Commentary Magazine


Topic: D.C.

In Defense of DC

Andy Ferguson, who seems incapable of writing something that is not worth reading, has penned a piece for The Weekly Standard that takes aim at those who criticize Washington, D.C., while enjoying wonderful (and often profitable) lives thanks to their careers in the nation’s capital. Andy’s target in this particular case is Rick Santorum, but he is just one of a seemingly endless list of candidates. Ferguson, who is also a monthly contributor to COMMENTARY, describes them as a Washingtonian of a particular type:

The anti-Washington Washingtonian—an AWW, a contented resident of the nation’s capital who has based his career on his loudly declared disdain for the nation’s capital, particularly the federal Leviathan residing there. The AWW campaigns against Washington, catalogues its harmful effects, extols alternatives, and contrasts it with the “real America,” which he vows to liberate forever from its depredations — while never admitting that Washington is the very thing that makes his life worth living.

This critique gives voice to something I’ve felt since almost the day I arrived in Washington in the 1980s.

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Andy Ferguson, who seems incapable of writing something that is not worth reading, has penned a piece for The Weekly Standard that takes aim at those who criticize Washington, D.C., while enjoying wonderful (and often profitable) lives thanks to their careers in the nation’s capital. Andy’s target in this particular case is Rick Santorum, but he is just one of a seemingly endless list of candidates. Ferguson, who is also a monthly contributor to COMMENTARY, describes them as a Washingtonian of a particular type:

The anti-Washington Washingtonian—an AWW, a contented resident of the nation’s capital who has based his career on his loudly declared disdain for the nation’s capital, particularly the federal Leviathan residing there. The AWW campaigns against Washington, catalogues its harmful effects, extols alternatives, and contrasts it with the “real America,” which he vows to liberate forever from its depredations — while never admitting that Washington is the very thing that makes his life worth living.

This critique gives voice to something I’ve felt since almost the day I arrived in Washington in the 1980s.

Many of the same people who would criticize Washington with zeal, acting as if it’s a sacrifice and terrible burden to live here, are the same ones who would rather surrender their first-born son than leave D.C. The dirty little secret is that most of the political class who live in Washington thoroughly enjoy it. And the dirtier little secret is (as Andy documents) they have every reason to enjoy it.

I know it’s fashionable for Washingtonians to second the words of Harry Truman, who said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” There’s only one problem with this critique: It’s wrong. Over the years I’ve made countless friends, people who are intelligent and informed and care deeply about public affairs. I’m fortunate to have regular lunches and dinners with some of the brightest columnists and commentators in the country — the very heart and soul of the much-derided “establishment” and “ruling class”—and they are thoroughly uplifting and enjoyable affairs. There’s not a cynic among them. And for those, particularly on the right, who constantly criticize people who live and work “inside the Beltway,” speaking as if they are alien beings, I have news for them: the nation’s capital is part of the “real America.”

The people who inhabit D.C. and the surrounding suburbs (I live in McLean, Virginia) are no less (and no more) admirable than people I’ve met anywhere else in the country. They’re active in their neighborhoods, their schools, and their places of worship. They attend PTA meetings and Bible studies and prayer groups; they coach soccer and basketball and baseball.

I have no interest in idealizing D.C. But I do think it’s helpful from time to time to puncture the fiction — perpetrated mostly by conservatives, to be honest — that D.C. and the surrounding suburbs are simply comprised of knaves and fools, of people who are unprincipled and out of touch. Like most of the political class who live in the D.C. area, I consider it a blessing to be able to call it my home. A lot of other people do, too. I just wish they’d do us all a favor and say so.

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Wife of Chinese Political Prisoner Gao Zhisheng Pleads for His Release

“Mr. Obama, if you still remember the pain of the void you had growing up without your dad, maybe you can help my children reunite with their dad,” said Geng He, the wife of former human-rights attorney and Chinese political prisoner Gao Zhisheng at a press conference in Washington D.C. yesterday.

Obviously, the person she was speaking to wasn’t in the room. But it was a valiant effort to raise media awareness for her husband’s plight, one of many similar attempts over the past few weeks. As Washington prepared for Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit, Geng appeared to have embarked on a campaign of her own. She’s given interviews to numerous news outlets, spoken at press conferences, and made appeals to the administration. But even though it’s crucial to speak out for political prisoners like Gao, the venture isn’t without risks. Geng’s husband could potentially bear the brunt of any anger the Chinese government may have over the public descriptions of his imprisonment.

Last week, for the first time, the AP published a 2010 interview with Gao about his previous treatment in prison. It was a story he requested they publish in only two circumstances. One was if he managed to escape from China and reunite with his wife and children in the U.S. The other was if he disappeared.

After eight months of no contact with the former human-rights attorney, AP and Geng decided enough time had gone by to go ahead with the piece. AP released the story to coincide with Hu’s visit. The account of Gao’s suffering is chilling on its own. And he admitted during the interview that there were certain aspects of the torture that he would not even divulge to the reporter.

But even though Hillary Clinton mentioned Gao’s mistreatment in a speech right before Hu’s visit, President Obama hasn’t publicly discussed the political prisoner since the Chinese leader arrived in D.C.

When Obama was pressed on human rights at a joint press conference with Hu yesterday, he offered only excuses for the Chinese government. The country, said Obama, “has a different political system than we do” and is “at a different state of development than we are.”

“We come from two different cultures and different histories,” he added.

Later that night, Obama hosted a lavish state dinner for President Hu. It looked like a beautiful event, at least from the photos. There’s even a picture of the first couple smiling as they post on either side of the Chinese leader (just a diplomatic nicety, of course).

Gao also seems to be someone who believes in the importance of smiling through unpleasant situations. “Even when I was tortured to near-death, the pain was only in the physical body,” he wrote in 2009. “A heart that is filled with God has no room to entertain pain and suffering. I often sing along loudly with my two children, but my wife never joins us. Despite all my efforts, she still feels miserable in her heart.”

Sure, the state dinner was just a matter of maintaining good relations with the Chinese government. Ensuring future stability for the U.S. and the world and all that. But with Hu returning home, and as media interest in Chinese political prisoners wanes, it’s less clear what the future holds for Gao Zhisheng and his family.

“Mr. Obama, if you still remember the pain of the void you had growing up without your dad, maybe you can help my children reunite with their dad,” said Geng He, the wife of former human-rights attorney and Chinese political prisoner Gao Zhisheng at a press conference in Washington D.C. yesterday.

Obviously, the person she was speaking to wasn’t in the room. But it was a valiant effort to raise media awareness for her husband’s plight, one of many similar attempts over the past few weeks. As Washington prepared for Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit, Geng appeared to have embarked on a campaign of her own. She’s given interviews to numerous news outlets, spoken at press conferences, and made appeals to the administration. But even though it’s crucial to speak out for political prisoners like Gao, the venture isn’t without risks. Geng’s husband could potentially bear the brunt of any anger the Chinese government may have over the public descriptions of his imprisonment.

Last week, for the first time, the AP published a 2010 interview with Gao about his previous treatment in prison. It was a story he requested they publish in only two circumstances. One was if he managed to escape from China and reunite with his wife and children in the U.S. The other was if he disappeared.

After eight months of no contact with the former human-rights attorney, AP and Geng decided enough time had gone by to go ahead with the piece. AP released the story to coincide with Hu’s visit. The account of Gao’s suffering is chilling on its own. And he admitted during the interview that there were certain aspects of the torture that he would not even divulge to the reporter.

But even though Hillary Clinton mentioned Gao’s mistreatment in a speech right before Hu’s visit, President Obama hasn’t publicly discussed the political prisoner since the Chinese leader arrived in D.C.

When Obama was pressed on human rights at a joint press conference with Hu yesterday, he offered only excuses for the Chinese government. The country, said Obama, “has a different political system than we do” and is “at a different state of development than we are.”

“We come from two different cultures and different histories,” he added.

Later that night, Obama hosted a lavish state dinner for President Hu. It looked like a beautiful event, at least from the photos. There’s even a picture of the first couple smiling as they post on either side of the Chinese leader (just a diplomatic nicety, of course).

Gao also seems to be someone who believes in the importance of smiling through unpleasant situations. “Even when I was tortured to near-death, the pain was only in the physical body,” he wrote in 2009. “A heart that is filled with God has no room to entertain pain and suffering. I often sing along loudly with my two children, but my wife never joins us. Despite all my efforts, she still feels miserable in her heart.”

Sure, the state dinner was just a matter of maintaining good relations with the Chinese government. Ensuring future stability for the U.S. and the world and all that. But with Hu returning home, and as media interest in Chinese political prisoners wanes, it’s less clear what the future holds for Gao Zhisheng and his family.

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Was Obama’s Speech His Finest Hour?

Obama’s Tucson speech was the best of his presidency, and his challenge to fulfill the expectations of the girl who came to meet her congresswoman on the corner will be a lasting contribution to presidential rhetoric. The suggestion by Garry Wills in “Obama’s Finest Hour” that the speech compares favorably with Lincoln’s Gettysburg and Second Inaugural Addresses strikes me as a tad excessive, but Obama gave a beautiful speech at a critical moment and lifted both the country and his own presidency. Everything a speech can do, it did.

In some sense, it was a sermon to himself, since he bears as much blame (and perhaps more) as anyone for the divisive rhetoric that has marked the first two years of his presidency. If there will be no more presidential denigration of political opponents as “enemies,” “hostage takers,” “bitter clingers,” people he has to “clean up after” who should “not do a lot of talking” and ride in the “back of the bus,” both the country and his presidency will be better for it. The clearest test of the Tucson sermon will be how well he is able to adhere to it.

At this moment, it may be worth recalling the final question at George W. Bush’s final news conference on January 12, 2009:

Q … You arrived here wanting to be a uniter, not a divider. Do you think Barack Obama can be a uniter, not a divider? Or is — with the challenges for any President and the unpopular decisions, is it impossible for any President to be uniter, not a divider?

THE PRESIDENT: I hope the tone is different for him than it has been for me. I am disappointed by the tone in Washington, D.C. I tried to do my part by not engaging in the name-calling and — and by the way, needless name-calling. I have worked to be respectful of my opponents on different issues. … It’s just the rhetoric got out of control at times –

Q Why?

THE PRESIDENT: I don’t know why. You need to ask those who — those who used the words they used. As I say, it’s not the first time it’s ever happened. … It’s happened throughout our history. And I would hope that, frankly, for the sake of the system itself, that if people disagree with President-Elect Obama, they treat him with respect. …  And so I wish him all the best. And no question he’ll be — there will be critics. And there should be. … I just hope the tone is respectful.

It would be a mistake to wish for a Kumbaya country; there are important issues that need to be debated and decided, on which the future of the country rests. But civility in debate can assist in their resolution.

And it would be an even bigger mistake to think that a speech is the solution in every situation. One of the reasons Obama’s sermon was a great speech is that a speech is what the occasion called for. In other situations, particularly in foreign affairs, an outstretched rhetorical hand has only limited efficacy; world problems are rarely resolved by declaring oneself a citizen of the world; and continually declaring that the time is now does not engender respect among the nations.

As Iran continues its efforts to change the Middle East, and with it the global balance of power, Obama’s challenge will be to summon not eloquence but resolution. His finest hour will require more than a speech.

Obama’s Tucson speech was the best of his presidency, and his challenge to fulfill the expectations of the girl who came to meet her congresswoman on the corner will be a lasting contribution to presidential rhetoric. The suggestion by Garry Wills in “Obama’s Finest Hour” that the speech compares favorably with Lincoln’s Gettysburg and Second Inaugural Addresses strikes me as a tad excessive, but Obama gave a beautiful speech at a critical moment and lifted both the country and his own presidency. Everything a speech can do, it did.

In some sense, it was a sermon to himself, since he bears as much blame (and perhaps more) as anyone for the divisive rhetoric that has marked the first two years of his presidency. If there will be no more presidential denigration of political opponents as “enemies,” “hostage takers,” “bitter clingers,” people he has to “clean up after” who should “not do a lot of talking” and ride in the “back of the bus,” both the country and his presidency will be better for it. The clearest test of the Tucson sermon will be how well he is able to adhere to it.

At this moment, it may be worth recalling the final question at George W. Bush’s final news conference on January 12, 2009:

Q … You arrived here wanting to be a uniter, not a divider. Do you think Barack Obama can be a uniter, not a divider? Or is — with the challenges for any President and the unpopular decisions, is it impossible for any President to be uniter, not a divider?

THE PRESIDENT: I hope the tone is different for him than it has been for me. I am disappointed by the tone in Washington, D.C. I tried to do my part by not engaging in the name-calling and — and by the way, needless name-calling. I have worked to be respectful of my opponents on different issues. … It’s just the rhetoric got out of control at times –

Q Why?

THE PRESIDENT: I don’t know why. You need to ask those who — those who used the words they used. As I say, it’s not the first time it’s ever happened. … It’s happened throughout our history. And I would hope that, frankly, for the sake of the system itself, that if people disagree with President-Elect Obama, they treat him with respect. …  And so I wish him all the best. And no question he’ll be — there will be critics. And there should be. … I just hope the tone is respectful.

It would be a mistake to wish for a Kumbaya country; there are important issues that need to be debated and decided, on which the future of the country rests. But civility in debate can assist in their resolution.

And it would be an even bigger mistake to think that a speech is the solution in every situation. One of the reasons Obama’s sermon was a great speech is that a speech is what the occasion called for. In other situations, particularly in foreign affairs, an outstretched rhetorical hand has only limited efficacy; world problems are rarely resolved by declaring oneself a citizen of the world; and continually declaring that the time is now does not engender respect among the nations.

