Commentary Magazine


Topic: Bill Kristol

Flotsam and Jetsam

It’s getting harder for Jeffrey Goldberg to be protective of J Street when Jeremy Ben Ami lies to Goldberg’s colleague.

It’s getting harder to pretend that this election will be anything but a Democratic disaster. “With a little over a month until Election Day, Congressional Republicans have the clear advantage with voters nationwide, a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll says. In a generic ballot match-up, the Republican leads the Democrat by 9 points among likely voters — 53 percent to 44 percent. … But the new survey suggests Republicans could be in even a better position than they were in 1994, when the GOP stunned the Democrats with their gain of 54 seats in the House and eight seats in the upper chamber.”

It’s getting harder to maintain the position that the Democrats deserve to govern. “Amid a high stakes struggle to connect with voters, House Democrats turned Friday to celebrity comedian Stephen Colbert to highlight the plight of migrant farm workers. He promptly returned the favor by turning Congress — specifically a Judiciary subcommittee — into his personal comedy club.”

It’s getting harder for Democrats to keep their base in line. “Liberals are expressing outrage that Democrats are not holding a vote to extend tax cuts for the middle class before the elections.”

It’s getting harder for Obama to come up with a plausible rationale for why his Iranian engagement policy makes sense. “To have a President [Ahmadinejad] who makes outrageous, offensive statements like this does not serve the interests of the Iranian people, does not strengthen Iran’s stature in the world community. And there is an easy solution to this, which is to have a Iranian government act responsibly in the international community, along the lines of not just basic codes of conduct or diplomatic norms, but just basic humanity and common decency.” Umm, but doesn’t Ahmadinejad’s speech suggest that … oh, never mind. I think Obama is hopeless (and also unwilling to suggest military force as a viable option).

It’s getting harder for Democrats to keep their heads about them. Bill Kristol writes, “[T]he Democratic party is in meltdown, the Obama White House is in disarray, and the voters are in rebellion against both of them. … It looks as if 2010 will be a bigger electoral landslide than 1994, and more significant as well.”

It’s getting harder to pretend the Tea Partiers are unsophisticated. Larry Kudlow points out that they are a lot brighter than the Beltway economic geniuses: “With all the Fed’s pump-priming since late 2008, there is still $1 trillion of excess bank reserves sitting on deposit at the central bank. This massive cash hoard suggests that liquidity is not the problem for the financial system or the economy. And putting another $1 trillion into excess reserves only doubles the problem. A much better idea would be a fiscal freeze on spending, tax rates and regulations. This is apparently what the tea-party-driven Republican congressional leaders intend for their election platform.” Sure is.

It’s getting harder for Jeffrey Goldberg to be protective of J Street when Jeremy Ben Ami lies to Goldberg’s colleague.

It’s getting harder to pretend that this election will be anything but a Democratic disaster. “With a little over a month until Election Day, Congressional Republicans have the clear advantage with voters nationwide, a new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll says. In a generic ballot match-up, the Republican leads the Democrat by 9 points among likely voters — 53 percent to 44 percent. … But the new survey suggests Republicans could be in even a better position than they were in 1994, when the GOP stunned the Democrats with their gain of 54 seats in the House and eight seats in the upper chamber.”

It’s getting harder to maintain the position that the Democrats deserve to govern. “Amid a high stakes struggle to connect with voters, House Democrats turned Friday to celebrity comedian Stephen Colbert to highlight the plight of migrant farm workers. He promptly returned the favor by turning Congress — specifically a Judiciary subcommittee — into his personal comedy club.”

It’s getting harder for Democrats to keep their base in line. “Liberals are expressing outrage that Democrats are not holding a vote to extend tax cuts for the middle class before the elections.”

It’s getting harder for Obama to come up with a plausible rationale for why his Iranian engagement policy makes sense. “To have a President [Ahmadinejad] who makes outrageous, offensive statements like this does not serve the interests of the Iranian people, does not strengthen Iran’s stature in the world community. And there is an easy solution to this, which is to have a Iranian government act responsibly in the international community, along the lines of not just basic codes of conduct or diplomatic norms, but just basic humanity and common decency.” Umm, but doesn’t Ahmadinejad’s speech suggest that … oh, never mind. I think Obama is hopeless (and also unwilling to suggest military force as a viable option).

It’s getting harder for Democrats to keep their heads about them. Bill Kristol writes, “[T]he Democratic party is in meltdown, the Obama White House is in disarray, and the voters are in rebellion against both of them. … It looks as if 2010 will be a bigger electoral landslide than 1994, and more significant as well.”

It’s getting harder to pretend the Tea Partiers are unsophisticated. Larry Kudlow points out that they are a lot brighter than the Beltway economic geniuses: “With all the Fed’s pump-priming since late 2008, there is still $1 trillion of excess bank reserves sitting on deposit at the central bank. This massive cash hoard suggests that liquidity is not the problem for the financial system or the economy. And putting another $1 trillion into excess reserves only doubles the problem. A much better idea would be a fiscal freeze on spending, tax rates and regulations. This is apparently what the tea-party-driven Republican congressional leaders intend for their election platform.” Sure is.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The trauma — and hilarity — of voting Republican in Brooklyn.

Pennsylvania voters have warmed to Pat Toomey. “Republican Pat Toomey inches closer to the 50% mark this month in his best showing yet in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Pennsylvania, with leaners included, shows Toomey earning 49% support, while Democratic hopeful Joe Sestak picks up 41% of the vote.” Well, the GOP blew Delaware, but the Dems blew it with Sestak.

Look at who voted, says Bill Kristol: “Voters flocked to participate in GOP primaries. National Republican turnout in 2010 has comfortably exceeded Democratic primary turnout. This is as good an indicator as the generic congressional ballot polls as to where the voters are going: They’re going to vote for Republicans this November.”

Only 1,667 votes were the difference between Kelly Ayotte and Ovide Lamontagne. “Not only did national Republicans recruit Ayotte to get into the race, but public polls show she is in for a competitive contest against the Democratic nominee, Rep. Paul Hodes, who was uncontested in his primary last night.” Alas, as goes New Hampshire does not go Delaware.

In the “chalk one up for the Tea Party” category, voters in Florida are flocking to Marco Rubio: “Six weeks ahead of November 2 congressional elections, Rubio leads state Governor Charlie Crist, an independent, by 40 percent to 26 percent among likely voters, the poll found. Democrat Kendrick Meek trails at 21 percent.”

The voters of New York canned a crook. The New York Post crows: “Pedro Espada is a goner. Finally. Maybe the most egregious member of the most egregious legislative body in the land was called to account by his constituents last night — Espada was ousted by Gustavo Rivera in The Bronx. And we helped.”

Voters are dolts, apparently, in the eyes of Democrats, who think a new logo that looks like a target will improve their fortunes.

The trauma — and hilarity — of voting Republican in Brooklyn.

Pennsylvania voters have warmed to Pat Toomey. “Republican Pat Toomey inches closer to the 50% mark this month in his best showing yet in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Pennsylvania, with leaners included, shows Toomey earning 49% support, while Democratic hopeful Joe Sestak picks up 41% of the vote.” Well, the GOP blew Delaware, but the Dems blew it with Sestak.

Look at who voted, says Bill Kristol: “Voters flocked to participate in GOP primaries. National Republican turnout in 2010 has comfortably exceeded Democratic primary turnout. This is as good an indicator as the generic congressional ballot polls as to where the voters are going: They’re going to vote for Republicans this November.”

Only 1,667 votes were the difference between Kelly Ayotte and Ovide Lamontagne. “Not only did national Republicans recruit Ayotte to get into the race, but public polls show she is in for a competitive contest against the Democratic nominee, Rep. Paul Hodes, who was uncontested in his primary last night.” Alas, as goes New Hampshire does not go Delaware.

In the “chalk one up for the Tea Party” category, voters in Florida are flocking to Marco Rubio: “Six weeks ahead of November 2 congressional elections, Rubio leads state Governor Charlie Crist, an independent, by 40 percent to 26 percent among likely voters, the poll found. Democrat Kendrick Meek trails at 21 percent.”

The voters of New York canned a crook. The New York Post crows: “Pedro Espada is a goner. Finally. Maybe the most egregious member of the most egregious legislative body in the land was called to account by his constituents last night — Espada was ousted by Gustavo Rivera in The Bronx. And we helped.”

Voters are dolts, apparently, in the eyes of Democrats, who think a new logo that looks like a target will improve their fortunes.

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The GOP Supports Christine O’Donnell

John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, came out in support of GOP candidate Christine O’Donnell. His statement can be found here.

This was a smart thing for Senator Cornyn to do. Here’s the reason: whatever one felt about the O’Donnell-Castle contest, it is now over. And if the NRSC was seen to be indifferent to O’Donnell’s fate, or as actively undermining her, it would have been terrible destructive to the Republican Party. It would have been viewed as a virtual declaration of war by some conservatives and Tea Party activists.

In the wake of the O’Donnell upset, some Republicans will be tempted to turn on the Tea Party movement; others will amplify their existing concerns and criticisms. Bill Kristol’s observations are worth bearing in mind in this regard. Bill opposed O’Donnell — but he makes this salient point:

Tea Party activism, enthusiasm and, yes, rebelliousness have been, on net, a very good thing for the GOP. Now in politics as in life, there can be, on occasions, too much of a good thing. Thus Delaware. But it’s still much, much better to be the party to which independents and new voters are flocking, and in which activists are energized, than not. And it’s better for the GOP, as the out party, that the anti-establishment and anti-incumbent wave is still building (which it clearly is) rather than ebbing. A year ago, the liberal media hoped tea partiers were going to generate suicidal third-party challenges, scare off independents from the Republicans, and generally destroy the Republican party. It turns out they’ve probably cost the GOP one Senate seat on the way to a huge off-year election victory. It’s a small price to pay.

In 2008, obituaries were being written about the GOP. In just 20 months, it has engineered a remarkable political comeback. The Tea Party movement is responsible for much, though certainly not all, of that success. But the Tea Party movement clearly does not view itself as an adjunct of any political party; it prides itself on its independence and its outsider status. Many of its members are deeply distrustful of the political establishment — including the Republican Party. Those concerns were exacerbated by the O’Donnell-Castle contest, which got quite nasty near the end. Senator Cornyn understood that if that breach wasn’t healed, and soon, the GOP would pay a high price. Which explains why last night’s reports that the NRSC would abandon Christine O’Donnell turned into a warm embrace this morning.

John Cornyn, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, came out in support of GOP candidate Christine O’Donnell. His statement can be found here.

This was a smart thing for Senator Cornyn to do. Here’s the reason: whatever one felt about the O’Donnell-Castle contest, it is now over. And if the NRSC was seen to be indifferent to O’Donnell’s fate, or as actively undermining her, it would have been terrible destructive to the Republican Party. It would have been viewed as a virtual declaration of war by some conservatives and Tea Party activists.

In the wake of the O’Donnell upset, some Republicans will be tempted to turn on the Tea Party movement; others will amplify their existing concerns and criticisms. Bill Kristol’s observations are worth bearing in mind in this regard. Bill opposed O’Donnell — but he makes this salient point:

Tea Party activism, enthusiasm and, yes, rebelliousness have been, on net, a very good thing for the GOP. Now in politics as in life, there can be, on occasions, too much of a good thing. Thus Delaware. But it’s still much, much better to be the party to which independents and new voters are flocking, and in which activists are energized, than not. And it’s better for the GOP, as the out party, that the anti-establishment and anti-incumbent wave is still building (which it clearly is) rather than ebbing. A year ago, the liberal media hoped tea partiers were going to generate suicidal third-party challenges, scare off independents from the Republicans, and generally destroy the Republican party. It turns out they’ve probably cost the GOP one Senate seat on the way to a huge off-year election victory. It’s a small price to pay.

In 2008, obituaries were being written about the GOP. In just 20 months, it has engineered a remarkable political comeback. The Tea Party movement is responsible for much, though certainly not all, of that success. But the Tea Party movement clearly does not view itself as an adjunct of any political party; it prides itself on its independence and its outsider status. Many of its members are deeply distrustful of the political establishment — including the Republican Party. Those concerns were exacerbated by the O’Donnell-Castle contest, which got quite nasty near the end. Senator Cornyn understood that if that breach wasn’t healed, and soon, the GOP would pay a high price. Which explains why last night’s reports that the NRSC would abandon Christine O’Donnell turned into a warm embrace this morning.

