases breathtaking, progress? If we do, there will be honor in our efforts–and, it’s now reasonable to say, success as well.

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She Goes There

There has been a lot chatter (and some indications from her staffers) that Hillary Clinton isn’t going to fight to the bitter end and burn down the Democratic Party along the way. But then there is this interview with Clinton herself:

“I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on,” she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article “that found how Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me . . . There’s a pattern emerging here,” she said.

Has she ever come right out like this and said “Whites aren’t voting for him” before? She’s talked about “working-class” voters and women seniors, of course. But not once, in my recollection, has she spoken openly of any racial divide.

Why on earth would she do this if she’s not still committed to trying to scare superdelegates and whip up the vote in West Virginia?  There doesn’t seem much point, if she actually has the Democrats’ best interests at heart. (And it won’t help her get the VP slot, either.) Frankly, it makes about as much sense as her “3 a.m.” ad or her remarks touting John McCain’s preparedness as commander-in-chief. All those suspicions about her preference for a potential one-term McCain presidency rather than a two-term Obama one are only going to increase with comments like this.

There has been a lot chatter (and some indications from her staffers) that Hillary Clinton isn’t going to fight to the bitter end and burn down the Democratic Party along the way. But then there is this interview with Clinton herself:

“I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on,” she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article “that found how Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me . . . There’s a pattern emerging here,” she said.

Has she ever come right out like this and said “Whites aren’t voting for him” before? She’s talked about “working-class” voters and women seniors, of course. But not once, in my recollection, has she spoken openly of any racial divide.

Why on earth would she do this if she’s not still committed to trying to scare superdelegates and whip up the vote in West Virginia?  There doesn’t seem much point, if she actually has the Democrats’ best interests at heart. (And it won’t help her get the VP slot, either.) Frankly, it makes about as much sense as her “3 a.m.” ad or her remarks touting John McCain’s preparedness as commander-in-chief. All those suspicions about her preference for a potential one-term McCain presidency rather than a two-term Obama one are only going to increase with comments like this.

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Don’t Worry, It Was An Accident

A powerful bomb went off in a mosque in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz on Saturday, killing 12 and wounding 160.

”Last night’s explosion in Shiraz was as a consequence of an accident and not the planting of a bomb,” explained Abbas Mohtaj, the deputy interior minister in charge of national security, according to a Reuters report.

What sort of accident?

Mohtaj did not give details, but the Associated Press, citing a statement on Iranian television, “said the blast may have been ’caused by explosives left behind from an earlier exhibition commemorating’ the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.”

Hmmm, a mosque stages an exhibition featuring live ammunition? If true, it tells us something interesting about the state of Islam in Iran. If false, it tells us something even more interesting about what Iranian officials obviously regard as a credible way to deny the fact that a bomb was set off in a mosque.

A powerful bomb went off in a mosque in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz on Saturday, killing 12 and wounding 160.

”Last night’s explosion in Shiraz was as a consequence of an accident and not the planting of a bomb,” explained Abbas Mohtaj, the deputy interior minister in charge of national security, according to a Reuters report.

What sort of accident?

Mohtaj did not give details, but the Associated Press, citing a statement on Iranian television, “said the blast may have been ’caused by explosives left behind from an earlier exhibition commemorating’ the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.”

Hmmm, a mosque stages an exhibition featuring live ammunition? If true, it tells us something interesting about the state of Islam in Iran. If false, it tells us something even more interesting about what Iranian officials obviously regard as a credible way to deny the fact that a bomb was set off in a mosque.

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“We’ve Worked Very Well with China”

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that Chinese officials gave the International Atomic Energy Agency “intelligence” on the Iranian nuclear program. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack refused to confirm the story but had praise for Beijing: “We’ve worked very well with China on the issue of Iran.”

