Commentary Magazine


Topic: David Gregory

Why Palin Won’t Fade Away Soon

Ross Douthat’s advice to the media on Sarah Palin, which Peter Wehner wrote about on Monday, will be hard to follow. Douthat uses the metaphor of a marriage to frame his points on Palin and the media. But in this “marriage,” third parties play a decisive role — and in a telling way, Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) filled a particular role this past weekend. Coburn, for whom I have great respect, has been a favorite with the Tea Party demographic because of his reputation as a fiscal hawk and constitutional-process curmudgeon. But in an interview with David Gregory on Meet the Press, Coburn failed to deliver in exactly the kind of situation in which Palin rarely disappoints her base.

Here is a key passage from Mediaite’s summary of the Coburn interview: Gregory persisted by saying some on the right speak of President Obama as an “outsider who is trying to usher in a system … that will injure America and deny them of their liberty” and wanted to know if Coburn rejects that idea and also the use of violent metaphors in political discourse. Coburn agreed that he does reject that, and Senator Charles Schumer added “we as elected officials have an obligation to try and tone that down, and if we tone it down, then maybe the media will be less vociferous.”

Quite a few Americans would say Coburn rejected the wrong thing. What he should have rejected was the rhetorical pairing of the right’s political ideas with “violent metaphors in political discourse.” Coburn didn’t question the terms in which David Gregory presented the proposition: as if proof of civility and peaceful intent could only be established by rejecting certain of the right’s political arguments against Obama’s policies. In the video clip, the senator came across as calculating, perhaps a little impatiently, that meeting Gregory’s test of “civility” was a minor but essential concession.

I imagine Coburn would defend it as valid for the people to disagree on basic political ideas, if the question were put to him directly. But in the context of a buried premise in a Sunday talk show, it didn’t seem to occur to him to make that point. It does, manifestly, occur to Palin. I don’t disagree with pundits who would like to see her be more succinct and less reactive to the personal element in media attacks on her. But the people hear with different ears: for every auditor who cringes at her style or extraneous commentary, there is another who hears, first and foremost, that she is affirming precious ideas to which other politicians are not moved to give voice.

Palin’s persistent popularity as a public icon is a financial factor for the media — and it’s not one they control. They could decline to talk about her, decline to feature photos and video clips of her, but they understand the connection between Palin, sales, Web hits, and audience share. Palin is a figure whose market power has been established through a direct bond — of love or hate — with the people.

This doesn’t mean she is or should be a front-runner for 2012. The issues are separate. My own belief is that a successful GOP candidate will find a way to transcend the arena of slings and arrows without making political compromises to secure its quiescence. Palin may not have transcended the slings-and-arrows arena, but her potential competitors have all, to varying degrees, made the kinds of compromises that Tom Coburn modeled this past Sunday. As long as other leading Republicans let their discourse be governed by a set of buried premises that disqualifies the right’s political ideas at the starting line, Sarah Palin will have devoted supporters and a prominent voice.

Ross Douthat’s advice to the media on Sarah Palin, which Peter Wehner wrote about on Monday, will be hard to follow. Douthat uses the metaphor of a marriage to frame his points on Palin and the media. But in this “marriage,” third parties play a decisive role — and in a telling way, Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) filled a particular role this past weekend. Coburn, for whom I have great respect, has been a favorite with the Tea Party demographic because of his reputation as a fiscal hawk and constitutional-process curmudgeon. But in an interview with David Gregory on Meet the Press, Coburn failed to deliver in exactly the kind of situation in which Palin rarely disappoints her base.

Here is a key passage from Mediaite’s summary of the Coburn interview: Gregory persisted by saying some on the right speak of President Obama as an “outsider who is trying to usher in a system … that will injure America and deny them of their liberty” and wanted to know if Coburn rejects that idea and also the use of violent metaphors in political discourse. Coburn agreed that he does reject that, and Senator Charles Schumer added “we as elected officials have an obligation to try and tone that down, and if we tone it down, then maybe the media will be less vociferous.”

