Commentary Magazine


Topic: Chris Wallace

What to Do About the Failed Bush-Obama Approach to NoKo

If you sense that the international threats are multiplying — from Syria, from Iran, from North Korea — you are right. That suggests that the Obama team’s assertion — that our problems in the world are traceable to insufficiently smart diplomacy by the Bush team — is wrong. The Fox News Sunday roundtable had an enlightening discussion on the North Korean problem:

LIZ CHENEY: … I think that we’ve seen time and time again, North Korea, if they test a nuclear weapon, there are no consequences. If they build a reactor for the Syrians, there are no consequences. And what they’ve learned is that their belligerence, in fact, oftentimes yields from us capitulation and concessions.

I think that it’s time for us to put them back on the terrorist list, and I think it’s time for to us be very direct with China and say, you know, if you really do want to be the world power that you aspire to be, you’ve got to step up to the plate here. You can’t just benefit from the open economic system in the United States, from the open economies around the world. If you really do view yourself as a world power, and you want the rest of the world to you view you that way –

CHRIS WALLACE: But don’t you think we’re saying that?

CHENEY: I don’t know. I don’t think that we are, actually. I think that we’ve been tiptoeing around the Chinese. I think if you look at what happened last July, when we said we were going to have joint military exercises with the South Koreans, the Chinese objected and said don’t do it in the Yellow Sea. We said OK and we moved it. … I think we should be clear to the Chinese that if they don’t step up to the plate and get the North Koreans — they are the North Korean’s largest trading partner, their closer ally. If they do not engage more effectively and directly in getting the North Koreans to stop what they’re doing, the result will be a nuclear proliferation in that neighborhood. … Read More

If you sense that the international threats are multiplying — from Syria, from Iran, from North Korea — you are right. That suggests that the Obama team’s assertion — that our problems in the world are traceable to insufficiently smart diplomacy by the Bush team — is wrong. The Fox News Sunday roundtable had an enlightening discussion on the North Korean problem:

LIZ CHENEY: … I think that we’ve seen time and time again, North Korea, if they test a nuclear weapon, there are no consequences. If they build a reactor for the Syrians, there are no consequences. And what they’ve learned is that their belligerence, in fact, oftentimes yields from us capitulation and concessions.

I think that it’s time for us to put them back on the terrorist list, and I think it’s time for to us be very direct with China and say, you know, if you really do want to be the world power that you aspire to be, you’ve got to step up to the plate here. You can’t just benefit from the open economic system in the United States, from the open economies around the world. If you really do view yourself as a world power, and you want the rest of the world to you view you that way –

CHRIS WALLACE: But don’t you think we’re saying that?

CHENEY: I don’t know. I don’t think that we are, actually. I think that we’ve been tiptoeing around the Chinese. I think if you look at what happened last July, when we said we were going to have joint military exercises with the South Koreans, the Chinese objected and said don’t do it in the Yellow Sea. We said OK and we moved it. … I think we should be clear to the Chinese that if they don’t step up to the plate and get the North Koreans — they are the North Korean’s largest trading partner, their closer ally. If they do not engage more effectively and directly in getting the North Koreans to stop what they’re doing, the result will be a nuclear proliferation in that neighborhood. …

As the conversation unfolds, Juan Williams accuses Cheney and Bill Kristol of “warmongering” — although neither suggested the use of military force. Cheney and Kristol did suggest a change in approach, which plainly doesn’t amount to going to war against North Korea:

CHENEY: Do you think that what we’ve been doing for the last five years has worked? I mean, what we’ve been doing, basically, is saying we’re going to offer carrots to the North Koreans, because we’re going to talk them out of their program, and we’re going to plead with them to stop? And, by the way, we’re going to ignore evidence that they have got an enrichment program going on, which we learned this week they actually do have going on. …

WILLIAMS: But I must say, the Chinese have now said let’s have more six-party talks. The U.S. government, the Obama administration, has refused those talks. They don’t want more talks. They’re being very clear and hard-lined. So, it does not seem to me that your argument that there is somehow softness going on here is in the play at all. What’s going on is we need to find a way to resolve the issue, and the administration, contrary to what Bill had to say, has been demonstrating admirable restraint and not warmongering and saying, oh, yes, go in there and start a fight that you can’t finish.

KRISTOL: I’m not for warmongering. I am for doing whatever you can do through covert action and other — bribes (ph) and everything. … If they’re doing it, more power to them. Just as in Iran, the stocks (ph) and that virus (ph) seems to have slowed down their nuclear program.

As with Iran, what’s going to do more good, all the talks we’ve had, or actually subverting their nuclear program? In North Korea, what would do the most good is trying to find fissures in the military, people who are upset about his 27-year-old son taking over, and bringing down the regime.

So do we continue the failed engagement tactics of the last years of the Bush administration and the first two years of this one, or do we try something new — more direct discussion with China, increased military presence in the region, commitment to regime change in North Korea, and refraining from rewarding North Korea’s bad behavior? Attempts at engagement have failed — spectacularly so. It seems we have little choice but to try something different. And no, it’s not “warmongering” to oppose aggression by our foes.

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The Chronically Unserious Dana Milbank

Fox News has an unparalleled capacity to cause liberal journalists to say really stupid things. Take the case of the chronically unserious Dana Milbank. (Who can forget this moment?) In his Washington Post column, Milbank opens things this way:

John Boehner, Haley Barbour and other Republican leaders held a “results watch” at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington. For a true victory party, you had to go to Fox News.

At Rupert Murdoch’s cable network, the entity that birthed and nurtured the Tea Party movement, Election Day was the culmination of two years of hard work to bring down Barack Obama – and it was time for an on-air celebration of a job well done.

“That’s an earthquake,” exulted Fox’s own Sarah Palin, upon learning the not-unexpected news that Republicans would gain control of the House. “It’s a big darn deal.”

“It’s a comeuppance,” Fox News contributor (and Post columnist) Charles Krauthammer contributed.

“I have one word,” said Sean Hannity. “Historic.”

And Chris Wallace struggled for words. “A gigantic – not a wave election but a tidal wave election,” he envisioned.

This cheerleading on the final day of the 2010 election cycle was to be expected.

It was to be expected, and for a simple reason: what the commentators and reporters on Fox said is indisputable. Even President Obama, himself, referred to the results of the 2010 midterm election as a “shellacking.” And also Milbank’s former Washington Post colleague Howard Kurtz and Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin of Politico used the word “bloodbath” to describe the election. So were Obama, Kurtz, Smith, and Martin “cheerleading” as well? So long as they don’t appear on Fox, the answer seems to be no.

Milbank decided to compound his tendentiousness by willfully misleading readers. Mr. Milbank writes:

The victory party would have to focus on the 60-seat gain Fox projected for Republicans in the House – an enormous win, though not at the upper end of the forecasts. Fox commentator Karl Rove, pleading for “perspective,” said it still qualified as a “blowout evening.” To be fair and balanced, Fox brought in a nominal Democrat, pollster Doug Schoen. “This is a complete repudiation of the Democratic Party,” he proclaimed.

So which Democrats does Milbank leave off this list? How about Bob Beckel, Juan Williams, Kirsten Powers, Geraldo Ferraro, Joe Trippi, and Pat Caddell? Why would Milbank neglect to name any of these individuals? Because it would run counter to the narrative he’s trying to advance. Thomas Huxley referred to such things as “the slaying of a beautiful deduction by an ugly fact.”

The Washington Post publishes some of the finest columnists who have ever graced the pages of an American newspaper. But it also, alas, publishes Dana Milbank.

Fox News has an unparalleled capacity to cause liberal journalists to say really stupid things. Take the case of the chronically unserious Dana Milbank. (Who can forget this moment?) In his Washington Post column, Milbank opens things this way:

John Boehner, Haley Barbour and other Republican leaders held a “results watch” at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Washington. For a true victory party, you had to go to Fox News.

At Rupert Murdoch’s cable network, the entity that birthed and nurtured the Tea Party movement, Election Day was the culmination of two years of hard work to bring down Barack Obama – and it was time for an on-air celebration of a job well done.

“That’s an earthquake,” exulted Fox’s own Sarah Palin, upon learning the not-unexpected news that Republicans would gain control of the House. “It’s a big darn deal.”

“It’s a comeuppance,” Fox News contributor (and Post columnist) Charles Krauthammer contributed.

“I have one word,” said Sean Hannity. “Historic.”

And Chris Wallace struggled for words. “A gigantic – not a wave election but a tidal wave election,” he envisioned.

This cheerleading on the final day of the 2010 election cycle was to be expected.

It was to be expected, and for a simple reason: what the commentators and reporters on Fox said is indisputable. Even President Obama, himself, referred to the results of the 2010 midterm election as a “shellacking.” And also Milbank’s former Washington Post colleague Howard Kurtz and Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin of Politico used the word “bloodbath” to describe the election. So were Obama, Kurtz, Smith, and Martin “cheerleading” as well? So long as they don’t appear on Fox, the answer seems to be no.

Milbank decided to compound his tendentiousness by willfully misleading readers. Mr. Milbank writes:

The victory party would have to focus on the 60-seat gain Fox projected for Republicans in the House – an enormous win, though not at the upper end of the forecasts. Fox commentator Karl Rove, pleading for “perspective,” said it still qualified as a “blowout evening.” To be fair and balanced, Fox brought in a nominal Democrat, pollster Doug Schoen. “This is a complete repudiation of the Democratic Party,” he proclaimed.

So which Democrats does Milbank leave off this list? How about Bob Beckel, Juan Williams, Kirsten Powers, Geraldo Ferraro, Joe Trippi, and Pat Caddell? Why would Milbank neglect to name any of these individuals? Because it would run counter to the narrative he’s trying to advance. Thomas Huxley referred to such things as “the slaying of a beautiful deduction by an ugly fact.”

The Washington Post publishes some of the finest columnists who have ever graced the pages of an American newspaper. But it also, alas, publishes Dana Milbank.