We have? China has done almost everything it could have to block American efforts to stop Iran. First, Beijing–along with co-conspirator Russia–prolonged discussion within the IAEA Board of Governors and then objected to referral of the matter to the Security Council. When the United States finally managed to get Iran’s case to New York, China and Russia refused to consider sanctions. As a result, the July 2006 Security Council resolution contained no enforcement measures. And when it came time to respond to Tehran’s intransigence, the pair diluted proposal after proposal as they worked their way through the Council. The sanctions that emerged from this process-contained in three sets of resolutions-are essentially meaningless.

China’s “assistance” has not only been diplomatic. The Iranians, many suspect, are in possession of the blueprints of one of the first Chinese nuclear warheads. In 2003, reports surfaced that the IAEA had identified China as one of the sources for enrichment equipment in Tehran’s suspected nuclear weapons program. In 2004, China sent Iran beryllium, which is used to trigger nukes. In 2004 and 2005, both Chinese dissidents and those inside the American intelligence community reported that China had sold either centrifuges or centrifuge parts to Iran. And Chinese nuclear-weapons specialists were working in Iran at least as late as the end of 2003. Tehran has also obtained substantial help from Pakistan and North Korea–both of whom have obtained Chinese technical assistance for their nuclear weapons programs. (Many consider them Beijing’s proxies for proliferating dangerous technologies.) Try to square all this with the following, again from McCormack: “[China doesn't] want Iran to be able to obtain a nuclear weapon.”

“A Chinese decision to provide information for a probe into Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program could be a sign of growing international unease about the Islamic republic’s denials that it never tried to make nuclear weapons,” writes the AP’s George Jahn. Maybe Beijing realizes that IAEA or American sleuths either have or are about to obtain the information that China just turned over. Perhaps the Chinese are providing disinformation to throw everyone off the track. And it’s possible that China has finally come to the conclusion that Tehran’s weaponization of the atom is not in its interests. Whatever the case, this is no time to let the Chinese off the hook.

Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that Chinese officials gave the International Atomic Energy Agency “intelligence” on the Iranian nuclear program. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack refused to confirm the story but had praise for Beijing: “We’ve worked very well with China on the issue of Iran.”

We have? China has done almost everything it could have to block American efforts to stop Iran. First, Beijing–along with co-conspirator Russia–prolonged discussion within the IAEA Board of Governors and then objected to referral of the matter to the Security Council. When the United States finally managed to get Iran’s case to New York, China and Russia refused to consider sanctions. As a result, the July 2006 Security Council resolution contained no enforcement measures. And when it came time to respond to Tehran’s intransigence, the pair diluted proposal after proposal as they worked their way through the Council. The sanctions that emerged from this process-contained in three sets of resolutions-are essentially meaningless.

China’s “assistance” has not only been diplomatic. The Iranians, many suspect, are in possession of the blueprints of one of the first Chinese nuclear warheads. In 2003, reports surfaced that the IAEA had identified China as one of the sources for enrichment equipment in Tehran’s suspected nuclear weapons program. In 2004, China sent Iran beryllium, which is used to trigger nukes. In 2004 and 2005, both Chinese dissidents and those inside the American intelligence community reported that China had sold either centrifuges or centrifuge parts to Iran. And Chinese nuclear-weapons specialists were working in Iran at least as late as the end of 2003. Tehran has also obtained substantial help from Pakistan and North Korea–both of whom have obtained Chinese technical assistance for their nuclear weapons programs. (Many consider them Beijing’s proxies for proliferating dangerous technologies.) Try to square all this with the following, again from McCormack: “[China doesn't] want Iran to be able to obtain a nuclear weapon.”

“A Chinese decision to provide information for a probe into Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program could be a sign of growing international unease about the Islamic republic’s denials that it never tried to make nuclear weapons,” writes the AP’s George Jahn. Maybe Beijing realizes that IAEA or American sleuths either have or are about to obtain the information that China just turned over. Perhaps the Chinese are providing disinformation to throw everyone off the track. And it’s possible that China has finally come to the conclusion that Tehran’s weaponization of the atom is not in its interests. Whatever the case, this is no time to let the Chinese off the hook.