Quite a few Americans would say Coburn rejected the wrong thing. What he should have rejected was the rhetorical pairing of the right’s political ideas with “violent metaphors in political discourse.” Coburn didn’t question the terms in which David Gregory presented the proposition: as if proof of civility and peaceful intent could only be established by rejecting certain of the right’s political arguments against Obama’s policies. In the video clip, the senator came across as calculating, perhaps a little impatiently, that meeting Gregory’s test of “civility” was a minor but essential concession.

I imagine Coburn would defend it as valid for the people to disagree on basic political ideas, if the question were put to him directly. But in the context of a buried premise in a Sunday talk show, it didn’t seem to occur to him to make that point. It does, manifestly, occur to Palin. I don’t disagree with pundits who would like to see her be more succinct and less reactive to the personal element in media attacks on her. But the people hear with different ears: for every auditor who cringes at her style or extraneous commentary, there is another who hears, first and foremost, that she is affirming precious ideas to which other politicians are not moved to give voice.

Palin’s persistent popularity as a public icon is a financial factor for the media — and it’s not one they control. They could decline to talk about her, decline to feature photos and video clips of her, but they understand the connection between Palin, sales, Web hits, and audience share. Palin is a figure whose market power has been established through a direct bond — of love or hate — with the people.

This doesn’t mean she is or should be a front-runner for 2012. The issues are separate. My own belief is that a successful GOP candidate will find a way to transcend the arena of slings and arrows without making political compromises to secure its quiescence. Palin may not have transcended the slings-and-arrows arena, but her potential competitors have all, to varying degrees, made the kinds of compromises that Tom Coburn modeled this past Sunday. As long as other leading Republicans let their discourse be governed by a set of buried premises that disqualifies the right’s political ideas at the starting line, Sarah Palin will have devoted supporters and a prominent voice.

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The Entitlement Crisis

On Meet the Press, Sen. Jim DeMint – widely admired by conservatives and the Tea Party for his passionate advocacy for limited government – spent a good deal of time condemning earmarks. That’s a fine idea, but it would barely begin to right our fiscal imbalance. When asked about cuts in Social Security, however, DeMint was emphatic:

Well, no, we’re not talking about cuts in Social Security. If we can just cut the administrative waste, we can cut hundreds of billions of dollars a year at the federal level. So before we start cutting–I mean, we need to keep our promises to seniors, David, and cutting benefits to seniors is not on the table. …

We don’t have to cut benefits for seniors, and we don’t need to cut Medicare like, like the Democrats did in this big Obamacare bill. We can restore sanity in Washington without cutting any benefits to seniors.

DeMint has been a relentless critic of big government and has rung the alarm bell on the size of our debt and the deficit. Yet on the overwhelming fiscal threat of our time – the entitlement crisis – DeMint not only doesn’t have anything constructive to say; he actually is arguing against any cuts for Social Security and Medicare. (Bear in mind that entitlements, excluding net interest, account for 56 percent of all federal spending and 14 percent of GDP — up from 10 percent of GDP three years ago.) Read More

On Meet the Press, Sen. Jim DeMint – widely admired by conservatives and the Tea Party for his passionate advocacy for limited government – spent a good deal of time condemning earmarks. That’s a fine idea, but it would barely begin to right our fiscal imbalance. When asked about cuts in Social Security, however, DeMint was emphatic:

Well, no, we’re not talking about cuts in Social Security. If we can just cut the administrative waste, we can cut hundreds of billions of dollars a year at the federal level. So before we start cutting–I mean, we need to keep our promises to seniors, David, and cutting benefits to seniors is not on the table. …

We don’t have to cut benefits for seniors, and we don’t need to cut Medicare like, like the Democrats did in this big Obamacare bill. We can restore sanity in Washington without cutting any benefits to seniors.

DeMint has been a relentless critic of big government and has rung the alarm bell on the size of our debt and the deficit. Yet on the overwhelming fiscal threat of our time – the entitlement crisis – DeMint not only doesn’t have anything constructive to say; he actually is arguing against any cuts for Social Security and Medicare. (Bear in mind that entitlements, excluding net interest, account for 56 percent of all federal spending and 14 percent of GDP — up from 10 percent of GDP three years ago.)