As Iran continues its efforts to change the Middle East, and with it the global balance of power, Obama’s challenge will be to summon not eloquence but resolution. His finest hour will require more than a speech.

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SPJ Executive Committee Recommends Renaming Helen Thomas Award

Yesterday, the Society of Professional Journalists’ executive committee voted in favor of renaming the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement. But the decision isn’t yet binding — it still has to be approved by the full board of directors, which will vote on it within the next 10 days:

The recommendation issued Jan. 8 by the national journalists’ group, based on anti-Zionist remarks made by Thomas, will be sent to its board of directors within 10 days. The award will still be given, but without Thomas’ name.

“While we support Helen Thomas’ right to speak her opinion, we condemn her statements in December as offensive and inappropriate,” the executive committee said in making its recommendation.

On Dec. 2, in a speech to an Arab-American group in Dearborn, Mich., Thomas, 90, said that Congress, the White House, Hollywood and Wall Street “are owned by the Zionists.”  The remarks raised fresh concerns about the sincerity of an apology for her remarks last summer to a video blogger that Jews “should get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to Poland, Germany and the United States.

The executive committee’s decision doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Other institutions have already removed Thomas’s name from awards, so the SPJ can follow suit while avoiding too much controversy. On the other hand, if the organization had voted to keep the name on the award, there’s no way it would have been able to get past this incident quietly. The SPJ executive committee said this pretty unambiguously in its press release:

During robust debate on Saturday, the committee considered positions from those supporting Thomas’ right to free speech and those who considered her remarks unbecoming of an honor given by SPJ. The committee decided while both positions have merit, the best way to return the focus to SPJ’s important work would be to distance itself from the controversy now overshadowing this award.

“Let’s work on what unites us rather than what divides us,” Limor said.

This is an understandable position, and I assume the board of directors will vote in favor of the executive committee’s recommendation.

Of course, Thomas’s new employer doesn’t seem to share the SPJ’s aversion to controversy. The former White House correspondent was recently hired as a columnist by the Falls Church News-Press — an alternative-weekly paper in Northern Virginia — and the editor Nick Benton has vigorously defended his decision. Read More

Yesterday, the Society of Professional Journalists’ executive committee voted in favor of renaming the Helen Thomas Award for Lifetime Achievement. But the decision isn’t yet binding — it still has to be approved by the full board of directors, which will vote on it within the next 10 days:

The recommendation issued Jan. 8 by the national journalists’ group, based on anti-Zionist remarks made by Thomas, will be sent to its board of directors within 10 days. The award will still be given, but without Thomas’ name.

“While we support Helen Thomas’ right to speak her opinion, we condemn her statements in December as offensive and inappropriate,” the executive committee said in making its recommendation.

On Dec. 2, in a speech to an Arab-American group in Dearborn, Mich., Thomas, 90, said that Congress, the White House, Hollywood and Wall Street “are owned by the Zionists.”  The remarks raised fresh concerns about the sincerity of an apology for her remarks last summer to a video blogger that Jews “should get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to Poland, Germany and the United States.

The executive committee’s decision doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Other institutions have already removed Thomas’s name from awards, so the SPJ can follow suit while avoiding too much controversy. On the other hand, if the organization had voted to keep the name on the award, there’s no way it would have been able to get past this incident quietly. The SPJ executive committee said this pretty unambiguously in its press release:

During robust debate on Saturday, the committee considered positions from those supporting Thomas’ right to free speech and those who considered her remarks unbecoming of an honor given by SPJ. The committee decided while both positions have merit, the best way to return the focus to SPJ’s important work would be to distance itself from the controversy now overshadowing this award.

“Let’s work on what unites us rather than what divides us,” Limor said.

This is an understandable position, and I assume the board of directors will vote in favor of the executive committee’s recommendation.

Of course, Thomas’s new employer doesn’t seem to share the SPJ’s aversion to controversy. The former White House correspondent was recently hired as a columnist by the Falls Church News-Press — an alternative-weekly paper in Northern Virginia — and the editor Nick Benton has vigorously defended his decision.

“I’ve had no less than eight hours of personal one-on-one conversations with her since that happened,” Benton told the Washington Post. “She’s not bigoted or racist or anti-Semitic. She has her differences about foreign policy but you’re allowed that.”

According to the Post, Benton has been criticized by Jewish leaders in the past for publishing views that some believed bordered on anti-Semitism. “In 2004, his paper touched nerves with an editorial that some Jewish leaders complained suggested a Jewish cabal controlling U.S. foreign policy,” reported the Post.

The Post is likely referring to a 2004 column written by Benton, in which he endorsed the re-election bid of Rep. Jim Moran, who was running against “the well-financed campaign of a political neophyte, Alexandria attorney Andy Rosenberg.” Benton wrote that the election had become “about a cabal of powerful Washington, D.C., based interests backing the Bush administration’s support for rightwing Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s handling of the Middle East conflict trying to upend an outspoken and powerful Democratic opponent.”

It’s not exactly like telling Israeli Jews to go back to Germany, but with those editorial leanings, it sounds like Thomas will feel very much at home at the paper.

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The Whole World Is Watching

Hugh Hewitt conducted an hour-long interview yesterday with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the new chairman of the House Budget Committee, currently in his seventh term in Congress. It is an unusually candid conversation; the transcript is worth reading in its entirety.

Ryan covered the role of the Budget Committee in the rollback of ObamaCare, the broader budget battle coming this fall, the siren song of inflation as a solution, and the relationship of all this to the next election. Here’s an example:

HH: … Jerry Brown is already figuring out how to come with a tin cup to Washington, D.C. and beg for money. What’s the message to those governors in California, Illinois, New York, where they’re broke?

PR: … Look, and no offense to Californians, but those of us from more frugal states, we’re not interested in bailing out people from reckless states. You know, the moral hazard of bailing out states who fail to get their finances under control, why would we want to do that? … States need to clean up their own messes, their own acts, in my opinion. … All we would do is just buy delay, which is painful for everybody. Plus, Washington’s out of money. I mean, 41 cents on the dollar is borrowed here. 47% of that 41 cents on the dollar comes from other countries like China and Japan. We just can’t keep going the way we are. …

HH: Are you ready for the media assault, and I use that term advisedly, when they show children without milk at school. …

PR: Yes, that’s just going to happen. And look, I’ve been around these fights before, so it’s not as if this is the first rodeo for some of us. … It’s just the entire system we have could go down in a debt crisis. You know, we really do have a fiscal disaster coming. And if we blink to these forces of status quo, then it’s over with. The worst painful thing to have occur is us not to do anything, and just go down this path, and watch this debt crisis eat us alive. …

Ryan told Hewitt why he thought Congress would not be allowed to go on “porking the place up”:

What makes me feel better this time around, Hugh, is people pay attention. People are actually paying attention to what Congress is doing. The Internet has been a great equalizer. You can no longer go to Washington and do one thing, and then go home and say you’ve done another. Your words catch up with your actions, and that is a new day in Congress that a lot of people around here just don’t recognize.

It is a critical point, made yesterday in a similar analysis of a different issue, about the changed environment in which Congress is operating. The issues are no longer played out in hallways and backrooms; they are covered by an Internet propelled by the force-multipliers of blogs, portals, and social media. It creates a revolutionary situation, reminiscent of a slogan from the 60s.

Hugh Hewitt conducted an hour-long interview yesterday with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the new chairman of the House Budget Committee, currently in his seventh term in Congress. It is an unusually candid conversation; the transcript is worth reading in its entirety.

Ryan covered the role of the Budget Committee in the rollback of ObamaCare, the broader budget battle coming this fall, the siren song of inflation as a solution, and the relationship of all this to the next election. Here’s an example:

HH: … Jerry Brown is already figuring out how to come with a tin cup to Washington, D.C. and beg for money. What’s the message to those governors in California, Illinois, New York, where they’re broke?

PR: … Look, and no offense to Californians, but those of us from more frugal states, we’re not interested in bailing out people from reckless states. You know, the moral hazard of bailing out states who fail to get their finances under control, why would we want to do that? … States need to clean up their own messes, their own acts, in my opinion. … All we would do is just buy delay, which is painful for everybody. Plus, Washington’s out of money. I mean, 41 cents on the dollar is borrowed here. 47% of that 41 cents on the dollar comes from other countries like China and Japan. We just can’t keep going the way we are. …

HH: Are you ready for the media assault, and I use that term advisedly, when they show children without milk at school. …

PR: Yes, that’s just going to happen. And look, I’ve been around these fights before, so it’s not as if this is the first rodeo for some of us. … It’s just the entire system we have could go down in a debt crisis. You know, we really do have a fiscal disaster coming. And if we blink to these forces of status quo, then it’s over with. The worst painful thing to have occur is us not to do anything, and just go down this path, and watch this debt crisis eat us alive. …

Ryan told Hewitt why he thought Congress would not be allowed to go on “porking the place up”:

What makes me feel better this time around, Hugh, is people pay attention. People are actually paying attention to what Congress is doing. The Internet has been a great equalizer. You can no longer go to Washington and do one thing, and then go home and say you’ve done another. Your words catch up with your actions, and that is a new day in Congress that a lot of people around here just don’t recognize.

It is a critical point, made yesterday in a similar analysis of a different issue, about the changed environment in which Congress is operating. The issues are no longer played out in hallways and backrooms; they are covered by an Internet propelled by the force-multipliers of blogs, portals, and social media. It creates a revolutionary situation, reminiscent of a slogan from the 60s.

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Muslim Students, Catholic Universities

An article in today’s Washington Post notes the increase in Muslim students who attend Catholic colleges, including the flagship Catholic University in Washington, D.C. The number is now higher at some Catholic colleges than at secular institutions and poses interesting dilemmas for both the students and schools. What apparently attracts the students in the first place is the religious nature of the campuses, but it makes for some startling images, as the Post photo gallery makes clear.

Students praying to Allah under crucifixes will surely give pause to many people, but the trend may be a positive one. It suggests a bow to the pluralism that increasingly defines America. These Muslim students are not smashing idols but learning to find their own niche among others who do not share their faith but who do share a commitment to religious education.

As one Catholic U Muslim student explains it, “Because it is an overtly religious place, it’s not strange or weird to care about your religion here, to pray and make God a priority,” said Shabnan, a political science major who often covers her head with a pale beige scarf. “They have the same values we do.” Many of these students come from Saudi Arabia and other places in the Muslim world where no such religious tolerance is practiced. But clearly, these particular students are learning that we do things differently in the United States.

An article in today’s Washington Post notes the increase in Muslim students who attend Catholic colleges, including the flagship Catholic University in Washington, D.C. The number is now higher at some Catholic colleges than at secular institutions and poses interesting dilemmas for both the students and schools. What apparently attracts the students in the first place is the religious nature of the campuses, but it makes for some startling images, as the Post photo gallery makes clear.

Students praying to Allah under crucifixes will surely give pause to many people, but the trend may be a positive one. It suggests a bow to the pluralism that increasingly defines America. These Muslim students are not smashing idols but learning to find their own niche among others who do not share their faith but who do share a commitment to religious education.

As one Catholic U Muslim student explains it, “Because it is an overtly religious place, it’s not strange or weird to care about your religion here, to pray and make God a priority,” said Shabnan, a political science major who often covers her head with a pale beige scarf. “They have the same values we do.” Many of these students come from Saudi Arabia and other places in the Muslim world where no such religious tolerance is practiced. But clearly, these particular students are learning that we do things differently in the United States.

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The Most Ineffective Campaign Ever

First, they ran against George W. Bush. Then against the Chamber of Commerce. Then against the “loony” Tea Party. None of the Dems’ antics have worked:

Democratic attacks on Republicans and the Tea Party for being too extreme are failing to sway voters, according to The Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll.

Only 15 percent of likely Democratic voters said they were voting to “ensure extreme right-wing candidates are not elected to Congress.

Independents, who are the largest bloc of undecided voters and are vital to Democrats if the party is to retain its House majority, are also unconvinced by warnings about extremism. Only 14 percent of them said they would vote for a Democrat to avoid electing an extreme right-wing candidate; 11 percent said they would vote Republican to avoid electing an extreme left-wing candidate. . .

The resulting data underscore a broad worry among Democratic strategists that the party’s message is too muddled to rally voters, and that it’s already too late to turn around a looming electoral debacle.

Two things are at work here. First, with an exception here or there, the Tea Party–backed candidates don’t seem all that extreme. What’s extreme is spending trillions, running up the debt, and telling the public that nationalized health care will save money. Compared to that, the vow to stop it is downright sane to most voters’ way of thinking. And second, the messengers — especially Obama — have very little credibility. Nancy Pelosi calling anyone extreme simply isn’t going to influence anybody who isn’t already a committed liberal.

I agree with this take:

“I think the Democrats have really done themselves a disservice by demeaning the Tea Party movement, because you have many independents and conservative Democrats sympathetic to those Tea Party concerns,” Republican strategist Kevin Madden said. …

“There’s a very consistent thread running through all of the Republican messaging to voters right now,” said Madden. “Washington, D.C., represents the status quo, and that means out-of-control spending and deficits.”

Voters figure that, hey, if a Sharron Angle or a Ken Buck is a little unpolished and a bit ambitious in the aim to curb government, so what? If the alternative is a more liberal policy, they’ll gladly sign up with the “extremists.”

First, they ran against George W. Bush. Then against the Chamber of Commerce. Then against the “loony” Tea Party. None of the Dems’ antics have worked:

Democratic attacks on Republicans and the Tea Party for being too extreme are failing to sway voters, according to The Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll.

Only 15 percent of likely Democratic voters said they were voting to “ensure extreme right-wing candidates are not elected to Congress.