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Getting Basra Wrong

On Sunday, Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr called on Shiite militia members “to end all military actions in Basra and in all the provinces” and “to cooperate with the government to achieve security.” The New York Times thinks this is very bad news indeed—“a serious blow for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.” According to a story by Erica Goode and James Glanz in today’s Times, Iraqi forces are virtually helpless against the militias in Basra and Prime Minister Maliki is turning to Sadr to help him out of the jam. This means all sorts of apocalyptic things for the future of Iraq, as indicated by this:

Asked if the erosion of support for Mr. Maliki could cause his government to fall, Mr. Daoud [a former national security adviser and Shiite party leader] paused and said, “Everything is possible.”

Is it the “pause” that’s supposed to make that non-declaration seem ominous?

According to New York Sun Middle East columnist Nibras Kazimi, writing on his Talisman Gate blog, Goode and Glanz don’t simply have it wrong. Rather, we’re witnessing one of the greatest journalistic shell games in recent memory. On Sunday, Kazimi wrote:

Too bad the Mahdi Army is losing very badly. There were a rash of violent outbreaks here and there in Hillah Province and in al-Hamza in the last few days, but today the situation there is one where the Iraqi Army and police—the Scorpion Brigade in particular—are hunting down the Sadrists with a vengeance with the active help of the local population, according to a well-placed and influential source from Hillah.

Across Baghdad, the situation turned against the Mahdi Army prior to Muqtada al-Sadr’s muddled calls not to disarm on the one hand and to clear the streets on the other. Sadrists were breaking down in terms of logistics and coordination even before government troops had the wherewithal to rally and respond to the security challenges posed by these outlaws.

I’m not the only one to pick up on the clearer picture emerging out of Iraq: most of these charlatans posing as pundits and experts are not total imbeciles, just intellectual fakes, so they have enough sense to realize that the “meltdown” they were praying [for] has not materialized despite the best propaganda efforts of ‘Agent’ Glanz and the Associated Press. Now these talking heads are feverishly administering the necessary spin to fig-leaf why they seemingly got it so utterly wrong. They are either going with “Muqtada saved the day” or “The Americans and the British, i.e. the grown-ups, stepped in and changed Maliki’s diaper after he’d made a boo-boo”.

While Sadr has issued his ceasefire, there is no word on whether Prime Minister Maliki has agreed to Sadr’s request for lenience in dealing with Mahdi Army members. This hardly sounds like Sadr is calling the shots. In fact, if Kazimi is right, it seems like the discredited Sadr is trying desperately to deal himself back in to a game where unity and progress now trump the sectarian violence that is his strong suit.

On Sunday, Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr called on Shiite militia members “to end all military actions in Basra and in all the provinces” and “to cooperate with the government to achieve security.” The New York Times thinks this is very bad news indeed—“a serious blow for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.” According to a story by Erica Goode and James Glanz in today’s Times, Iraqi forces are virtually helpless against the militias in Basra and Prime Minister Maliki is turning to Sadr to help him out of the jam. This means all sorts of apocalyptic things for the future of Iraq, as indicated by this:

Asked if the erosion of support for Mr. Maliki could cause his government to fall, Mr. Daoud [a former national security adviser and Shiite party leader] paused and said, “Everything is possible.”

Is it the “pause” that’s supposed to make that non-declaration seem ominous?

According to New York Sun Middle East columnist Nibras Kazimi, writing on his Talisman Gate blog, Goode and Glanz don’t simply have it wrong. Rather, we’re witnessing one of the greatest journalistic shell games in recent memory. On Sunday, Kazimi wrote:

Too bad the Mahdi Army is losing very badly. There were a rash of violent outbreaks here and there in Hillah Province and in al-Hamza in the last few days, but today the situation there is one where the Iraqi Army and police—the Scorpion Brigade in particular—are hunting down the Sadrists with a vengeance with the active help of the local population, according to a well-placed and influential source from Hillah.