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Give Americans a Break Already

The chattering class and the president have done their best lately to upbraid the American people. We’re Islamophobes. There is a rising tide of anti-Muslim sentiment. We’re losing touch with our values. Really, this is Seinfeld’s bizarro world. A passing familiarity with reality should confirm that, if anything, Americans should be commended for resisting the worse impulses the liberal intelligentsia accuse them of harboring.

On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol implored us to consider that Americans do have the right to be at least a little concerned about radical Muslims. The body count of those killed in the name of Islam is rather large. We’ve suffered through the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center bombings, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and the Fort Hood massacre. Americans learned that Major Hasan killed 13 after screaming “Allahu Akbar,” yet there was no popular uprising nor even a demonstration when the Army put out a ludicrous report ignoring the motives of the jihadist. We recently had the Christmas Day and the Times Square bombers’ attempts to kill large numbers of Americans in the name of Islam. And we have an imam ready to build a grandiose mosque on the sight of the slaying of thousands. Have Americans rioted? Demanded Muslims be deported?

Last year, the FBI released its hate crimes report based on 2008 data. There were 1,519 criminal incidents based on religion. Of those 1,013 were against Jews. Muslim hate crimes? 105 in a country of 300 million. Americans may have some faults, but Islamophobia isn’t one of them.

Reuel Marc Gerecht writes that his multi-year study of anti-terrorism reveals no evidence we’ve persecuted Muslims:

Contrary to received wisdom, Americans have been, if anything, more tentative and cautious in their approach to the jihadist threat than many of our European allies, who routinely use surveillance, administrative detention, and prosecutorial methods much more intrusive than those employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, our primary counterterrorist organization on the home front. …

What becomes so striking about the United States after September 11—and the same may be said, perhaps a little less enthusiastically, of the Western Europeans—is how well-behaved Americans have been towards Muslim Americans. … Americans have shown themselves to be models of tolerance, all the more given the insidiousness of the threat.

It is therefore unjust and entirely inappropriate for the president, not to mention the elite punditocracy, to spend days finger-wagging at Americans for alleged but unproven bigotry. He apparently expects non-Muslim Americans not only to tolerate, respect, and accept Muslim Americans but also to celebrate misguided acts of provocation against non-Muslims.

Obama and the left’s “solution” to nonexistent anti-Muslim biogtry is to pretend we are not engaged in war against ideological foes. Unnamed “extremists” and “sorry” tag teams are the problem, you see. That’s not only false and counterproductive to our war efforts (and exceedingly unhelpful to moderate Muslims attempting to undercut radicalism in their own countries); it denies Americans the credit they are owed. Despite the fact that we are at war with radical jihadists, Americans have not generalized their antagonism toward all Muslims, nor abandoned their common sense, tolerance, and attachment to civil liberties.

George W. Bush deserves credit for setting an appropriate tone, but he would, I feel confident, be the first to credit his countrymen, who remain the most decent, fair-minded, and tolerant people on the planet. Too bad we don’t have a president who appreciates that.

The chattering class and the president have done their best lately to upbraid the American people. We’re Islamophobes. There is a rising tide of anti-Muslim sentiment. We’re losing touch with our values. Really, this is Seinfeld’s bizarro world. A passing familiarity with reality should confirm that, if anything, Americans should be commended for resisting the worse impulses the liberal intelligentsia accuse them of harboring.

On Fox News Sunday, Bill Kristol implored us to consider that Americans do have the right to be at least a little concerned about radical Muslims. The body count of those killed in the name of Islam is rather large. We’ve suffered through the 1993 and 2001 World Trade Center bombings, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and the Fort Hood massacre. Americans learned that Major Hasan killed 13 after screaming “Allahu Akbar,” yet there was no popular uprising nor even a demonstration when the Army put out a ludicrous report ignoring the motives of the jihadist. We recently had the Christmas Day and the Times Square bombers’ attempts to kill large numbers of Americans in the name of Islam. And we have an imam ready to build a grandiose mosque on the sight of the slaying of thousands. Have Americans rioted? Demanded Muslims be deported?

Last year, the FBI released its hate crimes report based on 2008 data. There were 1,519 criminal incidents based on religion. Of those 1,013 were against Jews. Muslim hate crimes? 105 in a country of 300 million. Americans may have some faults, but Islamophobia isn’t one of them.

Reuel Marc Gerecht writes that his multi-year study of anti-terrorism reveals no evidence we’ve persecuted Muslims:

Contrary to received wisdom, Americans have been, if anything, more tentative and cautious in their approach to the jihadist threat than many of our European allies, who routinely use surveillance, administrative detention, and prosecutorial methods much more intrusive than those employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, our primary counterterrorist organization on the home front. …

What becomes so striking about the United States after September 11—and the same may be said, perhaps a little less enthusiastically, of the Western Europeans—is how well-behaved Americans have been towards Muslim Americans. … Americans have shown themselves to be models of tolerance, all the more given the insidiousness of the threat.

It is therefore unjust and entirely inappropriate for the president, not to mention the elite punditocracy, to spend days finger-wagging at Americans for alleged but unproven bigotry. He apparently expects non-Muslim Americans not only to tolerate, respect, and accept Muslim Americans but also to celebrate misguided acts of provocation against non-Muslims.

Obama and the left’s “solution” to nonexistent anti-Muslim biogtry is to pretend we are not engaged in war against ideological foes. Unnamed “extremists” and “sorry” tag teams are the problem, you see. That’s not only false and counterproductive to our war efforts (and exceedingly unhelpful to moderate Muslims attempting to undercut radicalism in their own countries); it denies Americans the credit they are owed. Despite the fact that we are at war with radical jihadists, Americans have not generalized their antagonism toward all Muslims, nor abandoned their common sense, tolerance, and attachment to civil liberties.

George W. Bush deserves credit for setting an appropriate tone, but he would, I feel confident, be the first to credit his countrymen, who remain the most decent, fair-minded, and tolerant people on the planet. Too bad we don’t have a president who appreciates that.

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Psst, I Have a Message for You

“Messaging” has gotten a bad name in politics. It denotes sloganeering, the sort of bumper-sticker politics that the elites disdain. But a coherent message suggests a coherent vision. The opposite is also true.

Less than eight weeks before the election, the Republicans, as Bill Kristol points out, have a nice, sharp message: stop spending so much and stop raising taxes. You might not agree with it, but you know what they stand for. This was, after all, the media and the Obami’s complaint — “no ideas” from Republicans.

What’s Obama got? Cut some taxes, but raise others. We’re on the road to recovery, but really not. The deficit is strangling us but here’s another $50B for some government-bank idea to build the roads which I had told you the $800B stimulus plan would pay for. It’s not only not working, it’s a jumble — and it’s magnifying the problem: businesses are racked with uncertainty.

It reminds me of watching the McCain campaign. Try this, roll out that, stop — no, restart — the campaign. What was next — juggling knives? All it did was convince voters that he didn’t understand their concerns and didn’t have a coherent economic message. And you know what? McCain really doesn’t. (Climate-control legislation and small government don’t really go together, do they?)

Obama had a coherent vision — lots of government, spending, and tax hikes. The voters hated it and it didn’t work. But you knew what he stood for. Now he’s throwing everything up against the wall in the hope that the public will be impressed with his “focus” on the economy. But he seems harried, out of his depth. Albeit unintended, the message he is sending is: “I haven’t got a clue what to do.” Yeah, we noticed.

And meanwhile, beleaguered Democrats have a message for Obama: forget it. Expect to see more of this:

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) broke with President Obama on Wednesday, saying he would not support any additional stimulus spending.

Bennet, who was endorsed by the president in Colorado but is facing a tough reelection, rejected the $50 billion public works program proposed by Obama earlier this week.

“I will not support additional spending in a second stimulus package,” Bennet said in a statement.

Perhaps if he had shown some independence with respect to health care and the spend-athon earlier on, he wouldn’t be so beleaguered now.

“Messaging” has gotten a bad name in politics. It denotes sloganeering, the sort of bumper-sticker politics that the elites disdain. But a coherent message suggests a coherent vision. The opposite is also true.

Less than eight weeks before the election, the Republicans, as Bill Kristol points out, have a nice, sharp message: stop spending so much and stop raising taxes. You might not agree with it, but you know what they stand for. This was, after all, the media and the Obami’s complaint — “no ideas” from Republicans.

What’s Obama got? Cut some taxes, but raise others. We’re on the road to recovery, but really not. The deficit is strangling us but here’s another $50B for some government-bank idea to build the roads which I had told you the $800B stimulus plan would pay for. It’s not only not working, it’s a jumble — and it’s magnifying the problem: businesses are racked with uncertainty.

It reminds me of watching the McCain campaign. Try this, roll out that, stop — no, restart — the campaign. What was next — juggling knives? All it did was convince voters that he didn’t understand their concerns and didn’t have a coherent economic message. And you know what? McCain really doesn’t. (Climate-control legislation and small government don’t really go together, do they?)

Obama had a coherent vision — lots of government, spending, and tax hikes. The voters hated it and it didn’t work. But you knew what he stood for. Now he’s throwing everything up against the wall in the hope that the public will be impressed with his “focus” on the economy. But he seems harried, out of his depth. Albeit unintended, the message he is sending is: “I haven’t got a clue what to do.” Yeah, we noticed.

And meanwhile, beleaguered Democrats have a message for Obama: forget it. Expect to see more of this:

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) broke with President Obama on Wednesday, saying he would not support any additional stimulus spending.

Bennet, who was endorsed by the president in Colorado but is facing a tough reelection, rejected the $50 billion public works program proposed by Obama earlier this week.

“I will not support additional spending in a second stimulus package,” Bennet said in a statement.

Perhaps if he had shown some independence with respect to health care and the spend-athon earlier on, he wouldn’t be so beleaguered now.

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Touchy, Touchy

The J Street gang has set up a “microsite” (a website with an itty-bitty following?) to attack the Emergency Committee for Israel. ECI board member Bill Kristol’s response: “I don’t WANT to speak for them!” Really, it’s a silly catchphrase. ECI is speaking for those friends of Israel who don’t buy into the notion that Israel-bashing is a pro-Israel activity. The real question is: whom does J Street speak for?

The site is revealing nevertheless. J Street’s purpose at the outset was to serve as an alternative to AIPAC (which takes wacky positions like defending Israel against the Goldstone Report, urging the administration to stop picking public fights with Israel, and reminding the public that settlements are a final-status question). J Street has been from the get-go and remains an anti-pro-Israel group with no significant constituency. Now it’s faced with an administration that has in effect rejected J Street’s advice (e.g., no preconditions for talks) and the likelihood that their highest profile endorsee, Joe Sestak, will not only be defeated but be damaged by the J Street association.

J Street’s problem is that its message (when not trying to water it down and make it indistinguishable from that of ECI and AIPAC) is so toxic that not even their endorsed candidates want to speak for them. So what to do and how to keep its donors and supporters happy? Go back to its bread and butter — attacking friends of Israel. It is a sign of just how desperate — and irrelevant — J Street has become.

The J Street gang has set up a “microsite” (a website with an itty-bitty following?) to attack the Emergency Committee for Israel. ECI board member Bill Kristol’s response: “I don’t WANT to speak for them!” Really, it’s a silly catchphrase. ECI is speaking for those friends of Israel who don’t buy into the notion that Israel-bashing is a pro-Israel activity. The real question is: whom does J Street speak for?

The site is revealing nevertheless. J Street’s purpose at the outset was to serve as an alternative to AIPAC (which takes wacky positions like defending Israel against the Goldstone Report, urging the administration to stop picking public fights with Israel, and reminding the public that settlements are a final-status question). J Street has been from the get-go and remains an anti-pro-Israel group with no significant constituency. Now it’s faced with an administration that has in effect rejected J Street’s advice (e.g., no preconditions for talks) and the likelihood that their highest profile endorsee, Joe Sestak, will not only be defeated but be damaged by the J Street association.

J Street’s problem is that its message (when not trying to water it down and make it indistinguishable from that of ECI and AIPAC) is so toxic that not even their endorsed candidates want to speak for them. So what to do and how to keep its donors and supporters happy? Go back to its bread and butter — attacking friends of Israel. It is a sign of just how desperate — and irrelevant — J Street has become.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Democrats’ Senate majority is slip slidin’ away.

Paul is ahead. Rand, that is.