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RE: Time for Conservatives to Get Serious About Fiscal Responsibility

I entirely agree with Pete that conservatives must get serious about federal spending, à la David Cameron. And a wholesale reduction in the number of government agencies, boards, commissions, etc., a major part of Cameron’s program, would be a great place to start.

But I’m reminded of St. Augustine’s famous prayer, “Oh, Lord, make me good, but not yet.”  To be sure, I have a shorter time frame in mind than the author of The City of God, to wit, two weeks. In a sound-bite and attack-ad age, a proposal to gore some particular interest group’s ox right before an election can be fatal, especially if there is not time to effectively respond. And it is always easier to attack than defend in a 30-second ad.

On Fox News Sunday this week, Carly Fiorina rightly resisted Chris Wallace’s repeated attempts to get her to be specific on how she would cut federal spending. Had she mentioned, say, reforming the federal school-lunch program, Barbara Boxer would have had an ad on the air in 24 hours saying, “Do you want children starving in the streets? Then vote for Fiorina!” Several Republican candidates have been hammered recently for having had nice things to say regarding the so-called fair tax, which would abolish the personal income tax and substitute a 23 percent sales tax. The ads being run against them, of course, mention the 23 percent hike in prices that would be the result, without mentioning the fact that paychecks would increase dramatically with the end of withholding.

So I recommend getting serious immediately after the election. That’s when Cameron got serious. As the late Mo Udall was fond of saying when he was running for the Democratic nomination in 1976, “It takes two things to be a great president. First, you have to be great. Second, you have to be president.”

I entirely agree with Pete that conservatives must get serious about federal spending, à la David Cameron. And a wholesale reduction in the number of government agencies, boards, commissions, etc., a major part of Cameron’s program, would be a great place to start.

But I’m reminded of St. Augustine’s famous prayer, “Oh, Lord, make me good, but not yet.”  To be sure, I have a shorter time frame in mind than the author of The City of God, to wit, two weeks. In a sound-bite and attack-ad age, a proposal to gore some particular interest group’s ox right before an election can be fatal, especially if there is not time to effectively respond. And it is always easier to attack than defend in a 30-second ad.

On Fox News Sunday this week, Carly Fiorina rightly resisted Chris Wallace’s repeated attempts to get her to be specific on how she would cut federal spending. Had she mentioned, say, reforming the federal school-lunch program, Barbara Boxer would have had an ad on the air in 24 hours saying, “Do you want children starving in the streets? Then vote for Fiorina!” Several Republican candidates have been hammered recently for having had nice things to say regarding the so-called fair tax, which would abolish the personal income tax and substitute a 23 percent sales tax. The ads being run against them, of course, mention the 23 percent hike in prices that would be the result, without mentioning the fact that paychecks would increase dramatically with the end of withholding.

So I recommend getting serious immediately after the election. That’s when Cameron got serious. As the late Mo Udall was fond of saying when he was running for the Democratic nomination in 1976, “It takes two things to be a great president. First, you have to be great. Second, you have to be president.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Democrats catch flak for their Stephen Colbert stunt. Steny Hoyer is embarrassed: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Sunday that comedian Stephen Colbert should not have appeared before a House subcommittee last week, blasting the move as ‘an embarrassment.’” Nancy Pelosi defends the move, affirming the sense that she’s going to be booted out of the House leadership.

The U.S. and Israeli media are catching on: Soros Street is a fraud. “The Washington Times report also revealed that one of J Street’s major donors was a Hong Kong-based businesswoman named Consolacion Esdicul. According to the tax returns, Esdicul donated $811,697 over three years. Asked if J Street had conducted a background check on Esdicul, [Amy] Spitalnick said she was not at liberty to divulge the process by which it examines whether to accept money from donors.” So maybe the money is Saudi? Or Iranian? Who knows?

Republican Charles Baker catches Gov. Patrick Duval: “With just five weeks to the election, Republican Charles D. Baker has pulled even with Governor Deval Patrick in a gubernatorial race shaped by anti-incumbent sentiment and unusually high excitement among Republican voters, according to a new Boston Globe poll. … Patrick, a Democrat, won support from 35 percent of likely voters, compared with 34 percent for Baker, a statistical tie given the poll’s margin of error.”

It’s not likely that Democrat Lee Fisher will catch Rob Portman in Ohio. “The numbers on the race to replace retiring Republican George Voinovich in the U.S. Senate … were in line with a number of other polls conducted in recent months, with the Republican — former Cincinnati congressman and Bush administration official Rob Portman — holding a 15 percentage point lead over the Democrat Lee Fisher, the state’s lieutenant governor.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s dismal record as senator is catching up with her. The liberal San Francisco Chronicle won’t endorse her: “The incumbent, Democrat Barbara Boxer, has failed to distinguish herself during her 18 years in office. There is no reason to believe that another six-year term would bring anything but more of the same uninspired representation. … It is extremely rare that this editorial page would offer no recommendation on any race, particularly one of this importance. This is one necessary exception. Boxer, first elected in 1992, would not rate on anyone’s list of most influential senators. Her most famous moments on Capitol Hill have not been ones of legislative accomplishment, but of delivering partisan shots.” Wow.

You really have to catch Candy Crowley’s State of the Union. After Dick Durbin declares that the Democrats have done everything right, Crowley asks: “So absolutely no culpability on the part of Democrats or the White House. This is all the Republicans’ fault that people are turning away from President Obama?” Priceless.

Chris Wallace catches Mara Liasson: Hasn’t the Obama agenda contributed to business uncertainty and kept billions on the sidelines of the economy? “Yes, I, on that part I totally agree,” admits Liasson.

The Democrats catch flak for their Stephen Colbert stunt. Steny Hoyer is embarrassed: “House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on Sunday that comedian Stephen Colbert should not have appeared before a House subcommittee last week, blasting the move as ‘an embarrassment.’” Nancy Pelosi defends the move, affirming the sense that she’s going to be booted out of the House leadership.

The U.S. and Israeli media are catching on: Soros Street is a fraud. “The Washington Times report also revealed that one of J Street’s major donors was a Hong Kong-based businesswoman named Consolacion Esdicul. According to the tax returns, Esdicul donated $811,697 over three years. Asked if J Street had conducted a background check on Esdicul, [Amy] Spitalnick said she was not at liberty to divulge the process by which it examines whether to accept money from donors.” So maybe the money is Saudi? Or Iranian? Who knows?

Republican Charles Baker catches Gov. Patrick Duval: “With just five weeks to the election, Republican Charles D. Baker has pulled even with Governor Deval Patrick in a gubernatorial race shaped by anti-incumbent sentiment and unusually high excitement among Republican voters, according to a new Boston Globe poll. … Patrick, a Democrat, won support from 35 percent of likely voters, compared with 34 percent for Baker, a statistical tie given the poll’s margin of error.”

It’s not likely that Democrat Lee Fisher will catch Rob Portman in Ohio. “The numbers on the race to replace retiring Republican George Voinovich in the U.S. Senate … were in line with a number of other polls conducted in recent months, with the Republican — former Cincinnati congressman and Bush administration official Rob Portman — holding a 15 percentage point lead over the Democrat Lee Fisher, the state’s lieutenant governor.”

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s dismal record as senator is catching up with her. The liberal San Francisco Chronicle won’t endorse her: “The incumbent, Democrat Barbara Boxer, has failed to distinguish herself during her 18 years in office. There is no reason to believe that another six-year term would bring anything but more of the same uninspired representation. … It is extremely rare that this editorial page would offer no recommendation on any race, particularly one of this importance. This is one necessary exception. Boxer, first elected in 1992, would not rate on anyone’s list of most influential senators. Her most famous moments on Capitol Hill have not been ones of legislative accomplishment, but of delivering partisan shots.” Wow.

You really have to catch Candy Crowley’s State of the Union. After Dick Durbin declares that the Democrats have done everything right, Crowley asks: “So absolutely no culpability on the part of Democrats or the White House. This is all the Republicans’ fault that people are turning away from President Obama?” Priceless.

Chris Wallace catches Mara Liasson: Hasn’t the Obama agenda contributed to business uncertainty and kept billions on the sidelines of the economy? “Yes, I, on that part I totally agree,” admits Liasson.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal agree — Obama’s end-around the Senate on the zealous czarina of consumer protection is outrageous. S. 1 in the 112th Congress? Defund the consumer protection agency.

Lots of Democratic Senate candidates agree with the GOP: “Senate Democratic candidates are wavering over whether to support President Obama’s plan to raise taxes on families earning more than $250,000 a year. At least seven Democrats in battleground states say they support or could support extending tax breaks for families who make more than $250,000.”

Karl Rove and his conservative critics agree — Lisa Murkowski’s independent run is “sad and sorry.”

Independents agree with Republicans: refudiate Obamanomics. “A new comprehensive national survey shows that independent voters—who voted for Barack Obama by a 52%-to-44% margin in the 2008 presidential election—are now moving strongly in the direction of the Republican Party. … Today, independents say they lean more toward the Republican Party than the Democratic Party, 50% to 25%, and that the Republican Party is closer to their views by 52% to 30%. … More generally, independents made clear in the survey what they want candidates to do: Decrease the size and scope of government, cut spending and taxes, balance the budget, reduce the federal debt, reduce the power of special interests and unions, repeal and replace the health-care legislation, and decrease partisanship.”

Colin Powell and his (former?) party finally agree: Obama needs to “shift the way in which he has been doing things. … I think the American people feel that too many programs have come down. … There are so many rocks in our knapsack now that we’re having trouble carrying it.”

At least conservatives and Maureen Dowd can agree on this about Obama: “Empathy seems more like an abstract concept than something to practice. He has never shaken off that slight patronizing attitude toward the working-class voters he is losing now, the ones he dubbed ‘bitter’ during his campaign. There is no premium in trying to save people’s jobs and lift them up and give them health care if they feel that you can’t relate to them.”

The left and right can agree that the latest administration move on Sudan is a disgrace: “After long, and reportedly heated, arguments inside the White House over the proper balance between carrot and stick, officials have produced a document that is highly specific about inducements and carefully vague about threats. … John Norris, a Sudan expert at the Center for American Progress and former head of the Enough Project, calls the package ‘unseemly.’”