Independents, who are the largest bloc of undecided voters and are vital to Democrats if the party is to retain its House majority, are also unconvinced by warnings about extremism. Only 14 percent of them said they would vote for a Democrat to avoid electing an extreme right-wing candidate; 11 percent said they would vote Republican to avoid electing an extreme left-wing candidate. . .

The resulting data underscore a broad worry among Democratic strategists that the party’s message is too muddled to rally voters, and that it’s already too late to turn around a looming electoral debacle.

Two things are at work here. First, with an exception here or there, the Tea Party–backed candidates don’t seem all that extreme. What’s extreme is spending trillions, running up the debt, and telling the public that nationalized health care will save money. Compared to that, the vow to stop it is downright sane to most voters’ way of thinking. And second, the messengers — especially Obama — have very little credibility. Nancy Pelosi calling anyone extreme simply isn’t going to influence anybody who isn’t already a committed liberal.

I agree with this take:

“I think the Democrats have really done themselves a disservice by demeaning the Tea Party movement, because you have many independents and conservative Democrats sympathetic to those Tea Party concerns,” Republican strategist Kevin Madden said. …

“There’s a very consistent thread running through all of the Republican messaging to voters right now,” said Madden. “Washington, D.C., represents the status quo, and that means out-of-control spending and deficits.”

Voters figure that, hey, if a Sharron Angle or a Ken Buck is a little unpolished and a bit ambitious in the aim to curb government, so what? If the alternative is a more liberal policy, they’ll gladly sign up with the “extremists.”

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“Count the Lies”

That’s how one observer of  J Street’s meltdown put it. Honestly, it’s hard to keep track. Eli Lake reveals a bunch more in his latest bombshell report:

J Street — the self-described pro-Israel, pro-peace lobbying group — facilitated meetings between members of Congress and South African Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the U.N. report that accused the Jewish state of systematic war crimes in its three-week military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

Aside from the inexcusable shillery for the man whose report “is widely viewed as slanderous toward the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) among the American Jewish community and in Israel,” J Street — I know, you’ll be shocked — lied about its assistance to Goldstone. Lots of times.

First, there was Knesset member Colette Avital, who arranged the visit:

“When Judge Goldstone came to Washington, [J Street leaders were] suggesting that they might help him set up his appointments on Capitol Hill,” she said. Ms. Avital later disavowed knowledge of J Street’s dealings with Judge Goldstone during a conference call arranged by J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami.

After inducing Avital to recant, there were Ben-Ami’s own deceptions:

In a statement provided to The Washington Times this week, Mr. Ben-Ami said, “J Street did not host, arrange or facilitate any visit to Washington, D.C., by Judge Richard Goldstone.”

He went on to say, however, that “J Street staff spoke to colleagues at the organizations coordinating the meetings and, at their behest, reached out to a handful of congressional staff to inquire whether members would be interested in seeing Judge Goldstone.”

But it was far more than that, Lake reveals:

A senior officer of J Street, however, played a central role in arranging Judge Goldstone’s visit.

Judge Goldstone told The Times in an interview that he had sought the meetings after a discussion with longtime friend Morton H. Halperin — president of the Open Society Institute (OSI) and one of five senior officers at J Street, according to the group’s federal tax returns. Those forms list Mr. Halperin as a “director,” and say he spends 10 hours a week on J Street business.

“He suggested — and I agreed — that it would be a good idea for me to meet with some of the leading members of Congress,” Judge Goldstone said. “I thought it was important to correct the misimpressions.” He added that Mr. Halperin had hand-delivered a personal letter he had written to members of Congress.

And it turns out it was 10 or 12 meetings.

Another Ben-Ami half-truth: he claims that J Street “criticized the process at the U.N. Human Rights Council that led to his report and urged the U.S. to veto a possible Security Council resolution based on the report.” But, in fact, Halperin drafted Goldstone’s defense on Capitol Hill, and J Street never condemned the report’s contents.

And, of course, Soros and his multipronged operation are at the center of all of this:

All three organizations associated with Judge Goldstone’s visit to Washington — J Street, NAF and OSI — receive substantial funding from Hungarian-born billionaire, George Soros, a fierce critic of AIPAC and Israeli policies.

OSI controls nearly $2 billion in assets provided by Mr. Soros over the years. NAF, in turn, received $855,000 from OSI in 2009, though the money was not set aside for the think tank’s Middle East program. The Times disclosed last week that J Street had received $750,000 from Mr. Soros and his family despite repeated denials from the group that it had received any funding from Mr. Soros in the past.

Take your pick– is it the embrace of Israel’s enemies and slanderers or the lies that should send Soros Street to the ash heap of history? Both, I would suggest. Try as they might, not even the recipients of Soros Street’s cash (nor JTA) can spin this away. If you are on Richard Goldstone’s side, you are not pro-Israel. If you lie repeatedly, you lose your credibility, even with sympathetic media outlets. J Street is guilty on both counts. Perhaps Halperin, the all-purpose fixer for Soros, will turn off the lights at J Street on his way out.

That’s how one observer of  J Street’s meltdown put it. Honestly, it’s hard to keep track. Eli Lake reveals a bunch more in his latest bombshell report:

J Street — the self-described pro-Israel, pro-peace lobbying group — facilitated meetings between members of Congress and South African Judge Richard Goldstone, author of the U.N. report that accused the Jewish state of systematic war crimes in its three-week military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

Aside from the inexcusable shillery for the man whose report “is widely viewed as slanderous toward the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) among the American Jewish community and in Israel,” J Street — I know, you’ll be shocked — lied about its assistance to Goldstone. Lots of times.

First, there was Knesset member Colette Avital, who arranged the visit:

“When Judge Goldstone came to Washington, [J Street leaders were] suggesting that they might help him set up his appointments on Capitol Hill,” she said. Ms. Avital later disavowed knowledge of J Street’s dealings with Judge Goldstone during a conference call arranged by J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami.

After inducing Avital to recant, there were Ben-Ami’s own deceptions:

In a statement provided to The Washington Times this week, Mr. Ben-Ami said, “J Street did not host, arrange or facilitate any visit to Washington, D.C., by Judge Richard Goldstone.”

He went on to say, however, that “J Street staff spoke to colleagues at the organizations coordinating the meetings and, at their behest, reached out to a handful of congressional staff to inquire whether members would be interested in seeing Judge Goldstone.”

But it was far more than that, Lake reveals:

A senior officer of J Street, however, played a central role in arranging Judge Goldstone’s visit.

Judge Goldstone told The Times in an interview that he had sought the meetings after a discussion with longtime friend Morton H. Halperin — president of the Open Society Institute (OSI) and one of five senior officers at J Street, according to the group’s federal tax returns. Those forms list Mr. Halperin as a “director,” and say he spends 10 hours a week on J Street business.

“He suggested — and I agreed — that it would be a good idea for me to meet with some of the leading members of Congress,” Judge Goldstone said. “I thought it was important to correct the misimpressions.” He added that Mr. Halperin had hand-delivered a personal letter he had written to members of Congress.

And it turns out it was 10 or 12 meetings.

Another Ben-Ami half-truth: he claims that J Street “criticized the process at the U.N. Human Rights Council that led to his report and urged the U.S. to veto a possible Security Council resolution based on the report.” But, in fact, Halperin drafted Goldstone’s defense on Capitol Hill, and J Street never condemned the report’s contents.

And, of course, Soros and his multipronged operation are at the center of all of this:

All three organizations associated with Judge Goldstone’s visit to Washington — J Street, NAF and OSI — receive substantial funding from Hungarian-born billionaire, George Soros, a fierce critic of AIPAC and Israeli policies.

OSI controls nearly $2 billion in assets provided by Mr. Soros over the years. NAF, in turn, received $855,000 from OSI in 2009, though the money was not set aside for the think tank’s Middle East program. The Times disclosed last week that J Street had received $750,000 from Mr. Soros and his family despite repeated denials from the group that it had received any funding from Mr. Soros in the past.

Take your pick– is it the embrace of Israel’s enemies and slanderers or the lies that should send Soros Street to the ash heap of history? Both, I would suggest. Try as they might, not even the recipients of Soros Street’s cash (nor JTA) can spin this away. If you are on Richard Goldstone’s side, you are not pro-Israel. If you lie repeatedly, you lose your credibility, even with sympathetic media outlets. J Street is guilty on both counts. Perhaps Halperin, the all-purpose fixer for Soros, will turn off the lights at J Street on his way out.

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No Follow-Up on Obama’s Education Hypocrisy

The “Today Show” is belatedly celebrating our children’s return to school this month with a series on the state of the nation’s education system. So what better way to kick off a superficial look at the subject than with a superficial and fawning interview of President Barack Obama to solicit platitudes and plugs for his pet projects?

Obama was allowed to pontificate about the heroism of teachers so as to avoid antagonizing his allies in the teachers’ unions while still posing as a reformer. But in addition to calling for a longer school year, the president was still induced by Matt Lauer to say that, despite the appetite of the teachers’ unions and much of the educational establishment for more money to be poured into the public schools, many of the system’s worst problems have little to do with money and a great deal to do with the failures of parents and a culture that does not value discipline and learning. In a line that could actually be seen as a challenge to the unions, he pointed out that “You can’t defend a status quo in which a third of our kids are dropping out.” The answer was, instead, “radical change.”

But the president’s failure to draw the right conclusions about the need for such “radical change” was also highlighted by this interview for the “Today Show.” When asked on the show by Kelly Burnett of Florida whether his own children could get as good an education in the Washington, D.C. public schools as they are receiving in the elite private Sidwell Friends Academy they attend, the president bluntly said no. And though he tried to fudge this by saying that it is possible that some public schools in the district could be as good as a private school, most were not. Then, curiously, he pointed out that a person with influence such as himself could “maneuver” to get his children into such good public schools while most parents could not. He did not explain, why he, an ardent advocate of public schools, would not attempt to place his children in such a school, assuming that one actually exists.

Needless to say, there was no follow-up from Lauer about the difference between Obama and the vast majority of Washington’s parents. Even worse, there was no mention of the fact that the president had actually done his utmost to kill the District’s fledgling school-choice program, which had allowed at least some of those other parents to get their kids out of a system that Obama acknowledges is failing and into a decent private school like that frequented by Sasha and Malia Obama. That program was an example of an attempt at the sort of “radical change” which the president supposedly favors. But instead of nurturing it, Obama and his allies in Congress killed it in the name of liberal ideology and the fiat of the teachers’ unions, effectively sentencing another generation of Washington’s children to failed schools with no hope of escape.

The death of Washington D.C.’s school-choice experiment illustrates that Obama’s fealty to the unions is still the operative factor in the administration’s education policy. That he feels free to engage in this sort of hypocritical posturing about public education while placing his own children in the best possible private schools speaks volumes about the kid-glove treatment the president continues to get in the mainstream media.

The “Today Show” is belatedly celebrating our children’s return to school this month with a series on the state of the nation’s education system. So what better way to kick off a superficial look at the subject than with a superficial and fawning interview of President Barack Obama to solicit platitudes and plugs for his pet projects?

Obama was allowed to pontificate about the heroism of teachers so as to avoid antagonizing his allies in the teachers’ unions while still posing as a reformer. But in addition to calling for a longer school year, the president was still induced by Matt Lauer to say that, despite the appetite of the teachers’ unions and much of the educational establishment for more money to be poured into the public schools, many of the system’s worst problems have little to do with money and a great deal to do with the failures of parents and a culture that does not value discipline and learning. In a line that could actually be seen as a challenge to the unions, he pointed out that “You can’t defend a status quo in which a third of our kids are dropping out.” The answer was, instead, “radical change.”

But the president’s failure to draw the right conclusions about the need for such “radical change” was also highlighted by this interview for the “Today Show.” When asked on the show by Kelly Burnett of Florida whether his own children could get as good an education in the Washington, D.C. public schools as they are receiving in the elite private Sidwell Friends Academy they attend, the president bluntly said no. And though he tried to fudge this by saying that it is possible that some public schools in the district could be as good as a private school, most were not. Then, curiously, he pointed out that a person with influence such as himself could “maneuver” to get his children into such good public schools while most parents could not. He did not explain, why he, an ardent advocate of public schools, would not attempt to place his children in such a school, assuming that one actually exists.

Needless to say, there was no follow-up from Lauer about the difference between Obama and the vast majority of Washington’s parents. Even worse, there was no mention of the fact that the president had actually done his utmost to kill the District’s fledgling school-choice program, which had allowed at least some of those other parents to get their kids out of a system that Obama acknowledges is failing and into a decent private school like that frequented by Sasha and Malia Obama. That program was an example of an attempt at the sort of “radical change” which the president supposedly favors. But instead of nurturing it, Obama and his allies in Congress killed it in the name of liberal ideology and the fiat of the teachers’ unions, effectively sentencing another generation of Washington’s children to failed schools with no hope of escape.

The death of Washington D.C.’s school-choice experiment illustrates that Obama’s fealty to the unions is still the operative factor in the administration’s education policy. That he feels free to engage in this sort of hypocritical posturing about public education while placing his own children in the best possible private schools speaks volumes about the kid-glove treatment the president continues to get in the mainstream media.

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Who Will Get Michelle Rhee?

Michelle Rhee is expected to leave her post as chancellor of the Washington D.C. schools following the defeat of Mayor Adrian Fenty in the Democratic primary. Fenty had supported her aggressive reform agenda, while his primary opponent, Vincent Gray, plainly did not.

Here’s the story in a nutshell:

Gray, a genteel politician from the old school, has deep roots in the African American middle class that has been the heart of the District’s public school teacher corps. That constituency has been traumatized by many of Rhee’s reform efforts, which have included hundreds of layoffs, firings and outspoken comments about the poor quality of D.C. educators.