The sounds of silence are welcome. “Tensions between Israel and Islamic nations have scuttled plans by the U.N. atomic watchdog agency to convene talks this year on a Mideast free of nuclear weapons, according to a document shared with The Associated Press. The latest failure to bring the opposing sides to the table casts further doubt on plans to hold more substantive talks in two years on such a zone, as proposed by the U.N.’s 189-nation Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty conference four months ago.”

There must have been 50 reasons to leave their leader and vote no on ObamaCare. Now all Democrats can do is run away from their votes. “At least five of the 34 House Democrats who voted against their party’s health care reform bill are highlighting their ‘no’ votes in ads back home. By contrast, party officials in Washington can’t identify a single House member who’s running an ad boasting of a ‘yes’ vote — despite the fact that 219 House Democrats voted in favor of final passage in March.”

Troubled waters for Obama. No bridge in sight.

Still crazy after all these months, says John McCain, to have a troop-withdrawal deadline for Afghanistan: “You cannot tell the enemy you’re going to leave and expect the enemy to not — and expect to succeed. I mean, that’s just a fundamental of warfare. No military person advised the president to set 2011. He did it for political reasons, to take care of his left base. And no matter what the secretary of defense or anybody else says, the president again reiterated last Tuesday night that we would be leaving. And that is sending the wrong signals. And people in the region, both friends and enemies, are accommodating to that situation. … And that is playing with American lives in a way that I think is absolutely unacceptable.”

Where have you gone, mosque supporters? Maybe the subjects of their affection have proved impossible to defend. “One of the investors in a proposed Islamic center near ground zero is a Long Island medical clinic owner whose expressions of sympathy for Palestinians included a donation to a charity later shut down for links to Hamas.”

Obama claims he didn’t listen to the Glenn Beck rally. No surprise. He hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest. Bill Kristol says he should pay more attention: “That certain portion of the country was ‘stirred up’ at the rally to express pride in America and faith in God. That certain portion of the country is about to show itself (at least for this election) as a majority of the country. If that majority is animated not just by limiting government or living within our means or getting power back to the people—important though those are—but is also moved by the notion of rededicating oneself to God and Country, it could well be a lasting majority.”

The Democrats’ Senate majority is slip slidin’ away.

Paul is ahead. Rand, that is.

The sounds of silence are welcome. “Tensions between Israel and Islamic nations have scuttled plans by the U.N. atomic watchdog agency to convene talks this year on a Mideast free of nuclear weapons, according to a document shared with The Associated Press. The latest failure to bring the opposing sides to the table casts further doubt on plans to hold more substantive talks in two years on such a zone, as proposed by the U.N.’s 189-nation Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty conference four months ago.”

There must have been 50 reasons to leave their leader and vote no on ObamaCare. Now all Democrats can do is run away from their votes. “At least five of the 34 House Democrats who voted against their party’s health care reform bill are highlighting their ‘no’ votes in ads back home. By contrast, party officials in Washington can’t identify a single House member who’s running an ad boasting of a ‘yes’ vote — despite the fact that 219 House Democrats voted in favor of final passage in March.”

Troubled waters for Obama. No bridge in sight.

Still crazy after all these months, says John McCain, to have a troop-withdrawal deadline for Afghanistan: “You cannot tell the enemy you’re going to leave and expect the enemy to not — and expect to succeed. I mean, that’s just a fundamental of warfare. No military person advised the president to set 2011. He did it for political reasons, to take care of his left base. And no matter what the secretary of defense or anybody else says, the president again reiterated last Tuesday night that we would be leaving. And that is sending the wrong signals. And people in the region, both friends and enemies, are accommodating to that situation. … And that is playing with American lives in a way that I think is absolutely unacceptable.”

Where have you gone, mosque supporters? Maybe the subjects of their affection have proved impossible to defend. “One of the investors in a proposed Islamic center near ground zero is a Long Island medical clinic owner whose expressions of sympathy for Palestinians included a donation to a charity later shut down for links to Hamas.”

Obama claims he didn’t listen to the Glenn Beck rally. No surprise. He hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest. Bill Kristol says he should pay more attention: “That certain portion of the country was ‘stirred up’ at the rally to express pride in America and faith in God. That certain portion of the country is about to show itself (at least for this election) as a majority of the country. If that majority is animated not just by limiting government or living within our means or getting power back to the people—important though those are—but is also moved by the notion of rededicating oneself to God and Country, it could well be a lasting majority.”

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The Speech: About As Good As We Could Expect

I see some disagreement on the right about Obama’s Iraq speech, with Peter Robinson and Jennifer Rubin condemning it and Bill Kristol and John Podhoretz praising it. For what it’s worth, I’m with Bill and John on this one. I thought that this speech was about as good as we could expect from an opponent of the Iraq war — and better than Obama has done in the past. He even (for the first time?) held out an olive branch to his predecessor:

This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush.  It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset.  Yet no one can doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security.

OK, he didn’t say, “Bush’s surge won the war, and I regret opposing it,” which is what many of my conservative compatriots are waiting to hear. But nor did he say, “I believe that Bush lied us into a war we shouldn’t have fought,” which is what his liberal base longs to hear. Considering how strongly he opposed Bush and the decision to go to war, this was a nice grace note.

On a more substantive issue, I was cheered to hear him say, “Our combat mission is ending, but our commitment to Iraq’s future is not.” He also said, however, “Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year.” While it’s a good message to send that the U.S. will keep its commitments, he might have added that we will leave by the end of next year “unless an agreement is reached with the government of Iraq to extend our presence.” Such an agreement will be vital to safeguarding Iraq’s future, and I would hope that Obama recognizes that. Even if he does, there is a case to be made for not lobbying publicly for such an agreement, because it will encourage Iraqi obstinacy in the negotiations, which is what happened during the run-up to the existing U.S.-Iraq accord.

There was only a brief mention of Afghanistan, but what he said was pretty good. He did not speak of a troop-withdrawal deadline. Instead he said that “next August, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure.” That the drawdown will be “conditions based” rather than adhere to an artificial timeline means that our troops will have a fighting chance to get the job done.

Finally, like Bill Kristol, I liked the ending of the speech, in which he linked today’s soldiers “with an unbroken line of heroes that stretches from Lexington to Gettysburg; from Iwo Jima to Inchon; from Khe Sanh to Kandahar.” It wasn’t exactly Ronald Reagan’s 1984 “Boys of Pointe du Hoc” speech — a masterpiece of giving thanks to the men and women in uniform — but it was a nice conclusion to a nice speech.

However good the words, the hard part is still ahead of us in Iraq, where no government has yet been formed and everyone is nervous about the American troop withdrawal. Obama will have to get more involved in managing Iraq’s future than he has been to date.

I see some disagreement on the right about Obama’s Iraq speech, with Peter Robinson and Jennifer Rubin condemning it and Bill Kristol and John Podhoretz praising it. For what it’s worth, I’m with Bill and John on this one. I thought that this speech was about as good as we could expect from an opponent of the Iraq war — and better than Obama has done in the past. He even (for the first time?) held out an olive branch to his predecessor:

This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush.  It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset.  Yet no one can doubt President Bush’s support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security.

OK, he didn’t say, “Bush’s surge won the war, and I regret opposing it,” which is what many of my conservative compatriots are waiting to hear. But nor did he say, “I believe that Bush lied us into a war we shouldn’t have fought,” which is what his liberal base longs to hear. Considering how strongly he opposed Bush and the decision to go to war, this was a nice grace note.

On a more substantive issue, I was cheered to hear him say, “Our combat mission is ending, but our commitment to Iraq’s future is not.” He also said, however, “Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year.” While it’s a good message to send that the U.S. will keep its commitments, he might have added that we will leave by the end of next year “unless an agreement is reached with the government of Iraq to extend our presence.” Such an agreement will be vital to safeguarding Iraq’s future, and I would hope that Obama recognizes that. Even if he does, there is a case to be made for not lobbying publicly for such an agreement, because it will encourage Iraqi obstinacy in the negotiations, which is what happened during the run-up to the existing U.S.-Iraq accord.

There was only a brief mention of Afghanistan, but what he said was pretty good. He did not speak of a troop-withdrawal deadline. Instead he said that “next August, we will begin a transition to Afghan responsibility. The pace of our troop reductions will be determined by conditions on the ground, and our support for Afghanistan will endure.” That the drawdown will be “conditions based” rather than adhere to an artificial timeline means that our troops will have a fighting chance to get the job done.

Finally, like Bill Kristol, I liked the ending of the speech, in which he linked today’s soldiers “with an unbroken line of heroes that stretches from Lexington to Gettysburg; from Iwo Jima to Inchon; from Khe Sanh to Kandahar.” It wasn’t exactly Ronald Reagan’s 1984 “Boys of Pointe du Hoc” speech — a masterpiece of giving thanks to the men and women in uniform — but it was a nice conclusion to a nice speech.

However good the words, the hard part is still ahead of us in Iraq, where no government has yet been formed and everyone is nervous about the American troop withdrawal. Obama will have to get more involved in managing Iraq’s future than he has been to date.

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Neocon Obama?

Jen, my take on the speech is rather different from yours, as I relate in the New York Post this morning. The first half of the speech featured a dramatic shift in tone and spirit for Obama — one in which he, for the first time, endorsed the notion of an activist American role abroad and said such a role was good both for the United States and the world:

The fact that Obama was willing to use this nation’s involvement in Iraq — which he had opposed so completely and whose extension in the form of the surge in 2007 he argued against flatly — as an example of what America can do when it puts its mind to it is stunning. “This milestone should serve as a reminder to all Americans that the future is ours to shape if we move forward with confidence and commitment,” he said.

I grant you that the speech descended into liberal boilerplate in the second half, but that is to be expected; what’s interesting in presidential speeches is what’s new in them. And this was new. And surprising. Bill Kristol agrees.

Jen, my take on the speech is rather different from yours, as I relate in the New York Post this morning. The first half of the speech featured a dramatic shift in tone and spirit for Obama — one in which he, for the first time, endorsed the notion of an activist American role abroad and said such a role was good both for the United States and the world:

The fact that Obama was willing to use this nation’s involvement in Iraq — which he had opposed so completely and whose extension in the form of the surge in 2007 he argued against flatly — as an example of what America can do when it puts its mind to it is stunning. “This milestone should serve as a reminder to all Americans that the future is ours to shape if we move forward with confidence and commitment,” he said.

I grant you that the speech descended into liberal boilerplate in the second half, but that is to be expected; what’s interesting in presidential speeches is what’s new in them. And this was new. And surprising. Bill Kristol agrees.

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Why Didn’t Obama Grasp What the Ground Zero Mosque Is All About?

Bill Kristol reports that a major Muslim figure is coming out against the Ground Zero mosque. In London’s newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid, director of Al-Arabiya TV and  the previous editor of the paper, explains why the mosque should not be build at Ground Zero:

I cannot imagine that Muslims want a mosque on this particular site, because it will be turned into an arena for promoters of hatred, and a symbol of those who committed the crime. At the same time, there are no practicing Muslims in the district who need a place of worship, because it is indeed a commercial district. … The last thing Muslims want today is to build just a religious center out of defiance to the others, or a symbolic mosque that people visit as a museum next to a cemetery. …  The battle against the September 11 terrorists is a Muslim battle … and this battle still is ablaze in more than 20 Muslim countries. Some Muslims will consider that building a mosque on this site immortalizes and commemorates what was done by the terrorists who committed their crime in the name of Islam. I do not think that the majority of Muslims want to build a symbol or a worship place that tomorrow might become a place about which the terrorists and their Muslim followers boast, and which will become a shrine for Islam haters whose aim is to turn the public opinion against Islam.

This is extraordinary on many levels.

First, as Bill points out, the Ground Zero mosque is likely kaput. If even a prominent Muslim can articulate why it’s such a bad idea, it seems as though the political pressure will mount, and the funders may sense that their project has revealed them not to be the face of moderation but rather provocateurs and promoters of religious strife.

Second, it reveals that Imam Rauf is no “moderate” and that his liberal cheerleaders have a deficient understanding of the range of opinion within the “Muslim World.” The left chose to champion someone who was blind or indifferent to the damage he was causing to the alleged goal of “religious reconciliation.” The chattering class labeled as “bigots” the mosque opponents, who voiced precisely the same objections as Al-Rashid. Is Al-Rashid a bigot, too?

Third, and most important, it reveals how lacking in sophistication about the Muslim World, about which he claims great expertise, is Obama. Why wasn’t he making Al-Rashid’s argument? Why didn’t he stand up for those Muslims who truly understand that “building a mosque on this site immortalizes and commemorates what was done by the terrorists who committed their crime in the name of Islam”? Perhaps Obama’s understanding of the Muslim World isn’t as nuanced as his boosters claim. Maybe his default position is to capitulate to whatever the left’s Islamic pets of the moment want (e.g., flotilla “activists,” the PA, the mosque builders).