CAIR agrees with the late Tony Snow (one of his finest moments): Hezbollah never had a better spokesperson than Helen Thomas.

I think we can all agree that Christiane Amanpour is the weakest Sunday talk-show host. Not only does she not ask a serious follow-up question of Hillary Clinton, but Ahmadinejad runs circles around her. (The proof of her ineptitude? You don’t see Ahmadinejad submitting to an interview with Candy Crowley or Chris Wallace.)

The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal agree — Obama’s end-around the Senate on the zealous czarina of consumer protection is outrageous. S. 1 in the 112th Congress? Defund the consumer protection agency.

Lots of Democratic Senate candidates agree with the GOP: “Senate Democratic candidates are wavering over whether to support President Obama’s plan to raise taxes on families earning more than $250,000 a year. At least seven Democrats in battleground states say they support or could support extending tax breaks for families who make more than $250,000.”

Karl Rove and his conservative critics agree — Lisa Murkowski’s independent run is “sad and sorry.”

Independents agree with Republicans: refudiate Obamanomics. “A new comprehensive national survey shows that independent voters—who voted for Barack Obama by a 52%-to-44% margin in the 2008 presidential election—are now moving strongly in the direction of the Republican Party. … Today, independents say they lean more toward the Republican Party than the Democratic Party, 50% to 25%, and that the Republican Party is closer to their views by 52% to 30%. … More generally, independents made clear in the survey what they want candidates to do: Decrease the size and scope of government, cut spending and taxes, balance the budget, reduce the federal debt, reduce the power of special interests and unions, repeal and replace the health-care legislation, and decrease partisanship.”

Colin Powell and his (former?) party finally agree: Obama needs to “shift the way in which he has been doing things. … I think the American people feel that too many programs have come down. … There are so many rocks in our knapsack now that we’re having trouble carrying it.”

At least conservatives and Maureen Dowd can agree on this about Obama: “Empathy seems more like an abstract concept than something to practice. He has never shaken off that slight patronizing attitude toward the working-class voters he is losing now, the ones he dubbed ‘bitter’ during his campaign. There is no premium in trying to save people’s jobs and lift them up and give them health care if they feel that you can’t relate to them.”

The left and right can agree that the latest administration move on Sudan is a disgrace: “After long, and reportedly heated, arguments inside the White House over the proper balance between carrot and stick, officials have produced a document that is highly specific about inducements and carefully vague about threats. … John Norris, a Sudan expert at the Center for American Progress and former head of the Enough Project, calls the package ‘unseemly.’”

CAIR agrees with the late Tony Snow (one of his finest moments): Hezbollah never had a better spokesperson than Helen Thomas.

I think we can all agree that Christiane Amanpour is the weakest Sunday talk-show host. Not only does she not ask a serious follow-up question of Hillary Clinton, but Ahmadinejad runs circles around her. (The proof of her ineptitude? You don’t see Ahmadinejad submitting to an interview with Candy Crowley or Chris Wallace.)

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On Winston Churchill and Former Gov. Blagojevich

On Fox News Sunday, a slightly incredulous Chris Wallace asked former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich if he were serious when he compared himself to Winston Churchill in his ability to come back from political oblivion. Blagojevich replied: “You’re right, I’m not serious. I don’t smoke cigars or scotch, and I think I can run faster than him.” As Sir Winston died in 1965, it would be most surprising if the Governor were not fleeter of foot.

But Churchill would have smiled at Blagojevich’s observations on smoking, drinking, and running. The Governor’s first claim reminded me of one of Churchill’s interchanges with General Bernard Montgomery. The slightly priggish general is alleged to have said that he neither drank nor smoked and was 100 percent fit. Churchill immediately shot back that he both drank and smoked and was 200 percent fit.

And as for physical fitness, Churchill’s views on that subject, and its connection with leadership ability, are curiously relevant to Blagojevich’s desire to mount a comeback. In February 1941, Churchill – as recorded in the third volume of his World War II memoirs – wrote to his Secretary of State for War as follows:

Please see the Times of February 4. It is really true that a seven-mile cross-country run is enforced upon all in this division, from generals to privates? … A colonel or a general ought not to exhaust himself in trying to compete with young boys running across country seven miles at a time. The duty of officers is no doubt to keep themselves fit, but still more to think for their men, and to take decisions affecting their safety or comfort. Who is the general of this division, and does he run the seven miles himself? If so, he may be more useful for football than war. Could Napoleon have run seven miles across country at Austerlitz? Perhaps it was the other fellow he made run. In my experience, based on many years’ observation, officers with high athletic qualifications are not usually successful in the higher ranks.

It would seem that Churchill’s maxim also applies to governors.

On Fox News Sunday, a slightly incredulous Chris Wallace asked former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich if he were serious when he compared himself to Winston Churchill in his ability to come back from political oblivion. Blagojevich replied: “You’re right, I’m not serious. I don’t smoke cigars or scotch, and I think I can run faster than him.” As Sir Winston died in 1965, it would be most surprising if the Governor were not fleeter of foot.

But Churchill would have smiled at Blagojevich’s observations on smoking, drinking, and running. The Governor’s first claim reminded me of one of Churchill’s interchanges with General Bernard Montgomery. The slightly priggish general is alleged to have said that he neither drank nor smoked and was 100 percent fit. Churchill immediately shot back that he both drank and smoked and was 200 percent fit.

And as for physical fitness, Churchill’s views on that subject, and its connection with leadership ability, are curiously relevant to Blagojevich’s desire to mount a comeback. In February 1941, Churchill – as recorded in the third volume of his World War II memoirs – wrote to his Secretary of State for War as follows:

Please see the Times of February 4. It is really true that a seven-mile cross-country run is enforced upon all in this division, from generals to privates? … A colonel or a general ought not to exhaust himself in trying to compete with young boys running across country seven miles at a time. The duty of officers is no doubt to keep themselves fit, but still more to think for their men, and to take decisions affecting their safety or comfort. Who is the general of this division, and does he run the seven miles himself? If so, he may be more useful for football than war. Could Napoleon have run seven miles across country at Austerlitz? Perhaps it was the other fellow he made run. In my experience, based on many years’ observation, officers with high athletic qualifications are not usually successful in the higher ranks.

It would seem that Churchill’s maxim also applies to governors.

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Shirley Sherrod for White House Adviser

The Shirley Sherrod uproar is a quintessential example of the summer news story. Like last year’s story — the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and President Obama’s calling the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police action “stupid” — it has made the Obama administration look stupid.

The historian’s old standby, a timeline, is handy here. Last March, Shirley Sherrod, an employee of the Agriculture Department who grew up in the Jim Crow South and saw her father’s white murderers get away with that murder, gave a speech to the NAACP in which she recalled her own evolution on race.

Andrew Breitbart, a conservative provocateur, used a short clip from the speech to make it seem as though Ms. Sherrod were a racist, working hard for black farmers and indifferent to the problems of white ones — thus, evidence of anti-white racism in the Obama administration. I have no idea if Breitbart knew he was being intellectually dishonest or not. But he was doing what provocateurs do: provoking.

The clip went viral, and the Obama administration panicked big-time. The White House told the Secretary of Agriculture to fire Ms. Sherrod. She had to pull over to the side of the road while he did so. She received not a scintilla of due process. Indeed, she wasn’t even asked what her side of the story was. The NAACP, which had a tape of the whole speech, didn’t bother to review it and piled on. It seems the administration was terrified that Glenn Beck would eat it for lunch unless it moved immediately. Beck must love that.

The Obama administration’s firing of a black employee because of racism against a white farmer was irresistible journalistic catnip in the midst of the summer doldrums, and the cable channels ran the Breitbart clip over and over.

But there was another side of the story. The incident in the clip had taken place 24 years earlier, when Ms. Sherrod was working for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, not the federal department, and she ended up saving that white family’s farm from foreclosure. She had merely been using the incident to show the lessons on race that she had learned from it. The farmer in question backed up her story. Both the Obama administration and the NAACP backtracked and apologized to her. (Obama called her personally.) And she has been offered another job at the Agriculture Department.

This morning on Fox News Sunday, Howard Dean, obviously following the Obama line, tried to make it sound like Fox News had been part of the problem. Chris Wallace, in an unusually heated exchange, would have none of it. He pointed out that Fox did not carry the story or mention Ms. Sherrod’s name until she had been fired. It then ran the Breitbart tape, naturally, as part of the story. So did all other cable news channels.

So Fox, it seems to me, is blameless — it was reporting the news, which, after all, is its job. Breitbart was after attention and, perhaps, wanted to frighten the Obama administration into acting foolishly. If so, he sure succeeded. And the Obama administration has egg all over its face, contributing to the growing impression that it is incompetent.

The only hero here is Shirley Sherrod. She told her own moving story about how she managed to move beyond the racism of the past and enter the post-racial world that Barack Obama promised and has, rather spectacularly in this case, failed to deliver.

Maybe President Obama should fire one of the Chicago gang at the White House and replace that person with Shirley Sherrod. It seems the administration could use a little common wisdom and dignity around there.

The Shirley Sherrod uproar is a quintessential example of the summer news story. Like last year’s story — the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates and President Obama’s calling the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police action “stupid” — it has made the Obama administration look stupid.

The historian’s old standby, a timeline, is handy here. Last March, Shirley Sherrod, an employee of the Agriculture Department who grew up in the Jim Crow South and saw her father’s white murderers get away with that murder, gave a speech to the NAACP in which she recalled her own evolution on race.

Andrew Breitbart, a conservative provocateur, used a short clip from the speech to make it seem as though Ms. Sherrod were a racist, working hard for black farmers and indifferent to the problems of white ones — thus, evidence of anti-white racism in the Obama administration. I have no idea if Breitbart knew he was being intellectually dishonest or not. But he was doing what provocateurs do: provoking.