Rhee, like the mayor who hired her, had passions that veered more toward inputs and outcomes than collaboration and consensus. The record on her watch includes generally improved test scores, an enrollment that has stabilized after decades of decline, a labor contract that gives the District new power over teacher job assignments and an evaluation system that can lead to dismissal for instructors who score poorly.

Not hard to figure out which side you should be on, is it? Gray can’t fathom why Rhee would rock the boat:

The layoffs were bad enough, but Gray expressed particular concern about Rhee’s apparent disregard for the protocols, procedures and personal collaborations that Gray considered essential to smooth functioning within his political world. In this case, the process dictated that Rhee made sure that the council wasn’t blindsided by the news.

But Rhee displayed little interest in either process or political niceties as she rushed to implement an ambitious agenda. She told Gray that she wasn’t trying to embarrass the council, that she just wanted to protect the interests of children.

“You can choose to believe that or not,” Rhee said. …

Perhaps more than anything, Gray was mystified by what he regarded as her political tin ear, exemplified, in his view by her infamous Time magazine cover.

“I said, ‘Michelle, why would you agree to be photographed with a broom on the cover of Time magazine?’ ” Gray said in a 2009 interview. ‘What kind of message do you think that sends?’ “

It sends the message that she has no patience with hacks like Gray. And you can appreciate her comments at a D.C. function last night: “Yesterday’s election results were devastating, devastating. … Not for me, because I’ll be fine, and not even for Fenty, because he’ll be fine, but devastating for the schoolchildren of Washington, D.C.” The function, by the way, was a showing of the film “‘Waiting for Superman,’ the documentary that casts her as a tart-tongued heroine of the national education reform movement.”

A few observations. First, can you just imagine a Chris Christie–Michelle Rhee administration? (I have no idea what her party affiliation is.) Big Labor bosses would have a collective heart attack. Second, Rhee can walk into any school district that isn’t hobbled by a Vincent Gray and make a huge difference. One lucky school district will demonstrate how educational reform is done. Third, the voters of D.C. frankly get the government they deserve. Yes, the teacher’s union backed and funded Gray, but he was elected with the clear understanding that Rhee would leave. They are about to experience — again — the slothful operation of their school district. And finally, any president would be wise to snap her up as education secretary. In fact, she really has unlimited career opportunities. D.C.’s loss may be the country’s gain.

Michelle Rhee is expected to leave her post as chancellor of the Washington D.C. schools following the defeat of Mayor Adrian Fenty in the Democratic primary. Fenty had supported her aggressive reform agenda, while his primary opponent, Vincent Gray, plainly did not.

Here’s the story in a nutshell:

Gray, a genteel politician from the old school, has deep roots in the African American middle class that has been the heart of the District’s public school teacher corps. That constituency has been traumatized by many of Rhee’s reform efforts, which have included hundreds of layoffs, firings and outspoken comments about the poor quality of D.C. educators.

Rhee, like the mayor who hired her, had passions that veered more toward inputs and outcomes than collaboration and consensus. The record on her watch includes generally improved test scores, an enrollment that has stabilized after decades of decline, a labor contract that gives the District new power over teacher job assignments and an evaluation system that can lead to dismissal for instructors who score poorly.

Not hard to figure out which side you should be on, is it? Gray can’t fathom why Rhee would rock the boat:

The layoffs were bad enough, but Gray expressed particular concern about Rhee’s apparent disregard for the protocols, procedures and personal collaborations that Gray considered essential to smooth functioning within his political world. In this case, the process dictated that Rhee made sure that the council wasn’t blindsided by the news.

But Rhee displayed little interest in either process or political niceties as she rushed to implement an ambitious agenda. She told Gray that she wasn’t trying to embarrass the council, that she just wanted to protect the interests of children.

“You can choose to believe that or not,” Rhee said. …

Perhaps more than anything, Gray was mystified by what he regarded as her political tin ear, exemplified, in his view by her infamous Time magazine cover.

“I said, ‘Michelle, why would you agree to be photographed with a broom on the cover of Time magazine?’ ” Gray said in a 2009 interview. ‘What kind of message do you think that sends?’ “

It sends the message that she has no patience with hacks like Gray. And you can appreciate her comments at a D.C. function last night: “Yesterday’s election results were devastating, devastating. … Not for me, because I’ll be fine, and not even for Fenty, because he’ll be fine, but devastating for the schoolchildren of Washington, D.C.” The function, by the way, was a showing of the film “‘Waiting for Superman,’ the documentary that casts her as a tart-tongued heroine of the national education reform movement.”

A few observations. First, can you just imagine a Chris Christie–Michelle Rhee administration? (I have no idea what her party affiliation is.) Big Labor bosses would have a collective heart attack. Second, Rhee can walk into any school district that isn’t hobbled by a Vincent Gray and make a huge difference. One lucky school district will demonstrate how educational reform is done. Third, the voters of D.C. frankly get the government they deserve. Yes, the teacher’s union backed and funded Gray, but he was elected with the clear understanding that Rhee would leave. They are about to experience — again — the slothful operation of their school district. And finally, any president would be wise to snap her up as education secretary. In fact, she really has unlimited career opportunities. D.C.’s loss may be the country’s gain.

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Howard Dean on Fire

Candy Crowley is one of the livelier and more effective interviewers on the air. She did not disappoint with Howard Dean on Sunday. There was this humorous exchange:

CROWLEY: But what we found, Governor, in at least some of the races that we have had so far, is the fact that the president, while people still like him, they don’t approve of his policies and he doesn’t have coattails. We’re also finding now that there are certain Democrats that don’t actually want him in their district because he’s a drag.

DEAN: That’s not a problem. Here is the deal. It’s not the coattails. We know he doesn’t have coattails from the ’09 elections, the governor’s race. What he does do is set the tone for the Democratic Party in a way that nobody else can.

Look, obviously, I am partisan about this. I think we have better candidates than the Republicans do. They have had some unfortunate people winning, in terms of the mainstream — where the mainstream of America is, in some of their primaries.

We know he doesn’t have coattails? Oh my! Dean nevertheless suggested that Obama just get out there and fight like heck. Because if he doesn’t, the Democrats are going to lose big. (“This election, for better or for worse, depends on how hard the president fights between now and Election Day, and he shows every sign that he’s really serious about this.”) Got that, Mr. President? It’s all up to you.

What about Dean’s midterms predictions?

CROWLEY: How bad do you think it will be this fall, in November? What are your predictions? … Would you bet money on House Democrats staying in charge?

DEAN: I’d bet money on the Senate, for sure. The House is much tougher. I think, at the end of the day, we’re going to win in the House and we’re going to have a majority. It will probably be reduced to many — perhaps as small as a five or 10-seat majority.

Translation: Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic majority are toast.

Crowley then asked about Gibbs and the sniping at the “professional left”:

DEAN: Well, look, I don’t think that the left — what Gibbs was talking about with the so-called professional left — I don’t know what he meant by that. You know, I think — but that is a very small number of people. I think there are a large number — I think that the people around the president have really misjudged what goes on elsewhere in the country, other than Washington, D.C.

I don’t think this is true of the president, but I do think his people, his political people, have got to go out and spend some time outside Washington for a while. The average Democrat is a progressive. And, you know, there are some things that are upsetting about the kind of deals that were made by the president’s people on health care.

Umm, isn’t this the Tea Partiers’ point — that the White House is insulated from reality?

Dean also made a key observation that seems to have eluded a White House all too eager to make life difficult for its own party:

We’ve got to win this election. And we’re going to have — after the election is over, we’ll go back to having our policy fights, but this is about winning. You cannot get anything done unless you have a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House.

And Obama’s most cherished legislative accomplishment (about which Dean admitted, “I don’t like the health care bill. I would be one of the 56 percent who opposed it”) will evaporate if the Democrats get swept out of office.

Dean certainly is popping up a lot lately. I wonder if he’s thinking of running for something, or simply enacting revenge for the Obami’s refusal to keep him as head of the DNC.

Candy Crowley is one of the livelier and more effective interviewers on the air. She did not disappoint with Howard Dean on Sunday. There was this humorous exchange:

CROWLEY: But what we found, Governor, in at least some of the races that we have had so far, is the fact that the president, while people still like him, they don’t approve of his policies and he doesn’t have coattails. We’re also finding now that there are certain Democrats that don’t actually want him in their district because he’s a drag.

DEAN: That’s not a problem. Here is the deal. It’s not the coattails. We know he doesn’t have coattails from the ’09 elections, the governor’s race. What he does do is set the tone for the Democratic Party in a way that nobody else can.

Look, obviously, I am partisan about this. I think we have better candidates than the Republicans do. They have had some unfortunate people winning, in terms of the mainstream — where the mainstream of America is, in some of their primaries.

We know he doesn’t have coattails? Oh my! Dean nevertheless suggested that Obama just get out there and fight like heck. Because if he doesn’t, the Democrats are going to lose big. (“This election, for better or for worse, depends on how hard the president fights between now and Election Day, and he shows every sign that he’s really serious about this.”) Got that, Mr. President? It’s all up to you.

What about Dean’s midterms predictions?

CROWLEY: How bad do you think it will be this fall, in November? What are your predictions? … Would you bet money on House Democrats staying in charge?

DEAN: I’d bet money on the Senate, for sure. The House is much tougher. I think, at the end of the day, we’re going to win in the House and we’re going to have a majority. It will probably be reduced to many — perhaps as small as a five or 10-seat majority.

Translation: Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic majority are toast.

Crowley then asked about Gibbs and the sniping at the “professional left”:

DEAN: Well, look, I don’t think that the left — what Gibbs was talking about with the so-called professional left — I don’t know what he meant by that. You know, I think — but that is a very small number of people. I think there are a large number — I think that the people around the president have really misjudged what goes on elsewhere in the country, other than Washington, D.C.

I don’t think this is true of the president, but I do think his people, his political people, have got to go out and spend some time outside Washington for a while. The average Democrat is a progressive. And, you know, there are some things that are upsetting about the kind of deals that were made by the president’s people on health care.

Umm, isn’t this the Tea Partiers’ point — that the White House is insulated from reality?

Dean also made a key observation that seems to have eluded a White House all too eager to make life difficult for its own party:

We’ve got to win this election. And we’re going to have — after the election is over, we’ll go back to having our policy fights, but this is about winning. You cannot get anything done unless you have a Democratic president and a Democratic Senate and a Democratic House.

And Obama’s most cherished legislative accomplishment (about which Dean admitted, “I don’t like the health care bill. I would be one of the 56 percent who opposed it”) will evaporate if the Democrats get swept out of office.

Dean certainly is popping up a lot lately. I wonder if he’s thinking of running for something, or simply enacting revenge for the Obami’s refusal to keep him as head of the DNC.

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Attacking American Muslims

Some of those who favor placing Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s proposal to build a mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero have used malicious rhetoric to characterize those who oppose them. They are said to be anti-Muslim, anti-Constitutional, and acting, in the words of MSNBC’s resident deep thinker Norah O’Donnell, “like the people who stole freedom from Americans, the people who attacked America and killed 3,000 people.”

This is ugly and unfortunate stuff.

At the same time, those who oppose building the mosque near Ground Zero have an obligation to be careful about the rhetoric they employ. For example, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has said: “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.” He later added, by way of analogy, “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington.”

Let’s take these assertions in order. Regarding the first one, Saudi Arabia is not the standard Americans should use on the matter of religious freedom. As for the second argument: the analogy breaks down because Nazism was intrinsically malevolent, whereas mosques are not.

It is true, of course, that far too many Muslims in the world embrace a form of militant Islam; to deny that would be to deny reality. Those who attacked us on September 11 did so in the name of Islam. And those are not, by any means, the only attacks the world (or America) has witnessed.

At the same time, we have to be very careful not to conflate American Muslims with al-Qaeda and Wahhabism or argue, explicitly or implicitly, that mosques qua mosques are comparable to Nazism. Some mosques do fan the flames of hatred and violence; but of course many more do not.

It was a tribute to America that, in the aftermath of 9/11, it showed impressive tolerance and respect toward Muslims in this nation. President Bush went out of his way, early and often, to strike just the right tone.

“America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country,” Bush said at the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C., just six days after the attacks. “Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads. And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.”

Those words apply now as they did then.

I have argued before that the effort to build the mosque near Ground Zero is terribly imprudent because it was sure to ignite a debate in this country that is divisive and dangerous. Many Americans, for completely understandable reasons, would rather have this particular mosque run by this particular imam built elsewhere in New York. To characterize that opposition as bigoted, malicious, and un-American has evoked a perfectly predictable counterreaction. “It’s about damn time that Muslims around the world and in the United States — I’m talking about this particular imam — be sensitive to American values,” is how one commentator put it.

Because the debate on the mosque near Ground Zero deals with extremely sensitive matters, it’s easy for things to spin out of control. So it’s particularly important that arguments be made with precision, with care, and even with some measure of grace and understanding.

As usual, it’s wise to look to Lincoln to guide our way. In the words of the historian William Lee Miller:

[Lincoln] led one side in a bloody war not by arousing the aggressive tribalism, the assertive collective will, that war leaders often summon and that war publics often display, but by rather reasoning and eloquence. He gave careful arguments for his position, implying that he and his followers and their adversaries – their “dissatisfied countrymen” – were all part of a universal community of human reason. … He did not demean or demonize the enemy … he did not deal in disdain or contempt for the adversary.

Neither should we.

Some of those who favor placing Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s proposal to build a mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero have used malicious rhetoric to characterize those who oppose them. They are said to be anti-Muslim, anti-Constitutional, and acting, in the words of MSNBC’s resident deep thinker Norah O’Donnell, “like the people who stole freedom from Americans, the people who attacked America and killed 3,000 people.”

This is ugly and unfortunate stuff.