Across Baghdad, the situation turned against the Mahdi Army prior to Muqtada al-Sadr’s muddled calls not to disarm on the one hand and to clear the streets on the other. Sadrists were breaking down in terms of logistics and coordination even before government troops had the wherewithal to rally and respond to the security challenges posed by these outlaws.

I’m not the only one to pick up on the clearer picture emerging out of Iraq: most of these charlatans posing as pundits and experts are not total imbeciles, just intellectual fakes, so they have enough sense to realize that the “meltdown” they were praying [for] has not materialized despite the best propaganda efforts of ‘Agent’ Glanz and the Associated Press. Now these talking heads are feverishly administering the necessary spin to fig-leaf why they seemingly got it so utterly wrong. They are either going with “Muqtada saved the day” or “The Americans and the British, i.e. the grown-ups, stepped in and changed Maliki’s diaper after he’d made a boo-boo”.

While Sadr has issued his ceasefire, there is no word on whether Prime Minister Maliki has agreed to Sadr’s request for lenience in dealing with Mahdi Army members. This hardly sounds like Sadr is calling the shots. In fact, if Kazimi is right, it seems like the discredited Sadr is trying desperately to deal himself back in to a game where unity and progress now trump the sectarian violence that is his strong suit.

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“They Want to Destroy People”

“They’ve declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people,” said President Bush Wednesday, referring to Iran’s theocrats. The leader of the free world did not have to wait long for criticism. “That’s as uninformed as McCain’s statement that Iran is training al-Qaeda,” remarked nonproliferation expert Joseph Cirincione. “Iran has never said it wanted a nuclear weapon for any reason. It’s just not true.”

It is true that Iranian leaders have never publicly proclaimed their desire for the ultimate weapon in history. In fact, they have said exactly the opposite. So award a point to Cirincione.

Yet make that an exceedingly technical point. On the broader issue of truth, the President scores higher. In my book, a nation has essentially declared it wants the bomb when it, like Iran, hides parts of its nuclear program, possesses plans for nuclear warheads, conducts nuclear weaponization experiments, builds ballistic missiles, and voices a desire to wipe another country off the map. If I ever have an opportunity to talk to Cirincione, I will ask this: “Is there any room in your world for common sense?”

In any event, there’s none in Kofi Annan’s universe, at least judging from his comments reported by the Associated Press on Friday. The former U.N. secretary-general, in remarks summarized by that news organization, said he “didn’t have enough information to comment on the justification for the U.N. Security Council’s demand that Iran suspend uranium enrichment.” Nonetheless, the retired diplomat felt confident enough to say this: “We cannot, I’m sure, take on another military action in Iran, and I hope no one is contemplating it.”

Well, I hope no one is contemplating listening to Annan. As a matter of logic, one cannot comment on military action if one is too ignorant to discuss why the U.N. has demanded that Iran stop enrichment in the first place.

Until Kofi catches up on his reading, we should take our advice from Dick Cheney. On Wednesday, while visiting Oman, the Vice President said that “Iran should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.” Why? Because Annan is correct about one thing. In his recent comments he said that all Security Council members must live up to their “responsibility to protect.” If this noble concept means anything, it means stopping militant regimes like Iran’s from getting the capability to “destroy people.”

“They’ve declared they want to have a nuclear weapon to destroy people,” said President Bush Wednesday, referring to Iran’s theocrats. The leader of the free world did not have to wait long for criticism. “That’s as uninformed as McCain’s statement that Iran is training al-Qaeda,” remarked nonproliferation expert Joseph Cirincione. “Iran has never said it wanted a nuclear weapon for any reason. It’s just not true.”

It is true that Iranian leaders have never publicly proclaimed their desire for the ultimate weapon in history. In fact, they have said exactly the opposite. So award a point to Cirincione.