I think it is safe to say that all of the Democrats and liberal pundits (yes, more overlap) who posited that the mosque’s opponents were engaged in the sort of bigotry that “has always fueled pogroms and race riots” (that’s the genius of Richard Cohen) were themselves not as enlightened as second America. The latter, like Al-Rashid, correctly grasped that the majority of Muslims might not “want to build a symbol or a worship place that tomorrow might become a place about which the terrorists and their Muslim followers boast, and which will become a shrine for Islam haters whose aim is to turn the public opinion against Islam.” It’s reassuring to know that 68 percent (I suspect that number will go up soon) of Americans got it right and demonstrated (again) why the common sense of average voters is infinitely more valuable that the spewing of the elite class.

Bill Kristol reports that a major Muslim figure is coming out against the Ground Zero mosque. In London’s newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid, director of Al-Arabiya TV and  the previous editor of the paper, explains why the mosque should not be build at Ground Zero:

I cannot imagine that Muslims want a mosque on this particular site, because it will be turned into an arena for promoters of hatred, and a symbol of those who committed the crime. At the same time, there are no practicing Muslims in the district who need a place of worship, because it is indeed a commercial district. … The last thing Muslims want today is to build just a religious center out of defiance to the others, or a symbolic mosque that people visit as a museum next to a cemetery. …  The battle against the September 11 terrorists is a Muslim battle … and this battle still is ablaze in more than 20 Muslim countries. Some Muslims will consider that building a mosque on this site immortalizes and commemorates what was done by the terrorists who committed their crime in the name of Islam. I do not think that the majority of Muslims want to build a symbol or a worship place that tomorrow might become a place about which the terrorists and their Muslim followers boast, and which will become a shrine for Islam haters whose aim is to turn the public opinion against Islam.

This is extraordinary on many levels.

First, as Bill points out, the Ground Zero mosque is likely kaput. If even a prominent Muslim can articulate why it’s such a bad idea, it seems as though the political pressure will mount, and the funders may sense that their project has revealed them not to be the face of moderation but rather provocateurs and promoters of religious strife.

Second, it reveals that Imam Rauf is no “moderate” and that his liberal cheerleaders have a deficient understanding of the range of opinion within the “Muslim World.” The left chose to champion someone who was blind or indifferent to the damage he was causing to the alleged goal of “religious reconciliation.” The chattering class labeled as “bigots” the mosque opponents, who voiced precisely the same objections as Al-Rashid. Is Al-Rashid a bigot, too?

Third, and most important, it reveals how lacking in sophistication about the Muslim World, about which he claims great expertise, is Obama. Why wasn’t he making Al-Rashid’s argument? Why didn’t he stand up for those Muslims who truly understand that “building a mosque on this site immortalizes and commemorates what was done by the terrorists who committed their crime in the name of Islam”? Perhaps Obama’s understanding of the Muslim World isn’t as nuanced as his boosters claim. Maybe his default position is to capitulate to whatever the left’s Islamic pets of the moment want (e.g., flotilla “activists,” the PA, the mosque builders).

I think it is safe to say that all of the Democrats and liberal pundits (yes, more overlap) who posited that the mosque’s opponents were engaged in the sort of bigotry that “has always fueled pogroms and race riots” (that’s the genius of Richard Cohen) were themselves not as enlightened as second America. The latter, like Al-Rashid, correctly grasped that the majority of Muslims might not “want to build a symbol or a worship place that tomorrow might become a place about which the terrorists and their Muslim followers boast, and which will become a shrine for Islam haters whose aim is to turn the public opinion against Islam.” It’s reassuring to know that 68 percent (I suspect that number will go up soon) of Americans got it right and demonstrated (again) why the common sense of average voters is infinitely more valuable that the spewing of the elite class.

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Obama’s Ground Zero Debacle

It would be hard to think how Obama could have done a worse job on the Ground Zero mosque controversy. He took a position objectionable to the vast majority of Americans, within 24 hours chickened out, and then sent his press minions forward to assure his base and the Muslim World and its American community (over which he fawns incessantly) that he really does think we must accept a mosque that will produce nothing but pain for his countrymen and a sense of vindication to those who incinerated 3,000 Americans. It’s bad policy, bad politics, and bad execution, with a side order of political cowardice.

On Fox News Sunday’s roundtable, Ceci Connolly explained the flip-flop-flip:

CONNOLLY: I do think that the president’s remarks on Friday night — we know from our reporting they were not off the cuff. Those were written in advance. They were prepared. They were disseminated. He gave thought to what he wanted to say.

And from all indications he believes what he said on Friday night that, yes, this is hallowed ground but that he has a strong feeling not only about religious freedom and tolerance but also about outreach to the Muslim community, which he has done from the very start of his presidency.

So I don’t think there’s reason to really doubt his believing what he said on Friday.

BAIER: Other than the statement on Saturday.

CONNOLLY: The statement on Saturday — I think what happened was he got a little bit spooked by the reaction, because immediately after he did that recalibration, as you put it, sort of off the cuff with that local reporter down in Florida, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said, “Look, we’re not backing off of Friday night.” And I don’t think that they are.

That’s created angst for Democrats, as Nina Easton observed:

Well, you’ve got to feel the pain of some of these independent conservative Democrats like Martin Frost, who said, “Can’t this president be more like a politician than a law professor?” And we know that now that — as Ceci said, he wanted to weigh in on this. He wanted to weigh in on these broad religious principles.

And you know, we cite the 68 percent of people opposing this. Seventy percent of independent voters oppose this. So this is going to — it’s an issue that was local and, by the way, where in the bluest of states, New York, members of the congressional delegation is basically nowhere to be found. No one wants to weigh in on this.

But among independent voters they really, really oppose this. What this has done is nationalize a sensitive issue. The president — it’s interesting. This is the third time where he’s — in the interest of what he sees in his world of inclusion and fairness and open-mindedness, he’s actually been very polarizing and divisive.

We start with his lawsuit against the Arizona immigration law. His — the health care reform’s been very divisive. And now this. And I think it’s going to really hurt the Democratic brand in November. It’s nationalized this issue.

As Bill Kristol deadpanned: “It’s never a good moment … when Bill Burton, the White House deputy press secretary, at 6 o’clock Saturday night — I mean, I worked in a White House that had some problems in ’91, ’92, as the first Bush administration wound down, somewhat losing some popular support, let’s say. And when you put out a statement that says, ‘Just to be clear, the president is not backing off in any way,’ I mean, ‘just … to be clear’ is not a good thing to begin with if you’re the press secretary. And ‘the president is not backing off’ is not really what you want your news — your explanation to be on Saturday night.”

This reinforces several bad themes for Obama. From the right, his critics have argued that he’s less than competent,  a charge that certainly was supported by a textbook “don’t ever do this” episode in presidential history. Conservatives have also asserted that Obama’s instincts are poor (both when it come in positioning the U.S. against adversaries and in his assessments of the voters’ deeply held beliefs). That too was underlined by Obama’s indifference to the mosque’s symbolism for jihadists and to Americans’ sensibilities. And then on the left, his formerly fervent base has grown exasperated with his equivocation and failure to wholeheartedly embrace their extreme wish list. Given episodes like this one, you have to admit that they too have a point.

But really, this is precisely what we should expect if we elect someone whose executive skills are negligible and whose views come straight out of the Ivy League left. Next time, maybe voters should pay more attention to the experience and values of the person they are electing to lead the Free World.

It would be hard to think how Obama could have done a worse job on the Ground Zero mosque controversy. He took a position objectionable to the vast majority of Americans, within 24 hours chickened out, and then sent his press minions forward to assure his base and the Muslim World and its American community (over which he fawns incessantly) that he really does think we must accept a mosque that will produce nothing but pain for his countrymen and a sense of vindication to those who incinerated 3,000 Americans. It’s bad policy, bad politics, and bad execution, with a side order of political cowardice.

On Fox News Sunday’s roundtable, Ceci Connolly explained the flip-flop-flip:

CONNOLLY: I do think that the president’s remarks on Friday night — we know from our reporting they were not off the cuff. Those were written in advance. They were prepared. They were disseminated. He gave thought to what he wanted to say.

And from all indications he believes what he said on Friday night that, yes, this is hallowed ground but that he has a strong feeling not only about religious freedom and tolerance but also about outreach to the Muslim community, which he has done from the very start of his presidency.

So I don’t think there’s reason to really doubt his believing what he said on Friday.

BAIER: Other than the statement on Saturday.

CONNOLLY: The statement on Saturday — I think what happened was he got a little bit spooked by the reaction, because immediately after he did that recalibration, as you put it, sort of off the cuff with that local reporter down in Florida, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said, “Look, we’re not backing off of Friday night.” And I don’t think that they are.

That’s created angst for Democrats, as Nina Easton observed:

Well, you’ve got to feel the pain of some of these independent conservative Democrats like Martin Frost, who said, “Can’t this president be more like a politician than a law professor?” And we know that now that — as Ceci said, he wanted to weigh in on this. He wanted to weigh in on these broad religious principles.

And you know, we cite the 68 percent of people opposing this. Seventy percent of independent voters oppose this. So this is going to — it’s an issue that was local and, by the way, where in the bluest of states, New York, members of the congressional delegation is basically nowhere to be found. No one wants to weigh in on this.

But among independent voters they really, really oppose this. What this has done is nationalize a sensitive issue. The president — it’s interesting. This is the third time where he’s — in the interest of what he sees in his world of inclusion and fairness and open-mindedness, he’s actually been very polarizing and divisive.

We start with his lawsuit against the Arizona immigration law. His — the health care reform’s been very divisive. And now this. And I think it’s going to really hurt the Democratic brand in November. It’s nationalized this issue.

As Bill Kristol deadpanned: “It’s never a good moment … when Bill Burton, the White House deputy press secretary, at 6 o’clock Saturday night — I mean, I worked in a White House that had some problems in ’91, ’92, as the first Bush administration wound down, somewhat losing some popular support, let’s say. And when you put out a statement that says, ‘Just to be clear, the president is not backing off in any way,’ I mean, ‘just … to be clear’ is not a good thing to begin with if you’re the press secretary. And ‘the president is not backing off’ is not really what you want your news — your explanation to be on Saturday night.”

This reinforces several bad themes for Obama. From the right, his critics have argued that he’s less than competent,  a charge that certainly was supported by a textbook “don’t ever do this” episode in presidential history. Conservatives have also asserted that Obama’s instincts are poor (both when it come in positioning the U.S. against adversaries and in his assessments of the voters’ deeply held beliefs). That too was underlined by Obama’s indifference to the mosque’s symbolism for jihadists and to Americans’ sensibilities. And then on the left, his formerly fervent base has grown exasperated with his equivocation and failure to wholeheartedly embrace their extreme wish list. Given episodes like this one, you have to admit that they too have a point.

But really, this is precisely what we should expect if we elect someone whose executive skills are negligible and whose views come straight out of the Ivy League left. Next time, maybe voters should pay more attention to the experience and values of the person they are electing to lead the Free World.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Obama’s baddest critic warns him about flip-floppery on the Ground Zero mosque: “Mr. Obama, you are not the mayor of Podunk arguing with the City Council over sewer versus septic; you are the president of the United States of America , the greatest country in the world! It may be that your utterances are sounding like indefensible rubbish to more and more of us, but at the very least you, the presidential enunciator of them, ought to have the courage to defend them —especially when they’re already in writing.”

Greg Sargent warns anti-Israel Democrats that the Emergency Committee for Israel is putting them “on notice that if they criticize Israel, they can expect to be targeted, too.” Or, to put it differently, it will be harder to fake being pro-Israel.

Charlie Cook warns Democrats that the Connecticut Senate race will tighten. And sure enough: “The first Rasmussen Reports post-primary telephone survey of Likely Connecticut Voters finds that Democrat Richard Blumenthal has slipped below the 50% mark of support this month against Republican Linda McMahon in the state’s U.S. Senate race.”

Bill Kristol warns the left to get a grip: “The ‘f*ck tea’ movement [the real name of a new leftist undertaking] — that’s what the left has come to. They can’t defend the results of Obama’s policies or the validity of Krugman’s arguments. They know it’s hard to sustain an antidemocratic ethos in a democracy. They realize they’ve degenerated into pro-am levels of whining and squabbling. So they curse their opponents.”