At the same time, those who oppose building the mosque near Ground Zero have an obligation to be careful about the rhetoric they employ. For example, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has said: “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.” He later added, by way of analogy, “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington.”

Let’s take these assertions in order. Regarding the first one, Saudi Arabia is not the standard Americans should use on the matter of religious freedom. As for the second argument: the analogy breaks down because Nazism was intrinsically malevolent, whereas mosques are not.

It is true, of course, that far too many Muslims in the world embrace a form of militant Islam; to deny that would be to deny reality. Those who attacked us on September 11 did so in the name of Islam. And those are not, by any means, the only attacks the world (or America) has witnessed.

At the same time, we have to be very careful not to conflate American Muslims with al-Qaeda and Wahhabism or argue, explicitly or implicitly, that mosques qua mosques are comparable to Nazism. Some mosques do fan the flames of hatred and violence; but of course many more do not.

It was a tribute to America that, in the aftermath of 9/11, it showed impressive tolerance and respect toward Muslims in this nation. President Bush went out of his way, early and often, to strike just the right tone.

“America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country,” Bush said at the Islamic Center in Washington, D.C., just six days after the attacks. “Muslims are doctors, lawyers, law professors, members of the military, entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, moms and dads. And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect.”

Those words apply now as they did then.

I have argued before that the effort to build the mosque near Ground Zero is terribly imprudent because it was sure to ignite a debate in this country that is divisive and dangerous. Many Americans, for completely understandable reasons, would rather have this particular mosque run by this particular imam built elsewhere in New York. To characterize that opposition as bigoted, malicious, and un-American has evoked a perfectly predictable counterreaction. “It’s about damn time that Muslims around the world and in the United States — I’m talking about this particular imam — be sensitive to American values,” is how one commentator put it.

Because the debate on the mosque near Ground Zero deals with extremely sensitive matters, it’s easy for things to spin out of control. So it’s particularly important that arguments be made with precision, with care, and even with some measure of grace and understanding.

As usual, it’s wise to look to Lincoln to guide our way. In the words of the historian William Lee Miller:

[Lincoln] led one side in a bloody war not by arousing the aggressive tribalism, the assertive collective will, that war leaders often summon and that war publics often display, but by rather reasoning and eloquence. He gave careful arguments for his position, implying that he and his followers and their adversaries – their “dissatisfied countrymen” – were all part of a universal community of human reason. … He did not demean or demonize the enemy … he did not deal in disdain or contempt for the adversary.

Neither should we.

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The Increasingly Self-Pitying Obama White House

According to the preview offered by Vanity Fair:

[Todd] Purdum spends a day inside the West Wing and talks to Obama’s top aides, who tell him about the challenges of playing the Beltway game, ugly as it has become, even as their boss insists they find a way to transcend it.

“There’s a relentlessness to this that’s unlike anything else, especially when you come into office in a time of crisis,” says Obama senior adviser David Axelrod. “We did not exactly ease into the tub. The world is so much smaller, and events reverberate much more quickly, and one person can create an event so quickly from one computer terminal.”

Larry Summers, who served as Clinton’s Treasury secretary for the last 18 months of his term, says, “It used to be there was a kind of rhythm to the day” with the tempo picking up after the markets closed and as newspaper deadlines approached, between four and seven P.M. “That’s gone.” And, according to Rahm Emanuel, C.I.A. director Leon Panetta thinks “it’s a huge problem” that Washington runs at such “a highly caffeinated speed.”

Emanuel calls it “F***nutsville,” and Valerie Jarrett says she looks back wistfully to a time when credible people could put a stamp of reliability on information and opinion: “Walter Cronkite would get on and say the truth, and people believed the media,” she says.

It got so bad last December that President Obama and Emanuel would joke that, when it was all over, they were going to open a T-shirt stand on a beach in Hawaii. It would face the ocean and sell only one color and one size. “We didn’t want to make another decision, or choice, or judgment,” Emanuel tells Purdum. They took to beginning staff meetings with Obama smiling at Emanuel and simply saying “White,” and Emanuel nodding back and replying “Medium.”

I’ll reserve final judgment until I read the entire piece. But based on these excerpts — which presumably reflect the thrust of the 10,000-word article — what is striking is the degree of self-pity we find in Obama’s advisers, which is reflected in the president’s words and attitude as well. Team Obama sounds nothing so much as overmatched and overwhelmed, unable to understand what has gone wrong, and increasingly bitter toward the nation’s capital and the pace and nature of politics.

What we are seeing, I think, is a group of supremely arrogant people humbled by events. They are turning out to be a good deal more incompetent than they (and many Americans) ever imagined. They see impending political doom in the form of the midterm elections. Yet this is not leading them toward any apparent serious self-reflection; rather, they are engaging in an extraordinary degree of whining, finger-pointing, and self-indulgence.

It was said of President Kennedy that he was a happy president. “Happiness, [Kennedy] often said, paraphrasing Aristotle, is the full use of one’s faculties along lines of excellence, and to him the Presidency offered the ideal opportunity to pursue excellence,” Theodore Sorenson wrote in Kennedy. “He liked the job, he thrived on its pressures.”

One doesn’t get that sense with Obama or his key advisers. In 18 months they appear to have developed deep grievances and an increasing unhappiness and frustration with the duties of governing.

Life in the White House is challenging; anyone who has worked there can testify to that. And Washington, D.C., is certainly an imperfect city, as all are. But the impression Team Obama is trying to create — that no group has ever faced more challenges, more difficulties, or more hardships — is silly and somewhat pathetic. Politics is the worthiest ambition, wrote John Buchan (the author of JFK’s favorite book, Pilgrim’s Way); it is the greatest and most honorable adventure.

If Obama and his aides don’t see that or anything like that — if they view politics and governing only through a lens tinted by bitterness, frustration, and resentment — then it is time for them to step aside. If not, then they should man up. Self-pity is a terribly unattractive quality.

According to the preview offered by Vanity Fair:

[Todd] Purdum spends a day inside the West Wing and talks to Obama’s top aides, who tell him about the challenges of playing the Beltway game, ugly as it has become, even as their boss insists they find a way to transcend it.

“There’s a relentlessness to this that’s unlike anything else, especially when you come into office in a time of crisis,” says Obama senior adviser David Axelrod. “We did not exactly ease into the tub. The world is so much smaller, and events reverberate much more quickly, and one person can create an event so quickly from one computer terminal.”

Larry Summers, who served as Clinton’s Treasury secretary for the last 18 months of his term, says, “It used to be there was a kind of rhythm to the day” with the tempo picking up after the markets closed and as newspaper deadlines approached, between four and seven P.M. “That’s gone.” And, according to Rahm Emanuel, C.I.A. director Leon Panetta thinks “it’s a huge problem” that Washington runs at such “a highly caffeinated speed.”

Emanuel calls it “F***nutsville,” and Valerie Jarrett says she looks back wistfully to a time when credible people could put a stamp of reliability on information and opinion: “Walter Cronkite would get on and say the truth, and people believed the media,” she says.

It got so bad last December that President Obama and Emanuel would joke that, when it was all over, they were going to open a T-shirt stand on a beach in Hawaii. It would face the ocean and sell only one color and one size. “We didn’t want to make another decision, or choice, or judgment,” Emanuel tells Purdum. They took to beginning staff meetings with Obama smiling at Emanuel and simply saying “White,” and Emanuel nodding back and replying “Medium.”

I’ll reserve final judgment until I read the entire piece. But based on these excerpts — which presumably reflect the thrust of the 10,000-word article — what is striking is the degree of self-pity we find in Obama’s advisers, which is reflected in the president’s words and attitude as well. Team Obama sounds nothing so much as overmatched and overwhelmed, unable to understand what has gone wrong, and increasingly bitter toward the nation’s capital and the pace and nature of politics.

What we are seeing, I think, is a group of supremely arrogant people humbled by events. They are turning out to be a good deal more incompetent than they (and many Americans) ever imagined. They see impending political doom in the form of the midterm elections. Yet this is not leading them toward any apparent serious self-reflection; rather, they are engaging in an extraordinary degree of whining, finger-pointing, and self-indulgence.

It was said of President Kennedy that he was a happy president. “Happiness, [Kennedy] often said, paraphrasing Aristotle, is the full use of one’s faculties along lines of excellence, and to him the Presidency offered the ideal opportunity to pursue excellence,” Theodore Sorenson wrote in Kennedy. “He liked the job, he thrived on its pressures.”

One doesn’t get that sense with Obama or his key advisers. In 18 months they appear to have developed deep grievances and an increasing unhappiness and frustration with the duties of governing.

Life in the White House is challenging; anyone who has worked there can testify to that. And Washington, D.C., is certainly an imperfect city, as all are. But the impression Team Obama is trying to create — that no group has ever faced more challenges, more difficulties, or more hardships — is silly and somewhat pathetic. Politics is the worthiest ambition, wrote John Buchan (the author of JFK’s favorite book, Pilgrim’s Way); it is the greatest and most honorable adventure.

If Obama and his aides don’t see that or anything like that — if they view politics and governing only through a lens tinted by bitterness, frustration, and resentment — then it is time for them to step aside. If not, then they should man up. Self-pity is a terribly unattractive quality.

Read Less

Stopping Iran’s Nuclear Program: The Think Tanks Speak Out

Two high-profile think-tanks, the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Oxford Research Group of London, have put out updates this summer to their earlier assessments (from 2008 and 2006, respectively) of the options for preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Both of them conclude that, given the limitations of Israel’s military capabilities, the backlash from Iran in the event of an Israeli attack would outweigh the significance of the damage done to Iran’s nuclear program. Both assessments effectively assume there is no possibility of a U.S. attack. They ultimately draw different conclusions about what policies are suggested by their analyses. But it’s of equal importance, in July 2010, that their treatments of the factors in an Israeli strike are almost certainly outdated.

The Oxford Research Group (ORG) assessment builds up to the well-worn punch line that the world’s leaders need to redouble their efforts to secure an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, which could inaugurate “the beginning of a prospect of a regional nuclear-free zone.” This is the paper’s principal policy recommendation; its alternative is accepting Iran’s development of nuclear weapons and using that “as the start of a process of balanced regional denuclearization.” No serious justification is presented for either idea.

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC’s) approach is more realistic, recognizing the exceptional threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. BPC urges on national leaders a three-track policy of unified diplomacy, sanctions, and a military build-up to show force and determination. The discussion of Iran’s imperviousness to nuclear deterrence (pp. 30-33) is particularly good; in general, I recommend the more analytically detailed BPC paper as a thinking aid over the terser ORG product. (The latter does have a useful section on the possibility of unexpected incidents provoked by Hezbollah, which could incite an exchange between Israel and Iran.)

I urge skepticism, however, in evaluating the main conclusion of each paper about Israel’s likely effectiveness in a military attack. Both assessments are pessimistic, but they appear to be based on outdated assumptions – two, in particular, that involve very basic perspectives. One is the idea that in attacking Iran, Israel’s sole objective would be to destroy as much of the nuclear program as possible. Although the ORG paper cautions against seeing a prospective attack on Iran in the same narrow light as the previous strikes on single sites in Iraq and Syria, the author tacitly adopts a view of the objective that is precisely that narrow. He assumes, for example, that Israel would prioritize attacking the offices and living quarters of scientists and technicians, on the theory that reconstituting that expertise would be especially time-consuming for Iran.

I disagree with that assumption. The BPC analysis seems to share it in the abstract, but I suspect that Israeli planners, knowing their force limitations, have moved beyond such linear thinking at this point. It would be a much higher-payoff approach to concentrate on taking out the senior ranks of the Revolutionary Guard, including the Pasdaran leadership and the paramilitary Qods Force. The most important nuclear sites – Natanz, Esfahan, Arak, key facilities in Tehran – would have to be struck, but given the IDF’s limits, it would pay off better to use scarce assets against the regime’s power base (and its ability to organize and command its military) than against its scientific experts.

The other assumption that may well be outdated is that, given the operational constraints on an Israeli air strike, the IDF could achieve only an unsatisfactory level of damage to the Iranian nuclear program. Israel now wields the same airborne-attack weapons the U.S. brought to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and would be far more effective with each attacking aircraft than the Coalition was against Iraq in 1991 (or the U.S. against Serbia in 1999). Meanwhile, Israel’s other options – extremely capable Special Forces, an advanced armed-drone program, and the ability to attack with ballistic missiles and submarine-launched cruise missiles – are treated too dismissively in both the U.S. and European analyses. The truth is that we don’t have any state-of-the-art examples to go by in judging the probable effectiveness of this weapons combination. We are more likely to learn from a coordinated Israeli attack featuring these weapons than to see all our worst-case predictions borne out.

Writing off an Israeli attack as quixotic and operationally valueless is a political posture more than an expert conclusion. There is a cost-benefit boundary for the IDF, but it’s not the hardening of Iranian targets or the proliferation of uranium-enrichment sites: it’s whether Iran can implement a modern air-defense system, like the (for now) cancelled S-300. An effective air defense for Iran would inevitably increase the cost of an Israeli attack and reduce its success.

But for Israel’s security situation, every delay imposed on Iran’s nuclear-weapons program has value. The U.S. should act on its own initiative rather than waiting to be driven to action by a fait accompli from Jerusalem; the BPC document’s perspective is realistic and helpful in that regard. No one, however, should entertain the theme that it’s too late now for an Israeli attack to achieve useful effects. For Israel – and for the U.S., with our much greater military capabilities – there are still options other than acceptance of a nuclear-armed Iran.