The clip went viral, and the Obama administration panicked big-time. The White House told the Secretary of Agriculture to fire Ms. Sherrod. She had to pull over to the side of the road while he did so. She received not a scintilla of due process. Indeed, she wasn’t even asked what her side of the story was. The NAACP, which had a tape of the whole speech, didn’t bother to review it and piled on. It seems the administration was terrified that Glenn Beck would eat it for lunch unless it moved immediately. Beck must love that.

The Obama administration’s firing of a black employee because of racism against a white farmer was irresistible journalistic catnip in the midst of the summer doldrums, and the cable channels ran the Breitbart clip over and over.

But there was another side of the story. The incident in the clip had taken place 24 years earlier, when Ms. Sherrod was working for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, not the federal department, and she ended up saving that white family’s farm from foreclosure. She had merely been using the incident to show the lessons on race that she had learned from it. The farmer in question backed up her story. Both the Obama administration and the NAACP backtracked and apologized to her. (Obama called her personally.) And she has been offered another job at the Agriculture Department.

This morning on Fox News Sunday, Howard Dean, obviously following the Obama line, tried to make it sound like Fox News had been part of the problem. Chris Wallace, in an unusually heated exchange, would have none of it. He pointed out that Fox did not carry the story or mention Ms. Sherrod’s name until she had been fired. It then ran the Breitbart tape, naturally, as part of the story. So did all other cable news channels.

So Fox, it seems to me, is blameless — it was reporting the news, which, after all, is its job. Breitbart was after attention and, perhaps, wanted to frighten the Obama administration into acting foolishly. If so, he sure succeeded. And the Obama administration has egg all over its face, contributing to the growing impression that it is incompetent.

The only hero here is Shirley Sherrod. She told her own moving story about how she managed to move beyond the racism of the past and enter the post-racial world that Barack Obama promised and has, rather spectacularly in this case, failed to deliver.

Maybe President Obama should fire one of the Chicago gang at the White House and replace that person with Shirley Sherrod. It seems the administration could use a little common wisdom and dignity around there.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

RomneyCare is a bust: “If you want a preview of President Obama’s health-care ‘reform,’ take a look at Massachusetts. In 2006, it enacted a “reform” that became a model for Obama. What’s happened since isn’t encouraging. The state did the easy part: expanding state-subsidized insurance coverage. It evaded the hard part: controlling costs and ensuring that spending improves people’s health. … What’s occurring in Massachusetts is the plausible future: Unchecked health spending shapes government priorities and inflates budget deficits and taxes, with small health gains. And they call this ‘reform’?”

Blanche Lincoln is sinking. A new poll shows her 25 points behind.

Panic is rising among Democrats for good reason: “Republican candidates now hold a nine-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, July 18, the widest gap between the two parties in several weeks.”

Rep. Paul Ryan is ruling out 2012. His reason is very compelling.

Ben Smith is upset. Chris Wallace didn’t ask Sen. David Vitter a question about his new GOP challenger. Fair criticism. Imagine if Bob Schieffer hadn’t asked Eric Holder about the New  Black Panther case. Oh, right.

Kathy Dahlkemper is in trouble. Even apart from her knee-jerk anti-Israel voting record (and J Street stamp of approval), her votes on domestic issues are a killer. She “won a seat in Congress on a pledge to do something about the national debt. Then she went to Washington — and immediately voted to jack up borrowing by nearly $1 trillion. … Democratic pollster Mark Mellman said disgust with the stimulus and anxiety about the deficit is ‘really a metaphor for wasteful government spending.’ From the perspective of many voters, ‘a lot of their money has gone out the door to bail out big banks and big corporations while their jobs have been lost.’” That’s what the Democratic pollster is saying.

Chris Christie is a rock star among conservatives. Maybe the 2012 contenders should start gaining weight.

RomneyCare is a bust: “If you want a preview of President Obama’s health-care ‘reform,’ take a look at Massachusetts. In 2006, it enacted a “reform” that became a model for Obama. What’s happened since isn’t encouraging. The state did the easy part: expanding state-subsidized insurance coverage. It evaded the hard part: controlling costs and ensuring that spending improves people’s health. … What’s occurring in Massachusetts is the plausible future: Unchecked health spending shapes government priorities and inflates budget deficits and taxes, with small health gains. And they call this ‘reform’?”

Blanche Lincoln is sinking. A new poll shows her 25 points behind.

Panic is rising among Democrats for good reason: “Republican candidates now hold a nine-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the week ending Sunday, July 18, the widest gap between the two parties in several weeks.”

Rep. Paul Ryan is ruling out 2012. His reason is very compelling.

Ben Smith is upset. Chris Wallace didn’t ask Sen. David Vitter a question about his new GOP challenger. Fair criticism. Imagine if Bob Schieffer hadn’t asked Eric Holder about the New  Black Panther case. Oh, right.

Kathy Dahlkemper is in trouble. Even apart from her knee-jerk anti-Israel voting record (and J Street stamp of approval), her votes on domestic issues are a killer. She “won a seat in Congress on a pledge to do something about the national debt. Then she went to Washington — and immediately voted to jack up borrowing by nearly $1 trillion. … Democratic pollster Mark Mellman said disgust with the stimulus and anxiety about the deficit is ‘really a metaphor for wasteful government spending.’ From the perspective of many voters, ‘a lot of their money has gone out the door to bail out big banks and big corporations while their jobs have been lost.’” That’s what the Democratic pollster is saying.

Chris Christie is a rock star among conservatives. Maybe the 2012 contenders should start gaining weight.

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Palin and the Media

Sarah Palin was asked about Rand Paul yesterday on Fox News Sunday. In the last few days, Paul has declared that he, in fact, does support the Civil Rights Act of 1964, after repeatedly expressing disagreements with the part of the law that holds that private businesses cannot discriminate on the basis of race. According to Palin, “Rand Paul is right in his clarification” about the Civil Rights Act. True, though it was a circuitous journey, and one cannot help believing that Paul is embracing a view he doesn’t really believe. Of course, he wouldn’t be the first candidate for Congress to do such a thing.

In any event, in the course of the interview with Chris Wallace, Ms. Palin did what she often does: she aimed her rhetorical guns at the media. The lesson from the Rand Paul encounter, she said, is the same she learned during her run for the vice presidency in 2008. A candidate shouldn’t assume that you can engage in a discussion with a “TV character” (in this case, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow), who perhaps asked the question with an agenda and who then goes about “interpreting his answer in the way that she did.” It’s dangerous to engage in “hypothetical” discussions on the “constitutional impact” of certain laws with journalists who have an “agenda” and are “prejudiced” and looking for that “gotcha moment.”

Now, I don’t have any doubt that Rachel Maddow is a committed liberal; anyone who has seen her show recognizes that. And she has a style that is often adolescent, sarcastic, and sneering. (David Frum called her out on this quite effectively during the 2008 campaign.)

Still, in this particular instance, the interview was serious and not as Palin portrays it. (The interview can be seen here.) The discussion was fairly substantive. It includes excerpts from previous Paul interviews. And it was not focused on a hypothetical; it was about a landmark piece of social legislation about which Paul had expressed serious reservations. It was legitimate to ask Paul the questions Maddow did. And the “gotcha moment” was caused not by Maddow’s questions but by Paul’s answers. It was no more of a “gotcha moment” than it would be to ask a person running for vice president what specific newspapers and magazines she reads and what Supreme Court decisions she disagrees with.

Sarah Palin has undeniable talents — and on many issues, I agree with her. But too often she has become the spokesperson for cultural resentments. Understandably scarred by the 2008 campaign, she is on a quest to clear her name by pounding the media at every turn. They are always to blame — even when, as in the case of Rand Paul, they are not actually to blame. In that respect, and in others, Palin’s style is quite different from, and at times antithetical to, that of Ronald Reagan, who had a charm and winsomeness about him. He made forceful arguments in a winning way. He was blessedly free of rancor and bitterness. Ms. Palin could learn from him, as could we all.

Sarah Palin was asked about Rand Paul yesterday on Fox News Sunday. In the last few days, Paul has declared that he, in fact, does support the Civil Rights Act of 1964, after repeatedly expressing disagreements with the part of the law that holds that private businesses cannot discriminate on the basis of race. According to Palin, “Rand Paul is right in his clarification” about the Civil Rights Act. True, though it was a circuitous journey, and one cannot help believing that Paul is embracing a view he doesn’t really believe. Of course, he wouldn’t be the first candidate for Congress to do such a thing.

In any event, in the course of the interview with Chris Wallace, Ms. Palin did what she often does: she aimed her rhetorical guns at the media. The lesson from the Rand Paul encounter, she said, is the same she learned during her run for the vice presidency in 2008. A candidate shouldn’t assume that you can engage in a discussion with a “TV character” (in this case, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow), who perhaps asked the question with an agenda and who then goes about “interpreting his answer in the way that she did.” It’s dangerous to engage in “hypothetical” discussions on the “constitutional impact” of certain laws with journalists who have an “agenda” and are “prejudiced” and looking for that “gotcha moment.”

Now, I don’t have any doubt that Rachel Maddow is a committed liberal; anyone who has seen her show recognizes that. And she has a style that is often adolescent, sarcastic, and sneering. (David Frum called her out on this quite effectively during the 2008 campaign.)

Still, in this particular instance, the interview was serious and not as Palin portrays it. (The interview can be seen here.) The discussion was fairly substantive. It includes excerpts from previous Paul interviews. And it was not focused on a hypothetical; it was about a landmark piece of social legislation about which Paul had expressed serious reservations. It was legitimate to ask Paul the questions Maddow did. And the “gotcha moment” was caused not by Maddow’s questions but by Paul’s answers. It was no more of a “gotcha moment” than it would be to ask a person running for vice president what specific newspapers and magazines she reads and what Supreme Court decisions she disagrees with.

Sarah Palin has undeniable talents — and on many issues, I agree with her. But too often she has become the spokesperson for cultural resentments. Understandably scarred by the 2008 campaign, she is on a quest to clear her name by pounding the media at every turn. They are always to blame — even when, as in the case of Rand Paul, they are not actually to blame. In that respect, and in others, Palin’s style is quite different from, and at times antithetical to, that of Ronald Reagan, who had a charm and winsomeness about him. He made forceful arguments in a winning way. He was blessedly free of rancor and bitterness. Ms. Palin could learn from him, as could we all.