DeMint might consider doing two things. The first is to be a bit less sweeping in his condemnation of government. I certainly share his concerns about the size, scope, reach, and cost of the federal government, especially in the Age of Obama. At the same time, precise, rigorous arguments are important, too – and so DeMint and other Republicans need to be careful not to use rhetoric that puts them in the company of “a small breed of men whose passionate distrust for the state has developed into a theology of sorts.” (The words are William F. Buckley Jr.’s).

At the same time, DeMint should do more to close the gap between his words and his willingness to act on his words. It is simply not tenable for public officials to portray themselves as courageous voices for fiscal sanity while simultaneously fencing off cuts and reforms for entitlements. This doesn’t argue for recklessness or doing everything all at once. And it certainly doesn’t mean promoting austerity at the expense of pro-growth economic policies. But it does mean one should not declare entitlement programs off-limits. We have to deal with them; there’s no way around it. So there’s no point in making things more difficult or making commitments that are contrary to the national interest. Those who do open themselves to the charge that they are fundamentally unserious on this matter.

On the same program, by the way, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was interviewed by David Gregory. In contrast to DeMint, Christie was able to say this:

We told everybody there has to be shared sacrifice among everyone, and let me be specific. We cut every department of state government. We cut funding to K to 12 education. We are proposed real pension and benefit reforms on public sector workers, increasing the retirement age, eliminating COLAs, things that are really going to bring the pension problem back under control. We cut all of this spending in the state in every state department, David, every state department. From environmental protection, to military and veterans affairs, all the way through had to sustain a cut. Those are the type of things you have to do to show people you really mean shared sacrifice. Everyone came to the table and everybody had to contribute.

When asked how he’s advising Republicans on Capitol Hill, Christie said, “What I told them was they’d better come up with a plan that’s credible like we did in New Jersey, and the public’s going to be able to smell real quickly if you’re not credible.”

Indeed. And credibility, once lost, is hard to regain.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

A nightmare for Mitt Romney. “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a possible presidential candidate in 2012, called for repeal of healthcare legislation during a television interview Sunday morning. ‘I think Obamacare is one of the worst pieces of legislation passed in the modern history of the country,’ Pawlenty said on CNN’s State of the Union.”

A smart position for Republicans on the Fed buying up $600B in bonds. Rep. Paul Ryan: “It’s a big mistake, in my opinion. Look, we have Congress doing tax and spend, borrow and spend. Now we have the Federal Reserve doing print and spend. If this quantitative easing, which is basically monetizing your debt — I think the upsides are very low. We already have very loose monetary policy, very, very low interest rates. This is going to give us an inflation problem in the future. It’s going to give us an interest rate problem in the future. It is destabilizing investment horizons. The Federal Reserve should be focused on sound and honest money, not on trying to micromanage the economy.” (You can see why a lot of conservatives hope he runs in 2012.)

A succinct analysis of Nancy Pelosi’s staying on as minority leader. “It doesn’t matter whether she’ll be good or merely bad or spectacularly bad. What matters is, you lose 65 seats, you resign. Period. There should not be a question.”

A nervous Democrat: Al Hunt on Pelosi’s decision to stick around: “What that seems to ignore are the millions of voters in places like South Bend, Indiana, or Charlotte, North Carolina, who supported President Barack Obama, are disappointed and anxious today and hope for constructive change. The congressional Democrats’ response: It’s business as usual. The message is ‘we’re going to keep doing exactly what we were doing’ before the party ‘got crushed,’ said Representative Jason Altmire, a Pennsylvania Democrat who won his re-election contest 51 percent to 49 percent.” Yes, Republicans are “delighted.”

A rising star. “A young, charismatic Cuban-American with an appealing personal story, [Marco] Rubio took 49 percent of the vote Tuesday, a remarkable total in a three-way race. Exit polls showed he captured 55 percent of the Hispanic vote. As a vice presidential candidate, Rubio could make the nation’s largest swing state even more of a tossup and force Obama’s political team to consider a road map back to the White House without it. National Democrats were watching him long before Tuesday, hoping in vain that he would lose and his potential would be stifled.”