Two high-profile think-tanks, the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Oxford Research Group of London, have put out updates this summer to their earlier assessments (from 2008 and 2006, respectively) of the options for preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Both of them conclude that, given the limitations of Israel’s military capabilities, the backlash from Iran in the event of an Israeli attack would outweigh the significance of the damage done to Iran’s nuclear program. Both assessments effectively assume there is no possibility of a U.S. attack. They ultimately draw different conclusions about what policies are suggested by their analyses. But it’s of equal importance, in July 2010, that their treatments of the factors in an Israeli strike are almost certainly outdated.

The Oxford Research Group (ORG) assessment builds up to the well-worn punch line that the world’s leaders need to redouble their efforts to secure an Israeli-Palestinian settlement, which could inaugurate “the beginning of a prospect of a regional nuclear-free zone.” This is the paper’s principal policy recommendation; its alternative is accepting Iran’s development of nuclear weapons and using that “as the start of a process of balanced regional denuclearization.” No serious justification is presented for either idea.

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s (BPC’s) approach is more realistic, recognizing the exceptional threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. BPC urges on national leaders a three-track policy of unified diplomacy, sanctions, and a military build-up to show force and determination. The discussion of Iran’s imperviousness to nuclear deterrence (pp. 30-33) is particularly good; in general, I recommend the more analytically detailed BPC paper as a thinking aid over the terser ORG product. (The latter does have a useful section on the possibility of unexpected incidents provoked by Hezbollah, which could incite an exchange between Israel and Iran.)

I urge skepticism, however, in evaluating the main conclusion of each paper about Israel’s likely effectiveness in a military attack. Both assessments are pessimistic, but they appear to be based on outdated assumptions – two, in particular, that involve very basic perspectives. One is the idea that in attacking Iran, Israel’s sole objective would be to destroy as much of the nuclear program as possible. Although the ORG paper cautions against seeing a prospective attack on Iran in the same narrow light as the previous strikes on single sites in Iraq and Syria, the author tacitly adopts a view of the objective that is precisely that narrow. He assumes, for example, that Israel would prioritize attacking the offices and living quarters of scientists and technicians, on the theory that reconstituting that expertise would be especially time-consuming for Iran.

I disagree with that assumption. The BPC analysis seems to share it in the abstract, but I suspect that Israeli planners, knowing their force limitations, have moved beyond such linear thinking at this point. It would be a much higher-payoff approach to concentrate on taking out the senior ranks of the Revolutionary Guard, including the Pasdaran leadership and the paramilitary Qods Force. The most important nuclear sites – Natanz, Esfahan, Arak, key facilities in Tehran – would have to be struck, but given the IDF’s limits, it would pay off better to use scarce assets against the regime’s power base (and its ability to organize and command its military) than against its scientific experts.

The other assumption that may well be outdated is that, given the operational constraints on an Israeli air strike, the IDF could achieve only an unsatisfactory level of damage to the Iranian nuclear program. Israel now wields the same airborne-attack weapons the U.S. brought to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and would be far more effective with each attacking aircraft than the Coalition was against Iraq in 1991 (or the U.S. against Serbia in 1999). Meanwhile, Israel’s other options – extremely capable Special Forces, an advanced armed-drone program, and the ability to attack with ballistic missiles and submarine-launched cruise missiles – are treated too dismissively in both the U.S. and European analyses. The truth is that we don’t have any state-of-the-art examples to go by in judging the probable effectiveness of this weapons combination. We are more likely to learn from a coordinated Israeli attack featuring these weapons than to see all our worst-case predictions borne out.

Writing off an Israeli attack as quixotic and operationally valueless is a political posture more than an expert conclusion. There is a cost-benefit boundary for the IDF, but it’s not the hardening of Iranian targets or the proliferation of uranium-enrichment sites: it’s whether Iran can implement a modern air-defense system, like the (for now) cancelled S-300. An effective air defense for Iran would inevitably increase the cost of an Israeli attack and reduce its success.

But for Israel’s security situation, every delay imposed on Iran’s nuclear-weapons program has value. The U.S. should act on its own initiative rather than waiting to be driven to action by a fait accompli from Jerusalem; the BPC document’s perspective is realistic and helpful in that regard. No one, however, should entertain the theme that it’s too late now for an Israeli attack to achieve useful effects. For Israel – and for the U.S., with our much greater military capabilities – there are still options other than acceptance of a nuclear-armed Iran.

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The Beinart Critique, Dismantled

In his new book, The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, Peter Beinart, formerly editor of the New Republic and now a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, takes aim at the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

“There are no normal times.” With those words, written in 1991 and aimed straight at Jeane Kirkpatrick, the younger conservative generation fired its first shot.

The marksman was columnist Charles Krauthammer, an acid-tongued ex-psychiatrist from Montreal, and a man young enough to be Kirkpatrick’s son.

Beinart spends several pages summarizing and quoting from Foreign Affairs magazine, in which Krauthammer’s essay, “The Unipolar Moment,” appeared. Krauthammer argued: “We are in for abnormal times. Our best hope for safety in such times, as in difficult times past, is in American strength and will — the strength and will to lead a unipolar world, unashamedly laying down the rules of world order and being prepared to enforce them.” Krauthammer wrote that we must “confront” and, “if necessary, disarm” nations he called “Weapon States” like Iraq under Saddam Hussein and North Korea.

Beinart didn’t like “The Unipolar Moment” and wrote this:

It was no coincidence that Krauthammer published his attack on Kirkpatrick soon after the Gulf War. As usual in the development of hubris bubbles, it was only once things that formerly looked hard — like liberating Kuwait — had been made to look easy that people set their sights higher. Had America proved militarily unable to keep Saddam from gobbling his neighbors, Krauthammer could not have seriously proposed launching a new war, inside Iraq itself, to rid him of his unconventional weapons.

That all sounds very intriguing, except for one thing. On the first page of the Krauthammer essay, in the by-line, we read this:

Charles Krauthammer is a syndicated columnist. This article is adapted from the author’s Henry M. Jackson Memorial Lecture delivered in Washington, D.C., Sept. 18, 1990.

Why does that matter? Because Krauthammer’s essay was adopted from a lecture he gave months before there could possibly have been a “hubris bubble.” Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait occurred on August 2, 1990. Krauthammer delivered his lecture on September 18. Operation Desert Storm didn’t begin until January 17, 1991. And hostilities ceased on February 28. The timeline of events, then, demolishes the Beinart critique.

The Krauthammer lecture itself, it’s worth adding, was no state secret. It was public, it was published, and it has been available as a monograph, in addition to the reference in the Foreign Affairs essay. In reading “The Unipolar Moment” — which was published months after the lecture on which it was based and which is not substantively different from the September 18 lecture — it is clear that the outcome of the war was unknown at the time it was written.

So Krauthammer didn’t set his sights higher because the liberation of Kuwait had been “made to look easy.” When he articulated his views on the “unipolar moment,” Kuwait had been invaded but it hadn’t been liberated. The U.S. was still months away from war. And, in fact, many predicted that if America went to war, it would be a difficult and bloody undertaking. (“Amid talk of body bags, honor and patriotism, the U.S. Congress yesterday began a formal debate on whether to go to war in the Persian Gulf,” the Toronto Star reported on January 11, 1991. “‘The 45,000 body bags that the Pentagon has sent to the gulf are all the evidence we need of the high cost in blood,’ said Senator Edward Kennedy. He added some military experts have estimated American casualties at the rate of 3,000 a week.”) That explains, in part, why the Senate vote on the Gulf War resolution was so close (52-47).

All of this is noteworthy not simply because of Beinart’s sloppiness (which is noteworthy enough), but because Beinart concocts an interpretative theory that is utter nonsense. It is based on a completely wrong premise. He builds a false explanation based on a false fact.

Beinart is not the first to have done so. On November 29, 2009 Andrew Sullivan, in a posting titled “The Positioning of Charles Krauthammer,” charged that while he had advocated a gasoline tax in December 2008, in Krauthammer’s “latest column” on climate change, “the gas tax idea is missing.” The reason, Sullivan informed us, was that “In the end, the conservative intelligentsia is much more invested in obstructing and thereby neutering Obama and the Democrats than in solving any actual problems in front of us. It’s a game for them, and they play it with impunity.”

There was one problem with Sullivan’s analysis: the column he refers to was published not in November 2009 but in May 2008 — when George W. Bush was still president and Barack Obama hadn’t yet won the Democratic nomination. Krauthammer proceeded to eviscerate Sullivan, who had the decency to issue an abject apology and correction. I wonder if Beinart will show the same decency, having made the same error.

I have some advice for liberals in general, but most especially for those who formerly edited the New Republic. First, learn to read dates on essays and columns before you attack them. Second, don’t impugn a person’s motives when your charges can so easily be shown to be false. And third, if you decide to target an individual and engage in a public debate, you might think about choosing someone other than Charles Krauthammer. Otherwise you will be made to look like fools.

In his new book, The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris, Peter Beinart, formerly editor of the New Republic and now a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, takes aim at the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

“There are no normal times.” With those words, written in 1991 and aimed straight at Jeane Kirkpatrick, the younger conservative generation fired its first shot.

The marksman was columnist Charles Krauthammer, an acid-tongued ex-psychiatrist from Montreal, and a man young enough to be Kirkpatrick’s son.

Beinart spends several pages summarizing and quoting from Foreign Affairs magazine, in which Krauthammer’s essay, “The Unipolar Moment,” appeared. Krauthammer argued: “We are in for abnormal times. Our best hope for safety in such times, as in difficult times past, is in American strength and will — the strength and will to lead a unipolar world, unashamedly laying down the rules of world order and being prepared to enforce them.” Krauthammer wrote that we must “confront” and, “if necessary, disarm” nations he called “Weapon States” like Iraq under Saddam Hussein and North Korea.

Beinart didn’t like “The Unipolar Moment” and wrote this:

It was no coincidence that Krauthammer published his attack on Kirkpatrick soon after the Gulf War. As usual in the development of hubris bubbles, it was only once things that formerly looked hard — like liberating Kuwait — had been made to look easy that people set their sights higher. Had America proved militarily unable to keep Saddam from gobbling his neighbors, Krauthammer could not have seriously proposed launching a new war, inside Iraq itself, to rid him of his unconventional weapons.

That all sounds very intriguing, except for one thing. On the first page of the Krauthammer essay, in the by-line, we read this:

Charles Krauthammer is a syndicated columnist. This article is adapted from the author’s Henry M. Jackson Memorial Lecture delivered in Washington, D.C., Sept. 18, 1990.

Why does that matter? Because Krauthammer’s essay was adopted from a lecture he gave months before there could possibly have been a “hubris bubble.” Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait occurred on August 2, 1990. Krauthammer delivered his lecture on September 18. Operation Desert Storm didn’t begin until January 17, 1991. And hostilities ceased on February 28. The timeline of events, then, demolishes the Beinart critique.

The Krauthammer lecture itself, it’s worth adding, was no state secret. It was public, it was published, and it has been available as a monograph, in addition to the reference in the Foreign Affairs essay. In reading “The Unipolar Moment” — which was published months after the lecture on which it was based and which is not substantively different from the September 18 lecture — it is clear that the outcome of the war was unknown at the time it was written.

So Krauthammer didn’t set his sights higher because the liberation of Kuwait had been “made to look easy.” When he articulated his views on the “unipolar moment,” Kuwait had been invaded but it hadn’t been liberated. The U.S. was still months away from war. And, in fact, many predicted that if America went to war, it would be a difficult and bloody undertaking. (“Amid talk of body bags, honor and patriotism, the U.S. Congress yesterday began a formal debate on whether to go to war in the Persian Gulf,” the Toronto Star reported on January 11, 1991. “‘The 45,000 body bags that the Pentagon has sent to the gulf are all the evidence we need of the high cost in blood,’ said Senator Edward Kennedy. He added some military experts have estimated American casualties at the rate of 3,000 a week.”) That explains, in part, why the Senate vote on the Gulf War resolution was so close (52-47).

All of this is noteworthy not simply because of Beinart’s sloppiness (which is noteworthy enough), but because Beinart concocts an interpretative theory that is utter nonsense. It is based on a completely wrong premise. He builds a false explanation based on a false fact.

Beinart is not the first to have done so. On November 29, 2009 Andrew Sullivan, in a posting titled “The Positioning of Charles Krauthammer,” charged that while he had advocated a gasoline tax in December 2008, in Krauthammer’s “latest column” on climate change, “the gas tax idea is missing.” The reason, Sullivan informed us, was that “In the end, the conservative intelligentsia is much more invested in obstructing and thereby neutering Obama and the Democrats than in solving any actual problems in front of us. It’s a game for them, and they play it with impunity.”

There was one problem with Sullivan’s analysis: the column he refers to was published not in November 2009 but in May 2008 — when George W. Bush was still president and Barack Obama hadn’t yet won the Democratic nomination. Krauthammer proceeded to eviscerate Sullivan, who had the decency to issue an abject apology and correction. I wonder if Beinart will show the same decency, having made the same error.

I have some advice for liberals in general, but most especially for those who formerly edited the New Republic. First, learn to read dates on essays and columns before you attack them. Second, don’t impugn a person’s motives when your charges can so easily be shown to be false. And third, if you decide to target an individual and engage in a public debate, you might think about choosing someone other than Charles Krauthammer. Otherwise you will be made to look like fools.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Where is the administration when Israel is being savaged? Hiding at the UN: “Where was she this time? The United Nations Security Council held an emergency Security Council meeting Monday on Israel’s raid of a ship headed to Gaza — and the United States was represented by the deputy at the US Mission. Reporters, UN members and activists were mystified as to why Susan Rice, the American Ambassador to the UN, was a no-show to the roughly 12-hour negotiations which left a key ally fending off global criticism without the top American diplomat to help. … Rice’s absence sends a powerful message to the UN members attending the emergency meeting, unfortunately, the message is that she is either unable to lead or afraid of the consequences that come with taking a controversial stand.”