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John McCain: Pull the Trigger

John McCain and Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday had the following exchange over the news that Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent up a warning flare that Obama doesn’t have a viable plan to prevent the mullahs from going nuclear:

MCCAIN: I didn’t need a secret memo from Mr. Gates to ascertain that. We do not have a coherent policy. I think that’s pretty obvious. We keep threatening sanctions. We keep, for well over a year now — in fact, including the previous administration — we keep threatening.

And obviously, we have not done anything that would in any way be viewed effective. Former secretary of state George Shultz once told me — he said, My old Marine drill instructor said never point a gun at somebody unless you’re willing to pull the trigger.

We have to be willing to pull the trigger on significant sanctions. And then we have to make plans for whatever contingencies follow if those sanctions are not effective. … I believe that the Chinese and the Russians will not be particularly helpful.

So why don’t we get our European allies together and let’s impose sanctions from that aspect of it? Maybe that would embarrass somehow or force the Russians and Chinese to act in a more cooperative fashion.

WALLACE: So forget the U.N., just impose …

MCCAIN: Maybe not forget the U.N., but certainly go ahead and move forward with some serious, meaningful sanctions.

WALLACE: What are sanctions?

MCCAIN: Well, refined petroleum products is one. The other, I think, is stand up for the human rights of the people of Iran. Put the pictures of those people who were brutalizing and killing and torturing the demonstrators and the people who are standing up for their God-given rights. Make them famous. We did that in certain respects during the Cold War.

WALLACE: And what about military action?

MCCAIN: Well, I think, obviously, every contingency has to be on the table. I think that we — it’s pretty clear that the Israelis cannot live with a nuclear-armed Iran. We saw news reports that the Syrians have moved Scud missiles into southern Lebanon. That is a serious escalatory move. Now Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are within range of Scud missiles.

So I think that we have to have contingency plans. But I do agree with most experts. Let’s try to get the pressure on from all directions, tough, tough sanctions, and stand up for the people that want and obviously are demonstrating in the streets and are being brutalized in the prisons.

The fact that Gates’s January memo was leaked now — following Obama’s dog-and-pony nuclear summit show – suggests that someone in the administration is nervous that the Obami have made precious little progress in devising an alternative to its que sera, sera stance toward a nuclear-armed Iran. The choice comes down to this: Obama’s mini-sanctions (which increasingly seem to be a slow walk to containment) or the toughest unilateral sanctions we can muster with a credible threat of military force if those sanctions don’t succeed. Unfortunately, by downplaying the use of force (and let’s be candid, Gates contributed to this by contributing his fair share of the bad-mouthing), such a threat is going to be all the more difficult to muster.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the Obami have done an extremely effective job of eliminating or hampering the most serious options for thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It may come as news to the Gray Lady’s readers, but for Obama’s conservative critics, it’s hardly surprising that when a president is reluctant to flex America’s “hard power,” the world becomes a more dangerous place.

John McCain and Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday had the following exchange over the news that Defense Secretary Robert Gates sent up a warning flare that Obama doesn’t have a viable plan to prevent the mullahs from going nuclear:

MCCAIN: I didn’t need a secret memo from Mr. Gates to ascertain that. We do not have a coherent policy. I think that’s pretty obvious. We keep threatening sanctions. We keep, for well over a year now — in fact, including the previous administration — we keep threatening.

And obviously, we have not done anything that would in any way be viewed effective. Former secretary of state George Shultz once told me — he said, My old Marine drill instructor said never point a gun at somebody unless you’re willing to pull the trigger.

We have to be willing to pull the trigger on significant sanctions. And then we have to make plans for whatever contingencies follow if those sanctions are not effective. … I believe that the Chinese and the Russians will not be particularly helpful.

So why don’t we get our European allies together and let’s impose sanctions from that aspect of it? Maybe that would embarrass somehow or force the Russians and Chinese to act in a more cooperative fashion.

WALLACE: So forget the U.N., just impose …

MCCAIN: Maybe not forget the U.N., but certainly go ahead and move forward with some serious, meaningful sanctions.

WALLACE: What are sanctions?

MCCAIN: Well, refined petroleum products is one. The other, I think, is stand up for the human rights of the people of Iran. Put the pictures of those people who were brutalizing and killing and torturing the demonstrators and the people who are standing up for their God-given rights. Make them famous. We did that in certain respects during the Cold War.

WALLACE: And what about military action?

MCCAIN: Well, I think, obviously, every contingency has to be on the table. I think that we — it’s pretty clear that the Israelis cannot live with a nuclear-armed Iran. We saw news reports that the Syrians have moved Scud missiles into southern Lebanon. That is a serious escalatory move. Now Jerusalem and Tel Aviv are within range of Scud missiles.

So I think that we have to have contingency plans. But I do agree with most experts. Let’s try to get the pressure on from all directions, tough, tough sanctions, and stand up for the people that want and obviously are demonstrating in the streets and are being brutalized in the prisons.

The fact that Gates’s January memo was leaked now — following Obama’s dog-and-pony nuclear summit show – suggests that someone in the administration is nervous that the Obami have made precious little progress in devising an alternative to its que sera, sera stance toward a nuclear-armed Iran. The choice comes down to this: Obama’s mini-sanctions (which increasingly seem to be a slow walk to containment) or the toughest unilateral sanctions we can muster with a credible threat of military force if those sanctions don’t succeed. Unfortunately, by downplaying the use of force (and let’s be candid, Gates contributed to this by contributing his fair share of the bad-mouthing), such a threat is going to be all the more difficult to muster.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the Obami have done an extremely effective job of eliminating or hampering the most serious options for thwarting Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It may come as news to the Gray Lady’s readers, but for Obama’s conservative critics, it’s hardly surprising that when a president is reluctant to flex America’s “hard power,” the world becomes a more dangerous place.

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Obama’s Appalling Double Standards

The Obama-Israel showdown is an example of high hypocrisy, double standards, and political stupidity, all on display for a global audience.

As Barry Rubin reminds us:

For more than four months the U.S. government has been celebrating Israel agreeing to stop construction on settlements in the West Bank while continuing building in east Jerusalem as a great step forward and Israeli concession deserving a reward. Suddenly, all of this is forgotten to say that Israel building in east Jerusalem is some kind of terrible deed which deserves punishment.

Israelis are used to this pattern: give a big concession and a few months later that step is forgotten as Israel is portrayed as intransigent and more concessions are demanded with nothing in return.

The administration is using an instance of bad timing to revisit the terms of the settlement freeze in order to accomplish what was impossible before — a freeze in Jewish construction in Obama-disapproved parts of Jerusalem. Robert Gibbs said this morning on Fox News that “condemning” such construction “is, and has been, the policy of the United States.”

Never mind that even the PA has already agreed that these neighborhoods, such as Gilo and Ramat Shlomo, will remain part of Israel in any settlement. Chris Wallace should have asked Gibbs how he reconciles such a statement, and the administration’s behavior over the past week, with the U.S. endorsement of the settlement freeze four months ago that explicitly exempted Jerusalem. In fact, it might make sense for the Israelis to ask for such a clarification. It’s obvious that Obama is trying to change the terms of the agreement by bullying and unilateralism, not by negotiation.

And it is important to note that the kind of rhetoric and outrage we are witnessing on Israel has never been employed by the administration against Syria, Iran, Hamas, North Korea, or any of America’s actual enemies. Regarding “announcements about expanding settlements,” a “senior Obama administration official” told Reuters that “the Israelis know the only way to stay on the positive side of the ledger — internationally and with us — is to not have them recurring.”

Strong stuff! Yet when the administration’s effort to warm ties with Syria over the past month were greeted with a trilateral meeting of terrorists in Damascus — Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah, and Assad — including heated public denouncements of America and pledges to destroy Israel, the administration was silent. No response.

Maybe this is because the administration is focusing on the peace process and treating Syria and Iran as back-burner problems not worthy of U.S. outrage? No, that doesn’t make sense. If this were true, the administration would have criticized the Palestinians for their far greater obstructions to the peace process. As Rubin points out:

Even though the Palestinian Authority has refused to negotiate for 14 months; made President Brack Obama look very foolish after destroying his publicly announced September plan to have negotiations in two months; broke its promise not to sponsor the Goldstone report in the UN; and rejected direct negotiations after months of pleading by the Obama White House, not a single word of criticism has ever been offered by any administration official regarding the PA’s continuous and very public sabotage of peace process efforts.

And as Tom Gross points out, the moment Joe Biden departed the West Bank, the PA held a ceremony to name the town square in Ramallah after Dalal Mughrabi, one of the perpetrators of the infamous Coastal Road Massacre and among the most successful terrorists in Palestinian history. This, too, goes unmentioned by the Obama administration. Palestinian celebrations of mass-murderers are not a hindrance to the peace process, but building apartments in Jewish neighborhoods is. Why doesn’t one of the intrepid Sunday morning hosts ask an administration official why this is?

We have reached a strange new chapter in American diplomacy in which our greatest outrage and our greatest denunciations are reserved for our allies. Maybe that’s not quite right: they’re reserved for one of our allies.

The Obama-Israel showdown is an example of high hypocrisy, double standards, and political stupidity, all on display for a global audience.

As Barry Rubin reminds us:

For more than four months the U.S. government has been celebrating Israel agreeing to stop construction on settlements in the West Bank while continuing building in east Jerusalem as a great step forward and Israeli concession deserving a reward. Suddenly, all of this is forgotten to say that Israel building in east Jerusalem is some kind of terrible deed which deserves punishment.

Israelis are used to this pattern: give a big concession and a few months later that step is forgotten as Israel is portrayed as intransigent and more concessions are demanded with nothing in return.

The administration is using an instance of bad timing to revisit the terms of the settlement freeze in order to accomplish what was impossible before — a freeze in Jewish construction in Obama-disapproved parts of Jerusalem. Robert Gibbs said this morning on Fox News that “condemning” such construction “is, and has been, the policy of the United States.”