Already a conservative star. “ New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie irked NBC’s David Gregory — and probably won over more conservatives weary of the media in the process — by suggesting on “Meet the Press” that the host was acting as an advocate for Democrats in the way he spoke about taxes. Christie, a Republican known for his tell-it-like-it-is attitude, disagreed with Gregory’s characterization of the looming battle in Congress over the Bush years tax rate as ‘tax cuts.’”

A liberal dilettante. That’s the gist of the New York Times‘s assessment of Obama’s Gandhi fetish. “‘The impression on the Indian side is every time you meet him, he talks about Gandhi,’ said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express, a leading English-language newspaper, adding that the repeated references struck some officials as platitudinous.” Moreover, India has moved on. ”If anything, India’s rise as a global power seems likely to distance it even further from Gandhi. India is inching toward a tighter military relationship with the United States, once distrusted as an imperialist power, even as the Americans are fighting a war in nearby Afghanistan. India also has an urbanizing consumer-driven economy and a growing middle class that indulges itself in cars, apartments and other goods. It is this economic progress that underpins India’s rising geopolitical clout and its attractiveness to the United States as a global partner.”

A nightmare for Mitt Romney. “Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a possible presidential candidate in 2012, called for repeal of healthcare legislation during a television interview Sunday morning. ‘I think Obamacare is one of the worst pieces of legislation passed in the modern history of the country,’ Pawlenty said on CNN’s State of the Union.”

A smart position for Republicans on the Fed buying up $600B in bonds. Rep. Paul Ryan: “It’s a big mistake, in my opinion. Look, we have Congress doing tax and spend, borrow and spend. Now we have the Federal Reserve doing print and spend. If this quantitative easing, which is basically monetizing your debt — I think the upsides are very low. We already have very loose monetary policy, very, very low interest rates. This is going to give us an inflation problem in the future. It’s going to give us an interest rate problem in the future. It is destabilizing investment horizons. The Federal Reserve should be focused on sound and honest money, not on trying to micromanage the economy.” (You can see why a lot of conservatives hope he runs in 2012.)

A succinct analysis of Nancy Pelosi’s staying on as minority leader. “It doesn’t matter whether she’ll be good or merely bad or spectacularly bad. What matters is, you lose 65 seats, you resign. Period. There should not be a question.”

A nervous Democrat: Al Hunt on Pelosi’s decision to stick around: “What that seems to ignore are the millions of voters in places like South Bend, Indiana, or Charlotte, North Carolina, who supported President Barack Obama, are disappointed and anxious today and hope for constructive change. The congressional Democrats’ response: It’s business as usual. The message is ‘we’re going to keep doing exactly what we were doing’ before the party ‘got crushed,’ said Representative Jason Altmire, a Pennsylvania Democrat who won his re-election contest 51 percent to 49 percent.” Yes, Republicans are “delighted.”

A rising star. “A young, charismatic Cuban-American with an appealing personal story, [Marco] Rubio took 49 percent of the vote Tuesday, a remarkable total in a three-way race. Exit polls showed he captured 55 percent of the Hispanic vote. As a vice presidential candidate, Rubio could make the nation’s largest swing state even more of a tossup and force Obama’s political team to consider a road map back to the White House without it. National Democrats were watching him long before Tuesday, hoping in vain that he would lose and his potential would be stifled.”

Already a conservative star. “ New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie irked NBC’s David Gregory — and probably won over more conservatives weary of the media in the process — by suggesting on “Meet the Press” that the host was acting as an advocate for Democrats in the way he spoke about taxes. Christie, a Republican known for his tell-it-like-it-is attitude, disagreed with Gregory’s characterization of the looming battle in Congress over the Bush years tax rate as ‘tax cuts.’”

A liberal dilettante. That’s the gist of the New York Times‘s assessment of Obama’s Gandhi fetish. “‘The impression on the Indian side is every time you meet him, he talks about Gandhi,’ said Shekhar Gupta, editor of The Indian Express, a leading English-language newspaper, adding that the repeated references struck some officials as platitudinous.” Moreover, India has moved on. ”If anything, India’s rise as a global power seems likely to distance it even further from Gandhi. India is inching toward a tighter military relationship with the United States, once distrusted as an imperialist power, even as the Americans are fighting a war in nearby Afghanistan. India also has an urbanizing consumer-driven economy and a growing middle class that indulges itself in cars, apartments and other goods. It is this economic progress that underpins India’s rising geopolitical clout and its attractiveness to the United States as a global partner.”