Where is the American media? It seems there is no fuel shortage and plenty of food in the markets of Gaza City.

Where are those moderate Muslims pushing back against jihadism? “Halalco is the largest store of its kind in the Washington, D.C. area. In addition to halal meat, the store carries a large selection of Islamic books, recordings and clothing. In an exclusive investigation, CBN News discovered that Halalco was also selling CDs and DVDs by none other than al-Awlaki [the imam who inspired the Fort Hood and Times Square jihadists]. In the store, was a display devoted entirely to al-Awlaki’s works just one day after he released a video calling for the killing of U.S. civilians.” The next day, after the CBN crew had arrived, the al-Awlaki display was gone.

Where is Steny Hoyer? In a much better position on Israel than the dim Speaker of the House: “While the majority of ships in the flotilla — 5 out of 6 — reacted peacefully when approached by Israeli Defense Forces, activists on board the Mavi Marmara were clearly bent on a violent confrontation.  They further chose this path despite two week’s worth of repeated warnings from Israel that the ship would not be allowed to come ashore, and despite Israel’s offer to instead receive the humanitarian goods at Ashdod, inspect them there for weapons, and ensure their distribution to Palestinians in Gaza. Finally, to the extent that this act was in protest of the Gaza blockade, let’s be clear: Hamas could end the blockade at any time by recognizing Israel’s right to exist, renouncing violence, and releasing Gilad Shalit.”

Where is the groundswell for ObamaCare? Nowhere. Two polls show new lows in public support.

Where is the Obama cover story this time? The White House will need one. “Administration officials dangled the possibility of a job for former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff last year in hopes he would forego a challenge to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. Administration officials on Wednesday declined to specify the job that was floated or the name of the administration official who approached Romanoff, and said no formal offer was ever made. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not cleared to discuss private conversations.”

Where is support for Rand Paul heading? He’s gone from 25 points to nine points ahead in the Rasmussen poll. I suspect he’ll be in negative territory soon enough.

Where is the administration when Israel is being savaged? Hiding at the UN: “Where was she this time? The United Nations Security Council held an emergency Security Council meeting Monday on Israel’s raid of a ship headed to Gaza — and the United States was represented by the deputy at the US Mission. Reporters, UN members and activists were mystified as to why Susan Rice, the American Ambassador to the UN, was a no-show to the roughly 12-hour negotiations which left a key ally fending off global criticism without the top American diplomat to help. … Rice’s absence sends a powerful message to the UN members attending the emergency meeting, unfortunately, the message is that she is either unable to lead or afraid of the consequences that come with taking a controversial stand.”

Where is the American media? It seems there is no fuel shortage and plenty of food in the markets of Gaza City.

Where are those moderate Muslims pushing back against jihadism? “Halalco is the largest store of its kind in the Washington, D.C. area. In addition to halal meat, the store carries a large selection of Islamic books, recordings and clothing. In an exclusive investigation, CBN News discovered that Halalco was also selling CDs and DVDs by none other than al-Awlaki [the imam who inspired the Fort Hood and Times Square jihadists]. In the store, was a display devoted entirely to al-Awlaki’s works just one day after he released a video calling for the killing of U.S. civilians.” The next day, after the CBN crew had arrived, the al-Awlaki display was gone.

Where is Steny Hoyer? In a much better position on Israel than the dim Speaker of the House: “While the majority of ships in the flotilla — 5 out of 6 — reacted peacefully when approached by Israeli Defense Forces, activists on board the Mavi Marmara were clearly bent on a violent confrontation.  They further chose this path despite two week’s worth of repeated warnings from Israel that the ship would not be allowed to come ashore, and despite Israel’s offer to instead receive the humanitarian goods at Ashdod, inspect them there for weapons, and ensure their distribution to Palestinians in Gaza. Finally, to the extent that this act was in protest of the Gaza blockade, let’s be clear: Hamas could end the blockade at any time by recognizing Israel’s right to exist, renouncing violence, and releasing Gilad Shalit.”

Where is the groundswell for ObamaCare? Nowhere. Two polls show new lows in public support.

Where is the Obama cover story this time? The White House will need one. “Administration officials dangled the possibility of a job for former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff last year in hopes he would forego a challenge to Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet. Administration officials on Wednesday declined to specify the job that was floated or the name of the administration official who approached Romanoff, and said no formal offer was ever made. They spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not cleared to discuss private conversations.”

Where is support for Rand Paul heading? He’s gone from 25 points to nine points ahead in the Rasmussen poll. I suspect he’ll be in negative territory soon enough.

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A Foreign Plot, a Common Criminal Trial

We learn from the criminal complaint that the Times Square jihadist bomber (and no, no member of the administration has used the words “Islamic extremist” or “Islamic terrorists,” so we are left again with a “crime,” the motive of which the president would like to ignore), Faisal Shahzad, “had received bomb-making training in the militant strongholds of western Pakistan.” The complaint further explains that he returned in February after a five-month visit to Pakistan. And while Janet Napolitano assured us that this was a “one-off” bomber (one bomb? or one lone wolf?), it now seems that he was not alone:

Pakistani officials identified one of the detainees as Tauhid Ahmed and said he had been in touch with Mr. Shahzad through e-mail, and had met him either in the United States or in the Pakistani port city of Karachi.

Another man arrested, Muhammad Rehan, had spent time with Mr. Shahzad during a recent visit there, Pakistani officials said. Mr. Rehan was arrested in Karachi just after morning prayers at a mosque known for its links with the militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad.

So how do we deal with such a person and with the network that surrounds him? Democrats are delighted he was Mirandized and will head for federal court, and Eric Holder went so far as to insist that even this incident had not driven a stake through KSM’s New York City trial: “Unfortunately, New York and Washington, D.C., remain targets of people who would do this nation harm. And regardless of where a particular trial is, where a particular event is going to occur, I think that is going to remain true. And it is why we have to be especially vigilant in New York as well as in Washington.” Regardless? Apparently our attorney general sees zero increased risk to the city that has now been targeted again.

Republicans weren’t so pleased with another display of the Obama team’s fetish for the criminal-justice model:

Republicans quickly called [the Mirandizing and federal-court venue] a mistake. “My own preference would be that he be tried in a military tribunal,” Representative Peter T. King of New York, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, told Fox News.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, Mr. Obama’s Republican presidential opponent in 2008, said it would be “a serious mistake” to give Mr. Shahzad his constitutional rights until he had been fully interrogated. “Don’t give this guy his Miranda rights until we find out what it’s all about,” Mr. McCain said on Don Imus’s talk show.

As the net sweeps in Shahzad’s accomplices and we learn more about the web of international connections, we will again face a key question: why does this administration insist on treating the perpetrators as criminals rather than the entire enterprise as an act of war? Apparently, we’re dealing with an administration convinced of its own virtue and wisdom and unwilling to deviate from its predetermined course. Unfortunately, ideology is not “so yesterday” with this group.

We learn from the criminal complaint that the Times Square jihadist bomber (and no, no member of the administration has used the words “Islamic extremist” or “Islamic terrorists,” so we are left again with a “crime,” the motive of which the president would like to ignore), Faisal Shahzad, “had received bomb-making training in the militant strongholds of western Pakistan.” The complaint further explains that he returned in February after a five-month visit to Pakistan. And while Janet Napolitano assured us that this was a “one-off” bomber (one bomb? or one lone wolf?), it now seems that he was not alone:

Pakistani officials identified one of the detainees as Tauhid Ahmed and said he had been in touch with Mr. Shahzad through e-mail, and had met him either in the United States or in the Pakistani port city of Karachi.

Another man arrested, Muhammad Rehan, had spent time with Mr. Shahzad during a recent visit there, Pakistani officials said. Mr. Rehan was arrested in Karachi just after morning prayers at a mosque known for its links with the militant group Jaish-e-Muhammad.

So how do we deal with such a person and with the network that surrounds him? Democrats are delighted he was Mirandized and will head for federal court, and Eric Holder went so far as to insist that even this incident had not driven a stake through KSM’s New York City trial: “Unfortunately, New York and Washington, D.C., remain targets of people who would do this nation harm. And regardless of where a particular trial is, where a particular event is going to occur, I think that is going to remain true. And it is why we have to be especially vigilant in New York as well as in Washington.” Regardless? Apparently our attorney general sees zero increased risk to the city that has now been targeted again.

Republicans weren’t so pleased with another display of the Obama team’s fetish for the criminal-justice model:

Republicans quickly called [the Mirandizing and federal-court venue] a mistake. “My own preference would be that he be tried in a military tribunal,” Representative Peter T. King of New York, the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, told Fox News.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, Mr. Obama’s Republican presidential opponent in 2008, said it would be “a serious mistake” to give Mr. Shahzad his constitutional rights until he had been fully interrogated. “Don’t give this guy his Miranda rights until we find out what it’s all about,” Mr. McCain said on Don Imus’s talk show.

As the net sweeps in Shahzad’s accomplices and we learn more about the web of international connections, we will again face a key question: why does this administration insist on treating the perpetrators as criminals rather than the entire enterprise as an act of war? Apparently, we’re dealing with an administration convinced of its own virtue and wisdom and unwilling to deviate from its predetermined course. Unfortunately, ideology is not “so yesterday” with this group.

Read Less

Flotsam and Jetsam

Perhaps the smartest thing Hillary Clinton has ever said: “I do not and have never wanted to be a judge. Never … That’s never been anything I’ve even let cross my mind, because it’s not in my personality.”

Another public consensus Obama will ignore: “Only 18% of Americans are willing to pay higher taxes to lower the federal budget deficit, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Sixty-nine percent (69%) are not willing to have their taxes raised to deal with deficits that are projected to rise to historic levels over the next decade. Thirteen percent (13%) more are not sure.”

The November midterm election results will be harder to ignore: “Republicans are on offense in scores of House and Senate races as persistent economic woes and lukewarm support for President Barack Obama continue to weaken Democrats’ hold on Congress. The president and his party are determined to minimize the losses six months before the November elections. But Democrats privately acknowledge the economy and support for Obama must improve before then to avoid the defeats that could cost them control of the House and possibly the Senate.”

Charlie Crist mastering the art of appearing entirely without principles on how he’d vote for Senate leadership: “I might not vote for either one. I’m going to vote for who I think would be best for the people of Florida. And if that happens to be a Democrat, so be it. If it happens to be a Republican, so be it. But I’ve got to look out for the people of my state.” He’s not even intelligible at this point.

Crist sure is Exhibit A for Marco Rubio’s argument: “One of the things that’s missing in politics today is people that will run on a platform and then go to Washington, D.C., and actually carry it out. … And I think with Charlie Crist, we don’t know what that platform is and we never will. You are never going to be able to hold him accountable to anything, because his opinions are going to change based upon what the polling tells him or his political convenience tells him.”

Amateurs also brought down the Twin Towers: “Authorities reopened Times Square Sunday morning but urged vigilance after an apparently ‘amateurish’ but potentially dangerous car bomb failed to detonate. New York police said that bomb would have caused a “sizeable” number of deaths and injuries if it had gone off. … A U.S. counterterrorism official said that investigators had not determined whether the attempted bombing was part of a plot by al-Qaeda or another terrorist group.”

Fine as far as it goes: “US Jewish groups, gearing up for the Iranian leader’s visit to New York, have recently voiced loud opposition to Ahmadinejad’s participation in the NPT conference. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations contacted ambassadors of UN member states, and placed newspaper ads to appear on Monday, urging diplomats to walk out with he speaks on Monday morning.” But what about the Obami’s undermining of sanctions? Or allowing Iran to join the Commission on the Status of Women? No ads about that.

Megan McCardle raps the Beagle Blogger for swooning over GM’s “repayment” of some of the taxpayers’ money: “Am I really supposed to get excited by the astonishing revelation that when you pour tens of billions of dollars into a couple of failed companies, some of that money will end up in someone’s pocket, somewhere?  Maybe it’s the slightly-above 50% capacity utilization at our dying giants that should put a smile on my face and a song in my heart? … Perhaps I should just be happy to know that GM has taken some of the government money we gave it and ‘repaid’ its multi-billion dollar loan by giving our own money back to us, while still losing billions more. … I am genuinely struggling to come up with what principled argument [Me: Assumes facts not in evidence!] Andrew might be making in his head for what has always struck me as a pretty blatant handout to a powerful Democratic interest group.”

Perhaps the smartest thing Hillary Clinton has ever said: “I do not and have never wanted to be a judge. Never … That’s never been anything I’ve even let cross my mind, because it’s not in my personality.”

Another public consensus Obama will ignore: “Only 18% of Americans are willing to pay higher taxes to lower the federal budget deficit, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Sixty-nine percent (69%) are not willing to have their taxes raised to deal with deficits that are projected to rise to historic levels over the next decade. Thirteen percent (13%) more are not sure.”

The November midterm election results will be harder to ignore: “Republicans are on offense in scores of House and Senate races as persistent economic woes and lukewarm support for President Barack Obama continue to weaken Democrats’ hold on Congress. The president and his party are determined to minimize the losses six months before the November elections. But Democrats privately acknowledge the economy and support for Obama must improve before then to avoid the defeats that could cost them control of the House and possibly the Senate.”

Charlie Crist mastering the art of appearing entirely without principles on how he’d vote for Senate leadership: “I might not vote for either one. I’m going to vote for who I think would be best for the people of Florida. And if that happens to be a Democrat, so be it. If it happens to be a Republican, so be it. But I’ve got to look out for the people of my state.” He’s not even intelligible at this point.