The Gray Lady warns politicians to avoid Michelle Obama’s vacation gaffe: “Forget the lush beaches of Bora Bora or the Campari-soaked cafes along the Côte d’Azur. And don’t even think about Rome or Paris. Astute Washington politicians have long known that when it comes to politically palatable summer vacations, it is best not to cross any oceans. Or even seas. Michelle Obama violated one of this city’s most sacrosanct unwritten rules when she went to Spain — during a recession, no less — with her daughter and a few friends.”

Senate Republicans warn the administration that its pick for ambassador to Turkey is a no-go: “The nomination of Frank Ricciardone to be the next U.S. ambassador to Turkey is being held up in the Senate and the GOP has no intention of allowing a vote on the nomination any time soon. … The administration might be wary of spending its limited political capital to push through the Ricciardone nomination to a floor debate in the Senate because it could open up a broader public discussion of Turkey policy the White House might not think is useful given the delicate diplomatic environment.”

Douglas Schoen warns fellow Democrats: “The recent discouraging economic news is a watershed for the Obama administration — at least as far as the midterms are concerned. It discredits one of the administration’s few remaining positive arguments: that the administration ushered in an economic recovery that otherwise might not have occurred.”

Bibi warns the world, explains George Will: “If Iran were to ‘wipe the Zionist entity off the map,’ as it vows to do, it would, Netanyahu believes, achieve a regional ‘dominance not seen since Alexander.’ … He says that 1948 meant this: ‘For the first time in 2,000 years, a sovereign Jewish people could defend itself against attack.’ And he says: ‘The tragic history of the powerlessness of our people explains why the Jewish people need a sovereign power of self-defense.’ If Israel strikes Iran, the world will not be able to say it was not warned.” Nor will it be able to say that, by leaving the job to Israel, Obama fufilled his role as leader of the Free World.

Obama’s baddest critic warns him about flip-floppery on the Ground Zero mosque: “Mr. Obama, you are not the mayor of Podunk arguing with the City Council over sewer versus septic; you are the president of the United States of America , the greatest country in the world! It may be that your utterances are sounding like indefensible rubbish to more and more of us, but at the very least you, the presidential enunciator of them, ought to have the courage to defend them —especially when they’re already in writing.”

Greg Sargent warns anti-Israel Democrats that the Emergency Committee for Israel is putting them “on notice that if they criticize Israel, they can expect to be targeted, too.” Or, to put it differently, it will be harder to fake being pro-Israel.

Charlie Cook warns Democrats that the Connecticut Senate race will tighten. And sure enough: “The first Rasmussen Reports post-primary telephone survey of Likely Connecticut Voters finds that Democrat Richard Blumenthal has slipped below the 50% mark of support this month against Republican Linda McMahon in the state’s U.S. Senate race.”

Bill Kristol warns the left to get a grip: “The ‘f*ck tea’ movement [the real name of a new leftist undertaking] — that’s what the left has come to. They can’t defend the results of Obama’s policies or the validity of Krugman’s arguments. They know it’s hard to sustain an antidemocratic ethos in a democracy. They realize they’ve degenerated into pro-am levels of whining and squabbling. So they curse their opponents.”

The Gray Lady warns politicians to avoid Michelle Obama’s vacation gaffe: “Forget the lush beaches of Bora Bora or the Campari-soaked cafes along the Côte d’Azur. And don’t even think about Rome or Paris. Astute Washington politicians have long known that when it comes to politically palatable summer vacations, it is best not to cross any oceans. Or even seas. Michelle Obama violated one of this city’s most sacrosanct unwritten rules when she went to Spain — during a recession, no less — with her daughter and a few friends.”

Senate Republicans warn the administration that its pick for ambassador to Turkey is a no-go: “The nomination of Frank Ricciardone to be the next U.S. ambassador to Turkey is being held up in the Senate and the GOP has no intention of allowing a vote on the nomination any time soon. … The administration might be wary of spending its limited political capital to push through the Ricciardone nomination to a floor debate in the Senate because it could open up a broader public discussion of Turkey policy the White House might not think is useful given the delicate diplomatic environment.”

Douglas Schoen warns fellow Democrats: “The recent discouraging economic news is a watershed for the Obama administration — at least as far as the midterms are concerned. It discredits one of the administration’s few remaining positive arguments: that the administration ushered in an economic recovery that otherwise might not have occurred.”

Bibi warns the world, explains George Will: “If Iran were to ‘wipe the Zionist entity off the map,’ as it vows to do, it would, Netanyahu believes, achieve a regional ‘dominance not seen since Alexander.’ … He says that 1948 meant this: ‘For the first time in 2,000 years, a sovereign Jewish people could defend itself against attack.’ And he says: ‘The tragic history of the powerlessness of our people explains why the Jewish people need a sovereign power of self-defense.’ If Israel strikes Iran, the world will not be able to say it was not warned.” Nor will it be able to say that, by leaving the job to Israel, Obama fufilled his role as leader of the Free World.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Christians United for Israel catches its critics practicing willful ignorance: “Despite what readers may have been led to believe, the paper has not actually visited CUFI in some time. In fact, the editorial was written in the past tense, but was published online on July 20, before the major events at our 2010 Washington Summit had even occurred. With a minimum amount of research, or even one substantive phone call to CUFI in the past 12 months, the paper would have easily received answers to the ‘unanswered questions’ its editors claim CUFI needs to address.” Ouch! Read the whole thing for an excellent debunking of critics of pro-Zionist Christians.

Peter Beinart catches the ADL not savaging Israel. And the real problem, don’t you see, is that “[i]ndifference to the rights and dignity of Palestinians is a cancer eating away at the moral pretensions of the American Jewish establishment.” Is this another in the “I bet I write a more ludicrous column than you” sweepstakes with the weaselly set at the New Republic?

The Chicago Sun Times catches another shady bank loan by Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias: “On Feb. 14, 2006, newly obtained records show, [Giannoulias’s] bank made a $22.75 million loan to a company called Riverside District Development LLC, whose owners, it turns out, included [Tony] Rezko. … Not only does its disclosure come during the Senate campaign, but records show the loan was made while Broadway Bank was already having problems with an earlier loan to another Rezko company.”

The House Ethics Committee catches Rep. Maxine Waters doing bad things: “The House Ethics Committee this afternoon announced in a statement that it has formed an ‘adjudicatory subcommittee’ to consider ethics violations charges against Waters. The subcommittee has yet to determine when it will meet. The committee also today released an 80-page report, submitted in August 2009 by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), detailing the allegations against Waters.”

Jonathan Capehart catches the racial-grievance mongers being ridiculous (again). On the allegation that charges of ethics violations against Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters are racially motivated: “As an African American, I know and understand the sensitivity to unfair prosecution and persecution of blacks in the court of law and the court of public opinion. … But there are times when that sensitivity can blind us to very real questions that have nothing to do with race. In the cases of Rangel and Waters, I have to agree with a tweet by NBC News political director Chuck Todd. Their troubles have to do with ‘entrenched entitlement.'”

If CAIR catches wind of this, look out for the lawsuits: “Accused Fort Hood Shooter Nidal Hasan Can’t Find a Bank Willing to Cash His Checks; Hasan’s Lawyer Says His Client Is Being Discriminated Against.”

Bill Kristol catches Obama being a “self-centered elitist (and ageist!)” in trying to strong-arm Charlie Rangel out of office. He advises Rangel: “Defend yourself, make your case, fight for your reputation, and if need be accept a reprimand (or even censure) — but let your constituents render the real verdict, not the D.C. mob. If you do this, you have a good chance of extending your political career … beyond Obama’s. In any case, do not follow Obama’s prescription of political death with dignity. ‘Do not go gentle into that good night.'”

Christians United for Israel catches its critics practicing willful ignorance: “Despite what readers may have been led to believe, the paper has not actually visited CUFI in some time. In fact, the editorial was written in the past tense, but was published online on July 20, before the major events at our 2010 Washington Summit had even occurred. With a minimum amount of research, or even one substantive phone call to CUFI in the past 12 months, the paper would have easily received answers to the ‘unanswered questions’ its editors claim CUFI needs to address.” Ouch! Read the whole thing for an excellent debunking of critics of pro-Zionist Christians.

Peter Beinart catches the ADL not savaging Israel. And the real problem, don’t you see, is that “[i]ndifference to the rights and dignity of Palestinians is a cancer eating away at the moral pretensions of the American Jewish establishment.” Is this another in the “I bet I write a more ludicrous column than you” sweepstakes with the weaselly set at the New Republic?

The Chicago Sun Times catches another shady bank loan by Democratic Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias: “On Feb. 14, 2006, newly obtained records show, [Giannoulias’s] bank made a $22.75 million loan to a company called Riverside District Development LLC, whose owners, it turns out, included [Tony] Rezko. … Not only does its disclosure come during the Senate campaign, but records show the loan was made while Broadway Bank was already having problems with an earlier loan to another Rezko company.”

The House Ethics Committee catches Rep. Maxine Waters doing bad things: “The House Ethics Committee this afternoon announced in a statement that it has formed an ‘adjudicatory subcommittee’ to consider ethics violations charges against Waters. The subcommittee has yet to determine when it will meet. The committee also today released an 80-page report, submitted in August 2009 by the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), detailing the allegations against Waters.”

Jonathan Capehart catches the racial-grievance mongers being ridiculous (again). On the allegation that charges of ethics violations against Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters are racially motivated: “As an African American, I know and understand the sensitivity to unfair prosecution and persecution of blacks in the court of law and the court of public opinion. … But there are times when that sensitivity can blind us to very real questions that have nothing to do with race. In the cases of Rangel and Waters, I have to agree with a tweet by NBC News political director Chuck Todd. Their troubles have to do with ‘entrenched entitlement.'”

If CAIR catches wind of this, look out for the lawsuits: “Accused Fort Hood Shooter Nidal Hasan Can’t Find a Bank Willing to Cash His Checks; Hasan’s Lawyer Says His Client Is Being Discriminated Against.”

Bill Kristol catches Obama being a “self-centered elitist (and ageist!)” in trying to strong-arm Charlie Rangel out of office. He advises Rangel: “Defend yourself, make your case, fight for your reputation, and if need be accept a reprimand (or even censure) — but let your constituents render the real verdict, not the D.C. mob. If you do this, you have a good chance of extending your political career … beyond Obama’s. In any case, do not follow Obama’s prescription of political death with dignity. ‘Do not go gentle into that good night.'”

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Juan Williams vs. the Ground Zero Mosque

On Fox News Sunday, the panelists discussed the Ground Zero mosque. Ceci Connolly supplied the standard liberal line: freedom of religion requires that we allow the mosque to be constructed on the site where the ashes of 3,000 Americans blew through the air like confetti. Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney took the opposite view; Cheney was most concerned about the shadowy funding and the imam’s connection to jihadists (“the same groups that attacked us on 9-11″), while Kristol urged that out of “decency and propriety,” we shouldn’t allow a mosque to “tower over” Ground Zero.

The real surprise in the discussion was Juan Williams, who one expected to take Connolly’s side. Williams, however, didn’t parrot the left’s “tolerance” line. Instead, like Cheney, he criticized the lack of “transparency” in funding. But he did not stop there. He called building the mosque a “thumb in the eye” of those who lost their lives and suffered trauma. He concluded that, contrary to the imam’s claimed intention, the construction is “not promoting dialogue or understanding; in fact it is polarizing.”

Well bravo, Juan! This is the proper and entirely compelling rebuttal to liberals’ fixation with “tolerance.” Liberals assume that we must respect the Muslim group’s sensibilities and refrain from denying them their monument to Islam. (And we certainly can’t question their motives or associations.) But Williams quite rightly doesn’t take the imam’s argument at face value. What about the mosque builders’ tolerance and respect for others? Quite obviously, it is entirely absent.

And there’s the rub. In the left’s vision, “tolerance” and indulgence of aberrant conduct is our burden and obligation, and ours alone. That not only leads to cultural surrender; it also infantilizes Muslims. They can’t be expected  to exercise restraint or respect or even decency, it seems.

The mosque controversy is fascinating not because of what it reveals about radical Muslims. We — or at least those not practicing willful ignorance — have long since figured out what they are up to. No, what’s intriguing, and to a degree horrifying, is what it tells us about the left’s cockeyed view of “tolerance” and its inability to engage and refute the arguments of those who wish to destroy our society and murder our fellow citizens.