Never mind that even the PA has already agreed that these neighborhoods, such as Gilo and Ramat Shlomo, will remain part of Israel in any settlement. Chris Wallace should have asked Gibbs how he reconciles such a statement, and the administration’s behavior over the past week, with the U.S. endorsement of the settlement freeze four months ago that explicitly exempted Jerusalem. In fact, it might make sense for the Israelis to ask for such a clarification. It’s obvious that Obama is trying to change the terms of the agreement by bullying and unilateralism, not by negotiation.

And it is important to note that the kind of rhetoric and outrage we are witnessing on Israel has never been employed by the administration against Syria, Iran, Hamas, North Korea, or any of America’s actual enemies. Regarding “announcements about expanding settlements,” a “senior Obama administration official” told Reuters that “the Israelis know the only way to stay on the positive side of the ledger — internationally and with us — is to not have them recurring.”

Strong stuff! Yet when the administration’s effort to warm ties with Syria over the past month were greeted with a trilateral meeting of terrorists in Damascus — Ahmadinejad, Nasrallah, and Assad — including heated public denouncements of America and pledges to destroy Israel, the administration was silent. No response.

Maybe this is because the administration is focusing on the peace process and treating Syria and Iran as back-burner problems not worthy of U.S. outrage? No, that doesn’t make sense. If this were true, the administration would have criticized the Palestinians for their far greater obstructions to the peace process. As Rubin points out:

Even though the Palestinian Authority has refused to negotiate for 14 months; made President Brack Obama look very foolish after destroying his publicly announced September plan to have negotiations in two months; broke its promise not to sponsor the Goldstone report in the UN; and rejected direct negotiations after months of pleading by the Obama White House, not a single word of criticism has ever been offered by any administration official regarding the PA’s continuous and very public sabotage of peace process efforts.

And as Tom Gross points out, the moment Joe Biden departed the West Bank, the PA held a ceremony to name the town square in Ramallah after Dalal Mughrabi, one of the perpetrators of the infamous Coastal Road Massacre and among the most successful terrorists in Palestinian history. This, too, goes unmentioned by the Obama administration. Palestinian celebrations of mass-murderers are not a hindrance to the peace process, but building apartments in Jewish neighborhoods is. Why doesn’t one of the intrepid Sunday morning hosts ask an administration official why this is?

We have reached a strange new chapter in American diplomacy in which our greatest outrage and our greatest denunciations are reserved for our allies. Maybe that’s not quite right: they’re reserved for one of our allies.

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When Does the Realism Kick In?

Many others have noted the drivel emanating from our secretary of state — the platitudinous phrases, the double talk, and the insulation from reality. But it is also correct that we should not be surprised any longer:

In a way, you can’t blame her for her haplessness, secretarially speaking. Her own experience with matters foreign—being “shot at” by Bosnian “snipers,” for one, or, for another, kissing Suha Arafat while Mrs. Arafat’s blood-soaked husband was shoveling the untold millions he’d stolen from his miserable flock into Swiss bank accounts—has been somewhat . . . insubstantial. And in any case, she’s not exactly in charge. The Obamic foreign policy, such as it is, seems to be being formulated and conducted as much (maybe more?) from the West Wing as from Foggy Bottom, and by people even less familiar with the issues than she, who’ve done almost nothing in their lives but run political campaigns—and that’s in Chicago, where a little cold hard cash and some cold stiff bodies voting at graveyard polling stations can get anyone elected—and who are still in essence running a campaign today, though they call it a presidency.

She has declared that “ideology is so yesterday.” But so too is a sense of realism — yes, a true sense of who it is we face in the world, what motivates friends and foes, and what experience has taught us. No wonder the Obami are always “surprised” or “deeply disappointed” or “puzzled.” If you have historical amnesia, every day is a new one, and rebuffs, defeats, and dead ends come as surprises, disappointments, and puzzles.

The Obami, of course, dug themselves a deep hole by repudiating, or trying to repudiate, everything the Bush administration had tried. If the Bush team cultivated a close and productive relationship with Israel, they’d take a different tact. If the Bush administration forged bonds with Eastern Europe and extended our missile defense program, by gosh the Obami wouldn’t have any of that. If George W. Bush spoke movingly about human rights and met with dissidents, the Obami wouldn’t go there. It’s hard to be both reflexively rejectionist and ideology-free, isn’t it?

But the fault surely resides in the West Wing. Obama is a prisoner of so much ideology, it’s hard to keep track. There’s his blind faith in multilateralism. There’s his infatuation with the Left’s notion that an American groveling deficiency is at the root of “misunderstandings” with the “Muslim World.” And let’s not forget the “if we disarm, surely the despotic regimes will” hooey.

Dispensing of this or that hapless adviser might improve matters at the margins. It would be nice to think that we have one administration figure who doesn’t appear foolish when encountering a real interviewer (e.g., Chris Wallace, Candy Crowley). But ultimately, there’s no substitute for a wise, savvy, and resolute president. Until we get one of those, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Many others have noted the drivel emanating from our secretary of state — the platitudinous phrases, the double talk, and the insulation from reality. But it is also correct that we should not be surprised any longer:

In a way, you can’t blame her for her haplessness, secretarially speaking. Her own experience with matters foreign—being “shot at” by Bosnian “snipers,” for one, or, for another, kissing Suha Arafat while Mrs. Arafat’s blood-soaked husband was shoveling the untold millions he’d stolen from his miserable flock into Swiss bank accounts—has been somewhat . . . insubstantial. And in any case, she’s not exactly in charge. The Obamic foreign policy, such as it is, seems to be being formulated and conducted as much (maybe more?) from the West Wing as from Foggy Bottom, and by people even less familiar with the issues than she, who’ve done almost nothing in their lives but run political campaigns—and that’s in Chicago, where a little cold hard cash and some cold stiff bodies voting at graveyard polling stations can get anyone elected—and who are still in essence running a campaign today, though they call it a presidency.

She has declared that “ideology is so yesterday.” But so too is a sense of realism — yes, a true sense of who it is we face in the world, what motivates friends and foes, and what experience has taught us. No wonder the Obami are always “surprised” or “deeply disappointed” or “puzzled.” If you have historical amnesia, every day is a new one, and rebuffs, defeats, and dead ends come as surprises, disappointments, and puzzles.

The Obami, of course, dug themselves a deep hole by repudiating, or trying to repudiate, everything the Bush administration had tried. If the Bush team cultivated a close and productive relationship with Israel, they’d take a different tact. If the Bush administration forged bonds with Eastern Europe and extended our missile defense program, by gosh the Obami wouldn’t have any of that. If George W. Bush spoke movingly about human rights and met with dissidents, the Obami wouldn’t go there. It’s hard to be both reflexively rejectionist and ideology-free, isn’t it?

But the fault surely resides in the West Wing. Obama is a prisoner of so much ideology, it’s hard to keep track. There’s his blind faith in multilateralism. There’s his infatuation with the Left’s notion that an American groveling deficiency is at the root of “misunderstandings” with the “Muslim World.” And let’s not forget the “if we disarm, surely the despotic regimes will” hooey.

Dispensing of this or that hapless adviser might improve matters at the margins. It would be nice to think that we have one administration figure who doesn’t appear foolish when encountering a real interviewer (e.g., Chris Wallace, Candy Crowley). But ultimately, there’s no substitute for a wise, savvy, and resolute president. Until we get one of those, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

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Time to Throw Holder Under the Bus?

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Evan Bayh, perhaps hearing footsteps back home in an election year, said of the KSM trial that it ”sounded good in theory way back when but, in practice, it just was not the right thing to do.” When pressed by Chris Wallace, he stated he would not vote for the $200 million or so needed for a civilian trial for KSM. He was not alone in criticizing the administration:

Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin argued these are the wrong decisions.  “We should have learned from the mistakes we made in the past.  We shouldn’t be Mirandizing foreign terrorists.  We should send them to military tribunals.  $200 million is about four times the startup cost of Guantanamo in the first place.”

Similarly, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander accused Attorney General Holder of “doing a better job of interrogating CIA employees than he is of interrogating terrorists.”

“He’s not making a distinction between enemy combatants, the terrorists who are flying into Detroit, blowing up plans, and American citizens who are committing a crime,” he added.

Alexander went so far as to call for Holder to step down.

Meanwhile, the administration’s official flack did not exactly give a ringing endorsement of either the KSM trial or of Holder himself. Appearing on CNN, Robert Gibbs would only say:

“He will be brought to justice, and he will likely be executed for the heinous crimes he has committed. … That you can be sure of.”

But he dodged repeated questions by CNN host John King about whether the administration might shift the venue back from federal court in New York to a military court, finally saying that “The attorney general believes the best place to try him is in an American courtroom,” but not committing to that option…

“We are talking with the authorities in New York,” Gibbs said. “We understand their logistical concerns. We have been discussing that with them.”

So this is all the attorney general’s idea, you see. Not exactly the “buck stops here” sort of decision-making we were assured we’d get from Obama. But aside from the lack of presidential accountability and candor (who believes Holder made this monumentally dumb decision with no input from the White House?), it does leave open the potential for a serious revision in personnel and policy.

There is wide consensus that the decision to try KSM in federal court in New York was a blunder. Suddenly, the wonders of military commissions have been rediscovered. The handling of the Christmas Day bomber is likewise the subject of broad criticism. Who is at the center of these and a host of other ill-advised decisions on the war on terror? Well, the president, of course, but he’s not going anywhere for three years. His attorney general, however, has had quite a run and is fast becoming a liability for the administration. What better way to pivot and restore some bipartisan credibility than to throw Holder under the proverbial bus?

We’ve learned that it takes a lot to get fired by Obama. But if anyone has earned that fate, it is Holder. His departure would earn praise from conservatives at a time when Obama is struggling to demonstrate some bipartisanship. It would suggest that there is hope yet for this administration to steer back toward the Center of the political spectrum and away from the netroot agenda that has proven utterly unworkable and politically toxic.