Yet make that an exceedingly technical point. On the broader issue of truth, the President scores higher. In my book, a nation has essentially declared it wants the bomb when it, like Iran, hides parts of its nuclear program, possesses plans for nuclear warheads, conducts nuclear weaponization experiments, builds ballistic missiles, and voices a desire to wipe another country off the map. If I ever have an opportunity to talk to Cirincione, I will ask this: “Is there any room in your world for common sense?”

In any event, there’s none in Kofi Annan’s universe, at least judging from his comments reported by the Associated Press on Friday. The former U.N. secretary-general, in remarks summarized by that news organization, said he “didn’t have enough information to comment on the justification for the U.N. Security Council’s demand that Iran suspend uranium enrichment.” Nonetheless, the retired diplomat felt confident enough to say this: “We cannot, I’m sure, take on another military action in Iran, and I hope no one is contemplating it.”

Well, I hope no one is contemplating listening to Annan. As a matter of logic, one cannot comment on military action if one is too ignorant to discuss why the U.N. has demanded that Iran stop enrichment in the first place.

Until Kofi catches up on his reading, we should take our advice from Dick Cheney. On Wednesday, while visiting Oman, the Vice President said that “Iran should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.” Why? Because Annan is correct about one thing. In his recent comments he said that all Security Council members must live up to their “responsibility to protect.” If this noble concept means anything, it means stopping militant regimes like Iran’s from getting the capability to “destroy people.”

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And Khatami’s Better?

Interviewed by the Associated Press, the granddaughter of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini–she’s an avowed reformist in Iran’s political landscape–declared that “the only way to save the country is for [former Iranian president Mohammad] Khatami to run next year in presidential elections. He is the only one who will defeat Ahmadinejad.”

I’m no fan of the current president of Iran, but I fail to see how Khatami would be much better. After all, assuming the National Intelligence Estimate is accurate in its assessment that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003 would mean that suspension happened during Khatami’s presidency. So, prior to 2003 he was promoting “the dialogue of civilizations” around the globe while building a nuke in his backyard.

Clearly, those hoping that the upcoming elections in Iran will weaken Ahmadinejad and give way to a return of the “moderates” forget three things. One: the nuclear program and the quest for a nuclear weapon went on under reformists as well as hardliners. There seems to be little difference among them on the nuclear issue. Two: whoever is president or serving inside the Majlis (the legislative assembly) may matter little. The ultimate decision maker–Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei–is not going to change his worldview on nukes (or anything else) as a result of elections. And three: even under the reformist Khatami, Iran’s human rights failed to improve. In fact, there is considerable evidence that they deteriorated during Khatami’s presidency. So be careful what you wish for–you just might get it.

Interviewed by the Associated Press, the granddaughter of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini–she’s an avowed reformist in Iran’s political landscape–declared that “the only way to save the country is for [former Iranian president Mohammad] Khatami to run next year in presidential elections. He is the only one who will defeat Ahmadinejad.”

I’m no fan of the current president of Iran, but I fail to see how Khatami would be much better. After all, assuming the National Intelligence Estimate is accurate in its assessment that Iran suspended its nuclear weapons program in 2003 would mean that suspension happened during Khatami’s presidency. So, prior to 2003 he was promoting “the dialogue of civilizations” around the globe while building a nuke in his backyard.

Clearly, those hoping that the upcoming elections in Iran will weaken Ahmadinejad and give way to a return of the “moderates” forget three things. One: the nuclear program and the quest for a nuclear weapon went on under reformists as well as hardliners. There seems to be little difference among them on the nuclear issue. Two: whoever is president or serving inside the Majlis (the legislative assembly) may matter little. The ultimate decision maker–Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei–is not going to change his worldview on nukes (or anything else) as a result of elections. And three: even under the reformist Khatami, Iran’s human rights failed to improve. In fact, there is considerable evidence that they deteriorated during Khatami’s presidency. So be careful what you wish for–you just might get it.

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