On Fox News Sunday, the panelists discussed the Ground Zero mosque. Ceci Connolly supplied the standard liberal line: freedom of religion requires that we allow the mosque to be constructed on the site where the ashes of 3,000 Americans blew through the air like confetti. Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney took the opposite view; Cheney was most concerned about the shadowy funding and the imam’s connection to jihadists (“the same groups that attacked us on 9-11″), while Kristol urged that out of “decency and propriety,” we shouldn’t allow a mosque to “tower over” Ground Zero.

The real surprise in the discussion was Juan Williams, who one expected to take Connolly’s side. Williams, however, didn’t parrot the left’s “tolerance” line. Instead, like Cheney, he criticized the lack of “transparency” in funding. But he did not stop there. He called building the mosque a “thumb in the eye” of those who lost their lives and suffered trauma. He concluded that, contrary to the imam’s claimed intention, the construction is “not promoting dialogue or understanding; in fact it is polarizing.”

Well bravo, Juan! This is the proper and entirely compelling rebuttal to liberals’ fixation with “tolerance.” Liberals assume that we must respect the Muslim group’s sensibilities and refrain from denying them their monument to Islam. (And we certainly can’t question their motives or associations.) But Williams quite rightly doesn’t take the imam’s argument at face value. What about the mosque builders’ tolerance and respect for others? Quite obviously, it is entirely absent.

And there’s the rub. In the left’s vision, “tolerance” and indulgence of aberrant conduct is our burden and obligation, and ours alone. That not only leads to cultural surrender; it also infantilizes Muslims. They can’t be expected  to exercise restraint or respect or even decency, it seems.

The mosque controversy is fascinating not because of what it reveals about radical Muslims. We — or at least those not practicing willful ignorance — have long since figured out what they are up to. No, what’s intriguing, and to a degree horrifying, is what it tells us about the left’s cockeyed view of “tolerance” and its inability to engage and refute the arguments of those who wish to destroy our society and murder our fellow citizens.

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How About a Hirohito Monument at Pearl Harbor?

The controversy over the mosque — all fifteen stories of it– planned for Ground Zero is one of those issues that divide ordinary Americans from elites. It is a debate that convinces average Americans that the governing and media elites are not cut from the same cloth as they. In fact, it strikes many as evidence that our “leaders” are stricken with a sort of political and cultural insanity, an obtuseness that defies explanation.

The ADL tried to explain it in personal terms to the dim set:

We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there, the pain we all still feel — and especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001. …

[U]ltimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain — unnecessarily — and that is not right.

But there is, of course, a larger cultural issue in play here. What passes for the liberal intelligentsia is convinced that we have no right to protect the sensibilities of our citizens (whom the left scorns as brutes and xenophobes), nor to be wary of unidentified funding from groups wishing to send some sort of a message atop the ashes of 3,000 dead Americans. (The ADL politely explained that “we are mindful that some legitimate questions have been raised about who is providing the funding to build it, and what connections, if any, its leaders might have with groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values.”) The supposedly sophisticated left prefers to ignore the message that the mosque-builders are sending to their co-religionists.

Imagine if the United Daughters of the Confederacy wanted to build a 15-foot shrine to Jefferson Davis on the Gettysburg battlefield. The backlash would be fast and furious, the arguments about “free speech” and “reconciliation” would be given the back of the hand. The shrine-builders would rightly be seen as trying to conquer the landscape and the history books — a vile sort of one-upmanship, which does a grave injustice to those slaughtered on that spot.

Well, you say, that is just the loony left, which does not grasp the issue. But wait, it’s most of the chattering class and a great many of our elected leaders, who are clueless. They can’t seem to muster up the indignation to prevent the insult to the dead or to acknowledge that the mega mosque will be interpreted by much of the Muslim World as a symbol of cultural aggression and defiance — and a sign of the West’s submission.

Come to think of it, where is the president on this? He’s been mute, too busy excoriating Fox News over the Shirley Sherrod incident and blaming Republicans for scuttling his statist agenda. In “a spirit of bipartisanship and patriotism,” Bill Kristol offers Obama a helping hand and some smart advice:

Americans by a margin of nearly 3-to-1 think the 15-story mosque and community center, planned by a shadowily financed Wahhabi imam to dominate Ground Zero, is offensive. You don’t have to (yet) move to do anything legally to stop it. Just say that in your opinion it’s a bad idea, that it’s unnecessarily divisive and likely to pit American against American, faith against faith, neighbor against neighbor. Urge the sponsors, financiers, and developers of the mosque to rethink their plans, and the various entities of the City of New York their approval.

But what are the chances that the president who excised “Islamic fundamentalism” from the administration’s vocabulary would do that? Because he won’t, he again demonstrates the vast gulf between his own mindset and the values that his fellow citizens hold dear. He reminds us once more that he has absolutely no interest in rallying the country and the Free World in the civilizational war in which we find ourselves. To the contrary, he denies that such a war even exists.

It’s not enough simply to order up more troops or swap generals in the war against Islamic fundamentalism. A commander in chief in our times must champion American civilization and challenge those who seek to undermine and defile it, whether by violence or by symbolic architecture. Too bad we don’t have an Oval Office occupant willing to do his job — all of it.

The controversy over the mosque — all fifteen stories of it– planned for Ground Zero is one of those issues that divide ordinary Americans from elites. It is a debate that convinces average Americans that the governing and media elites are not cut from the same cloth as they. In fact, it strikes many as evidence that our “leaders” are stricken with a sort of political and cultural insanity, an obtuseness that defies explanation.

The ADL tried to explain it in personal terms to the dim set:

We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there, the pain we all still feel — and especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001. …

[U]ltimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain — unnecessarily — and that is not right.

But there is, of course, a larger cultural issue in play here. What passes for the liberal intelligentsia is convinced that we have no right to protect the sensibilities of our citizens (whom the left scorns as brutes and xenophobes), nor to be wary of unidentified funding from groups wishing to send some sort of a message atop the ashes of 3,000 dead Americans. (The ADL politely explained that “we are mindful that some legitimate questions have been raised about who is providing the funding to build it, and what connections, if any, its leaders might have with groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values.”) The supposedly sophisticated left prefers to ignore the message that the mosque-builders are sending to their co-religionists.

Imagine if the United Daughters of the Confederacy wanted to build a 15-foot shrine to Jefferson Davis on the Gettysburg battlefield. The backlash would be fast and furious, the arguments about “free speech” and “reconciliation” would be given the back of the hand. The shrine-builders would rightly be seen as trying to conquer the landscape and the history books — a vile sort of one-upmanship, which does a grave injustice to those slaughtered on that spot.

Well, you say, that is just the loony left, which does not grasp the issue. But wait, it’s most of the chattering class and a great many of our elected leaders, who are clueless. They can’t seem to muster up the indignation to prevent the insult to the dead or to acknowledge that the mega mosque will be interpreted by much of the Muslim World as a symbol of cultural aggression and defiance — and a sign of the West’s submission.

Come to think of it, where is the president on this? He’s been mute, too busy excoriating Fox News over the Shirley Sherrod incident and blaming Republicans for scuttling his statist agenda. In “a spirit of bipartisanship and patriotism,” Bill Kristol offers Obama a helping hand and some smart advice:

Americans by a margin of nearly 3-to-1 think the 15-story mosque and community center, planned by a shadowily financed Wahhabi imam to dominate Ground Zero, is offensive. You don’t have to (yet) move to do anything legally to stop it. Just say that in your opinion it’s a bad idea, that it’s unnecessarily divisive and likely to pit American against American, faith against faith, neighbor against neighbor. Urge the sponsors, financiers, and developers of the mosque to rethink their plans, and the various entities of the City of New York their approval.

But what are the chances that the president who excised “Islamic fundamentalism” from the administration’s vocabulary would do that? Because he won’t, he again demonstrates the vast gulf between his own mindset and the values that his fellow citizens hold dear. He reminds us once more that he has absolutely no interest in rallying the country and the Free World in the civilizational war in which we find ourselves. To the contrary, he denies that such a war even exists.

It’s not enough simply to order up more troops or swap generals in the war against Islamic fundamentalism. A commander in chief in our times must champion American civilization and challenge those who seek to undermine and defile it, whether by violence or by symbolic architecture. Too bad we don’t have an Oval Office occupant willing to do his job — all of it.

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Flotsam and Jestsam

Not like it’s out of the blue: “The number of U.S. Voters who view the issue of Taxes as Very Important has jumped 10 points from May to its highest level ever in Rasmussen Reports tracking. Still, Taxes rank fourth on a list of 10 issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports.” Nothing like Democrats’ plan for a mammoth tax hike to raise the tax issue.

The administration is running out of spinners. Not even the New York Times will excuse this: “A prisoner who begs to stay indefinitely at the Guantánamo Bay detention center rather than be sent back to Algeria probably has a strong reason to fear the welcoming reception at home. Abdul Aziz Naji, who has been held at Guantánamo since 2002, told the Obama administration that he would be tortured if he was transferred to Algeria, by either the Algerian government or fundamentalist groups there. Though he offered to remain at the prison, the administration shipped him home last weekend and washed its hands of the man. Almost immediately upon arrival, he disappeared, and his family fears the worst. It is an act of cruelty that seems to defy explanation.”

One hundred days out, things are looking pretty gloomy for the Democrats: “Republicans have been touting their chances of retaking the House and, despite their almost 2-to-1 financial disadvantage, many observers – including White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs – believe it’s a possibility.”

The Obami would be wise to get the whole story out: “Correspondence obtained by The Sunday Times reveals the Obama administration considered compassionate release more palatable than locking up Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in a Libyan prison. … The document, acquired by a well-placed US source, threatens to undermine US President Barack Obama’s claim last week that all Americans were ‘surprised, disappointed and angry’ to learn of Megrahi’s release.”

You sense the Democrats are going to get blown out of the water in November if Obama is still trying to win over the MoveOn.org crowd.

Jake Tapper goes out in style with a grilling of Timothy Geithner on letting the Bush tax cuts expire. (“Don’t you think it will slow economic growth?”) The show is about to become unwatchable with Christiane Amanpour as host.

On Fox News Sunday, Mara Liasson and Bill Kristol agree that there’s no comparison between the administration and the media on Shirley Sherrod. The media showed itself to be irresponsible; the administration, out of its depth. Kristol: “I mean, the media — I was in the Reagan administration 25 years ago. The media reported things falsely. It’s not — this is not — this is nothing new. You’re — if you are the — a cabinet secretary, you have an obligation to the people working for you to make sure that the charges being leveled against them are true. And you can wait a day and, God, it would be horrible if Glenn Beck attacked the Obama administration for one show. That never happens, you know. I mean, the idea that you panic and fire someone based on one report that hadn’t been on television yet — right?”

A former Justice Department official says Democrats strain the outer limits of voters’ credulity if they claim ignorance of the New Black Panther scandal.

Not like it’s out of the blue: “The number of U.S. Voters who view the issue of Taxes as Very Important has jumped 10 points from May to its highest level ever in Rasmussen Reports tracking. Still, Taxes rank fourth on a list of 10 issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports.” Nothing like Democrats’ plan for a mammoth tax hike to raise the tax issue.

The administration is running out of spinners. Not even the New York Times will excuse this: “A prisoner who begs to stay indefinitely at the Guantánamo Bay detention center rather than be sent back to Algeria probably has a strong reason to fear the welcoming reception at home. Abdul Aziz Naji, who has been held at Guantánamo since 2002, told the Obama administration that he would be tortured if he was transferred to Algeria, by either the Algerian government or fundamentalist groups there. Though he offered to remain at the prison, the administration shipped him home last weekend and washed its hands of the man. Almost immediately upon arrival, he disappeared, and his family fears the worst. It is an act of cruelty that seems to defy explanation.”

One hundred days out, things are looking pretty gloomy for the Democrats: “Republicans have been touting their chances of retaking the House and, despite their almost 2-to-1 financial disadvantage, many observers – including White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs – believe it’s a possibility.”

The Obami would be wise to get the whole story out: “Correspondence obtained by The Sunday Times reveals the Obama administration considered compassionate release more palatable than locking up Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in a Libyan prison. … The document, acquired by a well-placed US source, threatens to undermine US President Barack Obama’s claim last week that all Americans were ‘surprised, disappointed and angry’ to learn of Megrahi’s release.”

You sense the Democrats are going to get blown out of the water in November if Obama is still trying to win over the MoveOn.org crowd.