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Petraeus on Afghanistan

This past weekend, General David Petraeus, the commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, granted interviews to the Washington Post, New York Times, and Meet the Press [here and here].

Acknowledging that the mission is at a stage in which “what you have to do is to start turning inputs into outputs,” Petraeus said that the new U.S. war strategy is “fundamentally sound.” He sees incipient signs of progress in parts of the south, in new initiatives to create community defense forces, and in nascent steps to reintegrate low-level insurgents who want to stop fighting. According to the Post:

Petraeus contends that the counterinsurgency strategy is showing momentum in Helmand province, where about 20,000 U.S. Marines and 10,000 British troops have sought to create inkblots of security in six key districts. Some areas, such as Marja, a former Taliban stronghold, have proved to be tougher to pacify … but other places, such as the districts of Nawa and Garmsir, are becoming more stable and may feature prominently in his year-end presentation to the White House.

He also said he is encouraged by developments in Arghandab district on Kandahar’s northern fringe, where two U.S. Army battalions have been engaged in an arduous mission to clear insurgents from pomegranate orchards and vineyards seeded with makeshift but lethal anti-personnel mines.

Petraeus points out that what we face is not a monolithic Taliban enemy; he describes it more like a crime syndicate. In the southern part of the country we face the Afghan Taliban; in the eastern part, the Haqqani network linked to the Taliban but not subservient to it. There are small elements of al-Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and some Pakistani Taliban as well.

Petraeus, who appears intent on taking a harder line against corruption in the Karzai government than we’ve seen in the past, says his most significant accomplishment since arriving in Kabul has been to get President Karzai to endorse the creation of armed neighborhood-watch groups. He also argues against any precipitous withdrawal of forces in July 2011. When asked by NBC’s David Gregory how stifling the deadline is, Petraeus said this:

I don’t find it that stifling. I’m not bowed over by, you know, the knowledge that July 2011 is out there. In fact, the president has been very clear, Vice President Biden’s been very clear as well, more recently, that this is a date when a process begins that is conditions based. And as the conditions permit, we transition tasks to our Afghan counterparts and to security forces and, and in various governmental institutions, and that enables a responsible drawdown of our forces. … I think the president’s been quite clear in explaining that it’s a process, not an event, and that it’s conditions based. … I think that we will have an enduring commitment here in some fashion, the character of which may change over time as our Afghan partners can do more and we’re able to do less in certain areas, certainly.

Articulating traditional counterinsurgency doctrine, Petraeus went on to say, “At the end of the day, it’s not about [the Afghan people’s] embrace of us, it’s not about us winning hearts and minds. It’s about the Afghan government winning hearts and minds.” And when asked if the outcome is like Iraq, whether that constitutes achieving the mission, Petraeus said this:

Well, the outcome in Iraq is still to be written, but if you could reduce the level of violence by some 90 to 95 percent, as was the case in Iraq, to below a threshold which allows commerce and business and outside investment to take place, where there is an election that’s certainly at least elected representatives, and now you have to see if they can come together and form a government that is still representative of and responsive to the people, as was the previous one. If that can all be achieved there, that would be a reasonable solution here as well.

“It’s a gradual effort,” Petraeus told the Post. “It’s a deliberate effort. There’s no hill to take and flag to plant and proclamations of victory. Rather, it’s just hard work.”

It is indeed. But America is fortunate to have one of the greatest military commanders in its history now in the lead. If we give him the tools and the time, he and the American military can finish the job.

This past weekend, General David Petraeus, the commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, granted interviews to the Washington Post, New York Times, and Meet the Press [here and here].

Acknowledging that the mission is at a stage in which “what you have to do is to start turning inputs into outputs,” Petraeus said that the new U.S. war strategy is “fundamentally sound.” He sees incipient signs of progress in parts of the south, in new initiatives to create community defense forces, and in nascent steps to reintegrate low-level insurgents who want to stop fighting. According to the Post:

Petraeus contends that the counterinsurgency strategy is showing momentum in Helmand province, where about 20,000 U.S. Marines and 10,000 British troops have sought to create inkblots of security in six key districts. Some areas, such as Marja, a former Taliban stronghold, have proved to be tougher to pacify … but other places, such as the districts of Nawa and Garmsir, are becoming more stable and may feature prominently in his year-end presentation to the White House.