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Evan Bayh, perhaps hearing footsteps back home in an election year, said of the KSM trial that it ”sounded good in theory way back when but, in practice, it just was not the right thing to do.” When pressed by Chris Wallace, he stated he would not vote for the $200 million or so needed for a civilian trial for KSM. He was not alone in criticizing the administration:

Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin argued these are the wrong decisions.  “We should have learned from the mistakes we made in the past.  We shouldn’t be Mirandizing foreign terrorists.  We should send them to military tribunals.  $200 million is about four times the startup cost of Guantanamo in the first place.”

Similarly, Republican Senator Lamar Alexander accused Attorney General Holder of “doing a better job of interrogating CIA employees than he is of interrogating terrorists.”

“He’s not making a distinction between enemy combatants, the terrorists who are flying into Detroit, blowing up plans, and American citizens who are committing a crime,” he added.

Alexander went so far as to call for Holder to step down.

Meanwhile, the administration’s official flack did not exactly give a ringing endorsement of either the KSM trial or of Holder himself. Appearing on CNN, Robert Gibbs would only say:

“He will be brought to justice, and he will likely be executed for the heinous crimes he has committed. … That you can be sure of.”

But he dodged repeated questions by CNN host John King about whether the administration might shift the venue back from federal court in New York to a military court, finally saying that “The attorney general believes the best place to try him is in an American courtroom,” but not committing to that option…

“We are talking with the authorities in New York,” Gibbs said. “We understand their logistical concerns. We have been discussing that with them.”

So this is all the attorney general’s idea, you see. Not exactly the “buck stops here” sort of decision-making we were assured we’d get from Obama. But aside from the lack of presidential accountability and candor (who believes Holder made this monumentally dumb decision with no input from the White House?), it does leave open the potential for a serious revision in personnel and policy.

There is wide consensus that the decision to try KSM in federal court in New York was a blunder. Suddenly, the wonders of military commissions have been rediscovered. The handling of the Christmas Day bomber is likewise the subject of broad criticism. Who is at the center of these and a host of other ill-advised decisions on the war on terror? Well, the president, of course, but he’s not going anywhere for three years. His attorney general, however, has had quite a run and is fast becoming a liability for the administration. What better way to pivot and restore some bipartisan credibility than to throw Holder under the proverbial bus?

We’ve learned that it takes a lot to get fired by Obama. But if anyone has earned that fate, it is Holder. His departure would earn praise from conservatives at a time when Obama is struggling to demonstrate some bipartisanship. It would suggest that there is hope yet for this administration to steer back toward the Center of the political spectrum and away from the netroot agenda that has proven utterly unworkable and politically toxic.

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But Isn’t There a Downside?

This is an instructive exchange on Fox News Sunday between Obama’s counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, and Chris Wallace, on the subject of treating the Christmas Day bomber as a criminal defendant. Why do this?

BRENNAN: Well, we have an array of tools that we will use, and we want to make sure we maintain flexibility as far as how we deal with these individuals.

Now, let’s get the facts on the table. He was arrested on U.S. soil on a plane on — in the Detroit airplane. He was, in fact, talking to people who were detaining him.

There were people who were arrested during the previous administration — Richard Reid, the shoe bomber; Zacarias Moussaoui; Padilla; Iyman Faris; others — all were charged and tried in criminal court and sentenced, some cases to life imprisonment.

Just because somebody is going to be put into the criminal legal process does not mean that they’re — we don’t have other opportunities to get information from them.

WALLACE: But wait, wait. Let me ask you specifically. After Abdulmutallab got lawyered up, did he stop cooperating with authorities? Did he stop talking?

BRENNAN: I’m not going to address exactly what he did before or after he was — talked with his lawyer. We got information. We continue to have opportunities to do that.

As you talk with the lawyers and you talk with the individuals, as they recognize what they’re facing as far as the charges, conviction and possible sentence, there are opportunities to continue to talk about it.

FBI has some of the best interrogators and debriefers in the world, and so I’m confident that we’re going to continue to be able to work this system and see whether or not…

WALLACE: But once he gets his Miranda rights, he doesn’t have to speak at all.

BRENNAN: He doesn’t have to, but he knows that there are certain things that are on the table, and if he wants to, in fact, engage with us in a productive manner, there are ways that he can do that.

WALLACE: But why not treat him — you certainly had the right — have — had — still have the right to treat him as an enemy combatant. Why not do that?

If he has more actionable intelligence about future attacks, and you say there’s a real possibility of that, doesn’t the president have a responsibility to do everything legal he can to get that information?

BRENNAN: And the president has that responsibility, and the Department of Justice makes these determinations about what’s the best tool to use. And in this instance, we felt as though it was the best way to address Mr. Abdulmutallab’s case.

We’ll continue to look at each of the cases individually and proceed accordingly.

WALLACE: Just briefly, what’s the downside of treating him as an enemy combatant?

BRENNAN: There’s — there are no downsides or upsides in particular cases. What we’re trying to do is to make sure we apply the right tool in the right instance. In this case, we made a determination that he should be tried in U.S. criminal court.

If you missed the coherent explanation for why they are doing this — other than the fact that the lefty lawyers in the Justice Department told them to — you are not alone. The lack of thoughtful analysis as to the national-security implications of treating Abdulmutallab as a criminal rather than as an enemy combatant is somewhat stunning. Yes, the terrorist doesn’t have to talk to us, but we have “certain things on the table.” What — we are already plea bargaining with an al-Qaeda trained terrorist? It is startling, but it is also the natural result of what comes from putting the criminal-justice model into place. Oh, he’s arrested here? So Mirandize him, call the FBI, and yes, I suppose, permit him to take the 5th. And when Brennan says that there is “no downsides or upsides in particular cases,” one has to wonder what in the world he is talking about. Of course there is a downside to allowing Abdulmutallab to clam up. Just as there would have been a downside had we allowed KSM to clam up. We lose potentially life-saving information when we stand quietly by.

The difference is that the Bush administration wasn’t willing to play Russian roulette with Americans lives or hope that detainees would eventually change their minds and co-operate. The Obama administration is. And that should be deeply disturbing to all of us.

This is an instructive exchange on Fox News Sunday between Obama’s counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, and Chris Wallace, on the subject of treating the Christmas Day bomber as a criminal defendant. Why do this?

BRENNAN: Well, we have an array of tools that we will use, and we want to make sure we maintain flexibility as far as how we deal with these individuals.

Now, let’s get the facts on the table. He was arrested on U.S. soil on a plane on — in the Detroit airplane. He was, in fact, talking to people who were detaining him.

There were people who were arrested during the previous administration — Richard Reid, the shoe bomber; Zacarias Moussaoui; Padilla; Iyman Faris; others — all were charged and tried in criminal court and sentenced, some cases to life imprisonment.

Just because somebody is going to be put into the criminal legal process does not mean that they’re — we don’t have other opportunities to get information from them.

WALLACE: But wait, wait. Let me ask you specifically. After Abdulmutallab got lawyered up, did he stop cooperating with authorities? Did he stop talking?

BRENNAN: I’m not going to address exactly what he did before or after he was — talked with his lawyer. We got information. We continue to have opportunities to do that.

As you talk with the lawyers and you talk with the individuals, as they recognize what they’re facing as far as the charges, conviction and possible sentence, there are opportunities to continue to talk about it.

FBI has some of the best interrogators and debriefers in the world, and so I’m confident that we’re going to continue to be able to work this system and see whether or not…

WALLACE: But once he gets his Miranda rights, he doesn’t have to speak at all.

BRENNAN: He doesn’t have to, but he knows that there are certain things that are on the table, and if he wants to, in fact, engage with us in a productive manner, there are ways that he can do that.

WALLACE: But why not treat him — you certainly had the right — have — had — still have the right to treat him as an enemy combatant. Why not do that?

If he has more actionable intelligence about future attacks, and you say there’s a real possibility of that, doesn’t the president have a responsibility to do everything legal he can to get that information?

BRENNAN: And the president has that responsibility, and the Department of Justice makes these determinations about what’s the best tool to use. And in this instance, we felt as though it was the best way to address Mr. Abdulmutallab’s case.

We’ll continue to look at each of the cases individually and proceed accordingly.

WALLACE: Just briefly, what’s the downside of treating him as an enemy combatant?

BRENNAN: There’s — there are no downsides or upsides in particular cases. What we’re trying to do is to make sure we apply the right tool in the right instance. In this case, we made a determination that he should be tried in U.S. criminal court.

If you missed the coherent explanation for why they are doing this — other than the fact that the lefty lawyers in the Justice Department told them to — you are not alone. The lack of thoughtful analysis as to the national-security implications of treating Abdulmutallab as a criminal rather than as an enemy combatant is somewhat stunning. Yes, the terrorist doesn’t have to talk to us, but we have “certain things on the table.” What — we are already plea bargaining with an al-Qaeda trained terrorist? It is startling, but it is also the natural result of what comes from putting the criminal-justice model into place. Oh, he’s arrested here? So Mirandize him, call the FBI, and yes, I suppose, permit him to take the 5th. And when Brennan says that there is “no downsides or upsides in particular cases,” one has to wonder what in the world he is talking about. Of course there is a downside to allowing Abdulmutallab to clam up. Just as there would have been a downside had we allowed KSM to clam up. We lose potentially life-saving information when we stand quietly by.

The difference is that the Bush administration wasn’t willing to play Russian roulette with Americans lives or hope that detainees would eventually change their minds and co-operate. The Obama administration is. And that should be deeply disturbing to all of us.

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Obama on Roberts

During his interview with Chris Wallace yesterday, Barack Obama came across as he did in the early part of this campaign: thoughtful, reasonable, and likeable. But as we have come to expect with Obama, there is a need to unpack his answers carefully. For example, we got a glimpse into what Obama considers to be his capacity to transcend partisanship:

During the . . .  John Roberts nomination, although I voted against him, I strongly defended some of my colleagues who had voted for him on the Daily Kos, and was fiercely attacked as somebody who is, you know, caving in to Republicans on these fights.