Jake Tapper goes out in style with a grilling of Timothy Geithner on letting the Bush tax cuts expire. (“Don’t you think it will slow economic growth?”) The show is about to become unwatchable with Christiane Amanpour as host.

On Fox News Sunday, Mara Liasson and Bill Kristol agree that there’s no comparison between the administration and the media on Shirley Sherrod. The media showed itself to be irresponsible; the administration, out of its depth. Kristol: “I mean, the media — I was in the Reagan administration 25 years ago. The media reported things falsely. It’s not — this is not — this is nothing new. You’re — if you are the — a cabinet secretary, you have an obligation to the people working for you to make sure that the charges being leveled against them are true. And you can wait a day and, God, it would be horrible if Glenn Beck attacked the Obama administration for one show. That never happens, you know. I mean, the idea that you panic and fire someone based on one report that hadn’t been on television yet — right?”

A former Justice Department official says Democrats strain the outer limits of voters’ credulity if they claim ignorance of the New Black Panther scandal.

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Obama’s “Winning” Agenda Is a Loser

On the Fox News Sunday roundtable, the panelists observed that the financial-reform bill, indeed all the enormous pieces of legislation that Obama has gotten through Congress, aren’t helping him any:

BRIT HUME: Because his big agenda has not seemed to the public to be focused on the things the public is concerned about. The economy was job one. They did something on the economy that the public did not like and did not believe in, and does not believe in to this day, which is the stimulus program. And since then, the president has been on to other things, other things that were nowhere high on the public’s priority list. I speak, of course, of the — of the health care reform bill, financial reform.

Regulatory reform may be something the public thought ought to be done, but it doesn’t come anywhere near the priority that people have on the creation of jobs and the — and the awakening of the economy so that — so that it will boom enough to really generate some jobs. …

NINA EASTON: … it’s fascinating, because this bill, which, as you said, was going to be the cracking down on fat cats of Wall Street, has got small community banks concerned, farmers concerned who deal in derivatives for their business. It’s got — something like 533 rulemaking proceedings are going to be going in, which creates lots of uncertainty and lots of fear.

And it’s interesting that this week the president in an interview said, “Look, I’m” — when he was talking about his poll numbers, “Look, I’m facing 9.5 percent unemployment.” He’s got an unpopular economy the same way President Bush in 2006 had an unpopular war. We grant him that.

And now, fascinating to us, that you’ve got this Wall Street reform that doesn’t really — it’s really — it doesn’t look like it’s going after Wall Street. And so I’m not sure that’s going to help them in November.

Indeed, it’s not merely that the financial reform bill, the stimulus, and ObamaCare haven’t helped the president; they’ve actually hurt him, both in the short and the long term.

An array of polling evidences a revulsion against big government and the enormous debt that has accompanied Obama’s spending spree. The public thinks he and his party are too liberal, and, as Bill Kristol pointed out, Republican Party identification is consequently rising. All this suggests that what’s at work is more than simply a bad economy or misplaced priorities. Obama has managed to reinforce the Democrats’ liberal tax-and-spend identity, which Bill Clinton worked mightily to shed.

But the real problem for Obama is the long-term, or longer-term, damage he has done to the economy and in turn to his party. The massive tax hikes (with more to follow if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire), the raft of new regulations and mandates, the mound of new debt, and the anti-business rhetoric (which the Obama administration now bizarrely claims isn’t anti-business at all) have freaked investors and employers. The economy now seems headed for that feared double-dip recession, which can fairly be attributed to Obama’s insistence on putting a ball and chain around the ankles of businessmen, entrepreneurs, and consumers.

All in all, it’s been a rather amazing display of economic and political folly.

On the Fox News Sunday roundtable, the panelists observed that the financial-reform bill, indeed all the enormous pieces of legislation that Obama has gotten through Congress, aren’t helping him any:

BRIT HUME: Because his big agenda has not seemed to the public to be focused on the things the public is concerned about. The economy was job one. They did something on the economy that the public did not like and did not believe in, and does not believe in to this day, which is the stimulus program. And since then, the president has been on to other things, other things that were nowhere high on the public’s priority list. I speak, of course, of the — of the health care reform bill, financial reform.

Regulatory reform may be something the public thought ought to be done, but it doesn’t come anywhere near the priority that people have on the creation of jobs and the — and the awakening of the economy so that — so that it will boom enough to really generate some jobs. …

NINA EASTON: … it’s fascinating, because this bill, which, as you said, was going to be the cracking down on fat cats of Wall Street, has got small community banks concerned, farmers concerned who deal in derivatives for their business. It’s got — something like 533 rulemaking proceedings are going to be going in, which creates lots of uncertainty and lots of fear.

And it’s interesting that this week the president in an interview said, “Look, I’m” — when he was talking about his poll numbers, “Look, I’m facing 9.5 percent unemployment.” He’s got an unpopular economy the same way President Bush in 2006 had an unpopular war. We grant him that.

And now, fascinating to us, that you’ve got this Wall Street reform that doesn’t really — it’s really — it doesn’t look like it’s going after Wall Street. And so I’m not sure that’s going to help them in November.

Indeed, it’s not merely that the financial reform bill, the stimulus, and ObamaCare haven’t helped the president; they’ve actually hurt him, both in the short and the long term.

An array of polling evidences a revulsion against big government and the enormous debt that has accompanied Obama’s spending spree. The public thinks he and his party are too liberal, and, as Bill Kristol pointed out, Republican Party identification is consequently rising. All this suggests that what’s at work is more than simply a bad economy or misplaced priorities. Obama has managed to reinforce the Democrats’ liberal tax-and-spend identity, which Bill Clinton worked mightily to shed.

But the real problem for Obama is the long-term, or longer-term, damage he has done to the economy and in turn to his party. The massive tax hikes (with more to follow if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire), the raft of new regulations and mandates, the mound of new debt, and the anti-business rhetoric (which the Obama administration now bizarrely claims isn’t anti-business at all) have freaked investors and employers. The economy now seems headed for that feared double-dip recession, which can fairly be attributed to Obama’s insistence on putting a ball and chain around the ankles of businessmen, entrepreneurs, and consumers.

All in all, it’s been a rather amazing display of economic and political folly.

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The Breaking Point for Steele

As we headed into the Fourth of July weekend, Michael Steele was back in the news with outrageous comments at an RNC gathering, asserting: “Keep in mind again, federal candidates, this was a war of Obama’s choosing. This was not something that the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.” He added that Obama has “not understood that, you know, that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan.” A firestorm erupted. Bill Kristol published a letter calling for him to resign, which read in part:

Needless to say, the war in Afghanistan was not “a war of Obama’s choosing.” It has been prosecuted by the United States under Presidents Bush and Obama. Republicans have consistently supported the effort. Indeed, as the DNC Communications Director (of all people) has said, your statement “puts [you] at odds with about 100 percent of the Republican Party.”

And not on a trivial matter. At a time when Gen. Petraeus has just taken over command, when Republicans in Congress are pushing for a clean war funding resolution, when Republicans around the country are doing their best to rally their fellow citizens behind the mission, your comment is more than an embarrassment. It’s an affront, both to the honor of the Republican party and to the commitment of the soldiers fighting to accomplish the mission they’ve been asked to take on by our elected leaders.

There are, of course, those who think we should pull out of Afghanistan, and they’re certainly entitled to make their case. But one of them shouldn’t be the chairman of the Republican party.

Liz Cheney echoed the call for Steele to step down.

Over the weekend, prominent conservatives followed suit. On This Week:

“It’s one thing for him personally to have that point of view, but for the chairman of the party…to advance that point of view, is indefensible,” Dan Senor, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the former spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, said. “What’s striking about Steele is how fundamentally unserious” he is.

For reasons that escape me, elected officials refrained from demanding Steele’s resignation. Also on This Week, John McCain condemned the remarks but didn’t ask for Steele to leave:

“I think those statements are wildly inaccurate, and there’s no excuse for them. Chairman Steele sent me an e-mail saying that he was — his remarks were misconstrued,” McCain said. “Look, I’m a Ronald Reagan Republican. I believe we have to win here. I believe in freedom. But the fact is that I think that Mr. Steele is going to have to assess as to whether he can still lead the Republican Party as chairman of the Republican National Committee and make an appropriate decision.”

On Face the Nation, Lindsey Graham also stopped short of a call for him to resign, but only barely: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the statements about the Afghanistan war made by Republican National Committee Chairman ‘uninformed,’ ‘unnecessary’ and ‘unwise.'”

As politicians return to the campaign trail and Congress reconvenes, I suspect there will be greater pressure applied to Steele. His previous gaffes and mismanagement of the RNC have left him with few supporters, and the latest remarks are indefensible and his backtracking entirely insufficient. There is no reason why Republicans would rally to his side, and I predict few will. (No, Rep. Ron Paul’s cheers don’t really count and if anything are a sign that Steele is in deep trouble with a party that rejects Paul’s radical isolationism.) In a sense, this may be a blessing for the RNC, which was struggling to decide whether to dump a chairman who is possibly the worst since Watergate. Now a clean break for reasons all can agree on can be made.

As we headed into the Fourth of July weekend, Michael Steele was back in the news with outrageous comments at an RNC gathering, asserting: “Keep in mind again, federal candidates, this was a war of Obama’s choosing. This was not something that the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.” He added that Obama has “not understood that, you know, that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan.” A firestorm erupted. Bill Kristol published a letter calling for him to resign, which read in part:

Needless to say, the war in Afghanistan was not “a war of Obama’s choosing.” It has been prosecuted by the United States under Presidents Bush and Obama. Republicans have consistently supported the effort. Indeed, as the DNC Communications Director (of all people) has said, your statement “puts [you] at odds with about 100 percent of the Republican Party.”

And not on a trivial matter. At a time when Gen. Petraeus has just taken over command, when Republicans in Congress are pushing for a clean war funding resolution, when Republicans around the country are doing their best to rally their fellow citizens behind the mission, your comment is more than an embarrassment. It’s an affront, both to the honor of the Republican party and to the commitment of the soldiers fighting to accomplish the mission they’ve been asked to take on by our elected leaders.

There are, of course, those who think we should pull out of Afghanistan, and they’re certainly entitled to make their case. But one of them shouldn’t be the chairman of the Republican party.

Liz Cheney echoed the call for Steele to step down.

Over the weekend, prominent conservatives followed suit. On This Week:

“It’s one thing for him personally to have that point of view, but for the chairman of the party…to advance that point of view, is indefensible,” Dan Senor, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the former spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, said. “What’s striking about Steele is how fundamentally unserious” he is.

For reasons that escape me, elected officials refrained from demanding Steele’s resignation. Also on This Week, John McCain condemned the remarks but didn’t ask for Steele to leave:

“I think those statements are wildly inaccurate, and there’s no excuse for them. Chairman Steele sent me an e-mail saying that he was — his remarks were misconstrued,” McCain said. “Look, I’m a Ronald Reagan Republican. I believe we have to win here. I believe in freedom. But the fact is that I think that Mr. Steele is going to have to assess as to whether he can still lead the Republican Party as chairman of the Republican National Committee and make an appropriate decision.”

On Face the Nation, Lindsey Graham also stopped short of a call for him to resign, but only barely: “Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the statements about the Afghanistan war made by Republican National Committee Chairman ‘uninformed,’ ‘unnecessary’ and ‘unwise.'”

As politicians return to the campaign trail and Congress reconvenes, I suspect there will be greater pressure applied to Steele. His previous gaffes and mismanagement of the RNC have left him with few supporters, and the latest remarks are indefensible and his backtracking entirely insufficient. There is no reason why Republicans would rally to his side, and I predict few will. (No, Rep. Ron Paul’s cheers don’t really count and if anything are a sign that Steele is in deep trouble with a party that rejects Paul’s radical isolationism.) In a sense, this may be a blessing for the RNC, which was struggling to decide whether to dump a chairman who is possibly the worst since Watergate. Now a clean break for reasons all can agree on can be made.

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Time for Obama to Lead

On Fox News Sunday, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Diane Feinstein provided some sage advice and bipartisan leadership on the war in Afghanistan. Graham explained:

The ambassador’s a fine man, has a poor working relationship with President Karzai. That’s true of Ambassador Holbrooke. Can they function together with General Petraeus? That’s one thing I’d like to know. But the main problem I have going forward is that we’ve got to clarify this withdrawal date of July 2011. If it is a goal where we’ll all try to start transferring power over to the Afghans, I’m OK with that. If it’s a date where people are going to begin to leave no matter what, a predetermined withdrawal date, that, in my view, will doom this operation.