He also said he is encouraged by developments in Arghandab district on Kandahar’s northern fringe, where two U.S. Army battalions have been engaged in an arduous mission to clear insurgents from pomegranate orchards and vineyards seeded with makeshift but lethal anti-personnel mines.

Petraeus points out that what we face is not a monolithic Taliban enemy; he describes it more like a crime syndicate. In the southern part of the country we face the Afghan Taliban; in the eastern part, the Haqqani network linked to the Taliban but not subservient to it. There are small elements of al-Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and some Pakistani Taliban as well.

Petraeus, who appears intent on taking a harder line against corruption in the Karzai government than we’ve seen in the past, says his most significant accomplishment since arriving in Kabul has been to get President Karzai to endorse the creation of armed neighborhood-watch groups. He also argues against any precipitous withdrawal of forces in July 2011. When asked by NBC’s David Gregory how stifling the deadline is, Petraeus said this:

I don’t find it that stifling. I’m not bowed over by, you know, the knowledge that July 2011 is out there. In fact, the president has been very clear, Vice President Biden’s been very clear as well, more recently, that this is a date when a process begins that is conditions based. And as the conditions permit, we transition tasks to our Afghan counterparts and to security forces and, and in various governmental institutions, and that enables a responsible drawdown of our forces. … I think the president’s been quite clear in explaining that it’s a process, not an event, and that it’s conditions based. … I think that we will have an enduring commitment here in some fashion, the character of which may change over time as our Afghan partners can do more and we’re able to do less in certain areas, certainly.

Articulating traditional counterinsurgency doctrine, Petraeus went on to say, “At the end of the day, it’s not about [the Afghan people’s] embrace of us, it’s not about us winning hearts and minds. It’s about the Afghan government winning hearts and minds.” And when asked if the outcome is like Iraq, whether that constitutes achieving the mission, Petraeus said this:

Well, the outcome in Iraq is still to be written, but if you could reduce the level of violence by some 90 to 95 percent, as was the case in Iraq, to below a threshold which allows commerce and business and outside investment to take place, where there is an election that’s certainly at least elected representatives, and now you have to see if they can come together and form a government that is still representative of and responsive to the people, as was the previous one. If that can all be achieved there, that would be a reasonable solution here as well.

“It’s a gradual effort,” Petraeus told the Post. “It’s a deliberate effort. There’s no hill to take and flag to plant and proclamations of victory. Rather, it’s just hard work.”

It is indeed. But America is fortunate to have one of the greatest military commanders in its history now in the lead. If we give him the tools and the time, he and the American military can finish the job.

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Once More, Admiral Mullen — This Time with Feeling

The administration has been criticized on its approach to Iran for apparently taking the military option off the table. So on Meet the Press, Admiral Mike Mullen was trying, I think, to correct the impression that this was not a viable alternative should sanctions fail. However, he sure didn’t do a good job of making the military option sound credible:

What I try to do when I talk about that is, is identify the space between those two outcomes, which is pretty narrow, in which I think the diplomacy, the kind of sanctions, the kind of international pressure that, that is being applied, I am hopeful works.  I, I, I recognize that there isn’t that much space there.  But, quite frankly, I am extremely concerned about both of those outcomes.” Yeah, it’s virtually unintelligible.

He wasn’t through tripping over his tongue:

None of them are good in a sense that it’s certainly an outcome that I don’t seek, or that, that we wouldn’t seek.  At the same time, and for what I talked about before, is, is not just the consequences of the action itself, but the things that could result after the fact

Finally, grudgingly, he acknowledged that the military does have a plan if, as David Gregory put it, “it should come to that.”

Mullen and especially Obama are going to have to do a whole lot better than that to convince the mullahs that they face an attack if they don’t give up their dream of a nuclear program. One suspects that the Obami at this point — no matter how much they improve their public utterances — aren’t capable of impressing the mullahs’ with their determination to use all available means to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The administration’s failure to maintain a credible threat of force remains one of the most inexplicable and incompetent aspects of its approach to the most dire national security issue we face.