It’s worth bearing in mind that John Roberts is one of the most distinguished people ever appointed to the Supreme Court. He is not only intellectually brilliant, but widely respected by virtually everyone he has ever worked with for his judicious temperament and his integrity. And, during the confirmation hearings, Roberts’ mastery of the law allowed him to match and overmatch even his most indefatigable critics. There were, in short, no real grounds on which to oppose the Roberts nomination.

Nevertheless, Obama voted against Roberts. (It’s worth recalling that when President Clinton nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, she was confirmed by a vote of 96 to 3–and Roberts was, if anything, more qualified than Ginsburg to sit on the high court.) For Obama to vote against Judge Roberts was an irresponsible, partisan decision, the kind of “old politics” that Obama has promised to rescue us from. And his citation of that vote as an example of post-partisan credentials shows just how desperate Obama is to present himself as a unifying figure. His record demonstrates nothing of the sort–and yesterday’s interview is one more example of why the portrait Obama is presenting is in many respects deeply at odds with his record.

During his interview with Chris Wallace yesterday, Barack Obama came across as he did in the early part of this campaign: thoughtful, reasonable, and likeable. But as we have come to expect with Obama, there is a need to unpack his answers carefully. For example, we got a glimpse into what Obama considers to be his capacity to transcend partisanship:

During the . . .  John Roberts nomination, although I voted against him, I strongly defended some of my colleagues who had voted for him on the Daily Kos, and was fiercely attacked as somebody who is, you know, caving in to Republicans on these fights.

It’s worth bearing in mind that John Roberts is one of the most distinguished people ever appointed to the Supreme Court. He is not only intellectually brilliant, but widely respected by virtually everyone he has ever worked with for his judicious temperament and his integrity. And, during the confirmation hearings, Roberts’ mastery of the law allowed him to match and overmatch even his most indefatigable critics. There were, in short, no real grounds on which to oppose the Roberts nomination.

Nevertheless, Obama voted against Roberts. (It’s worth recalling that when President Clinton nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, she was confirmed by a vote of 96 to 3–and Roberts was, if anything, more qualified than Ginsburg to sit on the high court.) For Obama to vote against Judge Roberts was an irresponsible, partisan decision, the kind of “old politics” that Obama has promised to rescue us from. And his citation of that vote as an example of post-partisan credentials shows just how desperate Obama is to present himself as a unifying figure. His record demonstrates nothing of the sort–and yesterday’s interview is one more example of why the portrait Obama is presenting is in many respects deeply at odds with his record.

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Not An Illegitimate Question

As more of Reverend Wright’s pearls of wisdom come out (“We cannot see, however, what we are doing is the same thing al Qaeda is doing under a different colored flag, calling on the name of a different God to sanction and approve our murder and our mayhem”) and he reappears for an interview with Bill Moyers, there are many of us who are perplexed by John McCain’s reticence to discuss the matter.

But now we have Barack Obama’s thoughts. In an interview with Chris Wallace he says:

I think that people were legitimately offended by some of the comments that he had made in the past. The fact that he is my former pastor I think makes it a legitimate political issue….And so the question becomes, how do voters draw conclusions about my values? Do they talk about, do they look at the 20 years in which I’ve devoted my life to community service? Do they about the work I did as a community organizer working with Catholic parishes and churches to bring people together to set up job training programs for the unemployed and the poor? That’s a reflection of my values. Do they look at how I’ve raised my children and how I speak about my family? That’s a reflection of my values. I don’t think that the issue of Reverend Wright is illegitimate. I just think that the way it was reported was not I think a reflection of both that church that I attend and who I am.

Obama stumbles and mumbles a bit about when asked for particulars as to what he heard Wright say, and of course reverts to the “soundbite unfairness” mantra, but even he admits: This is fair game and he will need to explain how his devotion to Wright and choice of him as a “mentor” meshes with his post-racial rhetoric.

Now if he can say it, why can’t McCain? Well, perhaps looking for an excuse to get out of his political predicament (i.e. he can’t talk about a critical issue his likely opponent admits is a problem), McCain now seems to have walked through Obama’s open door. There was this exchange today at a press avail:

Question: Senator, the North Carolina GOP has continued to persist in this advertisement. I was wondering if you could talk about what steps, if any, you will continue to take?

McCain: I’ve stated my position very clearly that I don’t like the ad. I was interested that this morning Senator Obama said that it was a legitimate political issue. If he believes that, then it will probably be a political issue. I saw yesterday some additional comments that have been revealed by Pastor Wright, one of them comparing the United States Marine Corps with Roman legionnaires who were responsible for the death of our Savior. I mean being involved in that — it’s beyond belief. And then of course saying that Al Qaeda and the American Flag were the same flags. So I can understand — I can understand why the American people are upset about this. I can understand that Americans viewing these kinds of comments are angry and upset, just like they viewed Senator Obama’s statements about why people turn to their faith and their values. He believes that it’s out of economic concerns, when we all know that it’s out of fundamental belief, fundamental faith in this country and its values and its principles. Again, Senator Obama is out of touch. I can’t control and will not in the future control. I will voice my opinion and I will continue to think and to say that I think that ad should not be run. But I won’t continue to try to be the referee here.

And later:

Question: I just want to follow up on the Jeremiah Wright issue. you noted today that you saw that Obama said it’s a legitimate political issue, you’ve said previously it is not.

McCain: I have said that I will not have any comment on it and that because I thought and I believe that Senator Obama does not share those views. But Sen. Obama himself says it’s a legitimate political issue, so I would imagine that many other people will share that view, and it will be in the arena. But my position that Senator Obama doesn’t share those views remains the same.

Apparently all now agree: this is not an illegitimate issue.

As more of Reverend Wright’s pearls of wisdom come out (“We cannot see, however, what we are doing is the same thing al Qaeda is doing under a different colored flag, calling on the name of a different God to sanction and approve our murder and our mayhem”) and he reappears for an interview with Bill Moyers, there are many of us who are perplexed by John McCain’s reticence to discuss the matter.

But now we have Barack Obama’s thoughts. In an interview with Chris Wallace he says:

I think that people were legitimately offended by some of the comments that he had made in the past. The fact that he is my former pastor I think makes it a legitimate political issue….And so the question becomes, how do voters draw conclusions about my values? Do they talk about, do they look at the 20 years in which I’ve devoted my life to community service? Do they about the work I did as a community organizer working with Catholic parishes and churches to bring people together to set up job training programs for the unemployed and the poor? That’s a reflection of my values. Do they look at how I’ve raised my children and how I speak about my family? That’s a reflection of my values. I don’t think that the issue of Reverend Wright is illegitimate. I just think that the way it was reported was not I think a reflection of both that church that I attend and who I am.

Obama stumbles and mumbles a bit about when asked for particulars as to what he heard Wright say, and of course reverts to the “soundbite unfairness” mantra, but even he admits: This is fair game and he will need to explain how his devotion to Wright and choice of him as a “mentor” meshes with his post-racial rhetoric.

Now if he can say it, why can’t McCain? Well, perhaps looking for an excuse to get out of his political predicament (i.e. he can’t talk about a critical issue his likely opponent admits is a problem), McCain now seems to have walked through Obama’s open door. There was this exchange today at a press avail:

Question: Senator, the North Carolina GOP has continued to persist in this advertisement. I was wondering if you could talk about what steps, if any, you will continue to take?

McCain: I’ve stated my position very clearly that I don’t like the ad. I was interested that this morning Senator Obama said that it was a legitimate political issue. If he believes that, then it will probably be a political issue. I saw yesterday some additional comments that have been revealed by Pastor Wright, one of them comparing the United States Marine Corps with Roman legionnaires who were responsible for the death of our Savior. I mean being involved in that — it’s beyond belief. And then of course saying that Al Qaeda and the American Flag were the same flags. So I can understand — I can understand why the American people are upset about this. I can understand that Americans viewing these kinds of comments are angry and upset, just like they viewed Senator Obama’s statements about why people turn to their faith and their values. He believes that it’s out of economic concerns, when we all know that it’s out of fundamental belief, fundamental faith in this country and its values and its principles. Again, Senator Obama is out of touch. I can’t control and will not in the future control. I will voice my opinion and I will continue to think and to say that I think that ad should not be run. But I won’t continue to try to be the referee here.

And later:

Question: I just want to follow up on the Jeremiah Wright issue. you noted today that you saw that Obama said it’s a legitimate political issue, you’ve said previously it is not.

McCain: I have said that I will not have any comment on it and that because I thought and I believe that Senator Obama does not share those views. But Sen. Obama himself says it’s a legitimate political issue, so I would imagine that many other people will share that view, and it will be in the arena. But my position that Senator Obama doesn’t share those views remains the same.

Apparently all now agree: this is not an illegitimate issue.

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REPUBLICAN DEBATE: How to Stop a Recession

The Republican candidates are debating in South Carolina, and Chris Wallace of Fox News has tripped up John McCain at the outset by asking what short-term measures he would take to mitigate or stop the recession. To which McCain responded, “We should stop runaway spending.” Actually, the only time you don’t want to rein in federal spending is at the outset of a recession.

The Republican candidates are debating in South Carolina, and Chris Wallace of Fox News has tripped up John McCain at the outset by asking what short-term measures he would take to mitigate or stop the recession. To which McCain responded, “We should stop runaway spending.” Actually, the only time you don’t want to rein in federal spending is at the outset of a recession.

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IOWA: Romney Loses..and Loses the Metaphor War Also

With NBC News calling Mike Huckabee the Iowa caucus winner, Mitt Romney has suffered a body blow. He has also lost the metaphor war. Romney just told Chris Wallace of Fox News that “this is the first inning of a 50-inning game?” Fifty innings? Is that some sort of cricket reference?

With NBC News calling Mike Huckabee the Iowa caucus winner, Mitt Romney has suffered a body blow. He has also lost the metaphor war. Romney just told Chris Wallace of Fox News that “this is the first inning of a 50-inning game?” Fifty innings? Is that some sort of cricket reference?

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