Feinstein was even more direct:

If the team isn’t right, I think Petraeus’ views should be taken into consideration and observed by the administration. This is kind of, if you will, not a last ditch stand, but it is a major change in the middle of the surge, and I think you put the general in, he should make the call. If he can’t work with the ambassador, the ambassador should be changed. If he can’t work with Holbrooke, that should change. I mean, I think we put all of our eggs in the Petraeus basket at this stage.

(I don’t always agree with her, but this reminds me that Feinstein, as she demonstrated on her report on the administration’s failings regarding the Christmas Day bomber, is one of the grown-ups on the Democratic side of the aisle.)

During the Fox Roundtable, both Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol noted that it is now up to Obama to exercise the same leadership as these two senators. If Obama can’t come up with a civilian team that is competent and cooperative, Gen. Petraeus will not succeed. Cheney argued that Obama should “completely and explicitly repudiate the July 2011 deadline,” while Kristol noted that “it would be better if the president ultimately repudiates that July 2011 date” but that Obama, as he has begun to do, can certainly distance himself from what has been another self-imposed obstacle to victory.

Over on Meet the Press, Sen. John McCain went after Obama’s rationale for the timeline: “In wars, you declare when you’re leaving after you’ve succeeded. And, by the way, no military adviser recommended to the president that he set a date of the middle of 2011. So it was purely a political decision, not one based on facts on the ground, not based on military strategy or anything. … They need to have a clear signal that we are staying.”

Unfortunately Obama turned petulant again yesterday, whining about the “obsession” with the timeline. Sigh. Yes, foes and allies do pay attention to his words, and it matters whether or not he gives a definitive commitment to stay until victory is achieved.

Despite relatively small differences in tone and language, there is remarkable agreement among the three senators who took to the airwaves on Sunday, as well as among other responsible figures, that if Obama fails to do what is needed (walk away from the timeline and replace the civilian leaders), the U.S. will suffer a devastating defeat. For Obama, it will be a blot on his legacy. No president will be fondly remembered if the first item in the history books is “He lost the war.”

On Fox News Sunday, Sens. Lindsey Graham and Diane Feinstein provided some sage advice and bipartisan leadership on the war in Afghanistan. Graham explained:

The ambassador’s a fine man, has a poor working relationship with President Karzai. That’s true of Ambassador Holbrooke. Can they function together with General Petraeus? That’s one thing I’d like to know. But the main problem I have going forward is that we’ve got to clarify this withdrawal date of July 2011. If it is a goal where we’ll all try to start transferring power over to the Afghans, I’m OK with that. If it’s a date where people are going to begin to leave no matter what, a predetermined withdrawal date, that, in my view, will doom this operation.

Feinstein was even more direct:

If the team isn’t right, I think Petraeus’ views should be taken into consideration and observed by the administration. This is kind of, if you will, not a last ditch stand, but it is a major change in the middle of the surge, and I think you put the general in, he should make the call. If he can’t work with the ambassador, the ambassador should be changed. If he can’t work with Holbrooke, that should change. I mean, I think we put all of our eggs in the Petraeus basket at this stage.

(I don’t always agree with her, but this reminds me that Feinstein, as she demonstrated on her report on the administration’s failings regarding the Christmas Day bomber, is one of the grown-ups on the Democratic side of the aisle.)

During the Fox Roundtable, both Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol noted that it is now up to Obama to exercise the same leadership as these two senators. If Obama can’t come up with a civilian team that is competent and cooperative, Gen. Petraeus will not succeed. Cheney argued that Obama should “completely and explicitly repudiate the July 2011 deadline,” while Kristol noted that “it would be better if the president ultimately repudiates that July 2011 date” but that Obama, as he has begun to do, can certainly distance himself from what has been another self-imposed obstacle to victory.

Over on Meet the Press, Sen. John McCain went after Obama’s rationale for the timeline: “In wars, you declare when you’re leaving after you’ve succeeded. And, by the way, no military adviser recommended to the president that he set a date of the middle of 2011. So it was purely a political decision, not one based on facts on the ground, not based on military strategy or anything. … They need to have a clear signal that we are staying.”

Unfortunately Obama turned petulant again yesterday, whining about the “obsession” with the timeline. Sigh. Yes, foes and allies do pay attention to his words, and it matters whether or not he gives a definitive commitment to stay until victory is achieved.

Despite relatively small differences in tone and language, there is remarkable agreement among the three senators who took to the airwaves on Sunday, as well as among other responsible figures, that if Obama fails to do what is needed (walk away from the timeline and replace the civilian leaders), the U.S. will suffer a devastating defeat. For Obama, it will be a blot on his legacy. No president will be fondly remembered if the first item in the history books is “He lost the war.”

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McChrystal Out, Petraeus In

Bill Kristol called it. General Petraeus is heading out to rescue yet another counterinsurgency effort in trouble. Give credit to President Obama for acting decisively by relieving General McChrystal and immediately picking the best possible replacement, not letting a dangerous vacuum develop.

If there is one general who can step quickly  into the top job in Afghanistan, it is Petraeus, who has been closely involved in formulating the campaign plan along with McChrystal. And if there is one general who knows how to handle the media and the political process (skills that McChrystal obviously lacked), it is Petraeus. That doesn’t mean that he is a “political general” — that dreaded epithet applied by combat soldiers to those who get ahead by playing office politics rather than by proving their worth on the battlefield. Petraeus has proven himself at every level of command, on the battlefield and off. His courage cannot be doubted. Neither can his skill. Already in Iraq, he has pulled off the greatest turnaround in American military history since Matthew Ridgway took over the 8th Army in 1950 during the dark days of the Korean War. Now he has to do it again in Afghanistan. Don’t bet against him.

As for General McChrystal, it is a tragedy that his sterling career has come to such an inglorious end. McChrystal is widely admired, especially in the Special Operations community, and for good reason. He turned the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq into a well-honed killing machine. He also did much to improve the situation in Afghanistan, injecting fresh energy into the war effort and designing a campaign plan that can succeed. He deserves enormous credit, too, for declaring in his first major report to the president last summer that the war effort would fail without a fresh injection of troops. That prompted Obama to send more troops, which now gives the NATO command a shot at success. Unfortunately the Rolling Stone incident showed that he was not quite ready to operate at the highest strategic level, where discretion and judgment are prized, and where Special-Forces swagger can be a liability.

But President Obama should not fool himself into thinking that, by replacing McChrystal with Petraeus, he has magically solved all of the problems with the war effort. There is still that little matter of the looming deadline — July 2011 — for troop withdrawals. Vice President Biden is pulling for a rapid pullout, and Defense Secretary Gates is taking a go-slow approach. McChrystal has been firmly aligned with Gates, while the U.S. Ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, has publicly backed the “light footprint” approach advocated by Biden. That tension will not disappear because of the change of command; Petraeus is a firm believer in the need for a prolonged counterinsurgency campaign, just as McChrystal was. So far, President Obama has been mum on what the deadline means and how many troops will actually come out. He should back his new commander with a firm pledge to make any withdrawal strictly contingent on conditions being met, and he should leave open the possibility of sending more troops if necessary.

Obama also needs to rethink the entire team in Kabul — not just the military component. In Iraq, Petraeus succeeded in part because he found such a capable and cooperative “wing man” — Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Perhaps Eikenberry will work better with Petraeus than he did with McChrystal; certainly Petraues is more diplomatic and better at tending to those kinds of relationships. But I hope that the president would give serious consideration to the other part of Bill Kristol’s suggestion to appoint Ryan Crocker as ambassador in Kabul. And if Crocker wouldn’t do it, because of his health and other reasons, no doubt there is another capable diplomat who could do the job. Whoever the top diplomatic representative is, he needs to cultivate a good relationship with Hamid Karzai — something that Eikenberry has notoriously lacked and that McChrystal, to his credit, did not.

The president has made a good start by putting our very best general into Kabul. But Petraeus will have a tough task ahead of him — and he will need complete support from the president to succeed. In particular, Obama needs to make sure that other members of his administration don’t undercut Petraeus as they once undercut McChrystal. More than that, Obama needs to show the same kind of will to win that President Bush displayed in Iraq when he ordered the surge. Instead, we have mostly had cool ambivalence from the Oval Office, and that has led to the tensions that boiled over in the Rolling Stone article with McChrystal’s aides expressing derogatory views of Biden and other administration higher-ups. It would be nice if Obama were to give speeches on Afghanistan more than once every six months. He can’t just hand off the war to David Petraeus and check that box; a successful war effort needs consistent presidential leadership in public as well as behind closed doors.

Bill Kristol called it. General Petraeus is heading out to rescue yet another counterinsurgency effort in trouble. Give credit to President Obama for acting decisively by relieving General McChrystal and immediately picking the best possible replacement, not letting a dangerous vacuum develop.

If there is one general who can step quickly  into the top job in Afghanistan, it is Petraeus, who has been closely involved in formulating the campaign plan along with McChrystal. And if there is one general who knows how to handle the media and the political process (skills that McChrystal obviously lacked), it is Petraeus. That doesn’t mean that he is a “political general” — that dreaded epithet applied by combat soldiers to those who get ahead by playing office politics rather than by proving their worth on the battlefield. Petraeus has proven himself at every level of command, on the battlefield and off. His courage cannot be doubted. Neither can his skill. Already in Iraq, he has pulled off the greatest turnaround in American military history since Matthew Ridgway took over the 8th Army in 1950 during the dark days of the Korean War. Now he has to do it again in Afghanistan. Don’t bet against him.

As for General McChrystal, it is a tragedy that his sterling career has come to such an inglorious end. McChrystal is widely admired, especially in the Special Operations community, and for good reason. He turned the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq into a well-honed killing machine. He also did much to improve the situation in Afghanistan, injecting fresh energy into the war effort and designing a campaign plan that can succeed. He deserves enormous credit, too, for declaring in his first major report to the president last summer that the war effort would fail without a fresh injection of troops. That prompted Obama to send more troops, which now gives the NATO command a shot at success. Unfortunately the Rolling Stone incident showed that he was not quite ready to operate at the highest strategic level, where discretion and judgment are prized, and where Special-Forces swagger can be a liability.

But President Obama should not fool himself into thinking that, by replacing McChrystal with Petraeus, he has magically solved all of the problems with the war effort. There is still that little matter of the looming deadline — July 2011 — for troop withdrawals. Vice President Biden is pulling for a rapid pullout, and Defense Secretary Gates is taking a go-slow approach. McChrystal has been firmly aligned with Gates, while the U.S. Ambassador in Kabul, Karl Eikenberry, has publicly backed the “light footprint” approach advocated by Biden. That tension will not disappear because of the change of command; Petraeus is a firm believer in the need for a prolonged counterinsurgency campaign, just as McChrystal was. So far, President Obama has been mum on what the deadline means and how many troops will actually come out. He should back his new commander with a firm pledge to make any withdrawal strictly contingent on conditions being met, and he should leave open the possibility of sending more troops if necessary.

Obama also needs to rethink the entire team in Kabul — not just the military component. In Iraq, Petraeus succeeded in part because he found such a capable and cooperative “wing man” — Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Perhaps Eikenberry will work better with Petraeus than he did with McChrystal; certainly Petraues is more diplomatic and better at tending to those kinds of relationships. But I hope that the president would give serious consideration to the other part of Bill Kristol’s suggestion to appoint Ryan Crocker as ambassador in Kabul. And if Crocker wouldn’t do it, because of his health and other reasons, no doubt there is another capable diplomat who could do the job. Whoever the top diplomatic representative is, he needs to cultivate a good relationship with Hamid Karzai — something that Eikenberry has notoriously lacked and that McChrystal, to his credit, did not.

The president has made a good start by putting our very best general into Kabul. But Petraeus will have a tough task ahead of him — and he will need complete support from the president to succeed. In particular, Obama needs to make sure that other members of his administration don’t undercut Petraeus as they once undercut McChrystal. More than that, Obama needs to show the same kind of will to win that President Bush displayed in Iraq when he ordered the surge. Instead, we have mostly had cool ambivalence from the Oval Office, and that has led to the tensions that boiled over in the Rolling Stone article with McChrystal’s aides expressing derogatory views of Biden and other administration higher-ups. It would be nice if Obama were to give speeches on Afghanistan more than once every six months. He can’t just hand off the war to David Petraeus and check that box; a successful war effort needs consistent presidential leadership in public as well as behind closed doors.

Read Less




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