The administration has been criticized on its approach to Iran for apparently taking the military option off the table. So on Meet the Press, Admiral Mike Mullen was trying, I think, to correct the impression that this was not a viable alternative should sanctions fail. However, he sure didn’t do a good job of making the military option sound credible:

What I try to do when I talk about that is, is identify the space between those two outcomes, which is pretty narrow, in which I think the diplomacy, the kind of sanctions, the kind of international pressure that, that is being applied, I am hopeful works.  I, I, I recognize that there isn’t that much space there.  But, quite frankly, I am extremely concerned about both of those outcomes.” Yeah, it’s virtually unintelligible.

He wasn’t through tripping over his tongue:

None of them are good in a sense that it’s certainly an outcome that I don’t seek, or that, that we wouldn’t seek.  At the same time, and for what I talked about before, is, is not just the consequences of the action itself, but the things that could result after the fact

Finally, grudgingly, he acknowledged that the military does have a plan if, as David Gregory put it, “it should come to that.”

Mullen and especially Obama are going to have to do a whole lot better than that to convince the mullahs that they face an attack if they don’t give up their dream of a nuclear program. One suspects that the Obami at this point — no matter how much they improve their public utterances — aren’t capable of impressing the mullahs’ with their determination to use all available means to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The administration’s failure to maintain a credible threat of force remains one of the most inexplicable and incompetent aspects of its approach to the most dire national security issue we face.

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Bringing People Together

From the Left, the Right, and a number of Scott McClellan’s former colleagues we have agreement: if you’re going to betray your former employer, it is best to have been more capable yourself and to have spoken out when there was not a book deal at issue. Perhaps the most telling comment comes from David Gregory, one of McClellan’s chief antagonists, who finds it hard to believe that McClellan was even in the loop. (I am confident that, in a secret ballot election by the White House press corps, McClellan wouldn’t win any votes for the “most knowledgeable and connected press secretary in our time.”)

Despite the diverse criticism of McClellan, it appears that much of the news media (the same crowd that thought McClellan an ineffective bumbler at the time) is infatuated with the story because it is another excuse to trot out the “Bush lied, people died” mantra. (There is an occasional note of skepticism, and even a willingness to recite McClellan’s own words castigating Richard Clarke for his similar tell-all indictment.) And surely if the issue for the election in November is “Should George W. Bush get a third term?”, it’s curtains for the GOP. But the McCain team is trying its best to make the election about Barack Obama’s experience, knowledge, and judgment. And they have had some success in getting the media to focus on how much Obama knows and how ready he is to be commander-in-chief. We have seen lately that when Obama talks about his own positions on issues or his own version of reality, things can get rather dicey. So no doubt his media cheerleaders would be delighted to go back to talking about McClellan’s book.

From the Left, the Right, and a number of Scott McClellan’s former colleagues we have agreement: if you’re going to betray your former employer, it is best to have been more capable yourself and to have spoken out when there was not a book deal at issue. Perhaps the most telling comment comes from David Gregory, one of McClellan’s chief antagonists, who finds it hard to believe that McClellan was even in the loop. (I am confident that, in a secret ballot election by the White House press corps, McClellan wouldn’t win any votes for the “most knowledgeable and connected press secretary in our time.”)

Despite the diverse criticism of McClellan, it appears that much of the news media (the same crowd that thought McClellan an ineffective bumbler at the time) is infatuated with the story because it is another excuse to trot out the “Bush lied, people died” mantra. (There is an occasional note of skepticism, and even a willingness to recite McClellan’s own words castigating Richard Clarke for his similar tell-all indictment.) And surely if the issue for the election in November is “Should George W. Bush get a third term?”, it’s curtains for the GOP. But the McCain team is trying its best to make the election about Barack Obama’s experience, knowledge, and judgment. And they have had some success in getting the media to focus on how much Obama knows and how ready he is to be commander-in-chief. We have seen lately that when Obama talks about his own positions on issues or his own version of reality, things can get rather dicey. So no doubt his media cheerleaders would be delighted to go back to talking about McClellan’s book.

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