Crist sure is Exhibit A for Marco Rubio’s argument: “One of the things that’s missing in politics today is people that will run on a platform and then go to Washington, D.C., and actually carry it out. … And I think with Charlie Crist, we don’t know what that platform is and we never will. You are never going to be able to hold him accountable to anything, because his opinions are going to change based upon what the polling tells him or his political convenience tells him.”

Amateurs also brought down the Twin Towers: “Authorities reopened Times Square Sunday morning but urged vigilance after an apparently ‘amateurish’ but potentially dangerous car bomb failed to detonate. New York police said that bomb would have caused a “sizeable” number of deaths and injuries if it had gone off. … A U.S. counterterrorism official said that investigators had not determined whether the attempted bombing was part of a plot by al-Qaeda or another terrorist group.”

Fine as far as it goes: “US Jewish groups, gearing up for the Iranian leader’s visit to New York, have recently voiced loud opposition to Ahmadinejad’s participation in the NPT conference. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations contacted ambassadors of UN member states, and placed newspaper ads to appear on Monday, urging diplomats to walk out with he speaks on Monday morning.” But what about the Obami’s undermining of sanctions? Or allowing Iran to join the Commission on the Status of Women? No ads about that.

Megan McCardle raps the Beagle Blogger for swooning over GM’s “repayment” of some of the taxpayers’ money: “Am I really supposed to get excited by the astonishing revelation that when you pour tens of billions of dollars into a couple of failed companies, some of that money will end up in someone’s pocket, somewhere?  Maybe it’s the slightly-above 50% capacity utilization at our dying giants that should put a smile on my face and a song in my heart? … Perhaps I should just be happy to know that GM has taken some of the government money we gave it and ‘repaid’ its multi-billion dollar loan by giving our own money back to us, while still losing billions more. … I am genuinely struggling to come up with what principled argument [Me: Assumes facts not in evidence!] Andrew might be making in his head for what has always struck me as a pretty blatant handout to a powerful Democratic interest group.”

Read Less

A Very Unserious Summit

The nuclear summit is underway in Washington, D.C. An air of unreality pervades because the greatest nuclear threat of our time goes unaddressed. At times, the degree to which Obama evades the Iranian issue is jaw-dropping. This report explains:

“The central focus of this nuclear summit is the fact that the single biggest threat to U.S. security — both short term, medium term and long term — would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Obama said Sunday afternoon. “If there was ever a detonation in New York City, or London, or Johannesburg, the ramifications economically, politically and from a security perspective would be devastating. And we know that organizations like al-Qaeda are in the process of trying to secure a nuclear weapon — a weapon of mass destruction that they have no compunction at using.”

Actually, the single greatest threat — and the most likely means for a terrorist organization to possibly obtain a nuclear weapon — is the mullahs’ nuclear program. About that, the president offers the moral power of example (i.e., our own disarmament) and watered-down sanctions.

Neither Obama’s credibility nor America’s deterrent capability was enhanced by either the START treaty or the Nuclear Posture Review. So Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates took to the airwaves Sunday to assure us that the Obami really weren’t doing great damage to our national security. Hillary seemed to fudge on the “no nuclear response to a NPT signtory’s attack” when she tried to bluster her way through her interview on Face the Nation:

SCHIEFFER: Are non-nuclear weapons so good now, Madam Secretary, that we don`t have to rely on nuclear weapons anymore?

CLINTON: We rely on both, Bob. And I think that`s the point that Secretary Gates is making. We`ve maintained a strong, robust nuclear deterrent as set forth in the nuclear posture review. But we have also in this administration moved toward a global strike capability to enhance our conventional response.

And we have an enormous amount of firepower conventionally. And it is also clear that this is putting everybody on notice. We don`t want more countries to go down the path that North Korea and Iran are. And some countries might have gotten the wrong idea if they looked at those two over the last years. And so we want to be very clear. We will not use nuclear weapons in retaliation if you do not have nuclear weapons and are in compliance with the NPT.

But we leave ourselves a lot of room for contingencies. If we can prove that a biological attack originated in a country that attacked us, then all bets are off, if these countries have gone to that extent. So we want to deal with the nuclear threat first and foremost, because that’s the one that we face right today.

All bets are off? Well, the nuclear option is, if we believe the Nuclear Posture Review. But maybe it doesn’t say what we mean. Or maybe it’s getting increasingly hard to figure out whether we are serious about deterring rogue states or not. Indeed, the administration is increasingly flighty and obtuse, making it hard to parse the often inconsistent rhetoric. Iran’s nuclear bomb would be unacceptable, but maybe we can’t do anything about it. The greatest threat is a terrorist organization with a nuclear bomb, but we’re increasingly lackadaisical about denying one to the most active state sponsor of Islamic terrorists. We aren’t going to retaliate against an NPT signatory after a devastating chemical or biological attack, but who knows.

If there is any rhyme or reason to this, it no doubt eludes both friends and foes. It does, however, convince many that this president doesn’t really appreciate how to project American strength and keep our adversaries at bay. The summit, therefore, promises not only to be irrelevant but also counterproductive to our national-security interests.

The nuclear summit is underway in Washington, D.C. An air of unreality pervades because the greatest nuclear threat of our time goes unaddressed. At times, the degree to which Obama evades the Iranian issue is jaw-dropping. This report explains:

“The central focus of this nuclear summit is the fact that the single biggest threat to U.S. security — both short term, medium term and long term — would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Obama said Sunday afternoon. “If there was ever a detonation in New York City, or London, or Johannesburg, the ramifications economically, politically and from a security perspective would be devastating. And we know that organizations like al-Qaeda are in the process of trying to secure a nuclear weapon — a weapon of mass destruction that they have no compunction at using.”

Actually, the single greatest threat — and the most likely means for a terrorist organization to possibly obtain a nuclear weapon — is the mullahs’ nuclear program. About that, the president offers the moral power of example (i.e., our own disarmament) and watered-down sanctions.

Neither Obama’s credibility nor America’s deterrent capability was enhanced by either the START treaty or the Nuclear Posture Review. So Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates took to the airwaves Sunday to assure us that the Obami really weren’t doing great damage to our national security. Hillary seemed to fudge on the “no nuclear response to a NPT signtory’s attack” when she tried to bluster her way through her interview on Face the Nation:

SCHIEFFER: Are non-nuclear weapons so good now, Madam Secretary, that we don`t have to rely on nuclear weapons anymore?

CLINTON: We rely on both, Bob. And I think that`s the point that Secretary Gates is making. We`ve maintained a strong, robust nuclear deterrent as set forth in the nuclear posture review. But we have also in this administration moved toward a global strike capability to enhance our conventional response.

And we have an enormous amount of firepower conventionally. And it is also clear that this is putting everybody on notice. We don`t want more countries to go down the path that North Korea and Iran are. And some countries might have gotten the wrong idea if they looked at those two over the last years. And so we want to be very clear. We will not use nuclear weapons in retaliation if you do not have nuclear weapons and are in compliance with the NPT.

But we leave ourselves a lot of room for contingencies. If we can prove that a biological attack originated in a country that attacked us, then all bets are off, if these countries have gone to that extent. So we want to deal with the nuclear threat first and foremost, because that’s the one that we face right today.

All bets are off? Well, the nuclear option is, if we believe the Nuclear Posture Review. But maybe it doesn’t say what we mean. Or maybe it’s getting increasingly hard to figure out whether we are serious about deterring rogue states or not. Indeed, the administration is increasingly flighty and obtuse, making it hard to parse the often inconsistent rhetoric. Iran’s nuclear bomb would be unacceptable, but maybe we can’t do anything about it. The greatest threat is a terrorist organization with a nuclear bomb, but we’re increasingly lackadaisical about denying one to the most active state sponsor of Islamic terrorists. We aren’t going to retaliate against an NPT signatory after a devastating chemical or biological attack, but who knows.

If there is any rhyme or reason to this, it no doubt eludes both friends and foes. It does, however, convince many that this president doesn’t really appreciate how to project American strength and keep our adversaries at bay. The summit, therefore, promises not only to be irrelevant but also counterproductive to our national-security interests.

Read Less

The Green Movement: A Work in Progress

The Foreign Policy Initiative hosted a timely program in Washington, D.C., this morning entitled Iran: Prospects for Regime Change. It comes at a time when the Obama administration is inching toward itty-bitty sanctions and has apparently rejected a serious policy of advancing the Green Movement’s efforts at regime change. Reuel Gerecht of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Mehdi Khalaji of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Mohsen Sazegara of the Research Institute for Contemporary Iran had a thoughtful discussion moderated by Bill Kristol.

Several key points emerged from the panel. First, the Green Movement is a work in progress. While we may look toward the end goal of regime change — toppling of the supreme leader — it has, as do most revolutionary movements, intermediary goals, the first of which Khalaji describes as the delegitimatization of the regime — which he contends has been largely successful within Iran, especially among the middle and upper classes in the first year of the Green Movement. He cautions  that “the Movement is young,” but it has already expanded geographically beyond Tehran to new social groups and to labor organizations. Those who contend the Movement has failed because the regime is still in place miss the ongoing process of revolutionary movements — delegitimazation to paralysis to regime change.

Second, the greatest hope for the movement is the loss of legitimacy and the isolation of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. As Sazegara explained, loyalty to Khamenei has replaced ideology or constitutional authority as the essence of the regime, casting as “soldiers of the cultural invasion every influential human being” who is not entirely loyal to the supreme leader. As a result, Khamenei is increasingly isolated. Sazegara notes that “every move was wrong” since the June 12 election — fueling opposition and solidarity against a regime increasingly viewed as corrupt and brutal.

Third, the Green Movement is  making efforts to reach out to the under class, which remains Ahmadinejad’s  base of support. The message will need to tie economic opportunity to political freedom to complete the process of undercutting the regime’s final base of popular support.

Fourth, the Revolutionary Guard, which was previously comprised of those who were ideologically motivated and dedicated to defense of the regime, is increasingly corrupt and needs to be “subsidized.” As the Guard has expanded, the opportunity for factions, rivalries, and divisions has also multiplied.

Finally, the U.S. can play a role. As Sazegara noted, “Every move, even indifference, affects the internal situation in Iran.” Silence in the face of brutality emboldens the regime and demoralizes those seeking to exploit its weaknesses. Efforts to aid the Green Movement’s essential communication tools — internet and satellite TV — can have a meaningful impact.  Gerecht summed up that in the 1980s,  it was apparent that “the regime was losing legitimacy. That process has only accelerated.” The Green Movement, he explains, “owns the middle and upper classes. The regime can’t replicate itself.” He urged those hoping for regime change to “be more patient. The regime has lost the best and the brightest. It eats its own.”

That the Obama administration has so obviously turned its back on the Green Movement and instead has gone out of its way to confer legitimacy on the brutal regime is a great moral and geopolitical failing. What the panel made clear is that the Obama adminstration is also missing a critical opportunity to assist and accelerate a movement that is steadily undermining the Islamic dictatorship.

The Foreign Policy Initiative hosted a timely program in Washington, D.C., this morning entitled Iran: Prospects for Regime Change. It comes at a time when the Obama administration is inching toward itty-bitty sanctions and has apparently rejected a serious policy of advancing the Green Movement’s efforts at regime change. Reuel Gerecht of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Mehdi Khalaji of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Mohsen Sazegara of the Research Institute for Contemporary Iran had a thoughtful discussion moderated by Bill Kristol.

Several key points emerged from the panel. First, the Green Movement is a work in progress. While we may look toward the end goal of regime change — toppling of the supreme leader — it has, as do most revolutionary movements, intermediary goals, the first of which Khalaji describes as the delegitimatization of the regime — which he contends has been largely successful within Iran, especially among the middle and upper classes in the first year of the Green Movement. He cautions  that “the Movement is young,” but it has already expanded geographically beyond Tehran to new social groups and to labor organizations. Those who contend the Movement has failed because the regime is still in place miss the ongoing process of revolutionary movements — delegitimazation to paralysis to regime change.

Second, the greatest hope for the movement is the loss of legitimacy and the isolation of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. As Sazegara explained, loyalty to Khamenei has replaced ideology or constitutional authority as the essence of the regime, casting as “soldiers of the cultural invasion every influential human being” who is not entirely loyal to the supreme leader. As a result, Khamenei is increasingly isolated. Sazegara notes that “every move was wrong” since the June 12 election — fueling opposition and solidarity against a regime increasingly viewed as corrupt and brutal.

Third, the Green Movement is  making efforts to reach out to the under class, which remains Ahmadinejad’s  base of support. The message will need to tie economic opportunity to political freedom to complete the process of undercutting the regime’s final base of popular support.

Fourth, the Revolutionary Guard, which was previously comprised of those who were ideologically motivated and dedicated to defense of the regime, is increasingly corrupt and needs to be “subsidized.” As the Guard has expanded, the opportunity for factions, rivalries, and divisions has also multiplied.

Finally, the U.S. can play a role. As Sazegara noted, “Every move, even indifference, affects the internal situation in Iran.” Silence in the face of brutality emboldens the regime and demoralizes those seeking to exploit its weaknesses. Efforts to aid the Green Movement’s essential communication tools — internet and satellite TV — can have a meaningful impact.  Gerecht summed up that in the 1980s,  it was apparent that “the regime was losing legitimacy. That process has only accelerated.” The Green Movement, he explains, “owns the middle and upper classes. The regime can’t replicate itself.” He urged those hoping for regime change to “be more patient. The regime has lost the best and the brightest. It eats its own.”

That the Obama administration has so obviously turned its back on the Green Movement and instead has gone out of its way to confer legitimacy on the brutal regime is a great moral and geopolitical failing. What the panel made clear is that the Obama adminstration is also missing a critical opportunity to assist and accelerate a movement that is steadily undermining the Islamic dictatorship.

Read Less




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